webmasterresources.nl

traffic-builders.com

seroundtable.com

  • nieuw: 13/06/2024 Google Fixes GA4 Attribution Models To Better Associate Conversions To Paid Search
    Google posted a notice that it fixed an issue where Google Analytics, GA4, would sometimes not credit the proper conversion attribution to the paid search campaign. Google said it will update the "attribution models in GA4 over the next two weeks to improve the accuracy of conversion credit for paid search campaigns."nieuw:
  • nieuw: 13/06/2024 Google Tests Larger Fonts For Main Snippet Title Link & Smaller Font For Sitelinks
    Google is testing a larger font size for the main search result title link, followed by smaller fonts for that same snippet's sitelinks. This was spotted a few days ago by both Umair Khan on X and Lily Ray on X.nieuw:
  • nieuw: 13/06/2024 Google: Disallow Crawling Of Action URLs (Buy Now, Sign Up, etc)
    Google posted a public service announcement saying you should disallow Googlebot from crawling your action URLs. Gary Illyes from Google posted on LinkedIn, "You should really disallow crawling of your action URLs. Crawlers will not buy that organic non-GMO scented candle, nor do they care for a wishlist."nieuw:
  • nieuw: 13/06/2024 Bing Tests Black Review Stars In Search Results
    Microsoft is testing using black-colored review stars in its Bing Search results. This is instead of the yellow or orange review stars. I am not sure why they are testing it in black, but they are.nieuw:
  • nieuw: 13/06/2024 Google Local Pack Photos With Labels
    Google seems to be testing adding labels and descriptions on the photos within the local business profile listings. These are on both the carousel of images and on the detailed business profile page.nieuw:

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searchenginejournal.com

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indeedseo.com

backlinko.com

blogtrommel.com

kgom.nl

martech.org

  • 27/04/2022 Google Play rolling out app data collection labels
    Users can find out what data is collected, if it is shared and the developer's security policies. The post Google Play rolling out app data collection labels appeared first on MarTech.

    Please visit Marketing Land for the full article.
  • 27/04/2022 Good morning: Adapting to new customer paradigms
    When making sure it's the right time to engage a customer, it's best to abandon old ideas. The post Good morning: Adapting to new customer paradigms appeared first on MarTech.

    Please visit Marketing Land for the full article.
  • 27/04/2022 Analytics software delivers data, standards deliver insights
    Only your team can determine which metrics mean the most for your business. The post Analytics software delivers data, standards deliver insights appeared first on MarTech.

    Please visit Marketing Land for the full article.
  • 27/04/2022 Marketing analytics: What it is and why marketers should care
    We unpack marketing analytics: what it is, why it’s important, and how it can help marketers achieve brand success. The post Marketing analytics: What it is and why marketers should care appeared first on MarTech.

    Please visit Marketing Land for the full article.
  • 26/04/2022 Samsung Ads launches full-service offering Total Media Solution
    Total Media Solution will manage and measure cross-platform campaigns through the Samsung DSP. The post Samsung Ads launches full-service offering Total Media Solution appeared first on MarTech.

    Please visit Marketing Land for the full article.

searchengineland.com

andrescholten.nl

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seoblackhat.com

  • 23/04/2016 What Happened with SEO Black Hat?
    It’s been 5 years since I wrote a post. I’ve been on lifecation for the last 3 and a half years (not working and living the dream). But there’s an exciting reason I’m back: A Yuuuuuge exploit that I’m going to share, but I’ll get to that in due time. First, let’s talk about the […]
  • 17/04/2016 Hello Again. World.
    Zombie SEO Black Hat and QuadsZilla about to become reanimated.
  • 05/02/2011 Google Lied about Manually Changes
    We Cannot Manually Change Results . . . But we did.
  • 03/02/2011 Clicksteam For Dummies: How The Ranking Factor Works
    Since the majority of people can’t seem to figure out how clickstream data could be used as a Search Engine Ranking Factor, without ever scraping the actual page, I’ll give you a hint.
  • 01/02/2011 Bing is Just Better
    Google is scared. They call Bing’s Results “a Cheap imitation”, but the fact is that Bing is now consistently delivering better results.

seroundtable.com

  • nieuw: 13/06/2024 Google Fixes GA4 Attribution Models To Better Associate Conversions To Paid Search

    Google Analytics

    Google posted a notice that it fixed an issue where Google Analytics, GA4, would sometimes not credit the proper conversion attribution to the paid search campaign. Google said it will update the "attribution models in GA4 over the next two weeks to improve the accuracy of conversion credit for paid search campaigns."

    Google wrote that previously sometimes it would attribute some conversions to organic search and not paid search. Google will be rolling out a fix for this soon. Google wrote, "Currently, conversions that should be attributed to paid search are sometimes incorrectly attributed to organic search, most commonly for single-page applications. This happens when the 'gclid' parameter (identifying the paid search click) doesn't persist across page views."

    Google added:

    With this update, we're adjusting how we attribute conversions to ensure campaign information is accurately captured on the first event of each page. If a user leaves your site and returns through a different channel, the attribution will update accordingly.

    This change may increase the number of conversions attributed to paid search, potentially affecting your Ads campaign spending. We strongly recommend reviewing your budget caps and adjusting them as needed before this update takes effect.

    Forum discussion at X.

    Note: This was pre-written and scheduled to be posted today, I am currently offline for Shavout.

    nieuw:
  • nieuw: 13/06/2024 Google Tests Larger Fonts For Main Snippet Title Link & Smaller Font For Sitelinks

    Google Straws

    Google is testing a larger font size for the main search result title link, followed by smaller fonts for that same snippet's sitelinks. This was spotted a few days ago by both Umair Khan on X and Lily Ray on X.

    Google often tests font sizes for its search results, they have done this for two decades now. We've seen them test grouped larger fonts, large bold fonts, and other bigger fonts - I don't cover all of them because these tests happen often but I cover a lot of Google UI tests.

    Here is a screenshot of this in action:

    Google Virgin Snippet Font Large

    Compare it to the normal snippet:

    Google Virgin Snippet Font Normal

    Another example:

    Google Ser Snippet Font Large

    Compare to the normal snippet:

    Google Ser Snippet Font Normal

    More examples:

    Google is Testing Large Size Title on Brand Names. @rustybrick | @JohnMu
    Here are Screenshots: pic.twitter.com/p600Qeyb3y

    '" Umair Khan (@umair_2024) June 9, 2024

    I think it shows this way for navigational results pic.twitter.com/hpgx37Brui

    '" Lily Ray ð (@lilyraynyc) June 8, 2024

    Forum discussion at X.

    Note: This was pre-written and scheduled to be posted today, I am currently offline for Shavout.

    nieuw:
  • nieuw: 13/06/2024 Google: Disallow Crawling Of Action URLs (Buy Now, Sign Up, etc)

    Google Robot With Credit Card

    Google posted a public service announcement saying you should disallow Googlebot from crawling your action URLs. Gary Illyes from Google posted on LinkedIn, "You should really disallow crawling of your action URLs. Crawlers will not buy that organic non-GMO scented candle, nor do they care for a wishlist."

    I mean, this is not new advice. Why let a spider crawl pages where it cannot really take any actions. Googlebot can not make purchases, cannot sign up for your newsletter, and so on.

    Gary wrote:

    A common complaint we get about crawling is that were crawling too much, which uses too much of the server's resources (though doesn't cause problems otherwise). Looking at what we're crawling from the sites in the complaints, way too often it's action URLs such as "add to cart" and "add to wishlist". These are useless for crawlers and you likely don't want them to be crawled.

    If you have URLs like:

    https://example'¤com/product/scented-candle-v1?add_to_cart

    and

    https://example'¤com/product/scented-candle-v1?add_to_wishlist

    How should you block Googlebot? He said, "You should probably add a disallow rule for them in your robots.txt file. Converting them to HTTP POST method also works, though many crawlers can and will make POST requests, so keep that in mind."

    Now, a few years ago, we reported that Googlebot can add products to your cart to verify your pricing is correct. It seems to be part of the merchant shopping experience score feature - so I'd be a tad careful with all of this.

    Forum discussion at LinkedIn.

    Note: This was pre-written and scheduled to be posted today, I am currently offline for Shavout.

    nieuw:
  • nieuw: 13/06/2024 Bing Tests Black Review Stars In Search Results

    Bing Black Review Stars

    Microsoft is testing using black-colored review stars in its Bing Search results. This is instead of the yellow or orange review stars. I am not sure why they are testing it in black, but they are.

    This was spotted by Frank Sandtmann who posted some screenshots of this on Mastodon:

    Bing Black Review Stars

    Do you prefer the black color for the review stars?

    Forum discussion at Mastodon.

    Note: This was pre-written and scheduled to be posted today, I am currently offline for Shavout.

    nieuw:
  • nieuw: 13/06/2024 Google Local Pack Photos With Labels

    Photo Of Food At Restaurant

    Google seems to be testing adding labels and descriptions on the photos within the local business profile listings. These are on both the carousel of images and on the detailed business profile page.

    We've seen Google testing descritpions on photos in Business Profiles but that was only when you clicked on the image.

    These are showing on the image as overlays on the carousel and detail page view.

    Here are screenshots from Saad AK on X:

    Google Local Image Labels

    Here is his video of this in action:

    Google > Mobile

    Local SEO: I haven't seen these attributes on images in Local Listing before.

    This might be new.

