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Tags google , nofollow , search engines , skeptic websites

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Old 14th November 2008, 03:29 PM   #1
krelnik
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Using NOFOLLOW when linking to "woo woo" web sites

Back in September I posted a blog entry titled "Not just for spam anymore: NOFOLLOW for skepticism". The basic premise of the article is that when a skeptic links to a site that is pushing misinformation (presumably to "debunk" or counter it), the skeptic should be careful to link in such a way that the other site derives no benefit in Google from it. This is accomplished via a little known HTML enhancement invented by Google. All the gory details are there in the blog post, please read it if you are not familiar with NOFOLLOW and what it does.

The post did not attract much comment originally. Mostly I attributed that to the fact that few knew of my very special-purpose blog at the time. But I also assumed that the premise of this article was something with which most skeptic bloggers and webmasters would agree.

Almost exactly a month later, the topic happened to come up in the Skeptics Rock chatroom. In that discussion, several very high-profile skeptics somewhat vehemently disagreed with me. I was very surprised, to say the least.

The objections raised mostly fell into one of these categories:
  1. It is wrong to deprive the other site of the benefit of a link, because my site benefits from having the topic of the other site to comment upon. This is the "social contract" of the web.
  2. This is a form of censorship, which all skeptics should oppose.
  3. This is a misuse of the "nofollow" feature, abusing its original intent.
  4. Doing this is more trouble than it is worth, since it only affects Google and not the other search engines.
I won't quote the people from the chatroom here. (It would be wrong to do so without permission, and the nature of chat makes such comments brief and unsubtle. I'd rather let them comment themselves in the thread).

Because of the objections that were raised, I do plan to write a follow up on this topic. But I thought it would be good to raise this in a thread so we can get some real substantive discussion going and then I can summarize in the post.

BUT FIRST...

I would like to address in part some of the objections I listed above, insofar as the technology behind this was not covered fully in the original article.

2. Is this a form of censorship? No.

This tag has one effect, and one effect only: it prevents Google from considering your link as part of the "ranking" of the other site. That's all it does.

It does not prevent the other site from being indexed or cached by any search engine. It does not prevent the other site from appearing in search engine results. It does not prevent your readers from visiting the other site via the link you provide (or any other link). It does not prevent them from viewing any or all of the content on the other site once they get there. It does not prevent their visit from being registered on the site "hit counter" or any other monitoring process. It does not affect the site's ranking in services like Alexa that keep statistics for the web as a whole.

3. Is this a misuse of what nofollow is for? No.

Matt Cutts is one of the Google employees who invented nofollow. He had this to say about it on his blog:

Quote:
The best-known use for nofollow is blog comment spam, but the mechanism is completely general. Nofollow is recommended anywhere that links cant be vouched for.
Google recently posted a search engine optimization starter guide on their webmaster blog. The document (an Adobe PDF file, for some reason), has this to say about nofollow on page 19:

Quote:
Another use of nofollow is when you're writing content and wish to reference a website, but don't want to pass your reputation on to it. For example, imagine that you're writing a blog post on the topic of comment spamming and you want to call out a site that recently comment spammed your blog. You want to warn others of the site, so you include the link to it in your content; however, you certainly don't want to give the site some of your reputation from your link. This would be a good time to use nofollow.
Note that although this example mentions spam, it is only in the context of a blog post about the topic. Imagine the above quote with the words "comment spamming" replaced with "homeopathy" (and "recently comment spammed your blog" with "recently endorsed homeopathy"). I think it is a completely appropriate example.

4. It's not worth the trouble just for Google.

How much trouble this is depends alot on how comfortable you are with HTML and what tools you use to maintain your web site. That will naturally vary.

As for Google, I don't think its a big secret that Google has a huge lead in the search engine market. This article from August indicates that Google has 60% or more of the market, and the other players each have small percentages under 20% each. Further, Google's percentage seems to be rising at the expense of the other players. Clearly, Google is the force to be reckoned with in search, so I think it is worth special consideration. Most webmasters will tell you that a tremendous percentage of their visitors arrive via Google.

OK, enough background, please discuss.

