What if YOU get removed from Google?

Such an interesting day… suddenly… πŸ˜€

… At some point this morning, I went to check on my Google status.

The way I do that is to Google the word “Bill” or the word “bill”.

http://www.google.com/search?hl=en&safe=off&q=Bill&btnG=Search

On November 12, 2007, I was on page 4: (#37 of 41,600,000 English pages for “Bill”)

Page 4 Google for "bill"

On February 15, 2008, I was on page 1: (#10 of 42,000,000 English pages for “Bill”)

Bill Cammack on Google page 01 for "Bill"

On April 20, 2008, I was STILL on page 1: (#3 of 29,700,000 English pages for “Bill”)

Bill Number 03

Now, I could have taken a screenshot every single day, if I gave a damn, because I haven’t been outside of the top ten results for “Bill” or “bill” for the last five (5) months. In fact, everybody KNOWS that, because I don’t carry business cards. I just tell people to “Google Bill”.

So anyway, hahahaha πŸ˜€ I google my first name, and interestingly enough, I’m not on page 1. I look at the number of entries and notice that it’s ballooned to 395,000,000 English pages.

Google Search "Bill" 080718

So I’m like, ok. So what? This is interesting. For once, I get to see myself on page 2. When they get rid of those extra couple of hundred MILLION results, I’ll be back in position.

Nope! πŸ˜€

Page 3?… 4?… 11?….. Nothing. πŸ˜€

So now, I’m getting suspicious, so I start googling stuff that I *KNOW* I’m on page 1 for, such as “Bill Cammack” and the first thing that comes up is my Flickr set. :/

Michelle, Marissa, Bill & Lindsey
Photo by Jonathan Dingman

So now I’m like “oh. I see. My entire DOMAIN NAME has disappeared from Google”. :/ So then I did this search:

http://www.google.com/search?hl=en&q=site%3Abillcammack.com&btnG=Search&meta=

and received this: πŸ˜€

Bill Cammack Site Disappears From Google

And… Yes… I tried it in “all languages” too, as if I EVER post in anything except English.

Now…

I don’t know anything about how sites disappear/reappear in Google’s results. This Page gives Google’s explanation of what could happen to YOUR site:

http://www.google.com/support/webmasters/bin/answer.py?hl=en&answer=34443

Also, as I mentioned, there are usually tens of millions of English pages for “Bill” and today, there are hundreds of millions, almost ten times the usual number. However, that makes no difference, because my site is currently not indexed by google AT ALL, as if it never existed. πŸ˜€

Now… Rewind a couple of days… On July 16, 2008, I was experimenting with Google Ads and wrote a post about it, so the two things that came to mind were that a) someone tampered with my site, or b) I messed something up when I added and then deleted my Google Ads within like two days, because they totally weren’t floating my boat. As I was discussing this with Tyme, she mentioned that my site might have been removed for some sort of Adsense violation. Googling removal situations, I landed on a page that said they usually send out some sort of explanation if they remove you themselves……

So I go to my junk mail folder, and lo and behold, there’s an email from “Google Search Quality”, which read:

Dear site owner or webmaster of billcammack.com,

While we were indexing your webpages, we detected that some of your pages were using techniques that are outside our quality guidelines, which can be found here: http://www.google.com/webmasters/guidelines.html. This appears to be because your site has been modified by a third party. Typically, the offending party gains access to an insecure directory that has open permissions. Many times, they will upload files or modify existing ones, which then show up as spam in our index.

The following is some example hidden text we found at billcammack.com:

and went on to describe the offending text.

Interestingly enough, I received this email on July 17, 2008, less than a day after my Google Ads post. When I mentioned this to Tyme, she pointed me to a post she recently made on her 9rules blog, called Securing Your WordPress Site. Thanks to Tyme’s post, which cited this article by Brajeshwar, which describes how he found foreign code in his site’s header file, I figured out what had happened.

Sure Enough… a simple “View Page Source” revealed that my site had been ‘infected’ with “hidden” text when I searched for one of the words that Google informed me was on my site. I switched themes, upgraded WordPress and did a couple of other things to prepare to “request reconsideration” of my site for indexing in Google’s search results.

I did that today, June 18, 2008, and we’ll see how long it takes, since this is what’s written on the reconsideration request page:

Please allow several weeks for the re-evaluation process. Unfortunately, we can’t reply individually to reconsideration requests.

So this got me thinking….

What if YOU get removed from Google?

Can YOU afford for your site to be removed from Google’s search results? Would that impact your business? Would it impact your social life? Would it impact your ‘cred’?