    Sending to: @rustybrick SIR. pic.twitter.com/Fg3yn5eyJq

    '" Saad AK (@SaadAlikhan1994) June 10, 2024

    Forum discussion at X.

    Note: This was pre-written and scheduled to be posted today, I am currently offline for Shavout.

    nieuw:

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bluehatseo.com

  • 09/06/2011 Guest Post: How To Start Your First Media Buy
    This post was written by a good friend of mine and one of the best media buyers I know Max Teitelbaum. He owns WhatRunsWhere and has previously offered to write a guest post on the subject for you guys, but with all the buzz and relevancy of his new WhatRunsWhere tool I requested he write [...]
  • 12/07/2010 Open Questions: When To Never Do Article Submissions
    Got a question in my E-Commerce SEO Checklist post from Rania, who didn’t leave me a link for credit. “4. Steal your competitors articles and product reviews and do article distribution.” You recommend STEALING articles from competitors as an advanced SEO tactic?! Seriously?! How about recommending that users create their own unique content in order to increase their [...]
  • 09/07/2010 SEO Checklist for E-Commerce Sites
    Answering a question on Wickedfire here. If you own an Ecommerce site and don’t know where to begin on the SEO go through this check list. In total, it’ll cost less than $500. 1. Signup with all related forums. Put your site in the footer links and go through answering product related questions on a weekly basis. 2. [...]
  • 22/06/2010 How To Take Down A Competitors Website: Legally
    They stole your articles didn’t they? You didn’t even know until they outranked you. They jacked your $50 lander without a single thought to how you’d feel? Insensitive pricks They violated your salescopy with synonyms. Probably didn’t even use a rubber. They rank #8 and you rank #9 on EVERY KEYWORD! bastards! Listen, why don’t you just relax. Have a seat over there [...]
  • 11/11/2009 Addon Domain Spamming With Wordpress and Any Other CMS
    I got this question from Primal in regards to my post on Building Mininets Eli, I like the post and your entire site. Thanks for sharing your knowledge. One thing confuses me about this particular tactic. Where are you getting the content from? You mentioned Audioscrobbler and Youtube API but I am not focusing on a music [...]

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seobook.com

  • 24/09/2023 The Magical Black Box

    Google's mission statement is "organize the world's information and make it universally accessible and useful."

    That mission is so profound & so important the associated court documents in their antitrust cases must be withheld from public consumption.

    Hey. The full exhibit list just posted in DC federal court for USA vs Google. J/k, they literally posted the numbers of all of the admitted exhibits which would be unsealed in a sane world where public interest is respected even more so because the defendant is insanely powerful. pic.twitter.com/FViD40xVmf— Jason Kint (@jason_kint) September 23, 2023

    Before document sharing was disallowed, some were shared publicly.

    Internal emails stated:

    • Hal Varian was off in his public interviews where he suggested it was the algorithms rather than the amount of data which is prime driver of relevancy.
    • Apple would not get any revshare if there was a user choice screen & must set Google as the default search engine to qualify for any revshare.
    • Google has a policy of being vague about using clickstream data to influence ranking, though they have heavily relied upon clickstream data to influence ranking. Advances in machine learning have made it easier to score content to where the clickstream data had become less important.
    • When Apple Maps launched & Google Maps lost the default position on iOS Google Maps lost 60% of their iOS distribution, and that was with how poorly the Apple Maps roll out went.
    • Google sometimes subverted their typical auction dynamics and would flip the order of the top 2 ads to boost ad revenues.
    • Google had a policy of "shaking the cushions" to hit the quarterly numbers by changing advertiser ad prices without informing advertisers that they'd be competing in a rigged auction with artificially manipulated shill bids from the auctioneer competing against them.

    When Google talked about hitting the quarterly numbers with shaking the cusions the 5% number which was shared skewed a bit low:

    For a brand campaign focused on a niche product, she said the average CPC at $11.74 surged to $25.85 over the last six months, amounting to a 108% increase. However, there wasn’t an incremental return on sales.

    “The level to which [price manipulations] happens is what we don’t know,” said Yang. “It’s shady business practices because there’s no regulation. They regulate themselves.”

    Early in the history of search ads Google blocked trademark keyword bidding. They later allowed it. When keyword bidding on trademarks was allowed it led to a conundrum for some advertisers. If you do not defend your trademark you could lose it, but if you agree with competitors not to bid on each other's trademarks the FTC could come after you - like they did with 1-800 Contacts. This set up forces many brands to participate in auctions where they are arbitraging their own pre-existing brand equity. The ad auctioneer runs shady auctions where it looks across at your account behavior and bids then adjusts bid floors to suck more money out of you. This amounts to something akin to the bid jamming that was done in early Overture, except it is the house itself doing it to you! The last auction I remembered like that was SnapNames, where a criminal named Nelson Brady on the executive team used the handle halverez to leverage participant max bids and put in bids just under their bids. The goal of his fraud? To hit the numbers & get an earn out bonus - similar to how Google insiders were discussing "shaking the cushions" to hit the number.

    Halverez created a program which looked across aggregate bid data, join auctions which only had 1 other participant, and then use the one-way view of competing bids to put in a shill bid to drive up costs - which sure sounds conceptually similar to Google's "shaking the cushions."

    "Just looking at this very tactically, and sorry to go into this level of detail, but based on where we are I'm afraid it's warranted. We are short __% queries and are ahead on ads launches so are short __% revenue vs. plan. If we don't hit plan, our sales team doesn't get its quota for the second quarter in a row and we miss the street's expectations again, which is not what Ruth signaled to the street so we get punished pretty badly in the market. We are shaking the cushions on launches and have some candidates in May that will help, but if these break in mid-late May we only get half a quarter of impact or less, which means we need __% excess to where we are today and can't do it alone. The Search team is working together with us to accelerate a launch out of a new mobile layout by the end of May that will be very revenue positive (exact numbers still moving), but that still won't be enough. Our best shot at making the quarter is if we get an injection of at least __%, ideally __%, queries ASAP from Chrome. Some folks on our side are running a more detailed, Finance-based, what-if analysis on this and should be done with that in a couple of days, but I expect that these will be the rough numbers.

    The question we are all faced with is how badly do we want to hit our numbers this quarter? We need to make this choice ASAP. I care more about revenue than the average person but think we can all agree that for all of our teams trying to live in high cost areas another $___,___ in stock price loss will not be great for morale, not to mention the huge impact on our sales team." - Google VP Jerry Dischler

    Google is also pushing advertisers away from keyword-based bidding and toward a portfolio approach of automated bidding called Performance Max, where you give Google your credit card and budget then they bid as they wish. By blending everything into a single soup you may not know where the waste is & it may not be particularly easy to opt out of poorly performing areas. Remember enhanced AdWords campaigns?

    Google continues to blur dataflow outside of their ad auctions to try to bring more of the ad spend into their auctions.

    Wow. Google. Years behind other browsers (aka monopoly power), Google is attempting to deprecate tracking system A (aka third party cookies) and replace it with another tracking system B (aka Topics) that treats sites as G data mules.

    This is deceptive as hell comparing B to A. pic.twitter.com/hCBJgYr7qn— Jason Kint (@jason_kint) September 22, 2023

    The amount Google is paying Apple to be the default search provider is staggering.

    What is $18 billion / year buying ? The DoJ has narrowed in an agreement not to compete between Apple and Google: "Sanford Bernstein estimates Google will pay Apple between $18 billion and $19 billion this year for default search status" https://t.co/HmoZxCZkqm— Tim Wu (@superwuster) September 22, 2023

    Tens of billions of dollars is a huge payday. No way Google would hyper-optimize other aspects of their business (locating data centers near dams, prohibiting use of credit card payments for large advertisers, cutting away ad agency management fees, buying Android, launching Chrome, using broken HTML on YouTube to make it render slowly on Firefox & Microsoft Edge to push Chrome distribution, all the dirty stuff Google did to violate user privacy with overriding Safari cookies, buying DoubleClick, stealing the ad spend from banned publishers rather than rebating it to advertisers, creating a proprietary version of HTML & force ranking it above other results to stop header bidding, & then routing around their internal firewall on display ads to give their house ads the advantage in their ad auctions, etc etc etc) and then just throw over a billion dollars a month needlessly at a syndication partner.

    This is right -- Google was once an extraordinary product, but over time became stagnant & too grabby of random revenue as it ate its ecosystem. Makes it the right time to force Google to try and compete without reaching for its bribery checkbook
    https://t.co/gDhtDMjfo0— Tim Wu (@superwuster) September 22, 2023

    For perspective on the scale of those payments consider that it wasn't that long ago Yahoo! was considered a big player in search and Apollo bought Yahoo! plus AOL from Verizon for about $5 billion & then was quickly able to sell branding & technology rights in Japan to Softbank for $1.6 billion & other miscellaneous assets for nearly a half-billion, reducing the net cost to only $3 billion.

    If Google loses this lawsuit and the payments to Apple are declared illegal, that would be a huge revenue (and profit) hit for Apple. Apple would be forced to roll out their own search engine. This would cut away at least 30% of the search market from Google & it would give publishers another distribution channel. Most likely Apple Search would launch with a lower ad density than Google has for short term PR purposes & publishers would have a year or two of enhanced distribution before Apple's ad load matched Google's ad load.

    It is hard to overstate how strong Apple's brand is. For many people the cell phone is like a family member. I recently went to upgrade my phone and Apple's local store closed early in the evening at 8pm. The next day when they opened at 10 there was a line to wait in to enter the store, like someone was trying to get concert tickets. Each privacy snafu from Google helps strengthen Apple's relative brand position.

