Selling to SEOs part 2: ramificationsOctober 12th, 2006 by Reinder
The controversy over Ampersand's sale of his domain to a Search Engine Optimiser has re-erupted, leading Amp to post a comment-enabled version of his original post. In my earlier report, I focused on the spammy side of the issue. There's an interesting asymmetry here: from the point of view of an SEO, buying a domain for its pagerank is a lot more ethical than many of the other things they could do and so one should commend SEOs for doing it. From the point of the domain order, it's still smelly to say the least. Today, I learned that Google thinks so too: Maxspeak, for example, was delisted for similar practices in September.
But this new flare-up is all about the porn, the porn and the porn. And the lack of disclosure in advance to the community using the blog. But mostly the porn, the misogyny of the porn, the racism of the porn, the violence of the porn and the porniness of the porn. It's not readily visible for a human being investigating the SEO-owned pages on amptoons.com (you need to click the quasi-hidden "reviews" link on the home page and then scroll, but from a search engine's point of view, the site is devoting quite a bit of linkage to porn. This has naturally divided the overwhelmingly anti-porn, feminist audience of the blog, leading to accusations of Amp being a sellout or, possibly worse, only ever having been interested in riding the feminist waves for his own personal gain and status in the first place. A lot of posters feel that the blog was and is as good as it is because of the community underpinning it - and it has to be said that it is one of few blogs where the comments don't make me run away screaming - which raises the issue of how much a person like Ampersand can still claim a blog that is arguably a group effort. On the other hand, if the community had its way, Alas would not have been the inclusive place it is, and a counterargument could be that the group effort only works because Ampersand spends a lot of his time protecting the community both against trollish intrusions and against itself. Also, the community process is consistently initiated by Ampersand, in his own time and at his own expense.
I'm sure there are things that Amp could have done differently. I'm sure he now thinks that this deal wasn't a smart thing to do. But it's done, it's not going to be reversed soon, and from reading the responses of some of the folks who have pledged not to come to the site again, I can only recommend that they don't let the door hit them on the way out.
Alas, A Blog is one of few weblogs that have changed the way I look at the world, even, no, especially on issues about which I disagree with the stances taken. For example, I don't agree with Ampersand's stand on the science concerning obesity, but his writing has made me more aware of the problem of fat hate and how it manifests itself in the media. Likewise with the recent spate of postings on disability by guest blogger Blue, which for me were a starting point to explore disability rights issues more. From where I'm standing, Ampersand's karma can take a few knocks.
An overview of the flamewar can be found at Creative Destruction. My previous post on the sale is listed under "Posts critical of Barry" (which I suppose goes to show that more people read my posts than I think - gosh, maybe I should do some more substantive writing again, some time), but compaed to some of the other posts listed, my criticism is very mild and cautious.
Update Amp was robbed. The SEO didn't keep his side of the bargain, which involved hosting amptoons.com on a dedicated server (scroll to bottom of post).