[WikiEN-l] Nofollow back on URL links on en.wikipedia.org articles for now

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[WikiEN-l] Nofollow back on URL links on en.wikipedia.org articles for now

Brion Vibber
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Having been requested by Jimmy to do so, and having seen a fun rumor of
a "search engine optimization world championship" contest targeting
WP[1], I've gone ahead and switched rel="nofollow" back onto URLs in
en.wikipedia.org's article namespace.

(Better heuristic and manual flagging tools for URLs would of course be
super; anyone interested in working on integrating such support into
MediaWiki should swing on by the tech channels and give a shout.)

[1]
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:Administrators%27_noticeboard#Globalwarming_awareness2007.2FSEO_world_championship_--_expect_a_spam_onslaught.

- -- brion vibber (brion @ pobox.com / brion @ wikimedia.org)
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Re: [WikiEN-l] Nofollow back on URL links on en.wikipedia.org articles for now

Oskar Sigvardsson
On 1/20/07, Brion Vibber <[hidden email]> wrote:

> -----BEGIN PGP SIGNED MESSAGE-----
> Hash: SHA1
>
> Having been requested by Jimmy to do so, and having seen a fun rumor of
> a "search engine optimization world championship" contest targeting
> WP[1], I've gone ahead and switched rel="nofollow" back onto URLs in
> en.wikipedia.org's article namespace.
>
> (Better heuristic and manual flagging tools for URLs would of course be
> super; anyone interested in working on integrating such support into
> MediaWiki should swing on by the tech channels and give a shout.)

This is a real shame since good external links help to vastly improve
search :( Oh well, cost of doing business I guess.

--Oskar

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Re: [WikiEN-l] Nofollow back on URL links on en.wikipedia.org articles for now

Anthony DiPierro
On 1/20/07, Oskar Sigvardsson <[hidden email]> wrote:

> On 1/20/07, Brion Vibber <[hidden email]> wrote:
> > -----BEGIN PGP SIGNED MESSAGE-----
> > Hash: SHA1
> >
> > Having been requested by Jimmy to do so, and having seen a fun rumor of
> > a "search engine optimization world championship" contest targeting
> > WP[1], I've gone ahead and switched rel="nofollow" back onto URLs in
> > en.wikipedia.org's article namespace.
> >
> > (Better heuristic and manual flagging tools for URLs would of course be
> > super; anyone interested in working on integrating such support into
> > MediaWiki should swing on by the tech channels and give a shout.)
>
> This is a real shame since good external links help to vastly improve
> search :( Oh well, cost of doing business I guess.
>
The search engines are always free to ignore the "nofollow" tag, if
they think that the external links are an overall positive on search
results.  Apparently they don't.

Anthony

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Re: [WikiEN-l] Nofollow back on URL links on en.wikipedia.org articles for now

Steve Summit
In reply to this post by Brion Vibber
Brion wrote:
> ...having seen a fun rumor of a "search engine optimization
> world championship" contest...

It wouldn't surprise me a bit if that rumor was true.  I have
a high-pagerank website with an unremarkable submission form
(c-faq.com/feedback.html) that usually receives one or two
linkspams per week, but suddenly yesterday and today I've gotten
about a dozen.

> I've gone ahead and switched rel="nofollow" back onto URLs in
> en.wikipedia.org's article namespace.

Good.  That's clearly the right stance for now, dismaying though
it is.


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Re: [WikiEN-l] Nofollow back on URL links on en.wikipedia.org articles for now

geni
On 1/20/07, Steve Summit <[hidden email]> wrote:

> Brion wrote:
> > ...having seen a fun rumor of a "search engine optimization
> > world championship" contest...
>
> It wouldn't surprise me a bit if that rumor was true.  I have
> a high-pagerank website with an unremarkable submission form
> (c-faq.com/feedback.html) that usually receives one or two
> linkspams per week, but suddenly yesterday and today I've gotten
> about a dozen.
>

They've happened before they will happen again we have delt with them
in the past.



--
geni

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Re: [WikiEN-l] Nofollow back on URL links on en.wikipedia.org articles for now

Nina Stratton
In reply to this post by Brion Vibber
On 1/20/07, Brion Vibber <[hidden email]> wrote:

>
> -----BEGIN PGP SIGNED MESSAGE-----
> Hash: SHA1
>
> Having been requested by Jimmy to do so, and having seen a fun rumor of
> a "search engine optimization world championship" contest targeting
> WP[1], I've gone ahead and switched rel="nofollow" back onto URLs in
> en.wikipedia.org's article namespace.
>
> (Better heuristic and manual flagging tools for URLs would of course be
> super; anyone interested in working on integrating such support into
> MediaWiki should swing on by the tech channels and give a shout.)
>
> [1]
>
> http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:Administrators%27_noticeboard#Globalwarming_awareness2007.2FSEO_world_championship_--_expect_a_spam_onslaught
> .