Are there good reasons we should or should not be doing this? Are there aspects of this issue I have not covered here or in the blog post? Should I be shot for posting such a gigantic OP on such a trivial topic?
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Old 14th November 2008, 04:05 PM   #2
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Objection #1 is also false. There is no social contract between websites on the web. The web is best when neutral. They might as well say that we owe Sylvia Browne royalties just for talking about her.

In reality, if you review another website negatively and use nofollow, then actually your negativity is discounted as part of that site's ranking. If users click to their site from yours, they still get hits simply by people still being there. Instead of hurting them, one could argue that you're helping them because you're encouraging an internet in which only positive links get indexed. I think it is erroneous for us to assume that linkage = positivity. That is an inaccurate and therefore unfair way to view linking in and of itself.

And nobody is inherently indebted to anybody else on the internet. Objection #1 makes a false dichotomy in which we are either helping each other or hurting each other, with no neutral ground. When it comes to linking, nofollow IS the neutral.

Also, if it is the right of other site owners to have theirs index as they please, it is also my own. And that extends to my right to have my site refrain from initiating contact with the other.

I think what those who raised #1 are foregetting is exactly what makes web content dynamic: links have form, content, and direction. I get to point my links wherever the heck I want to. It's nobody else's decision.

And on top if it all, we should definitely encourage the use of nofollow because it aids how we control content-driven advertising. I think things like the nofollow attribute are the key to refining web advertising to a point where we don't need to adblock ad firms to oblivion just to enjoy what content can be found. So when somebody argues that we have to have an association via indexing with somebody just for having talked about them, they're talking about a situation in which the advertising presented to our followers begins to be skewed, favoring the website being criticized. The result is that the critizing web author loses funding simply for being a critic. Seen this way, the demonization of nofollow is actually an indirect way of attempting to censor critics.

Last edited by Aerik; 14th November 2008 at 04:11 PM.
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Old 14th November 2008, 04:49 PM   #3
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Originally Posted by krelnik View Post
4. It's not worth the trouble just for Google.

How much trouble this is depends alot on how comfortable you are with HTML and what tools you use to maintain your web site. That will naturally vary.

As for Google, I don't think its a big secret that Google has a huge lead in the search engine market. This article from August indicates that Google has 60% or more of the market, and the other players each have small percentages under 20% each. Further, Google's percentage seems to be rising at the expense of the other players. Clearly, Google is the force to be reckoned with in search, so I think it is worth special consideration. Most webmasters will tell you that a tremendous percentage of their visitors arrive via Google.

Also, it's not just Google. Both Yahoo! and and MSN/Live Search respect nofollow (sourced source).

Those are The Big Three search engines right there.
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Old 14th November 2008, 08:01 PM   #4
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Originally Posted by Cl1mh4224rd View Post
Also, it's not just Google. Both Yahoo! and and MSN/Live Search respect nofollow (sourced source).

Those are The Big Three search engines right there.
Oh, thanks, I was not aware of that.
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Old 14th November 2008, 08:08 PM   #5
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Originally Posted by Aerik View Post
And nobody is inherently indebted to anybody else on the internet. Objection #1 makes a false dichotomy in which we are either helping each other or hurting each other, with no neutral ground. When it comes to linking, nofollow IS the neutral.
Interesting, I hadn't thought about it in that particular way, but I think you're right.

Quote:
And on top if it all, we should definitely encourage the use of nofollow because it aids how we control content-driven advertising. I think things like the nofollow attribute are the key to refining web advertising to a point where we don't need to adblock ad firms to oblivion just to enjoy what content can be found.
I'm not sure I understand what you're getting at here. How does nofollow relate to advertising? Does Google Adsense consider the content on linked sites when placing ads?
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Old 14th November 2008, 08:25 PM   #6
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At the skepticality.com forums, we did notice an increase in woo google ads when derek forgot to use nofollow links on the front page, so I think so. We had a shoutbox discussion on it after they mentioned the fact on a sort-of recent episode. last couple months.
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Old 14th November 2008, 08:52 PM   #7
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Originally Posted by Aerik View Post
Objection #1 is also false. There is no social contract between websites on the web. The web is best when neutral. They might as well say that we owe Sylvia Browne royalties just for talking about her.
In law a contract must be explicitly entered into by both parties; one can never assume a contract binding anyone else who does no consent to it. Understanding that a "social contract" may have a looser definition, it is not a contract without consent of the parties. The contract on the web is usually entered into by the line "I'll link to your site if you'll link to mine...", which does not preclude lining to a site unilaterally. Using a NOFOLLOW link is an intermediate in that spectrum, and is entirely appropriate.
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Old 15th November 2008, 12:21 AM   #8
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Originally Posted by krelnik View Post
several very high-profile skeptics somewhat vehemently disagreed with me. I was very surprised, to say the least.
I'd be saddened, but not overly surprised - considering that its evidently ('scuse the pun) easy to be a self-professed high-profile sceptic who knows squat

