Linking to Friends

It?s hard to get noticed these days.

In preparation for the launching of my site, I wrote some simple pointer pages on geocities. These pointer pages (such as this one) would eternally point to the most recent version of my web site. Why is this necessary, you ask? My ISP has blocked port 80, causing all the url’s on my home server to end with a port reference (i.e. Besides being ugly and somewhat difficult to remember, it also means that any :81 addresses indexed by search engines now will be lost whenever I change over to a decent ISP/hosting service and start using port 80 once again.

So I had a simple task. I wanted one of these pointer pages to show up in searches involving my name or my website (idiotprogrammer, or imaginaryplanet). So I put meta tags on all three pointer pages and manually submitted them to google, dmoz (which feeds google, yahoo and netscape) and altavista.

Right now, what happens when I type in “Robert Nagle”? Incredibly, the top of the list shows an obscure FAQ database website which I submitted a single question to. Number two was a link to my amazon book reviews, which probably makes sense. The rest of the links are for a Robert Nagle, a networking expert in Massachusetts, who apparently went to Harvard and is always participating in some rugged adventure sports.

When I type in “idiotprogrammer,” I get some wikki entries by some programmer using the same moniker. I also get links to the same FAQ database and some newsgroup postings (I use the idiotprogrammer at yahoo email address whenever I post something on a newsgroup).

So while entities I have absolutely no affiliation with have been able to get a high ranking for automatically generated webpages bearing my name without the help of meta tags, the task of getting my own pages listed seems to be nigh impossible.

Now I’m sure the situation will improve, especially when I am able to use more conventional urls and when people and sites start linking to me. But it has taught me the folly of trusting the search engines to find things. It also shows the transitory nature of links; take it from me. I have easily produced over 100 web pages, but many of these pages disappeared when I changed ISP’s, or when 2 free web hosts disappeared. And by the time the search engines catch on that I have a good number of pages on my ISP?s web space, I will probably have moved everything to a better ISP from which to run my own web server. Even this blogger will probably never show up anywhere unless my friends ever link to it.

There are four kinds of people:

  1. those who have no interest in writing web pages, either because they don’t enjoy writing or don’t like the idea of putting things out in the public forum.
  2. those (like me) whose aim is to produce as many web pages as possible for reasons of self-expression
  3. those who would make web pages only to store family pictures, favorite links and perhaps a list of bookmarks.
  4. Those who don’t necessarily have writing aspirations, but make web pages to support their hobby or for professional reasons.

As I see it, 60% of the population belong to category one. 22% of the population belong to category three, 17% of the population belong to category four and 1% belong to category two. Out of all the friends I know, 80% have never written a web page, maybe 10 belong to category 3 (make personal web pages), 6 or 7 belong to category four (web pages for professional reasons), and maybe only one person I know belongs to category 2 (that is, myself). (Actually there are maybe one or two acquaintances belonging to that category). That last fact is odd considering the fact that I have oodles of friends who are writers or intellectuals. I regularly follow the weblogs and entries of a dozen people (some of whom don?t even know me!) Every once in a while, I will zing a short email over to them or sign their guestbooks. It keeps me company.

I sometimes wonder about these people. If they devote so much time to their online diaries or article site, do they ever have a life? I have noticed how often writers of online diaries will populate their pages with links to other diaries they admire. It is almost as if they are making a list of their friends.