Hi. What did you do? Pretend I'm, like, eight and/or stupid (because on this
I are pretty stoopid).


Nina
"Look at the sky. We are not alone. The whole universe is friendly to us and
conspires only to give the best to those who dream and work." - Abdul Kalam
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Re: [WikiEN-l] Nofollow back on URL links on en.wikipedia.org articles for now

David Gerard-2
On 20/01/07, Nina Stratton <[hidden email]> wrote:

> Hi. What did you do? Pretend I'm, like, eight and/or stupid (because on this
> I are pretty stoopid).


Fortunately, I have this handy Internet encyclopedia in front of me.
If I go to en.wikipedia.org and type "nofollow" into the search box,
it takes me to an article that explains it and even has a paragraph
about Wikipedia :-)


- d.

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Re: [WikiEN-l] Nofollow back on URL links on en.wikipedia.org articles for now

Steve Bennett-8
In reply to this post by Oskar Sigvardsson
On 1/20/07, Oskar Sigvardsson <[hidden email]> wrote:
> This is a real shame since good external links help to vastly improve
> search :( Oh well, cost of doing business I guess.

Hang on, what do you think the downside of the nofollow tag is? All
this change does is make Google not use the fact that we link to a
site as evidence that it's a good site.

Steve

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Re: [WikiEN-l] Nofollow back on URL links on en.wikipedia.org articles for now

Thomas Dalton
> Hang on, what do you think the downside of the nofollow tag is? All
> this change does is make Google not use the fact that we link to a
> site as evidence that it's a good site.

Are they also used to calculate relevance - if our article links to
lots of good pages about the search terms, will our article appear
higher up in the search results? I have no idea how the Google search
algorithm works, but that's how I interpreted Oskar's email.

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Re: [WikiEN-l] Nofollow back on URL links on en.wikipedia.org articles for now

Steve Summit
In reply to this post by Nina Stratton
Nina wrote:
> Hi. What did you do? Pretend I'm, like, eight and/or stupid (because on
> this I are pretty stoopid).

Once upon a time, websites were written and maintained by
individuals, or by relatively small, closely-knit groups of people.

Once upon a time, and indeed even to this day, there has always
been a need to try to figure out how "good" a website is.  Now,
of course, "goodness" is a terribly subjective and multifaceted
concept, so trying to reduce it to a unidimensional metric or
"rank" is a task fraught with peril and ultimately utterly
impossible, but the need is strong enough that people are bound
to try anyway.  One area in which the need is real is: ranking
search results.  It's (comparatively) very easy to write a web
search engine that returns links to every single page where a
user's search terms are mentioned.  It's much, much more
difficult, however, to rig it up so that the user can easily zero
in on the *interesting* or *useful* links first, without having
to wade through all of the hundreds or thousands or millions of
hits which a simpleminded brute-force search engine might yield.

Once upon a time, Larry Page and Sergey Brin had a great idea.
They were trying to get a handle on "goodness" as defined by the
*users* of a page, *not* on the goodness that the authors of a
page wished it had, or might try to assert that it had.  Even
more to the point: Larry and Sergey wanted to rank "goodness"
in terms useful to the people doing the searching, not in terms
useful to the owners of the websites where the hits might (or
might not) be found.  L&S realized that one way to get a handle
on this user-perceived goodness was to look at how many people
linked to a given page.  Simply speaking, to first order, the
more people link to webpage X, the "better" webpage X is, and
the higher webpage X should appear in a list of search results.

As an additional, second-order wrinkle, the founders of
Google realized that not all links are created equal.  Among other
things, links to an unknown site *from* sites that are known to
be "good" count more towards ranking site X's "goodness" than do
links from other, random, unknown or not-so-good sites.

Needless to say, this strategy turned out to work very, very
well.  Google is now very, very successful, and its name has
become literally synonymous with "to do a web search for".

However, fast-forward to today.  There are now "social" websites
which are most assuredly *not* written and maintained by
"individuals or relatively small, closely-knit groups of
people".  Social websites, such as blogs and wikis, are by
definition written and maintained by anybody and everybody out
there on the whole world-wide internet.  And that's a fine,
wonderful, libertarian and egalitarian thing -- except that it
collides head-on with Google's strategy.  The collision wouldn't
matter so much if there weren't social websites with high
pagerank, or if Google and its pagerank algorithm weren't so
successful.  But in a world where Google is far and away the #1
search engine, and where the ever-so-social (or at least
ever-so-wiki) site known as Wikipedia is a top-10 website with
stupefyingly high pagerank, we have the makings of quite a fine
little quandary.

