WordPress Website's Search Engine Spam

Disclaimer. I’m hesitant to even write about this, knowing the web’s fondness for angry mob justice, but I feel like it’s an important issue that needs to be addressed. My one request: please be calm and rational. WordPress is a great project, and Matt is a good guy. Think before piling on the hatemail and flames. (Important Update: Followup to this entry, with an official response from WordPress and Hot Nacho.)

The Problem. WordPress is a very popular open-source blogging software package, with a great official website maintained by Matt Mullenweg, its founding developer. I discovered last week that since early February, he’s been quietly hosting at least 120,000 168,000 articles on their website. These articles are designed specifically to game the Google Adwords program, written by a third-party about high-cost advertising keywords like asbestos, mesothelioma, insurance, debt consolidation, diabetes, and mortgages. (Update: Google is actively removing every article from their results, but here’s a saved copy of the first page of results. You can still view about 25,000 results on Yahoo. Here’s an example of some results in MSN.)


Why WordPress? The WordPress homepage has a very high Google Pagerank of 8/10, largely because every WordPress-powered blog links to the WordPress homepage by default. The high pagerank affects their ranking in Google search results, making context-sensitive Google ads very profitable. This, in turn, makes WordPress very attractive to advertisers.

I stumbled on this issue from a support topic, which was immediately closed without response by an unknown moderator. (After I pointed it out, Matt reopened the thread to add a final comment.)

So, last week, I instant-messaged Matt to ask him some of these questions. He was very helpful, giving me the full story.

The articles are given to him by Hot Nacho, a startup that pays freelance writers to generate 300-800 word articles about specific topics. All advertising revenues go directly to Hot Nacho, and he’s paid a flat fee for hosting the articles and ad banners.

Matt said he was skeptical at first, but the money is helping to cover his costs and hire their first employee. “The /articles thing isn’t something I want to do long term,” he said, “but if it can help bootstrap something nice for the community, I’m willing to let it run for a little while.”

He added that if the user community didn’t like it, he’d end the program. “Everything we do is user driven. If it turns a lot of people off I definitely don’t want it. At the same time, if you think people don’t care it provides some flexibility in setting up the foundation.”

Questions. This poses some interesting questions. First, do organizers of open-source projects need to disclose how they’re making money off the project? Matt isn’t disclosing anything about this activity to the community. I don’t think anyone would be upset about Matt trying to support WordPress with outside sources of revenue, but as an open-source project, they should be held to a higher level of transparency. Without the users and developers all working for free, it wouldn’t exist.

Second, is it ethical for open-source projects to make money gaming search engines? Unlike a blog about asbestos news, the WordPress website has nothing to do with asbestos. It capitalizes off the goodwill of the WordPress community, which links to the WordPress website because they support the project — not because they support search engine spam. But as long as there was transparency about their plans, I think this is less of an issue.

Solutions. Personally, I think there should be a very clear disclosure of their revenue sources on the website, as well as clearly disclosing their commercial plans. Am I donating money to a company? What is the money from advertising being used for?

I want to know what everyone thinks about this. I’m only a WordPress fan, not a user or developer, so really it’s up to the WordPress community to decide.

Update: In a case of terrible timing, I just found out Matt is on vacation in Italy, so will likely be unable to respond. For what it’s worth, I mentioned to him in our chat on Thursday that I was going to write an entry, so he could have taken preemptive action if he wanted to. However, had I know he was leaving the country, I would have waited to post this.

Andre Torrez was the first to note that links to the articles are hidden on the WordPress homepage using negative positioning with CSS. Here’s an explanation of the technique that was used.

Dave found this Hot Nacho advertisement looking for freelance copy writers, offering $3 per article.

Update: Jonas Luster, the first employee of the WordPress Foundation, wrote a response. Though Jonas doesn’t condone the activity, he gives some possible justifications for Matt’s decision that are worth considering.

And I don’t want to get caught up in semantics, but it’s definitely spam. Please see how Google and Yahoo define “search engine spam.”

March 31, 2005: WordPress.org now has a pagerank of 0/10, which means they’ve been effectively removed from Google search results (for now). The article results have all been removed from Yahoo, as well.

Fortunately, someone removed all of the Hot Nacho articles from the WordPress.org site completely. It looks like the entire /articles directory was removed, so I’m sure Google will be adding WordPress.org back to its index soon. Does anyone know if they were removed by someone at WordPress or by someone at Hot Nacho? If you know, please leave me an e-mail. WordPress is partnered with Textdrive, who also hosts the WordPress website. From what I gather, when the Textdrive folks found out about, they removed the files from the web server.

I closed comments on the thread because it was devolving into a flamewar. Please try to keep an open mind until Matt has an opportunity to respond. Jonas Luster posted another update to his site which is worth reading.

April 1, 2005: I’m continuing updates in a new entry.

98 thoughts on “WordPress Website's Search Engine Spam

  1. What strikes me first is that this isn’t really out in the open which, combined with advertising, causes all sorts of anime-worry-sweat to jump from my head. Since WP is cut off from the content and the cashflow, I don’t have problems with the arrangement.

    Being raised by an economics prof. made me immediately think of this in terms of a market. WP has a lot of good will from giving away its product under the GPL, but good will generally doesn’t put food on the table. What they’ve been able to do is turn their considerable PageRank™ into real cash, via this company and AdSesnse-as-micropayments. I wonder if a PR exchange rate will develop, like what has happened with MMORPGs.

    Google might have real problems with this because they’re interested in putting the best information at the top; inbound links just infers what the best information is. I imagine they (like you) would see this as spam and possibly remove WP from their indexes. It’s their ball, they will take it home if they want to. WP might find themselves blacklisted from Google’s indexes if Google sees this as spam.

  2. Surely it doesn’t help the fight against spammers.

    It also clearly undermines the rel=”nofollow” initiative that is trying to clean up search engine results.

  3. I’m trying very hard to be rational.

    Gaming search engines like that really, really bothers me.

    I signed up at TextDrive last month, and one of the highlights of that process was being able to earmark a percentage of my sign up fees to an open source project.

    A lot of the people I know and like use WordPress, it was by far the best known (to me) project on the list, and everything I’d heard about the software itself was positive.

    I’ve never regretted charity more.

    I accept that money is important and that it leads to progress, but ethics are important too, especially from a project that prides itself on subscribing to principles of Open Source.

    Why did WordPress not announce the new source of income to their users? Because they new it skirted the lines of acceptable behaviour.

    I can’t take my donation back, but I can take away my support of the project.