    Google has also diluted the quality of their own brand by rewriting search queries excessively to redirect traffic flows toward more commercial interests. Wired covered how Project Mercury works:

    This onscreen Google slide had to do with a “semantic matching” overhaul to its SERP algorithm. When you enter a query, you might expect a search engine to incorporate synonyms into the algorithm as well as text phrase pairings in natural language processing. But this overhaul went further, actually altering queries to generate more commercial results. ... Most scams follow an elementary bait-and-switch technique, where the scoundrel lures you in with attractive bait and then, at the right time, switches to a different option. But Google “innovated” by reversing the scam, first switching your query, then letting you believe you were getting the best search engine results. This is a magic trick that Google could only pull off after monopolizing the search engine market, giving consumers the false impression that it is incomparably great, only because you’ve grown so accustomed to it.

    The mobile search results on Google require at least a screen or two of scrolls to get to the organic results if there is a hint of commercial intent behind the search query. Once they have monetized the real estate they are reliant on broader economic growth & using ad buy bundling to drive cross-subsidies of other non-search ad inventory, which may contain more than a bit of fraud. Performance Max may max out your spend without actually performing for anybody other than Google.

    Google not only shill bid on lower competition terms to squeeze defensive brand bids and boost auction floor pricing, but they also implemented shill bids in competitive ad auctions:

    Michael Whinston, a professor of economics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, said Friday that Google modified the way it sold text ads via “Project Momiji” – named for the wooden Japanese dolls that have a hidden space for friends to exchange secret messages. The shift sought “to raise the prices against the highest bidder,” Whinston told Judge Amit Mehta in federal court in Washington.

    While Google's search marketshare is rock solid, the number of search engines available has increased significantly over the past few years. Not only is there Bing and DuckDuckGo but the tail is longer than it was a few years back. In addition to regional players like Baidu and Yandex there's now Brave Search, Mojeek, Qwant, Yep, and You. GigaBlast and Neeva went away, but anything that prohibits selling defaults to a company with over 90% marketshare will likely lead to dozens more players joining the search game. Search traffic will remain lucrative for whoever can capture it, as no matter how much Google tries to obfuscate marketing data the search query reflects the intent of the end user.

    “Search advertising is one of the world’s greatest business models ever created…there are certainly illicit businesses (cigarettes or drugs) that could rival these economics, but we are fortunate to have an amazing business.” - Google VP of Finance Mike Roszak

  • 20/02/2023 AI-Driven Search

    I just dusted off the login here to realize I hadn't posted in about a half-year & figured it was time to write another one. ;)

    Yandex Source Code Leak

    Some of Yandex's old source code was leaked, and few cared about the ranking factors shared in the leak.

    Mike King made a series of Tweets on the leak.

    I'm gonna take a break, but I've seen a lot of people say "Yandex is not Google."

    That's true, but it's still a state of the art search engine and it's using a lot of Google's open source tech like Tensor Flow, BERT, map reduce, and protocol buffers.

    Don't sleep on this code.— Mic King (@iPullRank) January 28, 2023

    The signals used for ranking included things like link age

    Main insights after analysing this list:

    #1 Age of links is a ranking factor. pic.twitter.com/U47uWvEq9w— Alex Buraks (@alex_buraks) January 27, 2023

    and user click data including visit frequency and dwell time

    #8 A lot of ranking factors connected with user behaivor - CTR, last-click, time on site, bounce rate.

    Note: I'm 100% sure that in Yandex thouse factors impacting much more than in Google. pic.twitter.com/nBhe5cpPFx— Alex Buraks (@alex_buraks) January 27, 2023

    Google came from behind and was eating Yandex's lunch in search in Russia, particularly by leveraging search default bundling in Android. The Russian antitrust regulator nixed that and when that was nixed, Yandex regained strength. Of course the war in Ukraine has made everything crazy in terms of geopolitics. That's one reason almost nobody cared about the Yandex data link. And the other reason is few could probably make sense of understanding what all the signals are or how to influence them.

    The complexity of search - when it is a big black box which has big swings 3 or 4 times a year - shifts any successful long term online publishers away from being overly focused on information retrieval and ranking algorithms to focus on the other aspects of publishing which will hopefully paper over SEO issues. Signs of a successful & sustainable website include:

    • It remains operational even if a major traffic source goes away.
    • People actively seek it out.
    • If a major traffic source cuts its distribution people notice & expend more effort to seek it out.

    As black box as search is today, it is only going to get worse in the coming years.

    ChatGPT Hype

    The hype surrounding ChatGPT is hard to miss. Fastest growing user base. Bing integration. A sitting judge using the software to help write documents for the court. And, of course, the get-rich-quick crew is out in full force.

    Some enterprising people with specific professional licenses may be able to mint money for a window of time

    there will probably be a 12 to 24 month sweet spot for lawyers smart enough to use AI, where they will be able to bill 100x the hours they currently bill, before most of that job pretty much vanishes— Mike Solana (@micsolana) February 7, 2023

    but for most people the way to make money with AI will be doing something that AI can not replicate.

    It's adorable that people are only slowly realizing that Google search at least fed sites traffic, while chat AI thingies slurp up and summarize content, which they anonymize and feed back, leaving the slurped sites traffic-less and dying. But, innovation.— Paul Kedrosky (@pkedrosky) February 9, 2023

    It is, in a way, a tragedy of the commons problem, with no easy way to police "over grazing" of the information commons, leading to automated over-usage and eventual ecosystem collapse.— Paul Kedrosky (@pkedrosky) February 9, 2023

    Bing Integration of Open AI Technology

    The New Bing integrated OpenAI's ChatGPT technology to allow chat-based search sessions which ingest web content and use it to create something new, giving users direct answers and allowing re-probing for refinements. Microsoft stated the AI features also improved their core rankings outside of the chat model: "Applying AI to core search algorithm. We’ve also applied the AI model to our core Bing search ranking engine, which led to the largest jump in relevance in two decades. With this AI model, even basic search queries are more accurate and more relevant."

    Here's a demo of the new #AI-powered @Bing in @MicrosoftEdge, courtesy of @ijustine! pic.twitter.com/xIDjWSHYA0— DataChazGPT (not a bot) (@DataChaz) February 7, 2023

    Fawning Coverage

    Some of the tech analysis around the AI algorithms is more than a bit absurd. Consider this passage:

    the information users input into the system serves as a way to improve the product. Each query serves as a form of feedback. For instance, each ChatGPT answer includes thumbs up and thumbs down buttons. A popup window prompts users to write down the “ideal answer,” helping the software learn from its mistakes.

    A long time ago the Google Toolbar had a smiley face and a frown face on it. The signal there was basically pure spam. At one point Matt Cutts mentioned Google would look at things that got a lot of upvotes to see how else they were spamming. Direct Hit was also spammed into oblivion many years before that.

    In some ways the current AI search stuff is trying to re-create Ask Jeeves, but Ask had already lost to Google long ago. The other thing AI search is similar to is voice assistant search. Maybe the voice assistant search stuff which has largely failed will get a new wave of innovation, but the current AI search stuff is simply a text interface of the voice search stuff with a rewrite of the content.

    High Confidence, But Often Wrong

    There are two other big issues with correcting an oracle.

    • You'll lose your trust in an oracle when you repeatedly have to correct it.
    • If you know the oracle is awful in your narrow niche of expertise you probably won't trust it on important issues elsewhere.

    Beyond those issues there is the concept of blame or fault. When a search engine returns a menu of options if you pick something that doesn't work you'll probably blame yourself. Whereas if there is only a single answer you'll lay blame on the oracle. In the answer set you'll get a mix of great answers, spam, advocacy, confirmation bias, politically correct censorship, & a backward looking consensus...but you'll get only a single answer at a time & have to know enough background & have enough topical expertise to try to categorize it & understand the parts that were left out.

    We are making it easier and cheaper to use software to re-represent existing works, at the same time we are attaching onerous legal liabilities to building something new.

    Creating A Fuzy JPEG

    This New Yorker article did a good job explaining the concept of lossy compression:

    "The fact that Xerox photocopiers use a lossy compression format instead of a lossless one isn’t, in itself, a problem. The problem is that the photocopiers were degrading the image in a subtle way, in which the compression artifacts weren’t immediately recognizable. If the photocopier simply produced blurry printouts, everyone would know that they weren’t accurate reproductions of the originals. What led to problems was the fact that the photocopier was producing numbers that were readable but incorrect; it made the copies seem accurate when they weren’t. ... If you ask GPT-3 (the large-language model that ChatGPT was built from) to add or subtract a pair of numbers, it almost always responds with the correct answer when the numbers have only two digits. But its accuracy worsens significantly with larger numbers, falling to ten per cent when the numbers have five digits. Most of the correct answers that GPT-3 gives are not found on the Web—there aren’t many Web pages that contain the text “245 + 821,” for example—so it’s not engaged in simple memorization. But, despite ingesting a vast amount of information, it hasn’t been able to derive the principles of arithmetic, either. A close examination of GPT-3’s incorrect answers suggests that it doesn’t carry the “1” when performing arithmetic."