Personally, I don’t need google for business. I don’t need google for socialization. I am a REAL PERSON who does work for REAL COMPANIES and has REAL FRIENDS that I hang out with, regardless of whether my site is indexed in Google. The hits that I get from Google are all *RANDOMS*. The people that are wondering what Bill Cammack did last night or last week are either SUBSCRIBED to my site via RSS or have billcammack.com in their favorites or bookmarks somewhere. Being on Page 1 on Google for “Bill” is strictly a NOVELTY for me, because….. I never even BRANDED “Bill”. πŸ˜€ People ask me all the time, “What did you do to get to page 1 for ‘Bill’?”, and I can’t tell them, because all I did was POST. INTERESTING. ISH, like this post you’re reading right now. Granted, I can’t/won’t take credit for the popularity of my site, because other than Google (which, according to Google Analytics accounts for accountED for 56.04% of my page hits) I get a lot of referral traffic from people like Richard Blakeley & Lux Alptraum of Boinkology.com.

Blakeley, Lux & Bill

So, like I said in my posts about Fame and “Star Power”, I couldn’t possibly give a damn about people that I don’t know at all googling some topic that I happened to have posted about and enriching their own lives by reading what *I* wrote. πŸ˜€ Therefore, it doesn’t matter to me AT ALL, that according to Google right now, my site doesn’t even exist.

But what about you?

What would happen to YOUR business if Google suddenly didn’t see your site?
What would happen to YOUR standing in your field amongst people that don’t know your CV yet?
What happens if nobody can google YOUR company and see years worth of posts and videos and pictures and awards and accolades and recommendations?

I have over 1,000 posts on BillCammack.com that are currently absolutely ****ing INVISIBLE on Google. It’s funny, πŸ™‚ because this is such an odd feeling that I can’t really explain it. πŸ˜€ It’s relatively unique. It’s like the world suddenly caught amnesia when it comes to anything you’ve said or done over the past umpteen years.

The closest I can come to explaining it is… We’ve all seen what happens when Twitter fails.

What happens if Google fails YOU?

Asynchronous Video Threading

I spent the day on Seesmic yesterday and had a 90-post conversation involving several of the members. I’ll say first of all that Seesmic has made TONS of improvements since Andrew Lipson gave me an invite 3 months ago. They’re always making improvements to their site, so this post may very well be outdated relatively soon. πŸ™‚

If you don’t know what Seesmic is, it’s basically like having a conversation with people on a bunch of stickies. In a way, it’s like Twitter, except it’s video and audio instead of text. You get to record a video which goes into the “public” timeline, and other people can watch it just about as soon as you post it. People who see your video can record their own video and make it a reply to your video if they so choose.

They relatively recently implemented threading as a one-dimensional, reverse chronological timeline. This was way better than no threading AT ALL πŸ˜€ but having held a several-hour-long conversation on it that was about actual intellectual concepts, not “what to name a dog” or “who’s going on a date tonight”, I got to experience the downsides of asynchronous video threading in Seesmic’s current format.

The reason I make a point of it being asynchronous is that it’s not a real-time conversation. It’s more like twitter or an email group than it is like Yahoo Live where several people speak to each other simultaneously, or even chat rooms, where everyone’s there at the same time and can jump in with their opinions if they feel like it.

Liz Burr made some excellent points that I hadn’t paid attention to as I was absorbing so many other things during a full day’s use of the app. Someone had made the point that because you record your own video and decide when to stop it, you get to say what you want in its entirety without being interrupted. Liz mentioned that since it’s asynchronous, you can be turned OFF at ANY point, or not listened to at all, as your screen name and icon are attached to your video in the thread. This means you have more of a chance of not.being.heard.at.all. if someone decides that what you have to say isn’t worth listening to based on your behaviors and what you had to say in previous videos. I “knew” this, but I hadn’t processed it until she mentioned it to me. I was already employing that behavior, for example, after listening to a post from someone that I determined was garbage, I would skip anything with their face on it after that.

At this point, I should mention how Seesmic is set up for people to become aware of people’s posts. It’s important to understand this to understand why one-dimensional threading is NOT optimal for an application like this. There’s a “public” timeline that catches everyone’s videos. This is world-wide, but you can set it to only pick up posts in your language. That’s still A LOT of people, and it’s not even open to the public yet. Your next option is a “friends” timeline. You get to choose to “follow” people, and only their videos will show up in this timeline. This is another way you can elect to bypass people whom you’ve determined have nothing valid or intelligent to say… don’t “follow” them. They’ll still show up if you’re looking at a thread that they’ve contributed videos to, but then you resort to visual parsing and skip them as usual.

These abilities to select people to follow and people to “allow to speak” by clicking on their videos and watching them all the way to the end absolutely alters each person’s perception of a thread they arrive to. Seesmic member Otir read a perfect analogy of the situation, telling the story of a bunch of blind people whom were all offered different sections of an elephant to feel and then to give their opinion of what an elephant is like. Each of them had their own perception of “an elephant”, and that perception colored what they had to say about elephants.

