Two Matts and a Phillip Weigh in on the Wikipedia/No Follow Issue

Two Matts and a Phillip debate the merits of Wikipedia’s adding No Follow to all external links.

Matt Mullenweg writes:

In theory this should work perfectly, but in practice although all major blogging tools did this two years ago and comment and trackback spam is still 100 times worse now. In hindsight, I don’t think nofollow had much of an effect, though I’m still glad we tried it.

Philipp Lenssen complains

What happens as a consequence, in my opinion, is that Wikipedia gets valuable backlinks from all over the web, in huge quantity, and of huge importance – normal links, not “nofollow” links; this is what makes Wikipedia rank so well – but as of now, they’re not giving any of this back. The problem of Wikipedia link spam is real, but the solution to this spam problem may introduce an even bigger problem: Wikipedia has become a website that takes from the communities but doesn’t give back, skewing web etiquette as well as tools that work on this etiquette (like search engines, which analyze the web’s link structure). That’s why I find Wikipedia’s move very disappointing.

Matt Cutts weighs in

But for the present, I think it’s the right call: the incentive to create spammy links on Wikipedia has been massively reduced. As one SEO person commented on a forum, “Yeah, that sucks. All those hours spent spamming wikipedia, gone to waste…” 🙂 Over time, I believe Wikipedia will probably find ways to remove nofollow from links that are more trusted.

I don’t have an opinion either way (though I’ve contributed a bit to wikipedia, including links of my own). Wikipedia has enough prominence that I think it still brings traffic to me, so I don’t worry about it. One pet peeve I do have however is bloggers who fail to mention the name of the blogger or journalist who wrote the article being linked to. Hey, those things matter! URL’s change (and go behind paid firewalls sometimes). And yes, it’s true that the wayback machine can retrieve a lot of pages (using the wayback machine to unearth gems from old myspace pages for presidential candidates will become a spectator sport starting in about 2020).

But the world should follow this rule: cite people, not commercial entities. To illustrate:

Wrong Way: A NYT book review on organ transplants states that:

But there is still no such thing as a truly new organ. Unlike insulin or artificial hips, organs so far cannot be successfully manufactured. They come only pre-owned, usually from young, healthy people who have died suddenly in traumatic accidents that destroyed their brains. Rainy weekends increase the organ supply. Helmet laws reduce it. The more than 94,000 Americans on the waiting list for organs are, in effect, waiting for someone else to die so that they can live.

Better Way: “Virginia Postrel, in a NYT book review, states that…”

Still better Way: Virginia Postrel, in a NYT book review, states that…

From a programmer’s standpoint, pingbacks and pagerank technorati matter for Search Rank. But for writers (who often are underpaid or even unpaid), attribution is really the only way to get known on the web. It is also a “tag” for people to search for later on after a site is moved or goes down. Even if a post I write is never cited or linked to anywhere (and let’s be frank, 99% of my writings are NEVER cited anywhere), searching for “Robert Nagle” or “By Robert Nagle” is a surefire way to retrieve these same articles.

Postscript: I just realized that I never configured my template to show By Robert Nagle (Yes, it’s on the top). Save that for the 2.1 migration coming in a few days.






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