  4. I am also not an active WordPress user, though I’m certainly a fan and have tinkered with the software on more than one occassion. But as someone who’s collaborated on a number of open web projects, I agree that organizers should disclose commercial plans and other potential sources of income to both contributors and to collaborators. I think such a degree of transparency is necessary to mainain a true open-source spirit. Matt should probably have run his revenue options by the community of coders and contributors before putting it into place, and should at the very least present a page that explains all this for me to consider before I donate to the cause.

    And hey, I’m all for gaming Google when it works to support something worthwhile. In this case, I want to see WordPress continue to thrive. But the spirit of open source is democratic, and democracies require transparency to survive.

  5. I must say, I do not see the problem, and can’t agree with what you are suggesting that open source projects be held to a higher level, or transparency. These projects are free to the public, which means they do not make money for the authors. The authors are basically not compensated for their work. Why should anyone care, or have the right to question how that person makes money to be able to continue developement. As an open source author, I do not see anything wrong with what he has done. As long as he is not using the downloaded files to spread the spam, he is free to use his pageranking however he likes.

    Open sources is about giving to the community. This is not a business, and this is not a democracy. If you want to contribute to the cause, you are doing so to further the giving to the public, not to make money. And to me, it is no one elses business.

  6. This is an incredibly dirty tactic, especially for an open-source project. Beyond that, they’re using methods that Google is most definitely opposed to. The use of hidden links (check the bottom of any of the article pages) and the use of the site’s high Pagerank to bring in traffic through keyword spamming are more than reason enough for Google to ban the site all together. (reference)

    If WordPress chooses to sell advertising space on their site, up-front, so be it. It’s their site, and they have carte blanche to take any necessary actions to pay the bills. But, when an organization uses “illegal” methods, not to mention hypocritical, as noted earlier with the reference to their backing of no-follow to prevent spam, there is a problem. I use WordPress personally and have been for nearly a year now, but I am quite concerned with this development. It’s all a bit too shady for me.

  7. This does leave a bad taste in the mouth. But they should have been open about it.

    Andy, I wish you had waited on this one since Matt is out of station. And can’t respond before the ‘angry mob’ hits.

  8. Leaving aside the ethics of WP doing this for a moment, I wonder why/how this even works. If Google sees 100k links to the main WP site, and then 120k articles show up on the server, but aren’t linked to from anywhere, why instantly transfer the pagerank of the main page with all the new subpages? Also, unless this hotnacho has a linkfarm pointing to the articles, I don’t even see a way for me or the googlebot to get to the articles from the main WP site.

    Shouldn’t google treat wordpress.org like they probably treat geocities.com? I assume Google gives the main geocities page a ton of pagerank, but if you startup geocities.com/foonewuser you shouldn’t get the same pagerank or be deemed worthy by search engines just because you’re on a highly linked server.

    Is there a link from wordpress.org to the articles section that I’m not seeing that the googlebot could see? If there isn’t, it seems possible that Google could fix pagerank by not spreading it to any new page on a server, especially those completely unrelated to the main site. If the articles were truly good and linked to by thousands of others, then by all means elevate their rank, but every new page on a server should start with a rank of zero, no?

  9. Last time I checked, bandwidth is pretty expensive. I assume from what I’ve read that Matt is just trying to cover the cost of hosting and distributing a project that is so popular. It wasn’t the best choice to make that money by ‘gaming’ search engines, and wordpress will have to deal with the consequences, be it google search engine flak or community uproar. But hey:

    Free software is rarely ‘free’.

  10. I’m a WordPress user and a fan. WordPress is such a great product and Matt is obviously a very very smart guy for getting WordPress off the ground (along with the other contributors). In this current state of Internet bubbledom I hope that he and the other WordPress contributors cash in. They certainly deserve it. But there’s got to be a better way to raise some funds. How does Wikipedia do it?

  11. Matt’s response to the topic was both rational and honest, and everyone should read it before dishing out the self-righteousness.

    It’s not fair to brand and respond to Matt as though he were just another self-obsessed geek of mediocre ability and creative intellect. He hasn’t made a name for himself by simply doing “cool” things with others’ ideas and exploiting that peculiar 14-year-old boy humor that is, for some bizarre reason, still en-vogue throughout the many different blogospheres.

    I’m willing to bet Matt will use what he learns from this “experiment” (as he calls it) to make more positive contributions to this community.

    (That’s for you, Kottke. Your commented remaindered link stinks of jealousy. “like last week’s fish”.)

  12. Matt, the links are on the front page with some negative positioning:

    <div style=”text-indent: -9000px; overflow: hidden;”>

    <p>Sponsored <a href=”/articles/articles.xml”>Articles</a> on <a href=”/articles/credit.htm”>Credit</a>, <a href=”/articles/health-care.htm”>Health</a>, <a href=”/articles/insurance.htm”>Insurance</a>, <a href=”/articles/home-business.htm”>Home Business</a>, <a href=”/articles/home-buying.htm”>Home Buying</a> and <a href=”/articles/web-hosting.htm”>Web Hosting</a></p>

    </div>

    I was under the impression that kind of trickery would be ignored by Google, though.

  13. Hi Matt,

    >Is there a link from wordpress.org to the articles

    >section that I’m not seeing that the googlebot

    >could see?

    Look at the html-code of the front-page:

    {div style=”text-indent: -9000px; overflow: hidden;”}

    followed by a handful of links.

  14. Ignored by Google? Actually that kind of trickery could get the whole site banned.

    I have to say this whole thing is leaving a really bad taste in my mouth about WordPress. I think Matt should do the right thing and drop it, or at least disclose everything and let the community decide.

  15. <div style="text-indent: -9000px; overflow: hidden;">

    This is what is called “Cloaking”, in Search Engine terms; see Google Information for Webmasters:

    The term “cloaking” is used to describe a website that returns altered webpages to search engines crawling the site. In other words, the webserver is programmed to return different content to Google than it returns to regular users, usually in an attempt to distort search engine rankings. This can mislead users about what they’ll find when they click on a search result. To preserve the accuracy and quality of our search results, Google may permanently ban from our index any sites or site authors that engage in cloaking to distort their search rankings.

  16. > Look at the html-code of the front-page:

    > {div style=”text-indent: -9000px; overflow: hidden;”}

    > followed by a handful of links.

    But does it validate?

  17. Sunny: I didn’t realize that Matt was out of town… I would have waited. For what it’s worth, I told him on Thursday that I was going to write an entry about this. He definitely had time to act on it.

  18. This is a hard one to comment on.

    Personally, I don’t think Matt ownes any sort of announcement or explanation about this. I don’t see how it affects you or I in any direct way as a WordPress user or not.