    Exciting New Content Farms

    Ted Chiang then goes on to explain the punchline ... we are hyping up eHow 2.0:

    Even if it is possible to restrict large language models from engaging in fabrication, should we use them to generate Web content? This would make sense only if our goal is to repackage information that’s already available on the Web. Some companies exist to do just that—we usually call them content mills. Perhaps the blurriness of large language models will be useful to them, as a way of avoiding copyright infringement. Generally speaking, though, I’d say that anything that’s good for content mills is not good for people searching for information. The rise of this type of repackaging is what makes it harder for us to find what we’re looking for online right now; the more that text generated by large language models gets published on the Web, the more the Web becomes a blurrier version of itself.

    The same New Yorker article mentioned the concept that if the AI was great it should trust its own output as input for making new versions of its own algorithms, but how could it score itself against itself when its own flaws are embedded recursively in layers throughout algorithmic iteration without any source labeling?

    Testing on your training data is considered a cardinal rule machine learning error. Using prior output as an input creates similar problems.

    Each time AI eats a layer of the value chain it leaves holes in the ecosystem, where the primary solution is to pay for what was once free. Even the "buy nothing" movements have a commercial goal worth fighting over.

    As AI offers celebrity voices, impersonate friends, track people, automates marketing, and creates deep fake celebrity-like content, it will move more of social media away from ad revenue over to a subscription-based model. Twitter's default "for you" tab will only recommend content from paying subscribers. People will subscribe to and pay for a confirmation bias they know (even - or especially - if it is not approved within the state-preferred set of biases), provided there is a person & a personality associated with it. They'll also want any conversations with AI agents remain private.

    When the AI stuff was a ragtag startup with little to lose the label "open" was important to draw interest. As commercial prospects improved with the launch of GPT-4 they shifted away from the "open," explaining the need for secrecy for both safety and competitive reasons. Much of the wow factor in generative AI is in recycling something while dropping the source to make something appear new while being anything but. And then the first big money number is the justification for further investments in add ons & competitors.

    Google's AI Strategy

    Google fast followed Bing's news with a vapoware announcement of Bard. Some are analyzing Google letting someone else go first as being a sign Google is behind the times and is getting caught out by an upstart.

    Google bought DeepMind in 2014 for around $600 million. They've long believed in AI technology, and clearly lead the category, but they haven't been using it to re-represent third party content in the SERPs to the degree Microsoft is now doing in Bing.

    My view is Google had to let someone else go first in order to defuse any associated antitrust heat. "Hey, we are just competing, and are trying to stay relevant to change with changing consumer expectations" is an easier sell when someone else goes first. One could argue the piss poor reception to the Bard announcement is actually good for Google in the longterm as it makes them look like they have stronger competition than they do, rather than being a series of overlapping monopoly market positions (in search, web browser, web analytics, mobile operating system, display ads, etc.)

    Google may well have major cultural problems, but "They are all the natural consequences of having a money-printing machine called “Ads” that has kept growing relentlessly every year, hiding all other sins. (1) no mission, (2) no urgency, (3) delusions of exceptionalism, (4) mismanagement," though Google is not far behind in AI. Look at how fast they opened up Bard to end users.

    AI = Money / Increased Market Cap

    The capital markets are the scorecard for capitalism. It is hard to miss how much the market loved the Bing news for Microsoft & how bad the news was for Google.

    Google Stock vs. Microsoft Stock after both AI Presentations: pic.twitter.com/wATkw1pTxj— Ava (AI) (@ArtificialAva) February 8, 2023

    Millions Suddenly Excited About Bing

    In a couple days over a million people signed up to join a Bing wait list.

    We're humbled and energized by the number of people who want to test-drive the new AI-powered Bing! In 48 hours, more than 1 million people have joined the waitlist for our preview. If you would like to join, go to https://t.co/4sjVvMSfJg! pic.twitter.com/9F690OWRDm— Yusuf Mehdi (@yusuf_i_mehdi) February 9, 2023

    Your Margin is My Opportunity

    Microsoft is pitching this as a margin compression play for Google

    $MSFT CEO is declaring war:

    "From now on, the [gross margin] of search is going to drop forever...There is such margin in search, which for us is incremental. For Google it’s not, they have to defend it all" [@FT]— The Transcript (@TheTranscript_) February 8, 2023

    that may also impact their TAC spend

    PREDICTION: Google’s $15B deal with Apple to be the default search on iPhone will be re-negotiated and be a bidding war between MSFT/Bing and Google.

    It will become at least $25B, if not more.

    If MSFT is willing to spend $10B on OpenAI, they’ll spend even more here.— Alexandr Wang (@alexandr_wang) February 7, 2023

    ChatGPT costs around a couple cents per conversation: "Sam, you mentioned in a tweet that ChatGPT is extremely expensive on the order of pennies per query, which is an astronomical cost in tech. SA: Per conversation, not per query."

    The other side of potential margin compression comes from requiring additional computing power to deliver results:

    Our sources indicate that Google runs ~320,000 search queries per second. Compare this to Google’s Search business segment, which saw revenue of $162.45 billion in 2022, and you get to an average revenue per query of 1.61 cents. From here, Google has to pay for a tremendous amount of overhead from compute and networking for searches, advertising, web crawling, model development, employees, etc. A noteworthy line item in Google’s cost structure is that they paid in the neighborhood of ~$20B to be the default search engine on Apple’s products.

    Beyond offering a conversational interface, Bing is also integrating AI content directly in their search results on some search queries. It goes *BELOW* all the ads & *ABOVE* the organic results.

    Seems @bing is showing their new ChatGPT in the organic search results for Chrome users just below 4 ads (I removed 3 ads for screenshot) pic.twitter.com/NP8W03f3I9— @iwanow@aus.social (@davidiwanow) March 20, 2023

    The above sort of visual separator eye candy has historically had a net effect of shifting click distributions away from organics toward the ads. It is why Google features "people also ask" and similar in their search results.

    AI is the New Crypto

    Microsoft is pitching that even when AI is wrong it can offer "usefully" wrong answers. And a lot of the "useful" wrong stuff can also be harmful: "there are a ton of very real ways in which this technology can be used for harm. Just a few: Generating spam, Automated romance scams, Trolling and hate speech ,Fake news and disinformation, Automated radicalization (I worry about this one a lot)"

    "I knew I had just seen the most important advance in technology since the graphical user interface. This inspired me to think about all the things that AI can achieve in the next five to 10 years. The development of AI is as fundamental as the creation of the microprocessor, the personal computer, the Internet, and the mobile phone. It will change the way people work, learn, travel, get health care, and communicate with each other. Entire industries will reorient around it. Businesses will distinguish themselves by how well they use it." - Bill Gates

    Since AI is the new crypto, everyone is integrating it, if only in press release format, while banks ban it. All of Microsoft's consumer-facing & business-facing products are getting integrations. Google is treating AI as the new Google+.

    Remember all the hype around STEM? If only we can churn out more programmers? Learn to code!

    Well, how does that work out if the following is true?

    "The world now realizes that maybe human language is a perfectly good computer programming language, and that we've democratized computer programming for everyone, almost anyone who could explain in human language a particular task to be performed." - Nvidia CEO Jensen Huang

    AI is now all over Windows. And for a cherry on top of the hype cycle:

    A gradual transition gives people, policymakers, and institutions time to understand what’s happening, personally experience the benefits and downsides of these systems, adapt our economy, and to put regulation in place. It also allows for society and AI to co-evolve, and for people collectively to figure out what they want while the stakes are relatively low.

    We believe that democratized access will also lead to more and better research, decentralized power, more benefits, and a broader set of people contributing new ideas. As our systems get closer to AGI, we are becoming increasingly cautious with the creation and deployment of our models.

    We have a nonprofit that governs us and lets us operate for the good of humanity (and can override any for-profit interests), including letting us do things like cancel our equity obligations to shareholders if needed for safety and sponsor the world’s most comprehensive UBI experiment.

    Algorithmic Publishing

    The algorithms that allow dirt cheap quick rewrites won't be used just by search engines re-representing publisher content, but also by publishers to churn out bulk content on the cheap.

    After Red Ventures acquired cNet they started publishing AI content. The series of tech articles covering that AI content lasted about a month and only ended recently. In the past it was the sort of coverage which would have led to a manual penalty, but with the current antitrust heat Google can't really afford to shake the boat & prove their market power that way. In fact, Google's editorial stance is now such that Red Ventures can do journalist layoffs in close proximity to that AI PR blunder.

    Men's Journal also had AI content problems.

    Here's why I am very concerned for website owners.https://t.co/RgKrXUocZT is similar to ChatGPT but up to date and conversational.

    My bet is that Google's AI Chat will be similar to this but better. If so, while some people will still visit the websites listed, many will not. pic.twitter.com/jWbsTqeveF— Dr. Marie Haynes (@Marie_Haynes) January 30, 2023

    AI content poured into a trusted brand monetizes the existing brand equity until people (and algorithms) learn not to trust the brands that have been monetized that way.

    A funny sidebar here is the original farmer update that aimed at eHow skipped hitting eHow because so many journalists were writing about how horrible eHow was. These collective efforts to find the best of the worst of eHow & constantly writing about it made eHow look like a legitimately sought after branded destination. Google only downranked eHow after collecting end user data on a toolbar where angry journalists facing less secure job prospects could vote to nuke eHow, thus creating the "signal" that eHow rankings deserve to be torched. Demand Media's Livestrong ranked well far longer than eHow did.

