Joho the Blog » Burningbird on WordPress’ link farm

Burningbird on WordPress’ link farm

Shelley has a considered piece on the discovery that WordPress, the open source blogging software, has been hosting a link farm on its site. ” I don’t think there’s anything wrong with people making money from their art,” she says. But, she adds, “I can also see that there’s been a dimming of the joy of this medium, as more and more people turn to these pages as a way to make a buck.” And she concludes:

Bottom line is: do you like WordPress? Do you like using WordPress? Can you still get it for free? Is it still GPL? Then perhaps that’s what should be focused on, and however or whatever Matt does with the WordPress page is between him and Google; because what matters is the code, not the purity of actions peripherial to the code, or its release.

It’s a forgiving piece — the final paragraph recounts how the Romans would make sure triumphant generals would remember they are mortals — which is great to read. We’re all human. But I don’t think the problem is that WordPress made some money. It’s the fact that link farms make one of our tools, Google, less useful. And it’s the lack of transparency. Of course, you can’t long host a link farm if you’re transparent about it, which is a reason for a legit site not to host one.

But why does WordPress owe us anything? In a legal and formal sense, it doesn’t. But, part of the joy of the Net — and I think Shelley is exactly right to use the word “joy” here — has been the forging of new, personal relationships with the companies that we engage with, whether they’re for free or for pay. I feel oddly connected to Firefox, Six Apart, TinyApps.org, and hundreds of others, large and small, free and commercial, because I feel that they’re doing something for the community first; they’re not in it only for themselves. I trust them to do the right thing for us. When they don’t, I feel betrayed. It’s not that big a deal, and I don’t go all binary on them. But the sense of betrayal demonstrates the depth of the bond.

So, IMO, WordPress made a mistake. The mistake definitely wasn’t making money. It was making money in a way that works against the interests of the Web community. As Shelley says, that doesn’t make the WordPress code any worse, and I may switch from Movable Type to WordPress at some point. Forgiveness is totally in order. Yet the abrading of joy does matter. [Technorati tags: ]


Matt’s response to the brouhaha is here.

25 Responses to “Burningbird on WordPress’ link farm”

  1. I’ve just been trying to get to the Word Press website, and it’s been offline for a while now. It was up earlier this morning (about 10 am UK time), ago, but when I tried to go there about 30 minutes ago, it was down, and has been since.

    I wonder if they have pulled it off for a while, as more and more people are posting about this.

    It was certainly interesting to read. I’ve recently switched from Blogger to WordPress, and am impressed. I hope that this current information doesn’t put too many potential users off….

  2. How was the transition?

  3. WordPress: Not Good

    Joho covers the WordPress news: apparently the company has been hiding linkfarms in its pages, so as to make some AdSense lucre. Joho’s take is quite considered….

  4. Perhaps what worries me about WordPress’s actions is that they made every WordPress user an unwitting accomplice to the corruption of Google. The link back to WordPress was a kind of public service shout-out — a recognition of thanks offered up in a positive spirit. But using the PageRank those links helped generate for an SEO scheme meant that those gestures were in fact doing some mild badness. That gives me the moral willies.

  5. WordPress y el spam

    Pues dicen que… WordPress hace spam en buscadores (ALT1040)¿Wordpress jugando “sucio”? (El Telendro)WordPress y el spam en Google (Dirson)Wordpress Website’s Search Engine Spam (Waxy.org)WordPress Making Money The Wrong Way (Fore…

  6. WordPress y el spam

    Pues dicen que… WordPress hace spam en buscadores (ALT1040)¿Wordpress jugando “sucio”? (El Telendro)WordPress y el spam en Google (Dirson)Wordpress Website’s Search Engine Spam (Waxy.org)WordPress Making Money The Wrong Way (Fore…

  7. “So, IMO, WordPress made a mistake. The mistake definitely wasn’t making money. It was making money in a way that works against the interests of the Web community.”

    One of the issues here is that open source projects like WordPress are all being done on good will, a sort of good will barter.

    How does that become fungible?

    Cash transactions go a long way toward resolving this issue. I set a price on a product, you pay me. We’re done.