    I think he has the right to capitalize on his traffic anyway he sees fit so long as he is not hurting his users in anyway.

    At the same time, I don’t like the search engine trickery. Forgetting the ethical reasons for a second. Shit, I’ve had sites banned from Google for far less. If I have to play by the rules, everybody should. 😉

    I’m not sure Matt NEEDS to do this.

    I make a good deal of money through AdSense without any deceptive practices. Comparing my traffic to wordpress.org, I certainly don’t compete. That, and the fact that keywords relevant to Matt’s site are worth more than those relavent to most of mine, leads me to believe that he could make ALOT of money off placing AdSense in his real content pages.

    Personally, as a user, I would much rather WordPress.org had a small AdSense banner tucked neatly into their layout then be guilted by the donation page.

  19. The writing is so horrible:

    “Your best chance of finding some good credible mortgage quote articles is searching the internet & all available periodicals by typing “mortgage quote” or “mortgage quote articles” into your search window. What you find then will be a variety of websites that might point you in the right direction.”

  20. Disclaimer: I know Matt personally, and he hosts my site.

    That said, I’m willing to give him the benefit of the doubt here, and guess that once he gets back into the country, he’ll respond to this debate in a constructive manner. And he understands the web; he knows he can’t get away with hiding this sort of thing from the public, so I’m willing to bet that was not his intent.

    But I’ll admit, my heart sank when I read about the negative-indent text hiding methods being used. Those stink.

    Anyone following along with the web standards crowd knows that image replacement techniques utilize exactly this method to place text off-screen, in order to then replace it with a more aesthetically pleasing image. We’re aware of the Google ramifications, which is why we’ve promoted using it responsibly. (Coincidentally, I wrote about exactly this earlier today.)

    The knowledge is out there though, so some will naturally take the basic idea and twist it for their own profit with extensive Google-baiting. I’m really dismayed to see WordPress joining that group. I’m not opposed to open source projects being funded, not by a long shot; but there must be better ways than this.

  21. Last time I checked, bandwidth is pretty expensive. I assume from what I’ve read that Matt is just trying to cover the cost of hosting and distributing a project that is so popular.

    Bandwidth is cheap, and getting cheaper all the time. You can get a dedicated server for $99 a month at el cheapo host Dreamhost or for $450 at muy expensive host MediaTemple; the WordPress site surely gets enough traffic that the cost of hosting could easily be covered by selling ads on the front page. (Or, you know, donations the way the development of Movable Type was funded early on.)

  22. “I’m not opposed to open source projects being funded, not by a long shot; but there must be better ways than this.”

    My thoughts exactly, Dave. In fact, there are better ways for sure.

    As an aside: People really need to stop messing with google using negative text indent. What’s going to happen when Google begins labelling that deceptive practice and all of us who are using negative text indents for real reasons (phark method) get blacklisted?

  23. To answer the spefici question Andy raised in the post:

    > First, do organizers of open-source projects need

    > to be disclose how they’re making money off the

    > project?

    I don’t think open-source has anything to do with this. Opensource is a more or less clearly defined term: it talks about the availability of sourcecode and the rights associated with the code. Period.

    It does not give the users/supporters any more rights in participation over the _project_ as a whole. In fact, if you look at the most successful opensource projects you will find that they are everything but democratic. Having said that: The success of any software/project relies on meeting the needs of a certain “audience”, otherwise it’s just going to be out there and nobody will care. 😉 MT was not Opensource, they did something that “p’d off” a whole bunch of users and suffered a lot of userdrain from it. And p’ing people off is not limited to companies or closed source projects. So while I do think that they should listen to users, which Matt admitted they will do anyhow, I don’t think users derive any special rights from it.

    And the people that regrett supporting them are in the wrong, IMHO. phpBB always said they would never accept donations, because people would start having totally different expectations and ideas on influence. And while I sort of understood what they were hinting at, it has never been as clear for me what they mean until today. If you are donating, you’re doing it, because you want to show appreciation to what they have done so far. And also supporters or donaters don’t “loose”, they can fork anytime, if they believe they can do it better. WP itself started as one of many forks of b2.

    Note: I am not defending what Matt did here, in fact, I share the opinion of those that suggest, that they should have communicated it openly when starting – if not dropping the idea alltogether at the time. And I also think they should stop doing this as soon as possible.

  24. I can see that fact that it wasn’t ‘out in the open’ might be troubling to some, but frankly, making money to help support the development of WordPress is fine by me.

  25. I was sitting here trying to figure out how they were making any money at all, when I realized I wasn’t seeing the Google ads because of the Greasemonkey extension.

    So, is Hot Nacho trying hard to obscure their purpose and business model on their site, or are they just that bad at explaining and showing what they do?

  26. – Yes, those hidden links would be cause for banning by Google.

    – PageRank is extremely overrated as far as results in Google. I’m sure it helped get all of these pages cached, but it really does nothing to drive traffic to them (it doesn’t improve position in Google on its own)

  27. Actually, crew, google pagerank is still very imporant in improving links within google results. Especially if a high-page-rank page has several internal links and very few external links. This can be a big boost for any page– especially on topics where there is a ton of spam and people search google relentlessly.

    However, this technique is bound to backfire, I don’t know why they didn’t just say “in order to raise money for the project, we’re going to be hosting professional articles, which are located here, etc.” They would have inurred less wrath and Google would have no reason to delist or penalize the site. Bad move on WP part.

  28. Matt has a right to do whatever he wants with his website. He needs to realize, however, that when he starts spamming search engines, he will be known as a spammer. And from what I have seen of the internet and open source communities, that is not a favorable label.

  29. As an aside, Hot Nacho apparently pays people $3 an article, and asks that the articles be “quality, original articles…original, useful and well written.” Seems like it’d take you an hour to write even a crappy 500 word essay. I’m assuming most of their writers aren’t living in the US.

    WritersWeekly.com posted that they are now refusing to put up their ads, because of the “incredibly insulting sum” per article.

  30. I’m of two minds about this, but it brings up a bigger issue: This scenario is going to start happening more frequently, it certainly isn’t the first time.

    Products that began as small-scale, pesonal or testing-the-waters projects have a habit of creating buzz and legions of fans for their innovative and “built from love” natures. I’m thinking not just of WordPress, but also of Movable Type, Blogger, Metafilter, etc.

    What happens when these projects outgrow the resources dedicated to them? They either take on additional resources for no cost (presumably volunteers working for altruistic or other personal reasons), they fold up shop, or they find a source of funding (or some combination therein).