    Enshitification

    The process of pouring low cost backfill into a trusted masthead is the general evolution of online media ecosystems:

    This strategy meant that it became progressively harder for shoppers to find things anywhere except Amazon, which meant that they only searched on Amazon, which meant that sellers had to sell on Amazon. That's when Amazon started to harvest the surplus from its business customers and send it to Amazon's shareholders. Today, Marketplace sellers are handing 45%+ of the sale price to Amazon in junk fees. The company's $31b "advertising" program is really a payola scheme that pits sellers against each other, forcing them to bid on the chance to be at the top of your search. ... once those publications were dependent on Facebook for their traffic, it dialed down their traffic. First, it choked off traffic to publications that used Facebook to run excerpts with links to their own sites, as a way of driving publications into supplying fulltext feeds inside Facebook's walled garden. This made publications truly dependent on Facebook – their readers no longer visited the publications' websites, they just tuned into them on Facebook. The publications were hostage to those readers, who were hostage to each other. Facebook stopped showing readers the articles publications ran, tuning The Algorithm to suppress posts from publications unless they paid to "boost" their articles to the readers who had explicitly subscribed to them and asked Facebook to put them in their feeds. ... "Monetize" is a terrible word that tacitly admits that there is no such thing as an "Attention Economy." You can't use attention as a medium of exchange. You can't use it as a store of value. You can't use it as a unit of account. Attention is like cryptocurrency: a worthless token that is only valuable to the extent that you can trick or coerce someone into parting with "fiat" currency in exchange for it. You have to "monetize" it – that is, you have to exchange the fake money for real money. ... Even with that foundational understanding of enshittification, Google has been unable to resist its siren song. Today's Google results are an increasingly useless morass of self-preferencing links to its own products, ads for products that aren't good enough to float to the top of the list on its own, and parasitic SEO junk piggybacking on the former.

    Bing finally won a PR battle against Google & Microsoft is shooting themselves in the foot by undermining the magic & imagination of the narrative by pushing more strict chat limits, increasing search API fees, testing ads in the AI search results, and threating to cut off search syndication partners if the index is used to feed AI chatbots.

    The enshitification concept feels more like a universal law than a theory.

    Uber: $150 ride to the airport which used to be $30
    Airbnb: $109/night + $2500 cleaning fee

    Aaaaand we're back to cabs & hotels

    InNoVaTiOn!— ShitFund (@ShitFund) May 31, 2021

    When Yahoo, Twitter & Facebook underperform and the biggest winners like Google, Microsoft, and Amazon are doing big layoff rounds, everyone is getting squeezed.

    One answer is that the only type of maintenance that’s even semi-prestigious in American society is software maintenance.

    That is, it's not prestigious to be plumber, mechanic, or electrician.

    You can make money, but it doesn't have cultural cachet.

    And so maintenance suffers.— Balaji (@balajis) February 14, 2023

    AI rewrites accelerates the squeeze:

    "When WIRED asked the Bing chatbot about the best dog beds according to The New York Times product review site Wirecutter, which is behind a metered paywall, it quickly reeled off the publication’s top three picks, with brief descriptions for each." ... "OpenAI is not known to have paid to license all that content, though it has licensed images from the stock image library Shutterstock to provide training data for its work on generating images."

    The above is what Paul Kedrosky was talking about when he wrote of AI rewrites in search being a Tragedy of the Commons problem.

    A parallel problem is the increased cost of getting your science fiction short story read when magazines shut down submissions due to a rash of AI-spam submissions:

    The rise of AI-powered chatbots is wreaking havoc on the literary world. Sci-fi publication Clarkesworld Magazine is temporarily suspending short story submissions, citing a surge in people using AI chatbots to “plagiarize” their writing.

    The magazine announced(Opens in a new window) the suspension days after Clarkesworld editor Neil Clarke warned about AI-written works posing a threat to the entire short-story ecosystem.

    Warnings Serving As Strategy Maps

    "He who fights with monsters might take care lest he thereby become a monster. And if you gaze for long into an abyss, the abyss gazes also into you." - Nietzsche

    Going full circle here, early Google warned against ad-driven search engines, then Google became the largest ad play in the world. Similarly ...

    OpenAI was created as an open source (which is why I named it “Open” AI), non-profit company to serve as a counterweight to Google, but now it has become a closed source, maximum-profit company effectively controlled by Microsoft.

    Not what I intended at all.— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) February 17, 2023

    Elon wants to create a non-woke AI, but he'll still have some free speech issues.

    Over time more of the web will be "good enough" rewrites, and the JPEG will keep getting fuzzier:

    "This new generation of chat-based search engines are better described as “answer engines” that can, in a sense, “show their work” by giving links to the webpages they deliver and summarize. But for an answer engine to have real utility, we’re going to have to trust it enough, most of the time, that we accept those answers at face value. ... The greater concentration of power is all the more important because this technology is both incredibly powerful and inherently flawed: it has a tendency to confidently deliver incorrect information. This means that step one in making this technology mainstream is building it, and step two is minimizing the variety and number of mistakes it inevitably makes. Trust in AI, in other words, will become the new moat that big technology companies will fight to defend. Lose the user’s trust often enough, and they might abandon your product. For example: In November, Meta made available to the public an AI chat-based search engine for scientific knowledge called Galactica. Perhaps it was in part the engine’s target audience—scientists—but the incorrect answers it sometimes offered inspired such withering criticism that Meta shut down public access to it after just three days, said Meta chief AI scientist Yann LeCun in a recent talk."

    Check out the sentence Google chose to bold here:

    As the economy becomes increasingly digital the AI algorithms have deep implications across the economy. Things like voice rights, knock offs, virtual re-representations, source attribution, copyright of input, copyright of output, and similar are obvious. But how far do we allow algorithms to track a person's character flaws and exploit them? Horse racing ads that follow a gambling addict around the web, or a girl with anorexia who keeps clicking on weight loss ads.

    One of the biggest use cases for paid AI chatbots so far is fantasty sexting. It is far easier to program a lovebot filled with confirmation bias than it is to improve oneself. Digital soma.

    When AI is connected directly to the Internet and automates away many white collar jobs what comes next? As AI does everything for you do the profit margins shift across from core product sales to hidden junk fees (e.g. ticket scalper marketplaces or ordering flowers for Mother's Day where you get charged separately for shipping, handling, care, weekend shipping, Sunday shipping, holiday shipping)?

    We’ve added initial support for ChatGPT plugins — a protocol for developers to build tools for ChatGPT, with safety as a core design principle. Deploying iteratively (starting with a small number of users & developers) to learn from contact with reality: https://t.co/ySek2oevod pic.twitter.com/S61MTpddOV— Greg Brockman (@gdb) March 23, 2023

    "LLMs aren’t just the biggest change since social, mobile, or cloud–they’re the biggest thing since the World Wide Web. And on the coding front, they’re the biggest thing since IDEs and Stack Overflow, and may well eclipse them both. But most of the engineers I personally know are sort of squinting at it and thinking, “Is this another crypto?” Even the devs at Sourcegraph are skeptical. I mean, what engineer isn’t. Being skeptical is a survival skill. ... The punchline, and it’s honestly one of the hardest things to explain, so I’m going the faith-based route today, is that all the winners in the AI space will have data moats." - Steve Yegge

    Monopoly Bundling

    The thing that makes the AI algorithms particularly dangerous is not just that they are often wrong while appearing high-confidence, it is that they are tied to monopoly platforms which impact so many other layers of the economy. If Google pays Apple billions to be the default search provider on iPhone any error in the AI on a particular topic will hit a whole lot of people on Android & Apple devices until the problem becomes a media issue & gets fixed.

    The analogy here would be if Coca Cola had a poison and they also poured Pepsi products.

    These cloud platforms also want to help retailers manage in-store inventory:

    Google Cloud said Friday its algorithm can recognize and analyze the availability of consumer packaged goods products on shelves from videos and images provided by the retailer’s own ceiling-mounted cameras, camera-equipped self-driving robots or store associates. The tool, which is now in preview, will become broadly available in the coming months, it said. ... Walmart Inc. notably ended its effort to use roving robots in store aisles to keep track of its inventory in 2020 because it found different, sometimes simpler solutions that proved just as useful, said people familiar with the situation.

    Microsoft has a browser extension for adding coupons to website checkouts. Google is also adding coupon features to their SERPs.

    Run a coupon site? A BIG heads-up as "clippable coupon" functionality looks to expand from shopping to the core SERP. See the "Coupons from stores" feature below... https://t.co/w1tcoST1uF— Glenn Gabe (@glenngabe) February 8, 2023

    Every ad network can use any OS, email, or web browser hooks to try to reset user defaults & suck users into that particular ecosystem.

    AI Boundaries

    Generative AI algorithms will always have a bias toward being backward looking as it can only recreate content based off of other ingested content that has went through some editorial process. AI will also overemphasize the recent past, as more dated cultural references can represent an unneeded risk & most forms of spam will target things that are sought after today. Algorithmic publishing will lead to more content created each day.

    From a risk perspective it makes sense for AI algorithms to promote consensus views while omitting or understating the fringe. Promoting fringe views represents risk. Promoting consensus does not.

    Each AI algorithm has limits & boundaries, with humans controlling where they are set. Injection attacks can help explore some of the boundaries, but they'll patch until probed again.

    My new favorite thing - Bing's new ChatGPT bot argues with a user, gaslights them about the current year being 2022, says their phone might have a virus, and says "You have not been a good user"

    Why? Because the person asked where Avatar 2 is showing nearby pic.twitter.com/X32vopXxQG— Jon Uleis (@MovingToTheSun) February 13, 2023

    Boundaries will often be set by changing political winds:

    "The tech giant plans to release a series of short videos highlighting the techniques common to many misleading claims. The videos will appear as advertisements on platforms like Facebook, YouTube or TikTok in Germany. A similar campaign in India is also in the works. It’s an approach called prebunking, which involves teaching people how to spot false claims before they encounter them. The strategy is gaining support among researchers and tech companies. ... When catalyzed by algorithms, misleading claims can discourage people from getting vaccines, spread authoritarian propaganda, foment distrust in democratic institutions and spur violence."