First of all, if you’re following certain people, their posts come up in your “friends” timeline. If you click on the member’s icon, you go straight to their opinion. That’s a good thing. However, you’re jumping in in the middle of the thread. You can click “conversation” and see the entire list of posts in that thread. This is where your personal bias comes into play. If you don’t have any respect for the people earlier in the timeline, you might skip their videos entirely, bypassing much of the context of the situation. If there are a whole lot of videos before the person you’re following, you might not be inclined to watch an hour’s worth of posts before you enjoy what you really came here to see… thus, bypassing much of the context of the situation. If you’ve determined that the person you’re following is more credible than others in the thread, you may be inclined to reply along the lines of that personal bias. This is where we get the blind people approaching the elephant from different sides and angles.

Another “problem” with this layout is that what you’re looking at is NOT actually linear other than chronologically. The posts are laid out by the TIME that they were posted to the site, but they are not differentiated by the TANGENT of the thread that that particular post followed. This leads to a circular, “telephone game” situation, because people show up to a thread hours after it started, read something a “friend” of theirs posted, which was dealt with hours ago, and respond to that person’s post without watching all of the surrounding material.

My thread was 90 posts long. Even if each person took only one minute to say what they had to say (and I’ve seen videos that were 5 minutes long, so if there’s a time limit on individual videos, it’s NOT shorter than that), that means that to absorb the entire thread, you’d have to sit there as long as a feature film. People aren’t going to wait that long to reply. As a matter of fact, people started showing up and making NEW threads asking for someone to summarize my thread because they didn’t want to go back and read it all. This is another way that posts get “lost in the sauce”. People show up and want to be involved, but don’t want to put in the work to go back and experience each post.

Another reason it becomes circular is let’s say you have three tangents in a thread. As the original thread participants scramble “left and right” (since it’s all appearing as a one-dimensional timeline) to deal with tangents, 20 posts down the line, someone reads something from a tangent that was already resolved, hits “reply” and now, your 21st post is actually a response to your 5th post. :/ Then, THEIR “friends” see what THEY posted and continue the previously resolved tangent, causing the original thread participants to scramble over there and put out THAT fire… AGAIN. :/ Meanwhile, the thread splinters more and more and is misinterpreted more and more but LOOKS like a single, chronologically-ordered discussion. The snowball rolls further downhill when someone shows up to post #60, which is really only three posts removed from post #5 and doesn’t want to read the rest of the material, so they assume that all 60 posts have been along the same tangent.

Like I said, this only comes into play if you’re trying to have an intelligent conversation. If you’re just socializing via video, you don’t need to worry about tangents and following thoughts and concepts. You just throw up a “me too” post and you’re good… you feel like you’re a part of the conversation, whether people are “following” you or not.

Jan McLaughlin mentioned an addition that I think would work very well in these situations… the ability for the originator to moderate their thread. I suppose the ability to assign mods would be useful as well. A couple of days ago, I left a 32-post thread of mine for a few hours and when I returned, it was around 60. Thinking that there was much interesting material to sift through, I clicked on it, only to realize that two people had started online dating in my thread. :/ Instead of taking their chances in the “public” timeline, the best way to try to get each other’s attention was to click “reply” so that it would show up in their “replies” folder (an alternative timeline to “public” or “friends”. The unfortunate side-effect of this was that as they kept “reply”ing to each other, their posts were being added to my thread.

It would be lovely to have a way to separate irrelevant posts from your thread. It would be lovely to be able to remove videos posted to your thread by people that just showed up to act dumb. Not *delete* them, just remove them from YOUR thread so that new people arriving after the fact wouldn’t bail on your 70-post thread because there are 30 posts worth of online dating inside it that’s completely indistinguishable from on-point conversation in a one-dimensional reverse chronological timeline.

Seesmic’s making tons of improvements, so I’m sure features are coming down the line that will facilitate intelligent conversation, such as GROUPS. The ability to have a discussion only amongst the people that *you* choose would be a major development. There’s no need to block others from reading it. Just stop them from diluting the content and making the originators waste time running around putting out fires. Like I said, they’ve progressed in leaps and bounds in the three months that I’ve been on the service.

Personally, I’m a fan of synchronous interaction, whether we’re talking live video or text chat. Even IRL, I enjoy holding arguments against 5 people at a time. πŸ˜€ The upside of asynchronous conversation is that you only have to make your point ONCE, and everyone hears it and we can all move forward and explore greater depths of the conversation. The downside is that you have to actually BE THERE at the time it’s happening to be a part of it. If you show up hours later, all you can do is watch the archive, if there is one.