    If incorporation ensues, money must be made. Employees must be paid. Legally, the sources of those funds don’t need to be revealed (unless we’re talking IPO). But ethically? I have no idea if the current ethics system is designed to handle an open-source effort. Is the GPL?

    I don’t have an answer, but it’s interesting to think about.

    As for gaming Google? I’m not all that bothered by it. Who’s to say that the articles don’t fulfill the searcher’s needs? And Google can decide itself if these actions violate any regulations they have.

  31. Andy, you bring up some very interesting points here. It certainly seems like a conflict of interest for WordPress to be publicly fighting comment spam from the SEO industry while secretly

    participating in a for-profit SEO venture.

    I agree that it’s likely that this post is going to kick up a wave of negative sentiment towards WordPress Inc. Perhaps the only thing necessary to resolve it is a bit of disclosure.

    And…not to be a pest or anything, but perhaps you could demonstrate the kind of disclosure you’re talking about by example at Upcoming.org. I know that Upcoming is a service, not a software project, and you don’t (yet) have a “donate to this project to defray costs” button. Even so…

  32. Brian: For Upcoming.org, it’s been as simple as keeping people informed when I make a change. I was considering charging for commercial self-promotion at some point, so I mentioned that in my latest news entry on the website. WordPress could easily use their development blog to do something similar.

  33. There definitely appear to be hidden links on the root page of wordpress.org using CSS, e.g. “text-indent: -9000px; overflow: hidden”. That’s clearly against our quality guidelines at http://www.google.com/webmasters/guidelines.html#quality

    What’s more, it looks like the company responsible for doing this (hotnacho.com) is also responsible for creating duplicate content in the form of posting the articles in multiple places, as you can see with this url: http://tinyurl.com/3omjj (these duplicate pages probably won’t last long).

    Google’s guidelines are quite clear on things like hidden text and hidden links to duplicate content. People should have a skeptical reaction when someone comes trying to buy links to spammy/duplicate pages, esp. if they want control of a subdomain or a subdirectory on your own site–linking to content like that can trigger effects to a whole site’s reputation, as this person notes:

    http://sayanythingblog.com/2005/03/28/google-comes-through

  34. I suppose you could look at it this way, Hot Nacho is a company that supports open-source software, specifically WordPress. All the web geeks need to rememeber that there are worse companies out there than those that try to “screw with Google” for PageRank, etc. It’s fun to say “spammers are scum” and I certainly don’t like them, but get some perspective, there is worse evil in this world.

    All that said, I don’t have a big problem with what Matt did, he said it wasn’t something he wanted to do long term, but if it could help bootstrap the community it would be nice. I didn’t hear anyone asking where the money was coming from when they announced WordPress, Inc. Also note, Matt said that if the user community didn’t like it, he’d end the program.

    I’m behind Matt, he sure seems like a good guy to me, and as soon as I get a few spare bucks, they’l be donated to WordPress, a project I’ve benefitted from and believe in.

  35. I currently use WordPress to power my Weblog and it is indeed a very good program, however I’d never suspect an opensource project such as this to use cloaking or other trickery to make themselves seem more popular.

  36. The question I have, is will wordpress.org get banned? If not why not? Does it mean that if you are an open source project you can spam?

  37. Hmm, I’ve reviewed the situation, looked at the articles, read Anil’s referenced piece. Don’t like it, sorry. Just published my more detailed take and linked here.

  38. I’d be all for someone disclosing earnings that might come as a connection to an open source project.

    But I am a a little amused that some people are so self righteous about about this revelation. We are able to use a product for free because this guy started an “experiment”. And suddenly Matt and WordPress should be reviled? That seems to be taking things a bit far.

    I don’t begrudge someone earning money from something they have put a great deal of effort and time into. Particularly when it seems to be putting back into the product and to the benefit of the community.

  39. I would always run into these references from the WordPress site when I was researching for my debt based blog. I just figured that someone there was keeping a side blog, it does seem sneaky that they are being paid to host content generated specifically to trick google.

    I am suprised that there isn’t more negative feedback about this since a lot of what has been going on in CMS development revolves around combatting comment and trackback spam. How is this really different? Essentially, this is using the page rank additions from every wordpress user to bolster a shady ad campaign, sort of like Kazaa letting you share music for “free”, but then installing spyware.

    If WordPress is a business, so be it, but it should hide behind what it is doing to make money. If it can’t support itself without taking money to inflate page rank of other sites, then it should be honest and open with itself and with its users.

  40. “I didn’t hear anyone asking where the money was coming from when they announced WordPress, Inc.”

    They announced WordPress, Inc? Who’s they and where’s the announcement? Who are the officers of the corporation?

  41. I would think other sources of funds to offset some of his expenses would be no problem to find. With WP’s pagerank and exposure legitimate advertising for one or two sponsors could earn a decent amount and would surely be objected to less than this. Its also not beyond the realm of possibility that if Google penalizes wordpress.org there could also be a negative effect on the incoming links to it as well..

  42. Matt certainly has the right to do whatever he wants with the wordpress.org domain, although I personally find the idea of generating revenue through search engine manipulation schemes repugnant. Much in the same way I wouldn’t allow someone to rub feces all over my home no matter how much they paid me, I wouldn’t allow a spammer to put “content” on my web site for a fee.

    But what I find particularly unethical about this is not the lack of transparency or the fact that WordPress is an open source project, but that since by default all *users* of WordPress software link back to wordpress.org, they are all unwittingly contributing to search engine manipulation by giving Pagerank to wordpress.org. To me at least, that seems a gross violation of implicit trust.

  43. The greater issue is that what’s good for WordPress isn’t necessarily good for the web community.

    In an ideal web, every search would return accurate results. Manipulating search results makes the web a less accessible place, and manipulating them for profit makes the web a more cynical place, and that’s only good for the people cashing in. It defeats the purpose of Google, and, to a larger extent, the web as a whole, while benefitting only the very, very few. That’s not what the web is about, or at least it’s not what the web should be about, and it’s a harmful practice no matter how “good” the people behind it are.

    I’m a WordPress user, and I love it. I think it’s a worthwhile project that deserves support. Again, in an ideal world, every WordPress user would pony up a few dollars. But the fact that every user doesn’t pony up those dollars doesn’t necessitate, and certainly doesn’t excuse, using less-than-ethical means to make up the difference.

    Being transparent about it would have been a nice step, and it certainly would have avoided the backlash and cynicism regarding the obvious deceitfulness of the negatively-indented links, but I can’t imagine WordPress users OK’ing the whole thing.