Originally Posted by krelnik View Post
The objections raised mostly fell into one of these categories:
  1. It is wrong to deprive the other site of the benefit of a link, because my site benefits from having the topic of the other site to comment upon. This is the "social contract" of the web.
  2. This is a form of censorship, which all skeptics should oppose.
  3. This is a misuse of the "nofollow" feature, abusing its original intent.
  4. Doing this is more trouble than it is worth, since it only affects Google and not the other search engines.
  1. Wrong? In who's eyes? My guess is those who have absolutely* no eyed deer about Pigeon Rank
    .
  2. So... by that 'logic' (hah!) we should have, in the foyer of the Church of the Bleeding Heart Sceptic, a bookshelf packed with titles like DIY Homoeopathy, Dowsing for Dummies and Bag Your Own Bigfoot

    Yeah... right...
    .
  3. Like 'point' #1, this is bollocks, esp in light of the Matt Cutts post you linked to:
    Quote:
    The rel=”nofollow” attribute is an easy way for a website to tell search engines that the website can’t or doesn’t want to vouch for a link.
    Are you sure the naysayers are sceptics?
    .
  4. Even if it was 'only Google' and even if Google only had 10% of the market... so f[rule]ing what?


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Old 15th November 2008, 06:40 AM   #9
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Originally Posted by shadron View Post
In law a contract must be explicitly entered into by both parties; one can never assume a contract binding anyone else who does no consent to it. Understanding that a "social contract" may have a looser definition, it is not a contract without consent of the parties. The contract on the web is usually entered into by the line "I'll link to your site if you'll link to mine...", which does not preclude lining to a site unilaterally. Using a NOFOLLOW link is an intermediate in that spectrum, and is entirely appropriate.
I tend to agree. But historically there was a bit of a backlash against nofollow in the blogosphere. Google the term "dofollow" to see it. Many bloggers believe that backlinking via comments is the main way you encourage other bloggers to come comment on your blog. That is the implied "social contract", at least for bloggers.

The other thing that caused the backlash is the fact that, at least on some blogs, comment spam did not decrease significantly when nofollow was deployed. I attribute this to the fact that spammers are used to using crude & inefficient methods and therefore don't care much if some of their efforts are wasted. A recent study showed that viagra spammers generate one sale for each 12.5 MILLION emails they send out.

As a result of this blogger backlash, there are several "dofollow" plugins that undo the "nofollow" default on various blogging software. There's even at least two directories of dofollow blogs to encourage people to comment on blogs that don't use nofollow.

Originally Posted by six7s View Post
I'd be saddened, but not overly surprised - considering that its evidently ('scuse the pun) easy to be a self-professed high-profile sceptic who knows squat

Well perhaps the terminology I used was ill-advised. These are people who participate here in the forum, have spoken at skeptic meetings, and are definitely experienced skeptics. I have emailed them and asked them to participate in this thread so we can hear their reasoning.
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Old 15th November 2008, 10:56 AM   #10
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Originally Posted by krelnik View Post
Well perhaps the terminology I used was ill-advised. These are people who participate here in the forum, have spoken at skeptic meetings, and are definitely experienced skeptics. I have emailed them and asked them to participate in this thread so we can hear their reasoning.
Cool! Hopefully, they will accept the invitation

As this site is for scepticism and critical thinking, I'll be fascinated to read their rationale (which - to me - seems to based on nothing of substance) and - if appropriate - be reminded that I really don't know everything
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Old 15th November 2008, 11:10 AM   #11
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I don't see how using "nofollow" can be considered to be censorship, or abuse of the "social contract" of the Web. If you put a link on one of your pages, even with a "nofollow", tag, you are already giving the other site free publicity: the "nofollow" tag doesn't stop human users from clicking on the link!
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Old 15th November 2008, 03:07 PM   #12
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The "social contract" argument is bull. There is no requirement to link to someone's site if they link to yours. It could be nice if you did, but you are under no obligation to do so.