Simply put, Wikipedia is an absolutely irresistible,
boron-neodymium supermagnet for linkspam.  The World Wide Web is
no longer Tim Berners-Lee's theoretically interesting research
lab thingy, it's an unignorable real-world phenomenon.  If you're
a commercial website operator, having high Google pagerank is
money in the bank.  So if you yourself can go in and create links
from a high-pagerank site like Wikipedia to your grotty little
commercial site, well, you'd be a fool not to.

So Google, like virtually all wildly successful and unignorable
real-world phenomena, has had to compromise a bit on its
principles.  Links from high-rank sites contribute higher to a
linked-to site's pagerank, *unless* the high-rank site is openly
editable by anybody, in which case the links probably have to
be ignored.  So Google invented the new HTML link attribute
"nofollow".  (One of the nice things about open, extensible
languages like HTML is that anybody can invent new extensions
like this to it anytime.)  Nofollow means, "don't weight this
link by my site's pagerank when totting up the linked-to
website's pagerank", or indeed, "don't follow this link in order
to tot up pagerank at all".  Google invented this attribute
specifically for high-pagerank social sites such as Wikipedia,
and encourages us to use it on our user-editable external links.


In terms of "what did specifically Brion do to turn on the
"nofollow" attribute for Wikipedia external links?", that
I can't answer.  Probably some propellorhead computer weenie
thing involving "property lists" or "php configuration variables"
or suchlike. :-)


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Re: [WikiEN-l] Nofollow back on URL links on en.wikipedia.org articles for now

Steve Summit
In reply to this post by Steve Bennett-8
Steve Bennett wrote:
> Hang on, what do you think the downside of the nofollow tag is?
> All this change does is make Google not use the fact that we link
> to a site as evidence that it's a good site.

Right.  But some of the sites we link to are good sites, and
do deserve our "vote" in terms of increasing their pagerank.
(But the problem, of course, is that there's no way to
differentiate those external links of ours that have this
quality, versus those that are as-yet-undetected linkspam.)


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Re: [WikiEN-l] Nofollow back on URL links on en.wikipedia.org articles for now

Dan Collins-2
If anyone is interested in helping to eliminate the spam problem, visit
#wikipedia-spam on irc://irc.freenode.net

--
ST47
Editor, en.wikipedia
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Re: [WikiEN-l] Nofollow back on URL links on en.wikipedia.org articles for now

Bogdan Giusca
In reply to this post by Steve Summit
Saturday, January 20, 2007, 5:08:52 PM, Steve wrote:

> Right.  But some of the sites we link to are good sites, and
> do deserve our "vote" in terms of increasing their pagerank.
> (But the problem, of course, is that there's no way to
> differentiate those external links of ours that have this
> quality, versus those that are as-yet-undetected linkspam.)

Wikipedia's primary objective is to build an encyclopedia,
not to help the search engines to have better results.

Without the "nofollow" tag, we'd have much more spam, which is
detrimental to that objective.

Wikipedia also should always be neutral and it should try not to
directly influence the events outside of it.



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Re: [WikiEN-l] Nofollow back on URL links on en.wikipedia.org articles for now

Oskar Sigvardsson
On 1/20/07, Bogdan Giusca <[hidden email]> wrote:

> Saturday, January 20, 2007, 5:08:52 PM, Steve wrote:
>
> > Right.  But some of the sites we link to are good sites, and
> > do deserve our "vote" in terms of increasing their pagerank.
> > (But the problem, of course, is that there's no way to
> > differentiate those external links of ours that have this
> > quality, versus those that are as-yet-undetected linkspam.)
>
> Wikipedia's primary objective is to build an encyclopedia,
> not to help the search engines to have better results.

I agree, which is why this move was necessary. I just think that if
good, relevant links didn't have nofollow on them it would improve the
overall "health" of the internet (that is, promotion of good, quality
sites, versus drowning in bad ones). I think that that is a goal we
should ALL care about.

> Without the "nofollow" tag, we'd have much more spam, which is
> detrimental to that objective.

Again, I agree that the move is necessary, I'm just saying it's a damn shame.

> Wikipedia also should always be neutral and it should try not to
> directly influence the events outside of it.

Excuse me? Are you saying that when google uses wikipedia links to
determine relevance in a search, it's detrimental to the neutrality of
wikipedia? How exactly would that go?

--Oskar

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Re: [WikiEN-l] Nofollow back on URL links on en.wikipedia.org articles for now

Matthew Brown-5
On 1/20/07, Oskar Sigvardsson <[hidden email]> wrote:
> Excuse me? Are you saying that when google uses wikipedia links to
> determine relevance in a search, it's detrimental to the neutrality of
> wikipedia? How exactly would that go?