    Imagine if WordPress had announced that they were going to try email spam for a while — just to raise some much-needed funds! I’m not saying that what they’ve done is the same thing, but it is in the same spirit of cynicism, and it manipulates, for profit, a useful system by undermining that usefulness.

    The solution, I think, is to support WordPress financially. I think Matt made a mistake, but I’m more than willing to give him and the entire project a break — what is he, like 21 years old for crying out loud? My god, if mistakes I made at 21 were thrown up on Kottke and Waxy…

  44. Jeff, as for the annoucement of WordPress, Inc. maybe the “official” announcement didn’t happen (yet) but I was going off of Niall’s entry and this post/video from Ryan King, which was mentioned on the wp-hackers list.

    In no world is that remotely “official.” How many people subscribe to wp-hackers? I saw Matt at SxSW describe himself as an “open source hippy” who develops “software he likes.”

    I’m just kibitzing from the sidelines, but I think it *does* matter that he’s worked with a company that creates fake weblogs, and hosts them, and tries to fool google into linking to them, and then pockets the dough. All in the name of Open Source!

    What if we discovered rival blog publishers were running freeipods.com web sites? At least that is remotely legitimate. Who has Matt not taken advantage of here?

    WordPress users should change their “powered by WordPress” link to point to this post.

  45. hypocritical of Google and WordPress. They both hate “spam”

    -one hosts the content

    -the other one funds the business model. Where is your AdSense quality control Google?

  46. I’m kind of amazed at the blase attitude towards this from so many of the commenters. What Matt has done is basically commit fraud against Google. Spamming may not be the worst evil in the world, but that doesn’t mean we should support it. Just because there are worse things doesn’t mean we shouldn’t call something bad.

    Legal or not, this is just plain disgusting behavior. I hope Google smacks him down hard. I hope he will learn a lesson from this and more importantly correct his error. I certainly won’t be supporting him until he does.

    For those of you who say “WordPress is free, why are you complaining that Matt found a way to make money?” Things aren’t black and white. Just because WordPress is good software doesn’t mean Matt didn’t commit a wrong action here that should be denounced. This is not acceptable behavior, we certainly shouldn’t reward him for it.

  47. Yeah, this was pretty retarded.

    If he needed cash, I would’ve thought he’d try a formal donation drive first. At least those are pretty transparent, and don’t quite have the same entangling compromises of corporate sponsorship.

  48. Ouch, looks like this attracted the attention of Google, which may have some bad ramifications for WordPress before Matt can act upon it.

    In any case, I feel the worst part of this whole situation is the spam-like support by WordPress for these articles, especially when so many people are trying to combat comment spam, including Matt himself with the brilliant WP-Hashcash plugin.

  49. What’s “retarded” is the rush-to-judgement of a young guy who has not only done a lot more than the collective mass of self-important bloggers, but has only ever demonstrated a passionate desire to do more.

    Guess what? All this empty righteousness isn’t going to keep advertisers from doing this kind of thing.

    If you can’t see the enormous potential benefit of what Matt’s done, it’s because you’re simply not smart enough.

    Matt’s done enough to deserve the benefit of the doubt in this circumstance. Period.

  50. TamP:

    The rush to judgement is surely deserved, and I don’t consider it a rush. Anyone looking at those “articles” sees it for exactly what it is: spam and a scam. The fact that these “articles” were obfuscated from the rest of the WordPress website leads one to believe that the owner, Matt, knew the obvious conclusion most would draw and decided to hide it.

    I don’t give him the benefit of the doubt, regardless of inherent altruism. To blatantly promote the agenda of an organization which spams the Internet and de-frauds the search engines that keep it accessible and informative is despicable. Surely at 21 or so years old, Matt should know this.

    Regardless of the benefit of Matt’s previous actions, it does little to alleviate the stupidity of the action being discussed, and neither should his apparent altruism preclude us from discussing this stupidity.

    There are ways to make money with a high trafficed website, and ways to alleviate costs associated with hosting it. I’ve done it on the site I run, and that is without whoring myself and my site out to the most profitable means, regardless of legality/ethics/morality.

  51. Leaving aside WordPress for a moment, two points about the “articles” themselves:

    1) that company is offering me wow much to write their articles? Three dollars for a 500-word article? Or 0.6 cents a word? No decent writer should be writing for 0.6 cents a word! Maybe in 1850 that was a good rate…

    2) if you want to sign up for their 1850-wages assignment you need a Windows PC. Why? Because they’ve invented a wordprocessor which auto-counts words and keywords based on some kind of algorithm they’re using to fake out Google. You could probably fake out the fakers as long as your article satisfied their metrics. Write a program to create the articles. Maybe someone already has.

  52. Ethan:

    ‘Anyone looking at those “articles” sees it for exactly what it is: spam and a scam.’

    Without a doubt. I do not disagree.

    “The fact that these “articles” were obfuscated from the rest of the WordPress website leads one to believe that the owner, Matt, knew the obvious conclusion most would draw and decided to hide it.”

    Again, I do not disagree.

    But can we all look at this little episode (and it is little. Afterall, child porn still gets circulated through our holy bandwidth) with something other than anti-spam fanaticism?

    We’re never going to convince advertisers to stop engaging in annoying practices that are profitable. Holding ourselves to a higher standard may earn us cool points among ourselves, but it doesn’t do a thing to combat the constantly-evolving problem of spam.

    I know enough 21-year-olds to know that Matt Mullenweg is un-ordinary. I think his vision extends way, way, WAY beyond creating a better blogging tool. And he probably doesn’t have to worry about money either.

    Based on his level of committment, and his willingness to take risks, I’m willing to entertain the idea that Matt’s intentions and motivations are many, and that some of those will result in better anti-spam tools and practices. Hasn’t anyone seen the movie “Sneakers”?

    And of course he didn’t disclose his hypotheses and plans before-hand. You can’t do that kind of thing with an experiment.

    The same kind of furor arose from MS Smart Tags, and then again with Google’s Auto-link toolbar. Let’s not allow our knee-jerk reactions to get in the way of progress.

    That’s all.

    And yes, spam is bad. bad bad bad.

  53. What do you use WordPress for?

    Me, I use it to blog. If that’s what it does then it serves it’s purpose. How it gets done – I don’t care.

    As far as I can tell all this mischeif with the search engines will wake them up and get them to make things better instead of just letting things get stale.

    Fact is, whether WordPress does it – or some SEO link farm does it – Search engines are not as reliable.