Is it a misuse of nofollow? Nonsense. The technology is there, there are no requirements on how to use it.

Is it just not worth it, just for Google? If you are not on Google, you don't exist. Tough as it might seem, that's the reality.

It is not a form of censorship. Nobody is barring anyone from seeing anything.

At least not skeptics. Because the question is: Do we, as skeptics, want people to look at woo sites?

Ya damn'd right we do!

For two reasons:
1: Yes, go look at what Sylvia Browne, James van Praagh, John Edward, John of God, and all the other woos say. Don't take skeptics' word for granted. Go look yourself. Check out the claims.
2: If we point to them, but they don't point to our sites - great! Because that gives us the advantage, up front: We have nothing to hide, we are more than happy to have people make up their own minds. For those who already believe, for those who are fence sitters, or for those who are simply interested in finding out what the heck is going on: Guess what? While woos want skeptics (and their criticisms) to go away, and their followers to ignore skeptics, skeptics face woo claims head on.
Those are very strong arguments, right there, even before anyone has had the time to look into the claims.

Go look. Both sides of the fence. Sylvia doesn't want you to listen to us. We want you to listen to both Sylvia - and us. What does that tell you?

People may not grasp the intricacies of skepticism, but they can tell if someone is playing with open cards or not.
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Old 16th November 2008, 07:48 AM   #13
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I think it's a brilliant idea! I wonder why I never thought of it, myself.
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Old 16th November 2008, 11:38 AM   #14
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I would argue that there are no high profile skeptics in the chatroom. Just a bunch of people with too much time on their hands.
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Old 16th November 2008, 12:46 PM   #15
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Originally Posted by Lisa Simpson View Post
I would argue that there are no high profile skeptics in the chatroom. Just a bunch of people with too much time on their hands.
Well, that's your fault
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Old 18th November 2008, 05:46 PM   #16
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Originally Posted by krelnik's blog
vBulletin (JREF Forum and UK Skeptics): On JREF at least there is a special tag you can use when linking to woo-woo websites called [nfurl]. You use it like this:

[ nfurl]www.woowoosite.com[ /nfurl]

Note that because vBulletin auto-links URLs by default, you must leave off the "http ://" part of the URL when doing this. The NFURL tag will put this back for you to make a proper link when your message posts. Use the preview feature if you are unsure (click Go Advanced and then click Preview).

I believe this tag a specific modification on the JREF forum, it may not be available on other instances of vBulletin. It does not appear to be available on UK Skeptics.

I asked a mod to pretty please edit a couple of my posts to make a couple of links nofollow in this manner. (OK, I'm a sad puppy.) Lisa Simpson replied that she tried, but couldn't get it to work.

Does anyone have any advice, perhaps?

Rolfe.
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Old 18th November 2008, 09:47 PM   #17
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Originally Posted by Rolfe View Post
Does anyone have any advice, perhaps?
How about: go to the horse's mouth?

www.vbulletin.org/forum/showthread.php?t=74703


Quote:
Stop Spammers with rel=nofollow in URLs!
Version: 1.00, by kall (Coder/Designer)
Released: 20 Jan 2005 Last Update: Never Installs: 42

Not Supported

In the first cooperative move for nearly ten years, the major search engines have unveiled a new indexing command for web authors that they all recognize, one that they hope will help reduce the link and comment spam that plagues many web sites....due to removing the point of doing it in the first place.

The new "nofollow" attribute that can be associated with links was originated as an idea by Google in late 2004 and MSN and Yahoo, as well as major blogging vendors have jumped onboard.
<snip/>
It should work with all vB 3.0.x versions, but was tested on 3.0.6.

File to modify: 1

<snip/>

Download Now

Only licensed members can download files, Click Here for more information.

