The Battle for Internet City

BattleInternetCity“The Battle for Internet City” poster can be purchased from either Zazzle or Cafe Press.

First, I must say that I am so impressed with our artist, Kelly Ishikawa. He has really outdone himself and created a true work of art. When I saw what he had illustrated I decided to make it available online for purchase so anyone could order it as a poster. I have ordered my copy for my office wall. I chose two options so our readers could order as well. Zazzle has more options and a higher-quality paper selection, but Cafe Press is cheaper. So, if you are interested in “The Battle for Internet City,” you can buy from either Zazzle or Cafe Press.

From time to time I use Ranked Hard as my soap box to comment on SEO-related topics such as link buying, SEO Celebrities and Internet spam, but with this comic I decided that I would poke some fun at three well-known Internet personalities: Seth Godin (Founder of Squidoo), Jason Calacanis (Founder of Mahalo) and Jimmy Wales (co-founder of Wikipedia). Each of these web celebs has created a force on the Internet.

But have they created a force for good on the Internet? Have they made the Internet a better place? In some ways they have, but in many ways–not so much. Of course the negative effects on the Internet aren’t really their fault. Let me explain.

I’ll take each person in order and, since this is my site, I am going to give my opinions. You may disagree, and if so, please post why in the comments below. A good debate is always worth the risk of offending someone.

Seth “King Squidoo” Godin

Seth started Squidoo with good intentions, I’m sure. He intended to help the small-business owner, the Mom working from home, and thousands of people who want to sell their niche expertise. And Seth wanted to make some money for himself too. Nothing wrong with that; it is how the world works. But spammers have made Squidoo somewhat of a wasteland thanks to the deluge of lenses created for one purpose and one purpose only–to make money. Very little work is being put into the lenses (or pages), and a mash of copied content, links to product sites (Amazon), and spammy comments litter the fractured remains of the Squidoo landscape.

Years ago I used Squidoo and tried to be a good steward of the self publishing ease that Squidoo provided. At one point I had the #4 lens on the site. My lenses routinely showed up in Google search results, and I was very impressed with what Squidoo had created: a fun, self publishing medium that paid out for writing about things that interested you. In November 2007, with only two lenses, I profited $98.58. Nothing to write home about, but it was fun sharing my thoughts and interests. This last month I received $6.32 for my 10 or so lenses. This is due to Google placing less value on Squidoo pages because of the large amount of duplicated and spammy content. Alexa has the site ranked near 450, and yet I don’t know anyone who visits the site unless they have a lens. It is almost a closed system of spammers, in my opinion. It started off so well, which means it was destined to fail as spammers attack anything with marketing value, devouring it and leaving a husk of useless Internet waste. Like I said, Seth didn’t do anything wrong, but spammers were allowed too much free reign. So Google stepped in, and now Squidoo is more of a joke than anything else, much to my dismay. I ‘d be remiss if I didn’t mention that Squidoo donates 5% of its profits to charity, so it’s not a complete joke.

Jason “Mahalodron” Calacanis

Much has been written about Jason, so I will simply say he has been a distraction in the SEO community, and he has used both positive and negative press to have a successful run as an Internet celebrity. His site, Mahalo, was set up to be a search engine powered by humans to fight against the hordes of SEO barbarians that manipulate the automated search engine results. Now, amid claims of sweatshop wages and non-payment, the site has fallen into disrepair and the bandwagon is empty. It shows less and less in the search engine results, and Mahalo looks to be saying Aloha soon. (Sorry, I couldn’t resist.)

Mahalo has also brought out the worst in Internet marketers, much like Squidoo. It’s another good idea corrupted by spammers and over-zealous marketers looking to take advantage of high PR pages on a self-policing site. Not enough spam protection and too many content writers working for cheap wages were a poor business match, and the human-powered search engine has probably been junked forever.

Perhaps they tried to be too many things: a search engine, a Yahoo answers, a Squidoo-clone, a Pay Per Post, and a wiki. Too much going on and not really enough innovation.

Jimmy “Wikimonga” Wales

My son and I disagree on Wikipedia. He loves it. I think it causes more problems than it solves. The reason we disagree is this: he sees Wikipedia as an entertainment site but uses it as a reference site, and I see Wikipedia as an entertainment site but know too many others trust it as a reference site. One of those “others” is Google. Yep, that’s right. I believe Google puts way too much trust in Wikipedia.

If you search for a person, place, thing, or event at least 50% the time a Wikipedia page will be within the top three results. Let’s try it. I am honestly doing these searches randomly without knowing the results. Here are my results in Google:

  • “Jack Russell Terrier” – #1 result, Wikipedia page
  • “Berlin Wall Falls” – #1 result, Wikipedia page
  • “Barack Obama” – #3 result, Wikipedia page
  • “Moon Landing” – #1 result, Wikipedia page
  • “Google” – #16 result, Wikipedia page but it is the first non-Google page listed

So get ready for a new history, a history decided by the editors of Wikipedia. And while I’m sure there are wonderful editors at Wikipedia, I have yet to meet one. Each one I have had any dealings with has had delusions of grandeur and an ego the size of the sun (#2 result, Wikipedia page). And if editors with an over-developed sense of importance aren’t bad enough, you have the thousands of jokers who like to put misinformation on Wikipedia. And yet Google still elevates Wikipedia’s status to such heights that Wikipedia is seen as the de facto source for information. Not good, not good at all.