    Last, but not least. Matt isn’t spamming. Spamming is unsolicited. All of these posts are on a sanctioned area of WordPress and don’t exist anywhere else. It’d be different if these posts were dropped into blogs and wikis all over the place but they aren’t. Linking them in off-screen content is a little bit of trickery but there isn’t any leeching there. It’s not like people pay for WordPress. So what if someone profits off of an Open Source product. The end product is for the consumer, whether someone makes money or not. If a consumer is happy, it doesn’t matter what they pay – that’s supply and demand. People don’t like lawyers, but lawyers help companies retain (and sometimes make) money – it’s not up to the consumer to tell the company they have to live without lawyers.

    Trash in, trash out.

    I would also point out that your searches are restricted to the wordpress.org domain. If you perform those searches without the domain, WordPress doesn’t really show up on the list. It’s obvious the search engines are getting smarter about these things or the WordPress links would be showing up for a normal search of asbestos (which they aren’t).

    Update: Google removed the pages. Obviously, this doesn’t fix the problem.

    kudos on the article, lot’s of people didn’t know about this

  54. This is just like what happen on gnome project few week ago. There’s a debate followed OSNews’ Euginia article about gnome. it’s about developer centric and user centric development.

    Matt surely has all the reasons on why he chose the thing he has been doing. And so do users have the rigth to _say_ what users like/dislike. But _no_, users don’t own the project. Users may influence project direction, but _no_, users cannot _selfishly_ force what the founder should do with the project.

    Why don’t we sink this whole irritated feeling, hatred, or anger. Let’s compose something for our beloved WordPress.

    My suggestion:

    – Paypal button

    – Thinkgeek stuff for Matt 🙂

    – Other think to compensate the cost of the project (?)

    Let’s send our love to Matt 🙂

    PS:

    I love wordpress.

  55. The kicker is that since WordPress is licensed under the GPL, so anyone is free to fork the code, as long as the derived project is also licensed under the GPL. After all, WordPress itself was forked from b2.

    Something to think about.

    If you don’t like the way WordPress is going, and you have the technical nous to improve it, there is absolutely nothing stopping you from forking the bitch. It’s not proprietry code like Movable Type, after all…

    Ironically, this was part of the reason I switched from MT to WordPress last year, after 6A’s pricing screw-up, because I knew that if someone quit developing the software, then the likelihood of someone else picking it up was quite good.

    I stand by my “retarded” comment because who, in their right mind, would countenance the same sort of “business” model that killed Trackback, made referrer logs useless and caused people to incorporate all sorts of doohickies on their comments pages to keep the humans in and the robots out? This is why a lot of people are pissed off about this, call it “anti-spam fanaticism” or whatever, call the people concerned by it “self-important, it doesn’t change the facts – most of those tactics are about picking up unmerited Pagerank, and this is much the same. Bugger the semantics about what’s spamming and what isn’t, this is the same thing.

    Whilst it is not implicit in the license, the nature of GPLed projects is that there is a certain amount of trust that neither the developers or users will “do evil” with it. Guess what? Matt stuffed up here, compounding it with the subterfuge. You can’t shake the devil’s hand and pretend you’re only kidding.

    As I said, if he needed cash, the best way to do it would’ve been through a donation drive, perhaps to coincide with the recent, excellent, 1.5 release. I fact, people would’ve been quite happy to do so, I reckon. Try and do that now, well…

  56. Graham:

    No one has endorsed these shady practices. I can’t help but think there’s a bit of emotion that’s getting in the way of constructive discourse.

    Again: SPAM = BAD. This point has been conquered.

    But there is no valid, logical reason to assume that Matt’s “experiment” is tantamount to an endorsement of this practice!

    Wait! before you explode. You’re obviously a creative guy. Could there be NO OTHER REASON besides

    1. Matt’s a hypocrite

    2. Matt’s a low-life

    3. Matt’s greedy

    4. Matt’s sick of financing WP on his own

    to initiate this sort of experiment? And when you’re answering that question, keep in mind all you know about Matt Mullenweg. And if you don’t know enough about him…then wait until you do.

  57. Toni, what could Matt do that would cross the line where you would think it was uncool? What if one of the other WP devs did it?

  58. toni:

    All Matt need do is take AdSense off the spam pages and put it onto the real WordPress.org.

    Based solely off the traffic that site receives, and the value of the keywords to which it applies, Matt could easily clear 5 figures per month from that revenue alone. I suspect that would more than pay for the project, the “, Inc.”, and whatever else Matt would like to indulge in.

  59. I like WordPress a lot, and it sounds like Matt is a good guy who made a pretty poor decision — okay, make that a really stupid and sneaky decision. I don’t think that taints the software he developed or the community that has grown up around it, at least in the longer term, but I do know one thing: I’ve removed the link at the bottom of my WordPress-powered blog. There’s no way I want any part of that kind of link-farming.

  60. We’re currently switching our e-mail newsletter (34K opt-in subscribers) to a pure blog format with WP. It’s a marvelous program and we are profiting immensely from it. And no, we didn’t chose it because it’s free (we’ve licensed tons of stuff and, as a commercial setup, are quite used to it) but for its functionality, its Open Source philosophy, its usability, easy customization, user support, etc. etc.

    Which is the whole point, IMV: all those people who would now blithely participate in yet another one of those holier-than-thou witchhunts the world has seen more than enough of in its long, ignominous history, would be well advised to sit back and reflect on how much of a benefit WP has been or still is to their particular interests and agendas, how much it has contributed to the Web community in general and the blogosphere in particular, before waxing all judgmental and self-righteous.

    The only (mild) contention I have with Matt’s approach (or Hot Nacho’s, for that matter) is that it seems quite amateurish – there’s a lot better, more efficient and essentially undetectable methods out there to play the search engine game if you must. (Which, in his declaration, wasn’t his intention anyway, let’s not forget. And I for my part see no reason to disbelieve him.)

    Frankly, even if he or anybody else should actually decide to manipulate the search engines, I couldn’t care less and I certainly wouldn’t begrudge him laughing all the way to the bank if successful.

    After all, they are nothing but a bunch of commercial setups trying to squeeze as much money as they can from what they’re doing, just like most anyone else. And again just like most anyone else, they know perfectly well how to fight dirty, too. (“Great index. Wonder where they stole it …”)

    So, nothing in the least sacrosanct about Google or Yahoo! or MSN etc. And no need to get all worked up and moralistic about it, either. If Google & Co can’t protect themselves properly from sneaky code tactics, that’s their problem, not ours. Unless, of course, you happen to hold some of their stock in your portfolio …

    WP is well known and respected enough they can arguably do quite well without any search engine ranking. If Google or the others were to ban WP from their index, it would be their loss in the long run, not WP’s. (“This engine sucks … they don’t even know about WP!”)