<snip/>

Not sure what Not Supported implies, but 42 installs sounds good!
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Old 19th November 2008, 07:05 AM   #18
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Calling Lisa Simpson!

Rolfe.
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Old 19th November 2008, 07:12 AM   #19
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Apparently, the nfurl tags only work with regular links, not fancy links.

regular link - www.skepticsrock.com

fancy link - skeptics rock chatroom.

I can go back and change the links if you still want, Rolfe.
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Old 19th November 2008, 09:28 AM   #20
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Yes, that's right, NFURL does not allow you to set the text within the hyperlink.
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Old 20th November 2008, 07:30 AM   #21
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Originally Posted by Lisa Simpson View Post
Apparently, the nfurl tags only work with regular links, not fancy links.

regular link - www.skepticsrock.com

fancy link - skeptics rock chatroom.

I can go back and change the links if you still want, Rolfe.

Pretty please? I know I'm a sad puppy, but it's now personal between me and Maria. If the two links in my posts to her rubbish page are what's keeping her at no. 1 on Google, I want them gone!

I usually use text strings for links 'cos the forum software makes it so easy, but if you can possibly change the format so that the links are regular nofollow ones, please do.

I'll consider it my birthday present!

Rolfe.
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Old 20th November 2008, 09:56 AM   #22
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Widely suspected that google gives little if any weight to forum links.
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Old 21st November 2008, 07:11 AM   #23
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Possibly true, but that page was only showing three external links in total, one from my own page (gone now) and two from my posts here, so on the principle of leaving no stone unturned, I'm in favour of neutralising them.

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Old 21st November 2008, 07:51 PM   #24
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I like nofollow

I like this idea of nofollow. I hadn't been aware of it, so thank you for bringing it up.

If one were to operate on the assumption that Google uses links (in part) to measure the degree of relevance to search terms, then the nofollow code is a means to specify that the content on the current page should not be construed as relevant to the linked page. I don't think the search engine is smart enough to recognize when one page is saying the oposite of the page it is linking to, especially when many of the same keywords are used. I think the nofollow code is a good way to do it until Google implements sophisticated AI.

If your site says Sylvia Browne is not a psychic, why should her Google ranking for a search on the term "psychics" be improved by your link to her site? You are trying to say she is not relevant to psychic phenomenon, not that she *is* relevant.
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Old 21st November 2008, 08:21 PM   #25
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Originally Posted by PsyberDave View Post
If one were to operate on the assumption that Google uses links (in part) to measure the degree of relevance to search terms...
Then one would not be alone

Google: Results 1 - 10 of about 629 for "content is king" "links are queen"

ETA:

subtly different search string, significantly different results

Results 1 - 10 of about 4,410 for "content is king" "linking is queen".
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Old 22nd November 2008, 01:06 AM   #26
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Originally Posted by Lisa Simpson View Post
I would argue that there are no high profile skeptics in the chatroom. Just a bunch of people with too much time on their hands.

How about Low Brow?
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Old 22nd November 2008, 08:02 AM   #27
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Originally Posted by PsyberDave View Post
I don't think the search engine is smart enough to recognize when one page is saying the oposite of the page it is linking to, especially when many of the same keywords are used. I think the nofollow code is a good way to do it until Google implements sophisticated AI.

If your site says Sylvia Browne is not a psychic, why should her Google ranking for a search on the term "psychics" be improved by your link to her site? You are trying to say she is not relevant to psychic phenomenon, not that she *is* relevant.
That's a really excellent way of looking at it, and I agree.

Hopefully a couple of the folks who originally objected will hop into this thread at some point. They're both very busy people, though.
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Old 26th November 2008, 07:53 AM   #28
Jeff Wagg
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I guess I'm one of the "high profile skeptics" with "too much time on my hands."

I don't support the use of no follow on randi.org. If someone has made content that you want to link to, I think it's proper that they get credit for it. I don't care what the content is. It would be nice if they returned the favor, but that's up to them.

When I consider the extra work it would take to add no follow to all links on randi.org, I'm convinced that it's not the right thing for us to do. (It's not supported by the CMS.. each one would have to be hand edited.)

I know a lot of folks like to see this as a battle, and it might feel good to put that NO FOLLOW tag in there like it's a blow for justice or something. I'd rather see it as an exchange of information, and I have no interest in suppressing other voices, no matter how much I disagree with them.