So, in my opinion, these three Internet giants and their web sites all started with the best of intentions and lofty goals, but unfortunately too many of our human vices entered into the mix. Greed (#1 result, Wikipedia page) and pride (#1 Wikipedia result) come to mind first. The presence of these vices prevented these websites from succeeding in the ways their creators intended them to.

Oh, who am I kidding? We all know MySpace killed the internet years ago.

Shell Harris – Big Oak SEO

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8 Responses to “The Battle for Internet City”

  1. Seth Godin says:

    The poster’s great, thanks for highlighting it.

    Can’t agree with your Squidoo analysis. First off, the percentage of junkie lenses is tiny, and going down dramatically. Second, Google traffic is 6 times bigger than it was when you got your big check. Some of our users are making over a thousand dollars a month, and that’s simply because they’re trying harder and focusing more.

    Of course, if you want to talk about doing good on the web, you should have left your settings to donate your royalties to charity (which is what mine are set at.) So far, my lenses have generated more than $10,000 to charity and I only spend a few hours a month on them. Multiply that by our 400,000 users and it could be a serious force for good, no?

  2. Back in the day, Squidoo was easy money, easy rankings and life was good. You could create a Lens and have that rank into Google first page results in days. But no longer. Google saw the Squidoo Loophole an Slapped it faster than the government going after republicans wallets with TAX HIKES.

    From the SEO perspective Squidoo was the promise land. Good rankings, Quality backlinks, and good Money to boot. It all seemed to go down hill around the same time GLAM network came on board. For an instant the money got better, but then all of a sudden, Less Traffic, Less Payouts, Lower Squidoo Rankings. More Spam etc.

    I loved squidoo, I still have a fondness, but gone are the days of $100′s payouts for the efforts, and hello the $7.00 monthly checks. Granted as the money slowed, so did my efforts, but I have over 100 lens with the idea and broken promise that those efforts would increase the reward.

    Regardless from an SEO perspective, the value of a LINK from a LENS, she just ain’t what she used to be!!

    Thanks Seth, we toast the old days and spill a sip for our fallen comrade Squidoo.

  3. Wiki the DMOZ of this Decade says:

    Oh Wiki how have you gotten to be the dregs of the net. Like DMOZ a powerful site, but Like DMOZ power corrupts. Power corrupts but absolute power corrupts absolutely (Wiki #2 Google).

    The editors have a dictatorship, the spammer rejoice in filling links, and even true references and statements that belong in the WIKI are removed. Like DMOZ, what have you become.

    Looking forward to the day when Google Finally Slaps Wiki, Googles’ Knol, let’s move on up like George and Weezie!!
    :)

  4. Jonathan says:

    Tsk, tsk. You vile creatures. Smearing the reputations of three of the most brilliant people to ever grace the planet. The world is better because of Seth Godin. The sun is brighter because of Jimmy Wales. And the ego is stronger because of Jason Calacanis. You dare mock these extraordinary creatures by mutilating them into real, hideous creatures stomping through some sort of sacred “Internet City.”

    What they’ve done to the change the world can never be taken away from them. Not by you. Not by your desire to force them unwillingly into some clandestine Gojira. I feel like a piece of the heart and soul of the Internet has been stolen.

    Stupendous artwork though. But the words of the author send chills down my crackling spine.

  5. Laura Lacy says:

    Within the last year or so, I was attending classes at Keiser University. We, as students, were allowed to use Wikipedia as a starting point for research but were not allowed to use it as a reference in any of our papers. This was mainly due to the fact that almost anyone could edit the wiki entries without any sort of fact-checking involved, especially on obscure topics. I also know that certain teachers (at various educational levels) forbid the use of wikipedia for those same reasons.

    I’d also like to say that the article was informative and entertaining. Love the graphic!

  6. VVS-Hedestoker says:

    Really enjoyed this. Cheers for some nice work.

  7. MR says:

    Tsk, tsk. You vile creatures. Smearing the reputations of three of the most brilliant people to ever grace the planet. The world is better because of Seth Godin. The sun is brighter because of Jimmy Wales. And the ego is stronger because of Jason Calacanis. You dare mock these extraordinary creatures by mutilating them into real, hideous creatures stomping through some sort of sacred “Internet City.”

    What they’ve done to the change the world can never be taken away from them. Not by you. Not by your desire to force them unwillingly into some clandestine Gojira. I feel like a piece of the heart and soul of the Internet has been stolen.

    Stupendous artwork though. But the words of the author send chills down my crackling spine.

  8. Shell Harris says:

    Seth,

    Thanks for commenting and I am very happy to see your numbers are up in terms of traffic. Of course everything is from my personal perspective and my poll of people I know on Squidoo, which is admittedly very small. The charity aspect of Squidoo does set it apart and some of my lenses do go to charity as well.

    But I can say that traffic has gone down considerably for all my lenses and was doing so even when I was marketing them aggressively. I gave up because the downward spiral of rankings and traffic could not be slowed by any of my actions. I have other sites and blogs that make thousands per month and find that my time was better spent on those sites. Of course I have the knowledge and time to do so. I realize not everyone on Squidoo has my level of expertise and therefore it is a good fit for them.

    Best of luck with Squidoo, I will always have a fondness for it. Now tell me why my Jean Grey lens doesn’t rank anymore? ;-)