12.0347 WWW manipulations

Humanist Discussion Group (humanist@kcl.ac.uk)
Tue, 19 Jan 1999 21:59:21 +0000 (BST)

Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 12, No. 347.
Centre for Computing in the Humanities, King's College London

[1] From: <Haradda@aol.com> (34)
Subject: Re: 12.0335 WWW manipulations

[2] From: Rachel Spungin <uczcrsp@ucl.ac.uk> (16)
Subject: Re: 12.0335 WWW manipulations

Date: Tue, 19 Jan 1999 21:57:31 +0000
From: <Haradda@aol.com>
Subject: Re: 12.0335 WWW manipulations

In a message dated 99-01-15 14:08:52 EST, humanist@kcl.ac.uk writes:

<< Perhaps the most infamous, and most thorough-going, manipulation of
this search-engine vulnerability was the Web-page for the Heaven's Gate
cult. They not only included hundreds of repetitions of the most
commonly-requested search words (sex, etc.) in the META element, but
also repeated these words in the body of the page using 0-sized font. In
both cases, the words were invisible yet exerted a powerful influence on
search engines. Apparently, this practice (shall we call it
"meta-spoofing") is so common that it has generated another practice,
meta-jacking, the copy-paste of such code from one page to another. Has
anyone else heard anything more on the vocabulary of this practice? <<

Using Meta tags used to be the best way to get your page noticed, and to
a certain extent, they still are. The 0 size font was one method, as was
including lots of keywords in the ALT TEXT for a graphic. However, most
search engines no longer give that kind of weight to pages loaded with
meta tags, and some will actively penalize pages with those tricks by
forcing them to a lower ranking internally.

Now page rank, particularly on Yahoo, is based on a complex formula
containing keywords, how often a page is accessed through the search
engine (so if Pinnacle Wireless and Pinnacle Micro are both pinnacles,
the search engine will rank whichever has more hits higher in the
absence of other differentiating keywords.)

Some search engines have begun to give pages which customers pay a fee
for a higher ranking than pages which are simply submitted for review.
The search engines can gain quite a bit of cash from doing this, but it
also skews the results.

The implications for using the Internet as a useful data source are
interesting. Certainly, we can't be unquestioning consumers of
information (and perhaps we never could). Kids in school especially need
to be taught information literacy and must learn to question what they
see. If you begin your search as an information consumer asking who the
source is, what they have to gain from their point of view, if they have
corroboration, you'll do well. In fact, I would say learning how to do
this will be one of the major skills of the information age.

David Reed haradda@aol.com

Date: Tue, 19 Jan 1999 21:54:41 +0000
From: Rachel Spungin <uczcrsp@ucl.ac.uk>
Subject: Re: 12.0335 WWW manipulations

[forwarded message]


I remember when I was in the States looking for information on US
government encryption policies, the link from the web site nominated by
Yahoo as 'government encryption policy' (or something) sent you to the
anti-encryption site. I expected to see the bill itself and was taken to a
site that slated the bill.

I don't think this hijacking did anything for the cause of the
pro-encryption people. I was more annoyed that I didn't receive the
information I expected to.


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