I don't feel too strongly about this, to be honest.
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Old 26th November 2008, 01:57 PM   #29
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Originally Posted by Jeff Wagg View Post
When I consider the extra work it would take to add no follow to all links on randi.org, I'm convinced that it's not the right thing for us to do.
I have a hunch that few, if any, are suggesting that ALL links are rendered as nofollow

Instead, I think, the suggestions/requests are for 'manually applicable tags' (as per [noparse]and [/noparse]

e.g.
It saddens me that [nfurl="http://www.sliverybrown.woo/i-can-speak-to-your-dead-relatives.rot"]Ms Slivery Brown[/nfurl] can publish this nonsense!
Originally Posted by Jeff Wagg View Post
I have no interest in suppressing other voices, no matter how much I disagree with them.
So, if you were the curate of the Church of the Bleeding Heart Liberal, the bookshelf in the foyer would be stocked leaflets advertising courses on homoeopathy and dowsing?

There is is distinction to be made between suppression and promotion

Originally Posted by Jeff Wagg View Post
I don't feel too strongly about this, to be honest.
How well you understand the technology, Jeff?
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Old 26th November 2008, 02:08 PM   #30
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Don't understand the idea that a "no follow" means that sites aren't getting "proper credit"? "No Follow" is about search engines and how they currently work, what has that got to do with "proper credit" for other sites?
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Old 26th November 2008, 06:08 PM   #31
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Originally Posted by Jeff Wagg View Post
I guess I'm one of the "high profile skeptics" with "too much time on my hands."

I don't support the use of no follow on randi.org. If someone has made content that you want to link to, I think it's proper that they get credit for it. I don't care what the content is. It would be nice if they returned the favor, but that's up to them.

When I consider the extra work it would take to add no follow to all links on randi.org, I'm convinced that it's not the right thing for us to do. (It's not supported by the CMS.. each one would have to be hand edited.)

I know a lot of folks like to see this as a battle, and it might feel good to put that NO FOLLOW tag in there like it's a blow for justice or something. I'd rather see it as an exchange of information, and I have no interest in suppressing other voices, no matter how much I disagree with them.

I don't feel too strongly about this, to be honest.

I totally no-follow that argument!

You really think that Miss Slivery Brown and her mates are all going to be running round posting links to JREF all over the place in a spirit of reciprosity? It's true that JREF already has a high enough domain authority that it doesn't need any more, but why should the fact that a woo site is being spoken of all over the net in terms of disgust and loathing be allowed to boost its search engine rankings?

Nobody has ever suggested or ever would, that all links on JREF be edited. I admit I requested two forum posts of mine to be edited in retrospect (and that wasn't even relating to woo of any kind), but not that I know about the possibility, I'm content that if I want to make a link nofollow, I can do it myself when I make the post.

So far as the JREF site in general is concerned, I take your point about blanket editing. It's not worth it. But it's certainly worth considering when creating new content.

Rolfe.
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Old 26th November 2008, 11:38 PM   #32
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Originally Posted by Rolfe View Post
I'm content that if I want to make a link nofollow, I can do it myself when I make the post.
Can?

As in the present tense?


Here?



Cool!



How?
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Old 28th November 2008, 06:18 AM   #33
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Originally Posted by six7s View Post
How?
Follow the very first link in this thread, and I explain how to create nofollow links on this and other skeptical forums.

Or from the help menu at upper right, select "Post Formatting Codes" and look for "NFURL". However, I list some gotchas in my link that are not clear from the help.
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Old 28th November 2008, 06:48 AM   #34
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I'm sorry, I mispoke. I did not mean 'all' links, I meant all links to sites that I or the JREF deemed to link to material with ideas that we don't support. Which requires a judgment, and that's a whole other issue.

By default, a link boosts someone's pagerank. You have to go out of your way to remove that boost, or credit, and I just don't think that's right. It would be like giving a lecture about the KKK and refusing to mention their name. If you're going to link to someone's site, I believe you should do so with the full knowledge that they'll get a pagerank boost. If this is unacceptable, don't link. I, however, find it acceptable.