The upside of asynchronous conversation is that you can join in on work breaks, when you get out of class, whenever it’s convenient for you, you can add something to an ongoing discussion. The downside is that depending on how much time has elapsed between the beginning of the conversation and your arrival, you might not be willing to put in the work to absorb the entirety of the conversation anyway.

Bill Cammack Ò€’ Cammack Media Group, LLC

Dude… Where’s My Twitter Link?

As I reported back on June 28, 2007, Twitter ‘ruined my life’ [link].

I realize _now_ that there’s something that I left out.

Today, Charles Hope twittered… Yes, “twittered”… There’s no such thing as a “tweet” or else the app would be named “tweeter”…. Anyway… Charles twittered that the “older” link was no longer at the bottom of our Twitter pages. I checked it out, and sure enough, there was no link allowing me to check back past my first page of the most recent posts. I figured that since they’re always doing tests and trying to improve how twitter works, it was a programming error and that it would be quickly replaced. Then, someone mentioned an issue with spam, and that the link was deliberately removed in response to it.

I still wasn’t concerned, because I know that I can type http://twitter.com/home?page=2 directly into my browser to get to the next-most-recent page of posts. No dice. Pages 2, 3, 4 and 5 all returned the exact same Page 1 entries….. MINUS the entries that had fallen off the edge of the flat Earth, because new people had twittered since I had last refreshed. :/

The link removal wouldn’t be a big deal to people following a handful of people, but when you’re following > 230 people, like I am, it’s a major ‘problem’ and jacks a critical amount of functionality that I get out of Twitter. Fortunately, out of the > 240 people following me on these social status-update sites like Twitter and Pownce (and Jaiku? … Haven’t heard from that app in AGES!), Veronica Belmont replied to my status update on Pownce [link], informing me not only that it was a temporary issue, but pointing me to the Twitter blog where Biz Stone had already addressed the issue earlier this morning. Fortunately, she replied on Pownce, because on Twitter, her post would have scrolled off the bottom of my “page 1” and been (temporarily) lost forever, unless she had added an @BillCammack to it and it would have alighted in my “replies” section. So, thanks to Veronica, this is a different post than it would have been. πŸ™‚


Photo Credit: Jared Klett

For me, one of the values of Twitter is that you don’t have to pay attention to it and it will save the status updates for you. I’ve gone back as far as 11 pages, which span several hours. That’s normally where you lose the “older” link. This means that when it’s crunch time, and I’m being my most effective and efficient, I can release Twitter from my mind entirely and only get back to it when I have processing cycles for it. Removing the “older” link from the first page means that I have to constantly remember Twitter to check it on the web site or I’d actually have to install a widget which would keep sending me the messages, non-stop, all day, consistently distracting me from what I’m trying to do. Neither option’s optimal.

It’s one of those things that you don’t miss until it’s gone. πŸ™‚ Taking the “older” link from the front page of Twitter turns it into the home page of Facebook. As far as I can tell, there’s no way to increase the number of pages of updates that you can see on Facebook’s home page. They’re not even in chronological order. If they were, you wouldn’t see that an entire stack of your friends just joined a new group… You’d see individual instances with other types of updates in between them. When I get to the bottom of Facebook’s ome page, I invariably wonder what happened BEFORE the edge of the flat Earth that the rest of the updates fell off of. Of course it’s a good ploy to make it so people go to Facebook more often specifically so they DON’T miss the revolving-door updates, but that doesn’t work for me personally, so removal of the “older” link on Twitter is nothing short of a disaster. πŸ™‚

I just checked my page right now, and there are only 20 twitters on the front (read: ONLY) page. Amongst the > 230 people I’m following, the oldest post is a whopping 22 minutes old. :/ I’ve been writing this post for more than 20 minutes, so there’s an entire ‘generation’ of comments that I’ve entirely missed and will never ever see unless they fix their spam bot issues within the next 8 hours or so.

This isn’t the stock market, so it’s not mission-critical for me to know in real-time what my Twitter friends are doing, thinking or saying. However, I was glad to read in the Twitter blog that the “older” link is going to be reinstated ASAP. Part of my daily productivity is using down-time during rendering, uploading, etc to catch up with what’s been going on in the last couple of hours since I even THOUGHT about Twitter at all. 22 minutes worth of status updates from > 230 people isn’t even a drop in the bucket.

Good thing I checked twitter within 20 minutes of Charles’ post, or I would have been completely in the dark as far as WhereTF my “older” link went! πŸ˜€

Bill Cammack Ò€’ New York City Ò€’ Freelance Video Editor Ò€’ alum.mit.edu/www/billcammack