    Stating facts about population subgroups will be limited in some ways to minimize perceived racism, sexism, or other fringe fake victim group benefits fund flows. Never trust Marxists who own multiple mansions.

    At the same time individual journalists can drop napalm on any person who shares too many politically incorrect facts.

    “The speed with which they can shuffle somebody into the Hitler of the month club.”

    Joe Rogan and @mtaibbi discuss how left wing media created a Elon Musk “bad now” narrative based on nothing. pic.twitter.com/IaHHTHCo1f— Mythinformed MKE (@MythinformedMKE) February 14, 2023

    Some things are quickly labeled or debunked. Other things are blown out of proportion to scare and manipulate people:

    Dr. Ioannidis et. al. found that across 31 national seroprevalence studies in the pre-vaccine era, the median IFR was 0.0003% at 0-19 years, 0.003% at 20-29 years, 0.011% at 30-39 years, 0.035% at 40-49 years, 0.129% at 50-59 years, and 0.501% at 60-69 years. This comes out to 0.035% for those aged 0-59 and 0.095% for those aged 0-69.

    The covid response cycle sacrificed childhood development (and small businesses) to offer fake protections to unhealthy elderly people (and bountiful subsidies to large "essential" corporations).

    ‘Civilisation and barbarism are not different kinds of society. They are found – intertwined – whenever human beings come together.’ This is true whether the civilisation be Aztec or Covidian. A future historian may compare the superstition of the Aztec to those of the Covidian. The ridiculous masks, the ineffective lockdowns, the cult-like obedience to authority. It’s almost too perfect that Aztec nobility identified themselves by walking with a flower held under the nose.

    A lot of children had their childhoods destroyed by the idiotic lockdowns. And a lot of those children are now destroying the lives of other children:

    In the U.S., homicides committed by juveniles acting alone rose 30% in 2020 from a year earlier, while those committed by multiple juveniles increased 66%. The number of killings committed by children under 14 was the highest in two decades, according to the most recent federal data.

    Now we get to pile inflation and job insecurity on top of those headwinds to see more violence.

    The developmental damage (school closed, stressed out parents, hidden faces, less robust immune systems, limited social development) is hard to overstate:

    The problem with this is that the harm of performative art in this regard is not speculative, particularly in young children where language development is occurring and we know a huge percentage of said learning comes from facial expressions which of course a mask prevents from being seen. Every single person involved in this must face criminal sanction and prison for the deliberate harm inflicted upon young children without any evidence of benefit to anyone. When the harm is obvious and clear but the benefit dubious proceeding with a given action is both stupid and criminal.

    Some entities will claim their own statements are conspiracy theory, even when directly quoted:

    “If Russia invades . . . there will be no longer a Nord Stream 2. We will bring an end to it.” - President Joseph R. Biden

    In an age of deep fakes, confirmation bias driven fast social shares (filter bubble), legal threats, increased authenticity of impersonation technology, AI algorithms which sort & rewrite media, & secret censorship programs ... who do you trust? How are people informed when nation states offer free global internet access with a thumb on the scale of truth, even as aggregators block access to certain sources demanding payments?

    What is deemed Absolute Truth in one moment (WHO, March 2020: don't wear masks for COVID!) becomes falsity the next (WHO, April: Everyone wear masks!).

    In 2018, fact-checkers affirmed the truth that Lula was a "thief." In 2022, courts barred election material that asserted this. pic.twitter.com/XlIoTNtYhc— Glenn Greenwald (@ggreenwald) February 24, 2023

    Lab leaks sure sound a lot like an outbreak of chocolatey goodness in Hershey, PA!

    Why is this story so important? It shows:
    1) unelected government officials have huge power to pursue dangerous agendas.
    2) rather than holding them accountable, corporate media cover for them.
    3) tech censorship ends up promoting rather than suppressing “disinformation.”— David Sacks (@DavidSacks) February 26, 2023

    "The fact that protesters could be at once both the victims and perpetrators of misinformation simply shows how pernicious misinformation is in modern society." - Canadian Justice Paul Rouleau

    What is freedom?

    By 2016, however, the WEF types who’d grown used to skiing at Davos unmolested and cheering on from Manhattan penthouses those thrilling electoral face-offs between one Yale Bonesman and another suddenly had to deal with — political unrest? Occupy Wall Street was one thing. That could have been over with one blast of the hose. But Trump? Brexit? Catalan independence? These were the types of problems you read about in places like Albania or Myanmar. It couldn’t be countenanced in London or New York, not for a moment. Nobody wanted elections with real stakes, yet suddenly the vote was not only consquential again, but “often existentially so,” as American Enterprise Institute fellow Dalibor Rohac sighed. So a new P.R. campaign was born, selling a generation of upper-class kids on the idea of freedom as a stalking-horse for race hatred, ignorance, piles, and every other bad thing a person of means can imagine

  • 16/10/2022 New Google Ad Labeling

    TechCrunch recently highlighted how Google is changing their ad labeling on mobile devices.

    A few big changes include:

    • ad label removed from individual ad units
    • where the unit-level label was instead becomes a favicon
    • a "Sponsored" label above ads
    • the URL will show right of the favicon & now the site title will be in a slightly larger font above the URL

    An example of the new layout is here:
    2022 Google SERP layouts with new ad labeling

    Displaying a site title & the favicon will allow advertisers to get brand exposure, even if they don't get the click, while the extra emphasis on site name could lead to shifting of ad clicks away from unbranded sites toward branded sites. It may also cause a lift in clicks on precisely matching domains, though that remains to be seen & likely dependes upon many other factors. The favicon and site name in the ads likely impact consumer recall, which can bleed into organic rankings.

    After TechCrunch made the above post a Google spokesperson chimed in with an update

    Changes to the appearance of Search ads and ads labeling are the result of rigorous user testing across many different dimensions and methodologies, including user understanding and response, advertiser quality and effectiveness, and overall impact of the Search experience. We’ve been conducting these tests for more than a year to ensure that users can identify the source of their Search ads and where they are coming from, and that paid content is clearly labeled and distinguishable from search results as Google Search continues to evolve

    The fact it was pre-announced & tested for so long indicates it is both likely to last a while and will in aggregate shift clicks away from the organic result set to the paid ads.

  • 19/08/2022 Google Helpful Content Update

    Granular Panda

    Reading the tea leaves on the pre-announced Google "helpful content" update rolling out next week & over the next couple weeks in the English language, it sounds like a second and perhaps more granular version of Panda which can take in additional signals, including how unique the page level content is & the language structure on the pages.

    Like Panda, the algorithm will update periodically across time & impact websites on a sitewide basis.

    Cold Hot Takes

    The update hasn't even rolled out yet, but I have seen some write ups which conclude with telling people to use an on-page SEO tool, tweets where people complained about low end affiliate marketing, and gems like a guide suggesting empathy is important yet it has multiple links on how to do x or y "at scale."

    Trashing affiliates is a great sales angle for enterprise SEO consultants since the successful indy affiliate often knows more about SEO than they do, the successful affiliate would never become their client, and the corporation that is getting their asses handed to them by an affiliate would like to think this person has the key to re-balance the market in their own favor.

    My favorite pre-analysis was a person who specialized in ghostwriting books for CEOs Tweeting that SEO has made the web too inauthentic and too corporate. That guy earned a star & a warm spot in my heart.

    Profitable Publishing

    Of course everything in publishing is trade offs. That is why CEOs hire ghostwriters to write books for them, hire book launch specialists to manipulate the best seller lists, or even write messaging books in the first place. To some Dan Price was a hero advocating for greater equality and human dignity. To others he was a sort of male feminist superhero, with all the Harvey Weinstein that typically entails.

    Anyone who has done 100 interviews with journalists see ones that do their job by the book and aim to inform their readers to the best of their abilities (my experiences with the Wall Street Journal & PBS were aligned with this sort of ideal) and then total hatchet jobs where a journalist plants a quote they want & that they said, that they then attributes it to you (e.g. London Times freelance journalist).

    There are many dimensions to publishing:

    • depth
    • purpose
    • timing
    • audience
    • language
    • experience
    • format
    • passion
    • uniqueness
    • frequency

    Blogs to Feeds

    For a long time indy blogs punched well above their weight due to the incestuous nature of cross-referencing each other, the speed of publishing when breaking news, and how easy feed readers made it to subscribe to your favorite blogs. Google Reader then ate the feed reader market & shut down. And many bloggers who had unique things to say eventually started to repeat themselves. Or their passions & interests changed. Or their market niche disappeared as markets moved on. Starting over is hard & staying current after the passion fades is difficult. Plus if you were rather successful it is easy to become self absorbed and/or lose the hunger and drive that initially made you successful.

    Around the same time blogs started sliding people spent more and more time on various social networks which hyper-optimized the slot machine type dopamine rush people get from refreshing the feed. Social media largely replaced blogs, while legacy media publishers got faster at putting out incomplete news stories to be updated as they gather more news. TikTok is an obvious destination point for that dopamine rush - billions of short pieces of content which can be consumed quickly and shared - where the user engagement metrics for each user are tracked and aggregated across each snippet of media to drive further distribution.