    WP is a remarkable product, period. So if you want it to stay that way and go on improving, it’s not the brightest idea tying up this project’s resources (human, financial, or otherwise) by bashing it big time for all the wrong (read: irrelevant) reasons.

    Let’s restrict criticism, if any, to buggy code or sub optimal usability, where appropriate. Because that’s what it’s all about: a piece of software, not eternal damnation in some search engine hell, for goodness’s sake!

    Plus, reinstating this attitude would actually help the community in profiting from an even better product. Which all this patently pointless debate about “ethics” definitely doesn’t …

  61. We all make mistakes. WordPress is a great piece of software, I like using it, and I think the benefits it has provided allow us to look past this mistake. Yes, there’s some search engine gaming involved, even if Matt didn’t view it as that; but I say cut him some slack. Don’t you think that’s fair?

    We all make mistakes…

  62. But there is no valid, logical reason to assume that Matt’s “experiment” is tantamount to an endorsement of this practice!

    I would bet you $100 Matt cashed the check from hotnachos since he’s been runing this for a couple months. That’s enough of a valid, logical reason that he’s endorsing it, no?

  63. Hi

    I read the Bible quite a lot and in the book of John there is a story about a woman who was to be stoned. She had sinned. Before stoning her they decided to attempt to use her to bring Jesus down. Jesus was aware of her game and asked the crowd to think about their own actions. “Were they so perfect that stoning this woman was an option?”

    I would ask the crowd on this page the same question. I am not perfect and I operate out of mixed reasons. I won’t be one that criticises Matt. I won’t be one to pass judgement. I am 43 and I make mistakes all the time – thankfully most are not spotted! These mistakes are deliberate at times and at other times not. I am not here to confess sin, I am here however to encourage Matt a bit.

    I have been using WordPress on and off for over a year now. I have not contributed to the project, despite knowing the cost of developing such software. I feel that makes me guilty of not supporting Matt. I for one will be arranging a donation to WordPress as soon as possible.

    WordPress is an excellent programme and Matt if you’re reading this post then keep going. Yes you will have to change tactics and you will certainly have to apologise but keep going. You have my support fully and without reservation.

    Oh and by the way, you will probably make a mistake again – that’s life – let’s just hope the vultures don’t spot the next one!

    Rich

  64. Good god you’re a useless bunch of whiners. “Stone him! Burn him at the stake!”

    “I hope Google smacks him down hard”? Dude, you’re nuts.

    Instead of bawling, go make a difference somewhere. Fork the project, write your own blogging engine, or send the guy money so he doesn’t have to try things you don’t agree with. If you pathetic crybabies actually donated for the software you’re using, he could afford to incorporate and hire his employee without having to do the “spam” thing.

  65. I’m going to let Peet’s comment stand, but any other comments that resort to name-calling and other trolling tactics will be deleted without warning.

  66. Gaming is gaming. It wasn’t done openly, and he got caught. Big surprise. It doesn’t matter if it’s being done by someone that we all know and love (hey, I heart Matt too!) or if the project is open source or not. It’s just ethically uncool.

    No need to pummel the guy, though. He’s young, and though very bright, obviously has some growing up left to do. I wish him the very best of luck and trust this incident will sort itself out as soon as possible. Consider it experience points earned while taking damage along the way. But that’s how some people learn and grow. And I’m all for that.

  67. I don’t care about the money. I don’t care if WP is making money and I don’t care if Matt is making money off of WP, or basically anything at all regarding money. The money is irrelevant.

    What is relevant is the fact that WordPress.org is participating in shady search engine manipulation tactics, and thus by doing so also condoning it.

    There is nothing legitimate about that.

  68. i am totally shocked about this, and i think it is a total scandal.

    this was done in the most sneaky of ways, and the part where an article in the support forums was first deleted by an anonymous admin is almost too much to take.

    what to do? its kinda ridiculous, but i have removed all my links to wordpress.org from my website… it wont change a thing but it felt good!

    very importantly this shows the deeply significant difference between open source software and free software. i don’t think richard stallman would ever even consider doing such a thing. while open source is not really a political choice but a workflow technique.

  69. I’m taking down all links to WordPress.org from my WP powered site. Matt can do what he likes with his domain, but I’m not contributing his PageRank if that’s what he’s using it for.

  70. Let’s hear what everyone involved has to say before going too off the wall. It looks like a dumb move but I know for a fact I’ve made far far dumber.

    It is his site, he has put in god knows how much work, he wants to take it forward and who here hasn’t done well out of ‘dishonest’ means before (like lying on CVs, being ‘strategic’ etc.)?

    Or has everyone here never done anything wrong or underhand?

    So let’s see what everyone has to say and cut the puratanical crap right :o)

  71. WordPress Articles are not spam, as they are not spam that arrive in your or my mailbox, but they are spam as in content spam, search engine spam. WordPress Articles are low-quality content, content whose sole purpose is to get people to click the Adsense-ads that are displayed on the side, worthless content. Because WordPress is hosting them, they get instant credibility with the search engines, and therefore making them more visible to netizens who are seeking related topics.

    So these are “SPAM”. Just not email spam. If you want to mince words. And the negative position/hiding of links on WP homepage is 100% blackhat SEO stuff. This whole thing stinks so much that semantics won’t help him here.

    Photomatt is either really naive to think this is harmless, or really ignorant not to know anything about Adsense-inspired garbage content spam. Whatever the case, this incident paints him in a very negative light.

  72. I personally feel that there is nothing wrong in it, he clearly said in the post in support topic that this is basically an experiment, so it is not necessary that experiments success all the times, he is trying to generate some money to give something back to people…So, I dont find anything wrong in it…yes, “” but it is ok…now they know the reaction of people to it..and they will take necessary steps once their contract is over…

    These are just my personal feelings though….

    Regards

    Deep

  73. “Second, is it ethical for open-source projects to make money gaming search engines?”

    The gaming is the advertisers method – Matt was apparently employing an advertiser to help raise money for an open source project.

    Just seems a shame that the issue could not have been resolved before breaking it out in public – somehow waiting until Matt was out of the country before making such a public attack on his reputation, business, and income, makes this whole issue seem a little ugly. Especially when it’s not even a user of a rival software product doing the public reporting.

    An issue that perhaps would have been better addressed and resolved within the WordPress community first?

  74. OMGWTFBBQing over not ever using WordPress any more, ever! ever! — just because something dodgy happened? I’d like to see you apply that attitude to every other product, free or not, that you use.