In a sense, it is exactly that - because it increases the temptation
to add links to Wikipedia, regardless of real relevance to the reader.

That's still the case even if those links do not adjust search engine
results, of course.

-Matthew

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Re: [WikiEN-l] Nofollow back on URL links on en.wikipedia.org articles for now

geni
In reply to this post by Brion Vibber
On 1/20/07, Brion Vibber <[hidden email]> wrote:

> -----BEGIN PGP SIGNED MESSAGE-----
> Hash: SHA1
>
> Having been requested by Jimmy to do so, and having seen a fun rumor of
> a "search engine optimization world championship" contest targeting
> WP[1], I've gone ahead and switched rel="nofollow" back onto URLs in
> en.wikipedia.org's article namespace.
>
> (Better heuristic and manual flagging tools for URLs would of course be
> super; anyone interested in working on integrating such support into
> MediaWiki should swing on by the tech channels and give a shout.)
>
> [1]
> http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:Administrators%27_noticeboard#Globalwarming_awareness2007.2FSEO_world_championship_--_expect_a_spam_onslaught.
>


and the reviews start to come in:

http://forums.digitalpoint.com/showthread.php?t=224044&highlight=wikipedia

--
geni

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Re: [WikiEN-l] Nofollow back on URL links on en.wikipedia.org articles for now

Oskar Sigvardsson
In reply to this post by Matthew Brown-5
On 1/20/07, Matthew Brown <[hidden email]> wrote:
> On 1/20/07, Oskar Sigvardsson <[hidden email]> wrote:
> > Excuse me? Are you saying that when google uses wikipedia links to
> > determine relevance in a search, it's detrimental to the neutrality of
> > wikipedia? How exactly would that go?
>
> In a sense, it is exactly that - because it increases the temptation
> to add links to Wikipedia, regardless of real relevance to the reader.

To me that is like saying that having a wiki increases the temptation
for people to vandalise articles.

--Oskar

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Re: [WikiEN-l] Nofollow back on URL links on en.wikipedia.org articles for now

David Gerard-2
In reply to this post by geni
On 20/01/07, geni <[hidden email]> wrote:

> and the reviews start to come in:
> http://forums.digitalpoint.com/showthread.php?t=224044&highlight=wikipedia


I was going to reply, but I would probably have said something like
"Yes, we've gone nofollow. And it is entirely because of festering
parasitical weasels like your own good selves. I find it hard to
express the utter, utter contempt we have for your 'need' for
backlinks. In the words of Saint Bill Hicks: just kill yourselves.
Seriously." However, that would have been entirely too understated a
response, and they still wouldn't have understood it anyway.


- d.

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Re: [WikiEN-l] Nofollow back on URL links on en.wikipedia.org articles for now

Matthew Brown-5
In reply to this post by Oskar Sigvardsson
On 1/20/07, Oskar Sigvardsson <[hidden email]> wrote:
> To me that is like saying that having a wiki increases the temptation
> for people to vandalise articles.

It most certainly does.  Of course, one can decide that the advantages
outweigh the disadvantages, but that doesn't mean one has to believe
in no disadvantages.

-Matthew

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Re: [WikiEN-l] Nofollow back on URL links on en.wikipedia.org articles for now

Steve Summit
In reply to this post by Oskar Sigvardsson
Oskar wrote:

> On 1/20/07, Bogdan Giusca <[hidden email]> wrote:
>> Saturday, January 20, 2007, 5:08:52 PM, Steve wrote:
>>> Right.  But some of the sites we link to are good sites, and
>>> do deserve our "vote" in terms of increasing their pagerank.
>>
>> Wikipedia's primary objective is to build an encyclopedia,
>> not to help the search engines to have better results.
>
> I agree, which is why this move was necessary. I just think that if
> good, relevant links didn't have nofollow on them it would improve the
> overall "health" of the internet...

Indeed.

I should not have used the word "vote", even in quotes.  If we
were all straightforwardly creating websites, linking to other
sites based on their value to our readers, then Google's pagerank
algorithm would tick along there in the background, working just
fine.  It's when people start self-consciously thinking of links
as "votes", and trying to artificially skew Google's results
thereby, that all the troubles begin.  Some people start
introducing bad-faith links, and others therefore have to declare
*all* their links invalid, thus cutting off our own nose to spite
our face -- er, to spite those damn linkspammers.

If our objective is to build an encyclopedia, not to help the
search engines to have better results, then our objective is not
to help the search engines not to have worse results, either,
so perhaps we shouldn't be so concerned about nofollow at all.

>> Without the "nofollow" tag, we'd have much more spam, which is
>> detrimental to that objective.

No question at all.  (But this is an essentially selfish motive,
and neither the Internet nor Wikipedia works on selfishness.)

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