Friday, July 17, 2009 tries a new spamming trick

We got a little traffic from this site today, and for various reasons I decided to poke my nose in a little deeper...and was quite entertained by the spammy trick I discovered.

It seems is scraping (yes, stealing) content from Yahoo Answers in order to generate lots of pages of juicy content for the search engines to digest and index, in the hopes of driving more traffic.

So that's nothing new, lots of sites try tricks like this. What made it interesting was the trick they used to massage the content so that the search engines didn't see it as duplicate content--a copy of what they'd already seen on Yahoo Answers.

As far as I can tell, they've fed the Yahoo Answers pages through an electronic translator...twice, once from English to another language, then again to translate back. Because of how rough electronic translation is, you end up with a pile of decent english words, with most of the important search terms preserved, but scramble so it doesn't look much like the original text.

Look at some of the gems that result:

  • "My fiance additionally as myself have been pondering about stealing scored equally together in Hawaii, yet we're confused on how it would work."

  • "I am carrying a finish matrimony in Key West, FL. we am not sure if we should rewear a grave wear during a matrimony reception."

  • "I am unquestionably confused additionally as hopefully somebody who has had the finish wedlock in the past can benefit me!"

Here's the original page in Yahoo Answers:

And here's the translated page (for those who weren't tempted to click on "spammy trick" above):

Friday, July 10, 2009

Google Mini: a Disposable Search Engine in a Box

BACKGROUND: Google Mini is essentially an appliance, a mini version of Google that they ship preconfigured on a cheap rackmount webserver, with a light version of Google installed. You can configure it a little to look like your site, and get it to catalog just your site's pages, and then integrate a search box into your website to implement site search. Cool, useful stuff for us webmasters.

We bought a Google Mini box. It lasted a little less than a year before biting the biscuit. So, Google shipped us a new box as it was under warranty. I sort of expect that a webserver would last more like 3-5 years at least, but what the hell, they replaced it. Not real happy about all the extra time I had to put in, but at this point I was OK with the support.

Well, that replacement server lasted less than 3 months before biting the dust. Some sort of software problem that their tech support said was a known issue, but rare, and gave me some steps to go through to get it to run again. No permanent fix, but they thought it would probably not happen again. Not happy, but hey, it's working again so whatever.

That server lasted only 4 more months before failing completely (hardware). Now, they won't do anything to fix it as it's outside of the ORIGINAL Mini's warranty. They want us to buy a new box for full price of $3000. Google Mini support guy John Lowry told me on the phone that these things have a limited lifespan, and so they can't just replace it for free every few months. Huh? I'd expect the cardboard box it came in to last longer than the servers have been lasting!

So of course we're pretty pissed, as their appliances (essentially a webserver with a bit o' Google software on it) are averaging about 6 months total lifespan. Obviously this is way, way under anyone's expectations of how long a computer should last, whether it's a webserver, laptop, or a desktop PC. ESPECIALLY when it's living in a nice, cold, air-conditioned, clean & smooth powered datacenter like this one.

So what can I do? Not's not worth suing them for $3000. But I bet with a little help from some of you readers we can make the Google Mini site the #1 result in Google for searches for disposable search engine. Which is pretty accurate, from our experience.