  8. WordPress.org SEO spam

    Er is alweer veel geschreven en gediscussieerd over de wordpress.org zoekmachine spamming actie. In het reactiedieng van R-win noemde ik het al een ramp, qua P.R. vooral. Joho the Blog legde gisteren…

  9. Joho on WordPress

    When I was posting my opinion on the WordPress Affair yesterday, I was a bit afraid I was going to say something embarrassing. After all, the issue involves things like money, feelings, trust and reputation. You have to be careful, show some tolerance…

  10. WordPress y el spam

    Pues dicen que… WordPress hace spam en buscadores (ALT1040)¿Wordpress jugando “sucio”? (El Telendro)WordPress y el spam en Google (Dirson)Wordpress Website’s Search Engine Spam (Waxy.org)WordPress Making Money The Wrong Way (Fore…

  11. I understand what you are saying Bud, but without the open source model many of these projects would never see the light of day. They require the participation of the community to develop and mature. This participation is repaid in the form of available software.

    This presents problems when you say we simply ‘pay’ someone. Who? While Matt has certainly played a big part in pushing wordpress forward, this project itself was built on the work programmers carried out on B2 (another blog). They also carried out this work on the basis that it would continue to be freely available to all.

  12. WordPress y el spam

    Pues dicen que… WordPress hace spam en buscadores (ALT1040)¿Wordpress jugando “sucio”? (El Telendro)WordPress y el spam en Google (Dirson)Wordpress Website’s Search Engine Spam (Waxy.org)WordPress Making Money The Wrong Way (Fore…

  13. WordPress y el spam

    Pues dicen que… WordPress hace spam en buscadores (ALT1040)¿Wordpress jugando “sucio”? (El Telendro)WordPress y el spam en Google (Dirson)Wordpress Website’s Search Engine Spam (Waxy.org)WordPress Making Money The Wrong Way (Fore…

  14. WordPress Link Farm

    David Weinberger has an interesting post on the discovery that the WordPress web site has been hiding a link farm in their pages, gaming Google for profit and, in the process, weakening the effectiveness of one of our most useful tools. So, IMO, WordPr…

  15. Thanks for your comments on everything, I’ve tried to sum up the issues from my point of view here:

    http://photomatt.net/2005/04/01/a-response/

  16. It has been found out that the friendly old lady from down the block, who always bakes lovely cookies for everybody, is the person who has been drowning the neighbourhood cats the past few months. The very person who defined what neighbourly conduct meant, has now been discovered defining the oposite too.

    She may have had good reasons: she claims the cats scare her birds. None of my cats were hurt; not directly anyway. What should I do with her cookies that are left lying in my house?

  17. WordPress Link Farm

    David Weinberger has an interesting post on the discovery that the WordPress web site has been hiding a link farm in their pages, gaming Google for profit and, in the process, weakening the effectiveness of one of our most useful tools. So, IMO, WordPr…

  18. Gaming the system isn’t unusual, and it’s only unethical if it breaks some kind of rule. I think we’re dealing with an implicit rather than explicit understanding of how google wanted its ads to work. Matt found a way past that. I hope he made a few bucks, but I doubt he’ll collect. The light of public weirdness is shining on him now.

    Thanks for pointing to Shelley’s piece david. I’ll be sure to read it one day soon. I am perfectly ill informed about this having only skimmed a reference to it at Robert Cox’ “National Debate.”

    Oh, regardless of who zoomed whom on this, I’m a new WordPress user and I like it a lot and intend to continue to work with the lovely tool those folks provided. The hypertalented Matt Mullenweg is one of the benefits of working with WordPress. Of course, when WordForm is ready for primetime I’ll check it out too!

  19. Gaming the system is unethical if it breaks some kind of moral code*; is that the same thing as a rule? I am not a native speaker of English; I tend to associate “rule” with “law” (although you can have “unwritten rules”; the very netiquette we’re discussing is a good example).

  20. WordPress y el spam

    Pues dicen que… WordPress hace spam en buscadores (ALT1040)¿Wordpress jugando “sucio”? (El Telendro)WordPress y el spam en Google (Dirson)Wordpress Website’s Search Engine Spam (Waxy.org)WordPress Making Money The Wrong Way (Fore…

  21. WordPress y el spam

    Pues dicen que… WordPress hace spam en buscadores (ALT1040)¿Wordpress jugando “sucio”? (El Telendro)WordPress y el spam en Google (Dirson)Wordpress Website’s Search Engine Spam (Waxy.org)WordPress Making Money The Wrong Way (Fore…

  22. Great article and informativ. I have this bookmarked. Thanks

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