If someone googles Sylvia Browne, I want them to find her site. I also want them to find our site, and the posts on the forum, etc.

To answer Rolfe.. if people are talking about a site, that means it's important, and its pagerank should increase. I know that Syvlia isn't going to link here. That's her problem.

It's just my opinion.. I'm countering arguments I see as valid, but in my calculation, the proper thing to do is not use a nofollow tag. I have no problem if people want to use them... but I won't.
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Old 29th November 2008, 12:39 AM   #35
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Originally Posted by krelnik View Post
Quote:
How?
Follow the very first link in this thread, and I explain how to create nofollow links on this and other skeptical forums.
Oh #$@# ... of all the things I missed, I missed that the most

For some reason, I was under the mistaken impression that these forums did not currently accommodate use of the vBulletin nfurl tag

And now, re-reading the OP, I have a hunch why/how I became so confuzzled...

Originally Posted by krelnik View Post
Back in September I posted a blog entry titled "Not just for spam anymore: NOFOLLOW for skepticism". <snip/>please read it if you are not familiar with NOFOLLOW and what it does.<snip/>

This tag has one effect, and one effect only: it prevents Google from considering your link as part of the "ranking" of the other site. That's all it does. <snip/>

How much trouble this is depends alot on how comfortable you are with HTML and what tools you use to maintain your web site.<snip/>

Are there good reasons we should or should not be doing this? </snip/>
As I am familiar with nofollow - both in robots.txt files and as an attribute of the anchor (<a>...</a>) tag - I only skimmed the blog (missing the bit on these forums), mistaking tag and attribute
<meaculpa/>


Anyhoo...

Back to the discussion
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Old 29th November 2008, 07:30 AM   #36
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Originally Posted by Jeff Wagg View Post
By default, a link boosts someone's pagerank. You have to go out of your way to remove that boost, or credit, and I just don't think that's right.
Why is the default behavior in any way significant? It is completely an accident of how HTML has been designed by many different people over time.

Suppose NOFOLLOW had caught on in a very large way among web tool vendors. Further suppose that every single content system and HTML editing tool had made rel="nofollow" the default everywhere you create a link.

Then you'd have to "go out of your way" to grant someone a page rank boost. Would that change your attitude? Why?

Quote:
It would be like giving a lecture about the KKK and refusing to mention their name.
I completely disagree with this analogy. I can mention Sylvia Browne hundreds of times without linking to her. Readers of my article can be on her site in just a matter of a few clicks. Indeed, with nofollow I can link directly to her and provide access to all her nonsense in ONE click. How am I denying her anything important?

I think a more appropriate analogy would be this completely hypothetical scenario:

There are two ways to discuss other people or organizations in public. One is widely known by everyone, and another is buried in an obscure regulation that most people don't know.

The widely known rule allows you to talk about anyone in any way that you want, as long as you donate $1 to that person or organization's billboard advertising fund. These are links without nofollow, they implicitly provide advertising to the other organization, advertising that organization can use in ways you have no control over and cannot anticipate.

The other, lesser known rule, allows you to talk about them in exactly the same way, but you mail a post card about this to the government to waive the $1 fee. Everyone still knows exactly who you are talking about and can contact them equally well, but you are not required to provide advertising funds. These are nofollow links.

Personally, faced with those two choices, I would mail the postcard.

Quote:
If someone googles Sylvia Browne, I want them to find her site. I also want them to find our site, and the posts on the forum, etc.
Jeff, you cannot prevent another site from appearing in a search engine via nofollow. Indeed, you can link directly to her with nofollow and the reader doesn't even have to type her name. Where is she losing anything?

Why should anyone other than the site's own webmaster feel responsible for their search engine placement? I certainly don't feel any obligation to boost JREF's placement, and in fact I do not have JREF linked in my blogroll.

