I talked to Matt Mullenweg last night by AIM, from a wi-fi connection in Italy. He was just starting to catch up on the story, swamped under a ton of e-mail and interview requests. He wrote something brief on his weblog, and is in the process of composing an official response for the Wordpress homepage. Update: Here it is. Please read it! It addresses many questions.
Update: Matt just posted a comment in this thread, addressing some of the conspiracy theories and saying that his response is coming very soon:
Andy did let me know he was working on the article, I was open and answered all his questions however I'd prefer if our AIM conversation wasn't quoted more just because I don't have access to it myself and I'm not terribly articulate on IM. It didn't occur to me that the article would be finished while I was gone and there would be so much feedback. I'm back online and going to be posting a response shortly.
Otherwise, things are settling down from a very busy day yesterday. eWeek, MSNBC, The Register, Slashdot, Ars Technica, and Metafilter all posted articles about it. After deleting the offending articles, Google added Wordpress.org back into their search results and reinstated the 8/10 pagerank.
Chad Jones, the creator of Hot Nacho, contacted me and asked me to post this statement. Several parts of his story were contradicted by Matt himself, and I don't believe it myself, but I'm happy to reproduce it in full below.
Hi, I'm Chad from HotNacho.com. I just wanted to post an explanation to clarify what was going on here. It's not nearly as devious as people seem to think.
I'm a garage software developer in the middle stages of writing a custom word-processing utility to help authors craft articles which are mildly search engine optimized. Nothing deceptive dishonest or black-hat -- just providing authors with information about keyword balance. This helps them to see how a machine views their writing. When my software is ready, I plan to license it to companies wishing to develop website content.
Naturally, this requires an awful lot of testing so I've been placing test batches of articles on many website -- which has been invaluable for learning about how search engines read pages. I approached Matt several months ago about putting a batch of articles on the WordPress site and he agreed -- because he needed the income stream. For my part, I invariably place some advertising on such pages because I'm also not corporate sponsored.
Altogether, I placed a couple thousand articles on WordPress (not 168,000). The results were mixed. Google indexed the pages but they did not catch much Google traffic -- which is logical since the articles covered a broad range of unrelated topics. The articles were of varying degrees of quality and covered a half-dozen popular subjects but they were most certainly not spam.
It was a blunder that Matt used invisible links to connect to the Articles collection. It wasn't necessary and I'm sure he regrets having done it that way. But please cut the guy some slack. A mistake was made and corrected. Matt has given freely of his time and effort for years without remuneration and perhaps the irony here is that he probably hid the links out of embarrassment that he needed to rent out a corner of his website. Sure, it was a mistake, but it was motivated by the fact that he's a really good guy.