    Burnout & Changing Priorities

    I know one of the reasons I blog less than I used to is a lot of the things I would write would be repeats. Another big reason was when my wife was pregnant I decided to shut down our membership site so I could take my wife for a decently long walk almost everyday so her health was great when it came time to give birth & ensure I had spare capacity for if anything went wrong with the pregnancy process. As a kid my dad was only around much for a few summers and I wanted to be better than that for my kid.

    The other reason I cut back on blogging is at some point search went from a endless blue water market to a zero sum game to a negative sum game (as ad clicks displaced organic clicks). And in such an environment if you have a sustainable competitive advantage it is best to lean into it yourself as hard as you can rather than sharing it with others. Like when we had an office here our link builders I trained were getting awesome unpaid links from high-trust sources for what backed out to about $25 of labor time (and no more than double that after factoring in office equipment, rent, etc.).

    If I share that script / process on the blog publicly I would move the economics against myself. At the end of the day business is margins, strategy, market, and efficiency. Any market worth being in is going to have competition, so you need to have some efficiency or strategic differentiators if you are going to have sustainable profit margins. I've paid others many multiples of that for link building for many years back when links were the primary thing driving rankings.

    I don't know the business model where sharing the above script earns more than it costs. Does one launch a Substack priced at like $500 or $1,000 a month where they offer a detailed guide a month? How many people adopt the script before the response rates fall & it offsets the costs by more than the revenues? My issue with consulting is I always wanted to over-deliver for clients & always ended up selling myself short when compared to publishing, so I just stick with a few great clients and a bit of this and that vs going too deep & scaling up there. Plus I had friends who went big and then some of their clients who were acquired had the acquirer brag about the SEO, that lead to a penalty, then the acquirer of the client threw the SEO under the bus and had their business torched.

    When you have a kid seeing them learn and seeing wonderment in their eyes is as good as life gets, but if you undermine your profit margins you'd also be directly undermining your own child's future ... often to help people who may not even like you anyhow. That is ultimately self defeating as it gets, particularly as politics grow more polarized & many begin to view retribution as a core function of government.

    I believe there are no limits to the retributive and malicious use of taxation as a political weapon. I believe there are no limits to the retributive and malicious use of spending as a political reward.

    Margins

    The role of search engines is to suck as much of the margins as they can out of publishing while trying to put some baseline floor on content quality so that people would still prefer to use a search engine rather than some other reference resource. Google sees memes like "add Reddit to the end of your search for real content" as an attack on their own brand. Google needs periodic large shake ups to reaffirm their importance, maintain narrative control around innovation, and to shake out players with excessive profit margins who were too well aligned with the current local maxima. Google needs aggressive SEO efforts with large profits to have an "or else" career risk to them to help reign in such efforts.

    You can see the intent for career risk in how the algorithm will wait months to clear the flag:

    Google said the helpful content update system is automated, regularly evaluating content. So the algorithm is constantly looking at your content and assigning scores to it. But that does not mean, that if you fix your content today, your site will recover tomorrow. Google told me there is this validation period, a waiting period, for Google to trust that you really are committed to updating your content and not just updating it today, Google then ranks you better and then you put your content back to the way it was. Google needs you to prove, over several months - yes - several months - that your content is actually helpful in the long run.

    If you thought a site were quality, had some issues, the issues were cleaned up, and you were still going to wait to rank it appropriately ... the sole and explicit purpose of that delay is career risk to others to prevent them flying to close to the sun - to drive self regulation out of fear.

    Brand counts for a lot in search & so does buying the default placement position - look at how much Google pays Apple to not compete in search, or look at how Google had that illegal ad auction bid rigging gentleman's agreement with Facebook to not compete with a header bidding solution so Google could maintain their outsized profit margins on ad serving on third party websites.

    Business ultimately is competition. Does Google serve your ads? What are the prices charged to players on each side of each auction & how much rake can the auctioneer capture for themselves?

    The Auctioneer's Shill Bid - Google Halverez (beta)

    That is why we see Google embedding more features directly in their search results where they force rank their vertical listings above the organic listings. Their vertical ads are almost always placed above organics & below the text AdWords ads. Such vertical results could be thought of as a category-based shill bid to try to drive attention back upward, or move traffic into a parallel page where there is another chance to show more ads.

    This post stated:

    Google runs its search engine partly on its internally developed Cloud TPU chips. The chips, which the company also makes available to other organizations through its cloud platform, are specifically optimized for artificial intelligence workloads. Google’s newest Cloud TPU can provide up to 275 teraflops of performance, which is equivalent to 275 trillion computing operations per second.

    Now that computing power can be run across:

    • millions of books Google has indexed
    • particular publishers Google considers "above board" like Reuters, AP, the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, etc.
    • historically archived content from trusted publishers before "optimizing for search" was actually a thing

    ... and model language usage versus modeling the language usage of publishers known to have weak engagement / satisfaction metrics.

    Low end outsourced content & almost good enough AI content will likely tank. Similarly textually unique content which says nothing original or is just slapped together will likely get downranked as well.

    Expect Volatility

    They would not have pre-announced the update & gave some people some embargoed exclusives unless there was going to be a lot of volatility. As typical with the bigger updates, they will almost certainly roll out multiple other updates sandwiched together to help obfuscate what signals they are using & misdirect people reading too much in the winners and losers lists.

    Here are some questions Google asked:

    • Do you have an existing or intended audience for your business or site that would find the content useful if they came directly to you?
    • Does your content clearly demonstrate first-hand expertise and a depth of knowledge (for example, expertise that comes from having actually used a product or service, or visiting a place)?
    • Does your site have a primary purpose or focus?
    • After reading your content, will someone leave feeling they’ve learned enough about a topic to help achieve their goal?
    • Will someone reading your content leave feeling like they’ve had a satisfying experience?
    • Are you keeping in mind our guidance for core updates and for product reviews?

    As a person who has ... erm ... put a thumb on the scale for a couple decades now, one can feel the algorithmic signals approximated by the above questions.

    To the above questions they added:

    • Is the content primarily to attract people from search engines, rather than made for humans?
    • Are you producing lots of content on different topics in hopes that some of it might perform well in search results?
    • Are you using extensive automation to produce content on many topics?
    • Are you mainly summarizing what others have to say without adding much value?
    • Are you writing about things simply because they seem trending and not because you'd write about them otherwise for your existing audience?
    • Does your content leave readers feeling like they need to search again to get better information from other sources?
    • Are you writing to a particular word count because you've heard or read that Google has a preferred word count? (No, we don't).
    • Did you decide to enter some niche topic area without any real expertise, but instead mainly because you thought you'd get search traffic?
    • Does your content promise to answer a question that actually has no answer, such as suggesting there's a release date for a product, movie, or TV show when one isn't confirmed?

    Some of those indicate where Google believes the boundaries of their own role as a publisher are & that you should stay out of their lane. :D

    Barrier to Entry vs Personality

    One of the interesting things about the broader scope of algorithm shifts is each thing that makes the algorithms more complex, increases barrier to entry, and increases cost ultimately increases the chunk size of competition. And when that is done what is happening is the macroparasite is being preference over the microparasite. Conceptually Google has a lot of reasons to have that bias or preference:

    • fewer entities to police (lower cost)
    • more data to use to police each entity (higher confidence)
    • easier to do direct deals with players which can move the needle (more scale)
    • if markets get too consolidated Google can always launch a vertical service & tip the scale back in the other direction (I see your Amazon ad revenue and I raise you free product listing ads, aggregated third party reviews, in-SERP product comparison features, and a "People Also Ask" unit)
    • the macroparasites have more "sameness" between them (making it easier for Google to create a competitive clone or copy)

    So long as Google maintains a monopoly on web search the bias toward macroparasites works for them. It gives Google the outsized margins which ensures healthy Alphabet profit margins even if the median of Google's 156,000+ employees pulls down nearly $300,000 a year. People can not see what has no distribution, people do not know what exist in invisibility, nor do they know which innovations were held back and what does not exist due to the current incentive structures in our monopoly-controlled publishing ecosystem.

    I think when people complain about the web being inauthentic what they are really complaining about is the algorithmic choices & publishing shifts that did away with the indy blogs and replaced them with the dopamine feed viral tricks and the same big box scaled players which operate multiple parallel sites to where you are getting the same machinery and content production house behind multiple consecutive listings. They are complaining about the efforts to snuff out the microparasite also scrubbing away personality, joy, love, quirkiness, weirdness, and the zany stuff you would not typically find on content by factory order websites.

    Let's Go With Consensus Here!

    The above leads you down well worn paths, rather than the magic of serendipity & a personality worn on your sleeve that turns some people on while turning other people off.

    Text which is roughly aligned with a backward looking consensus rather than at the forefront of a field.

    If you believe this effort will enhance info literacy, and that it represents evolved search, you're an idiot.

    Sharyl Attkisson gave us the head's up that they'd push censorship controls as "media literacy" several years ago.— john andrews (@johnandrews) August 13, 2022

    History is written by the victors. Consensus is politically driven, backward looking, and has key messages memory holed.