Quote:
To answer Rolfe.. if people are talking about a site, that means it's important, and its pagerank should increase.
Ah, but remember the basic assumption of Google's Page Rank algorithm is that links are positive in nature. Quoting from the Page Rank patent:

Quote:
Because citations, or links, are ways of directing attention, the important documents correspond to those documents to which the most attention is directed. Thus, a high rank indicates that a document is considered valuable by many people or by important people.
Is Sylvia Browne's content "valuable"? Does JREF officially endorse Sylvia Browne's content as "valuable"? Whether you realize it or agree with it or not, that is what Google's robots are deriving from your links.
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Old 29th November 2008, 11:28 AM   #37
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Originally Posted by Jeff Wagg View Post
I'm sorry, I mispoke. I did not mean 'all' links, I meant all links to sites that I or the JREF deemed to link to material with ideas that we don't support. Which requires a judgment, and that's a whole other issue.
And washing your hands of the issue is consistent with the aims of a critical thinking forum on which planet?

Originally Posted by Jeff Wagg View Post
By default, a link boosts someone's pagerank. You have to go out of your way to remove that boost, or credit, and I just don't think that's right.
Fair enough... as long as you explain why you, as a staff member, see fit to hold such an opinion and and advertise it where the whole whirled can read it

Originally Posted by Jeff Wagg View Post
It would be like giving a lecture about the KKK and refusing to mention their name.
From my perspective, this is merely a straw-hued non sequitur that does nothing to explain why

Originally Posted by Jeff Wagg View Post
If you're going to link to someone's site, I believe you should do so with the full knowledge that they'll get a pagerank boost.
Argument ad nauseum ain't persuasive

Originally Posted by Jeff Wagg View Post
If this is unacceptable, don't link. I, however, find it acceptable.
Yep... I get the picture... sadly, the detail is a bit blurry

Originally Posted by Jeff Wagg View Post
If someone googles Sylvia Browne, I want them to find her site. I also want them to find our site, and the posts on the forum, etc.
Erm... they will... I fail to see the relevance of this 'point', bearing in mind that the issue here is how the use of nofollow can, on a site such as this with relatively high pagerank, affect how highly her site ranks in the SERPs

Originally Posted by Jeff Wagg View Post
To answer Rolfe.. if people are talking about a site, that means it's important, and its pagerank should increase.
Yeah... like if people are talking about diarrhea, it means its important, and its incidence should increase, right?

Originally Posted by Jeff Wagg View Post
I know that Syvlia isn't going to link here. That's her problem.
Please, do explain what you mean by this


Originally Posted by Jeff Wagg View Post
It's just my opinion.. I'm countering arguments I see as valid, but in my calculation
Which calculation?

Originally Posted by Jeff Wagg View Post
the proper thing to do is not use a nofollow tag.
So you keep saying... but - from what I can decipher - you are saying it without any reasoning, which I find rather curious - assuming that you were one of those alluded to in the OP ("definitely experienced skeptics. I have emailed them and asked them to participate in this thread so we can hear their reasoning")

Originally Posted by Jeff Wagg View Post
I have no problem if people want to use them... but I won't.
Fairy nuff... that's what you won't do... will you address my comment made above?

Originally Posted by my comment made above
So, if you were the curate of the Church of the Bleeding Heart Liberal, the bookshelf in the foyer would be stocked leaflets advertising courses on homoeopathy and dowsing?

There is is distinction to be made between suppression and promotion
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Old 29th November 2008, 12:04 PM   #38
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How is it skeptical to go out of our way to hinder people's access to the actual claims?

How is it skeptical to not list and read the sources?

Sorry, chaps: We should link to Sylvia Browne and all the other heartless bastards who scam the bereaved, all we can - while we also link to the sources that examine their claims.

We have nothing to hide - do we?

We are not afraid if people read what they want - are we?
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Old 29th November 2008, 12:43 PM   #39
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Originally Posted by CFLarsen View Post
How is it skeptical to go out of our way to hinder people's access to the actual claims?

How is it skeptical to not list and read the sources?
It's not. But krelnik isn't suggesting that.

Originally Posted by CFLarsen View Post
We have nothing to hide - do we?

We are not afraid if people read what they want - are we?
No and no. But you're completely missing the point.
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Old 29th November 2008, 12:47 PM   #40
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Reading these posts I have to say I'm baffled by the objections to what krelnik is suggesting.

This is not censorship, this is not hiding anything. All we're saying is when you link to a woo site (as you should if you're quoting it), just don't raise that site's Google ranking. That's just common sense.

Why would you possibly want to raise a woo site's Google ranking?
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