NMKForum07: Calacanis condemns ‘internet pollution’

Jason Calacanis doesn’t mince words. He calls SEO optimisers ‘the slime of the earth’.

SEO is destroying the web.

Search engines created the market for SEO optimisers because there wasn’t a way to correct search results. Today, we don’t build web sites for humans but for machines, to appeal to Google’s spiders, Calacanis said.

We’re not focused on the right things. If you create open system on the web, it will be abused by everyone. Technorati is open to everything and is being flooded by ‘splogs’. Technorati indexes everything so it is promoting garbage, Calacanis said.

The web and the blogosphere is being destroyed. Bloggers are being plied by marketers, and he mentioned Microsoft and their Acer Ferrari laptop marketing programme with bloggers. He mentioned Edelman’s Wal*Mart faux blog campaign.

We need to stand up to one of these slime buckets who comes into our town and pisses in our well. We have to stop them.

If you’re trying to do this marketing, ask Jeff Jarvis, Dave Winer or Dan Gillmor before you do this, he said.

Months ago, he started doing user testing with Google, Yahoo and Ask, asking them what they thought of their experience with search. They had cameras on iMacs. He played some of the videos. People said that it wasn’t easy to get the information they wanted. People felt that the results were based on what marketers wanted, not what they wanted.

Jason said that user testing was a ‘truly humbling experience’. He announced Mahalo a couple of weeks ago at the Wall Street Journal D5 conference. That was about a third of the strategy. The new Mahalo Greenhouse is the other third. Another third, he hasn’t figured out.

They will do one of three things when they get sent a link. They will either accept it, ban it (if it’s spam) or let it sit to see if a number of people submit it. If you deserve to be on the page, you can debate it, in public, on the discussion forums.

He accused Ask of being deceptive with their ad placement. You get one ‘organic link’ if you search for iPod on Ask, Calacanis said. On Mahalo, not only do you get links to Apple and about iPods, but you also get links to videos on YouTube showing someone putting an iPod in a blender.

He has been criticised by SEO companies, but he hopes to put them out of business so that they ‘stop polluting the internet’.

They are looking for people with experience in social networks and directories (think DMOZ). Some people have criticised me in the past for paying people for work.

It’s one of the contradictions of Web 2.0 that VCs, CEOs, programmers and marketers get to make money but not writers and editors.

He was asked about internationalisation. Results chosen by Americans in Santa Monica might not be the same as those in London or Sydney.

Calacanis agreed but said that payment systems, taxes and internationalisation were too much to bite off in the first pass. He wanted to focus on the US market and build the business there before trying to expanding to other markets.

This is a question I don’t have the answer to. How does Google’s algorithms or Technorati’s, for that matter, do international search? Beyond language or domain restrictions? How does it determine results in English for the UK market, Australia, New Zealand?

Who are the guides? Calacanis says that there are a lot of under-employed people in LA. Euan Semple just asked, “With people losing faith in institutions like the BBC, why should I trust a bunch of under-employed people in LA to make judgements for me?”

The way you earn trust is everyday, Calacanis said. If we screw up, I’ll admit it, and I’ll fix it. As long as I’m there, you’ll be guaranteed that we’ll fight bias.

Euan remains unconvinced. “That’s so naive.”

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