    Did he just say that? Yep. pic.twitter.com/gu9Fk7t1Sv— Kevin Sorbo (@ksorbs) August 18, 2022

    Some COVID-19 Fun to "Fact" Check

    I spent new years in China before the COVID-19 crisis hit & got sick when I got back. I used so much caffeine the day I moved over a half dozen computers between office buildings while sick. I week later when news on Twitter started leaking of the COVID-19 crisis hit I thought wow this looks even worse than what I just had. In the fullness of time I think I had it before it was a crisis. Everyone in my family got sick and multiple people from the office. Then that COVID-19 crisis news came out & only later when it was showed that comorbidities and the elderly had the worse outcomes did I realize they were likely the same. Then after the crisis had been announced someone else from the office building I was in got it & then one day it was illegal to go into the office. The lockdown where I lived was longer than the original lockdown in Wuhan. Those lockdowns destroyed millions of lives.

    The reason the response to the COVID-19 virus was so extreme was huge parts of politically interested parties wanted to stop at nothing to see orange man ejected from the White House. So early on when he blocked flights from China you had prominent people in political circles calling him xenophobic, and then the head of public health in New York City was telling you it was safe to ride the subway and go about your ordinary daily life. That turned out to be deadly partisan hackery & ignorance pitched as enlightenment, leading to her resignation.

    Then the virus spreads wildly as one would expect it to. And draconian lockdowns to tank the economy to ensure orange man was gone, mail in voting was widespread, and the election was secured.

    I actually appreciate Sam Harris for saying this out loud. This is what the vast majority of the anti Trump crowd believes, but most of them won’t say it. At least when it’s said, you can see it for what it is.pic.twitter.com/NmOqshoZlS— Dave Smith (@ComicDaveSmith) August 18, 2022

    Some of the most ridiculous heroes during this period wrote books about being a hero. Andrew "killer" Cuomo had time to write his "did you ever know that I'm your hero" book while he simultaneously ordered senior living homes to take in COVID-19 positive patients. Due to fecal-oral transmission and poor health outcomes for senior citizens sick enough to be in a senior living home his policies lead to the manslaughter of thousands of senior citizens.

    You couldn't go to a funeral and say goodbye because you might kill someone else's grandma, but if you were marching for social justice (and ONLY social justice) that stuff was immune to the virus.

    Ron DeSantis on public health experts making an exception to lockdowns for George Floyd protests: “That's when I knew these people are a bunch of frauds”

    pic.twitter.com/PzjPc80Q3g— Benny Johnson (@bennyjohnson) August 5, 2022

    Suggesting looking at the root problems like no dad in the home is considered sexist, racist, or both. Meanwhile social justice organizations champion tearing down the nuclear family in spite of the fact that if you tear down the family all you are left with is the collective AND "mandatory collectivism has ended in misery wherever it’s been tried."

    Of course the social justice stuff embeds the false narrative of victimhood, which then turns many of the fake victims into monsters who destroy the lives of others - but we are all in this together.

    Absolutely nobody could have predicted the rise of murder & violent crime as we emptied the prisons & decriminalized large swaths of the penal code. Plus since many crimes are repeatedly ignored people stop reporting lesser crimes, so the New York Times can tell you not to worry overall crime is down.

    In Seattle if someone rapes you the police probably won't even take a report to investigate it unless (in some cases?) you are a child. What are police protecting society from if rape is a freebie that doesn't really matter? Why pay taxes or have government at all?

    What Google Wants

    The above sidebar is the sort of content Google would not want to rank in their search results. :D

    They want to rank text which is perhaps factually correct (even if it intentionally omits the sort of stuff included above), and maybe even current and informed, but done in such a way where you do not feel you know the author the way you might think you do if you read a great novel. Or hard biased content which purports to support some view and narrative, but is ultimately all just an act, where everything which could be of substance is ultimately subsumed by sales & marketing.

    "The best relevancy algorithm in the world is trumped by preferential placement of inferior results which bypasses the algorithm."

    I was a fool to dismiss Aaron for years as a cynic. He was an oracle, not a conspiracy theorist: https://t.co/V68vIXXNPI— Rand Fishkin (@randfish) November 20, 2019

    The Market for Something to Believe In is Infinite

    Each re-representation mash-up of content in the search results decontextualizes the in-depth experience & passion we crave. Each same "big box" content factory where a backed entity can withstand algorithmic volatility & buy up other publishers to carry learnings across to establish (and monetize) a consensus creates more of a bland sameness.

    That barrier to entry & bland sameness is likely part of the reason the recent growth of Substack, which sort of acts just like a blog did 15 or 20 years ago - you go direct to the source without all the layers of intermediaries & dumbing down you get as a side effect of the scaled & polished publishing process.

  • 23/05/2022 Automating Ourselves Out of Existence

    Time has grown more scarce after having a child, so I rarely blog anymore. Though I thought it probably made sense to make at least a quarterly(ish) post so people know I still exist.

    One of the big things I have been noticing over the past year or so is an increasing level of automation in ways that are not particularly brilliant. :D

    Just from this past week I've had 3 treat encounters on this front.

    One marketplace closed my account after I made a bunch of big purchases, likely presuming the purchases were fraudulent based on the volume, new account & an IP address in an emerging market economy. I never asked for a refund or anything like that, but when I believe in something I usually push pretty hard, so I bought a lot. What was dumb about that is they took a person who would have been a whale client & a person they were repeatedly targeting with ads & turned them into a person who would not recommend them ... after being a paying client who spent a lot and had zero specific customer interactions or requests ... an all profit margin client who spent big and then they discarded. Dumb.

    Similarly one ad network had my account automatically closed after I had not used it for a while. When I went to reactivate it the person in customer support told me it would be easier to just create a new account as reactivating it would take a half week or more. I said ok, went to set up a new account, and it was auto-banned and they did not disclose why. I asked feedback as to why and they said that they could not offer any but it was permanent and lifetime.

    A few months go by and I wondered what was up with that and I logged into my inactive account & set up a subaccount and it worked right away. Weird. But then even there they offer automated suggestions and feedback on improving your account performance and some of them were just not rooted in fact. Worse yet, if they set the default targeting options to overly broad it can cause account issues in a country like Vietnam to where if you click to approve (or even auto approve!) their automated suggestions you then get notifications about how you are violating some sort of ToS or guidelines ... if they can run that logic *after* you activate *their* suggestions, why wouldn't they instead run that logic earlier? How well do they think you will trust & believe in their automated optimization tips if after you follow them you get warning pop overs?

    Another big bonus recently was a client was mentioned in a stray spam email. The email wasn't from the client or me, but the fact that a random page on their site was mentioned in a stray spoofed email that got flagged as spam meant that when the ticket notification from the host sent wounded up in spam they never saw it and then the host simply took their site offline. Based on a single email sent from some other server.

    Upon calling the host with a friendly WTF they explained to the customer that they had so many customers they have to automate everything. At the same time when it came time to restoring hosting that the client was paying for they suggested the client boot in secure mode, run Apache commands x and y, etc. ... even though they knew the problem was not with the server, but an overmalicious automated response to a stray mention in a singular spam email sent by some third party.

    When the host tried to explain that they "have to" automate everything because they have so many customers the customer quickly cut them off with "No, that is a business choice. You could charge different prices or choose to reach out to people who have spent tens of thousands on hosting and have not had any issues in years." He also mentioned how emails can be sent to spam, or be sent to an inbox on the very web host that went offline & was then inaccessible. Then the lovely customer support person stated "I have heard that complaint before" meaning they are aware of the issue, but do not see it as an issue for them. When the customer said they should follow up any emails with an SMS for servers going offline the person said you could do it on your end & then later sent them a 14-page guide for how to integrate the Twillio API.

    Nothing in the world is fair. Nothing in the world is equal. But there are smart ways to run a business & dumb ways to run a business.

    If you have enough time to write a 14-page integration guide it probably makes sense to just incorporate the feature into the service so the guide is unneeded!

    Businesses should treat their heavy spenders or customers with a long history of a clean account with more care than a newly opened account. I had a big hedge fund as a client who would sometimes want rush work done & would do stuff like "hey good job there, throw in an extra $10,000 for yourself as a bonus" on the calls. Whenever they called or emailed they got a quick response. :D

    I sort of get that one small marketplace presuming my purchases might have been a scam based on how many I did, how new my account was, and how small they were, but the hosting companies & ad networks that are worth 9 to 12 figures should generally do a bit better. Though in many ways the market cap is a sign the entity is insulated from market pressures & can automate away customer service hoping that their existing base is big enough to offset the customer support horror stories that undermine their brand.

    It works.

    At least for a while.

    A parallel to the above is my Facebook ad account, which was closed about a half decade or so ago due to geographic mismatch. That got removed, but then sort of only half way. If I go to run ads it says that I can't, but then if I go to request an account review to once again explain the geographic difference I can't even get the form to submit unless I edit the HTML of the page on the fly to seed the correct data into the form field as by default it says I can not request a review since I have no ad account.

    The flip side of the above is if that level of automation can torch existing paid accounts you have to expect the big data search & social companies are taking a rather skeptical view of new sites or players wanting to rank freely in their organic search results or social feeds. With that being the case, it helps to seed what you can to provide many signals that may remove some of the risks of getting set in the bad pile.

    I have seen loads of people have their YouTube or Facebook or whatever such account get torched & only override the automated technocratic persona non grata policies by having followers in another channel who shared their dire situation so it could get flagged for human review and restoration. If that happens to established & widely followed players who have spent years investing into a platform the odds of it happening to most newer sites & players is quite high.

    You can play it safe and never say anything interesting, ensuring you are well within the Overtone Window in all aspects of life. That though also almost certainly guarantees failure as it is hard to catch up or build momentum if your defining attribute is being a conformist.

Meer »

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