    Yeah, this is shady in the extreme, but it’s just linkspam. Nobody died because of it. Nobody’s destitute. The world keeps turning. Sure, choose some other product if you don’t like this, but there are a LOT of much worse examples of companies doing dodgy things to further their profits, and your righteous burning fury might be better pointed towards some of the businesses whose actions have actually caused real hurt to real people.

  75. the best content bubbles up to the top. that’s the gamble google’s taking. bloggers take it, too. when pagerank works properly, the most linkage = the most trust, and you gain both with good content. good content can come from billion-dollar portals or someone sitting at home with her $5/month hosting and $0 install of wordpress, but the source doesn’t matter if the web says you’re the best.

    i guess that’s why i find the whole debacle disheartening. matt’s human, people make mistakes, then they learn from them and move on. it’s clear that the immediate issue will work itself out: google will pull the spam listings, the spammers will lose interest in wordpress.org and the checks will stop rolling in.

    but what’s the implication here that makes me squirm? it’s more than, “spam is evil! shame, shame!” my romanticized image of someone who builds blog tools is someone who buys into the dream, at least a little–who takes the gamble. it’s someone who wants to keep driving the barrier to entry for getting content onto the web lower and lower. blogging has brought us new voices, and some of them are damn good. i say so, pagerank says so–the web says so. but pay-for-play changes that. high placement on google is zero-sum: someone’s gonna get knocked into the oblivion of page 2 when spam rockets to the top, and the blogger with the $0 wordpress install doesn’t stand much of a chance in that kind of arms race.

    didn’t mean to pile on anyone here: it’s just, y’know, maxim of their actions and all that jazz.

  76. That Matt has to take such desperate and (IMHO) stupid sneaky sleazy measures might be an indication the community doesn’t care enough about the project to keep it alive financially.

    So if you don’t like this /articles “experiment”, put your money where your mouth is and donate more, not less. It’s as simple as that.

  77. I can’t believe that search engine gaming gets some people so upset. Now if it were email/IM/phone spam, or installing spyware, I’d certainly be upset. But questioning someone’s ethics for gaming a search engine?

    Some might question the ethics of not pulling an article that questions someone else’s ethics when finding out the person in question wouldn’t be available to defend himself against the accusations.

  78. I have just added rel=”nofollow” to the WP link in my page footer. So no more page rank for WordPress from my index.php. I will of course continue using WP – it’s superb. Let’s hope Matt will learn his lessons.

  79. I think comments on this should probably be closed. If people still need to scream let them do it on their own sites.

    Wayyy too much of a flash mob feel in here.

    I’m just going to repeat my thoughts one final time:

    Matt owes no explanation as to how/why he makes money off the site/wordpress, so long as how he does it does not harm his users.

    This does not harm the users.

    What IS wrong here is the fact that Matt chose the avenue of search engine manipulation to make that money. Furthermore, since WordPress.org has a big ol’ donation link… potential donators should know how the “company” is making money.

    Search engine manipulation is wrong because it is dishonest, sure, but that’s a personal ehtical issue. The big problem for me is that it hurts all of us.

    I don’t think Matt had dishonest intentions here. He probably justified it to himself very easily…

    They are REAL articles, they are simply out of place. It stays out of his users way, so he doesn’t have to bug them with ads.

    He probably thought nobody would care.

    I definately give him the benefit of the doubt and assume it was an HONEST mistake.

    I understand he needs to make money with WordPress, and I think he should. But he should do it honestly. Put AdSense on REAL content pages, and ditch the donation links.

    Anyway, just my 2 cents. I don’t use WordPress, and I don’t know Matt. I just don’t think this “situation” warrants execution. It was a mistake. Probably an honest one. A bad one no doubt. Let him come home and remedy it. Say your *tsk*tsk* if you must… but don’t call for his head.

  80. Adam Michela: just for the record, donations go towards the WP project itself, while money from the /articles/ directory goes to WP Inc or wherever.

    The two do not mix.

  81. Once again, for everyone slow to catch on :

    Spam is bad, spam is bad, spam is bad.

    So’s war, world-hunger, air pollution and daytime television. Stating the obvious (over and over) isn’t opinion. It’s weird.

    WHY is everyone having such a hard time stepping off the flimsy soap box here? The ignorance and dearth of critical thinking skills in this particular thread is positively staggering. I had hoped the morning would bring some clarity, but instead I see more posts whose comments are just too ridiculous to discuss.

    Matt’s motivations (IF they’re any of our business!) are many! If you’re having trouble seeing past whatever comparatively small monetary fee he may have enjoyed as a result of hurting nothing other than some very fragile egos, that’s your problem!

    Besides that – what’s more likely to result in effective anti-spam-the-engines tactics? In-geek proselytizing or learning the ins-and-outs by conducting a first-hand experiment?

  82. Michel: You’re probably right, if so, my mistake. I just assume they are one in the same. Unless the “WordPress Project” has some publicly visible savings account, I’d venture to guess that Matt has one bank account with his WordPress DBA. In either case, I don’t think it makes much of a difference.

  83. I don’t do this kind of junk on my site and why should wordpress. How many people would even find wordpress through a search engine anyway. In this case word of mouth is more effective.

    WordPress should get rightfully banned from search engines for this. I’m glad I use textpattern!

  84. And getting removed from the search engines makes perfect sense too, since cloaking is a definite no no. The cloaking is the bad part here and was a poor decision. If the links weren’t cloaked, people would be able to see them and make up their mind themselves of whether this is good or bad.

    Making money needed to support project = good. Using against-the-rules seo to do it = bad. This isn’t about transparency, though transparency would have made this less explosive, and maybe people would have hammered home how poor an idea cloaking is. This is about cloaking and cloaking is bad, m’kay. With an excellent page rank, there were probably a lot better ways to generate some money for the project I’d imagine.

  85. I’m a wordpress user and although I have no problem with advertising, because we all need to fund our projects, I do not support the cloaking methods used. If he left it out in the open as “informative” articles it would be somewhat fine. Although creating articles only for the purpose of generating profit instead of something that fits with the site is kind of shady.

  86. Google search for “WP” now does not take you to WordPress.org and you Darryl is right. I see a 0 PR. Incredible.

  87. Ok. I was seeing 0 then i got an 8. I thought i was messed up. Now i’m consistantly seeing a 0/10.

    Was there any question that google would see this as shady?

  88. Comments have been closed. Thank you for participating. You can track other commentary on this story with Technorati or Bloglines.

    I’ll continue to make updates on my own site, so please e-mail me if you have news that should be included.

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