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A while back I wrote about Wikipedia’s selfish ‘nofollow’ linking. I made the argument that by tacking on the nofollow tag on external sites, Wikipedia is tricking Google and other search engines to think Wikipedia is even more important than it already is. Intentional or not, the policy causes some significant skew in search engine results due to how many people like to Wikipedia.

Turns out that Wikipedia didn’t focus the skew purely on itself. Techcrunch has noticed that Wikipedia gives Wikia preferential treatment. Wikia is a commercial project, in part founded by Wikipedia’s founder Jimmy Wales.

Again this is not necessarily intentional but the skew is yet worse now. Wikipedia collects massive numbers of inbound links without giving anything back to the web community. Instead Wikipedia channels its importance into promoting a commercial project of the founder’s choosing. This is very unfortunate.

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  1. David Gerard says:

    No, what TechCrunch did was start from several incorrect statements of fact, assume the situation was this (erroneously stated) way because of malice then concoct a conspiracy theory. Because that gets page hits.

    Wikia links are nofollowed if they’re an http:// link, but not if they’re in the interwiki map:

    LOOK at all those sites that don’t get a nofollow! Gosh!

    That is: Wikia sites are not treated any differently from any other sites known not to be spammer sites.

    Dear SEO spammers and Googlemancers: go away. We actively don’t care about your page rank.

    Our responsibility as a top 10 site is to our readers. Our responsibility is not to a third party (SEO optimisers) to make them look good to a fourth party (Google). People whose interest in Wikipedia is page rank are in no way, shape or form our constituency. Because their interest is, fundamentally, spamming.

    Pagerank is not a consideration for Wikipedia — it contributes nothing to the project of writing an encyclopedia. This is why SEOs and Googlemancers find it so hard to find anyone at Wikipedia or Wikimedia who cares.

    The interwiki map is for the convenience of the projects. Not for the SEO spammers.

  2. Bob says:

    How many spam links make it into the comments of this blog every day? 1? 10? Nothing you can’t deal with, especially since you have all the time in the world to wander around here tweaking things. Now, look at a site like Wikipedia. Consistently in the Alexa Top 20, frequently in the Top 10, there are well over 1.5 million article pages on the site, each of which is vulnerable to spam. Add to that another 6.75 million pages (article talk pages, userpages, user talk pages, project (Wikipedia:) pages, project talk pages, image pages, image talk pages, portal pages, portal talk pages, category pages, category talk pages, need I go on?) and you have at the time of this posting 8,626,941 pages on the English Wikipedia alone. There simply aren’t enough volunteers to keep up with the potential for spam.

    The truth of the matter is, there were for-profit companies in existence before the nofollow policy was adopted that specialized in SEO via Wikipedia. That’s all they did: They promised to get enough spam into Wikipedia to lift the ranking of their customers’ websites without the need to do anything else. That is a serious problem, and to allow companies to use an encyclopedia to do it is a serious disservice to the web community. Using nofollow was the right and responsible thing to do.

    So, be honest, and say why it really bugs you that they use nofollow: Because you can’t use Wikipedia to raise the profile, and search rank, of your blog. It’s nothing to do with Wikipedia being irresponsible; it’s that you can’t abuse Wikipedia for your own selfish goals. It takes a special mixture of personal greed and assumption of total stupidity among your readers to dive that low.

  3. Bob,

    Actually we get about 400 spam comments a week at this point. Almost all of them are caught by the Akismet spam filter. Spam comments per page in this website is probably at least comparable to comments per page in Wikipedia. We get a lot of attention since it’s so easy to post a comment on a blog.

    Interestingly enough this is despite the fact that WordPress by default uses the ‘nofollow’ tag on comment links.

    I don’t think your claim that I’m only writing this because I want Wikipedia to boost my rankings is reasonable. Indeed, please let me know if you can find any link to Playing With Wire on Wikipedia. I’d be very interested to know.

  4. David,

    As you’ll notice in my blog entry and my previous entry about this, I’ve already noted that maliciousness is not necessarily part of the equation. The harm is being done regardless of intent.

    My point is essentially that Wikipedia is in effect gaming search engines. If you dislike SEO as much as you express, you may wish to consider if this is the Wikipedia you want.

    A lot of the bloggers expressing outrage with Wikipedia is doing so because they feel cheated. On the post-Google internet, linking to a webpage is an implicit vote of confidence. When Wikipedia turned on the no-follow tags it essentially gave a vote of no confidence to the rest of the internet – by proxy including everyone who voted for Wikipedia to begin with. This behavior is prima facie selfish, especially with the interwiki link system thrown in there. But more importantly it skews search results and hampers the link confidence system, essentially contributing to the breakage of the greatest search algorithm we know of today.

    As I wrote originally, even if Wikipedia may be trying to do the right thing the end result is not so good right now. Wikipedia can do better.

  5. Bob says:

    @David: Good to see you here. I’ll leave it to you to defend against the usual anti-Wikipedia idiocy; you’re the master at it. I for one am unsubscribing, and I encourage others to do so; there are plenty of blogs I can read that don’t attack charities to further their own selfish interests.

    @Alexander: Rubbish. Wikipedia is an encyclopedia; it’s not about giving spammers and self-promotionists a platform, it’s about writing a free encyclopedia. Nofollow ensures that Wikipedia remains neutral; it doesn’t aid anyone’s rankings because it’s not about aiding rankings. The only reason to deactivate nofollow is to make spamming easier: That’s all it does, is make spamming worthwhile. It doesn’t aid in writing an encyclopedia, it doesn’t aid in distributing an encyclopedia, it only harms the encyclopedia and the volunteers who spend their time making it better. The only reason I can see for you to attack the project so vehemently for protecting itself is because you want to abuse it and are being prevented.

    The funny part is, only two people could be bothered commenting (the rest of the visitors must be busy planting spam links so you’ll hit your daily 400), and both of us have told you you’re wrong.

  6. Bob,

    People who agree tend to just nod and move on rather than comment.

    You write that Wikipedia is solely an encyclopedia. I assume that you’re trying to say that therefore Wikipedia is not responsible for anything else that it does. But this is not a common opinion in the real world. To use an exaggerated example consider a commuter who runs over people while driving to work. The fact that he is solely a commuter is not a valid excuse. Yes, perhaps he does not intend to run over people, and yes, perhaps it’s not his job to avoid running over people. But it is none the less his responsibility to balance his desire to get to work against the cost to other people.

    Since there seems to be a little bit of confusion about what I’m trying to express here I have made an attempt to express myself with a greater degree of clarity in this follow up post.

  7. SEO says:

    yeah… those stupid wiki’s!
    wonder what happen if we all use nofollow to them?

    Have a good one.

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