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21 January, 2005

More on 'nofollow'

It seems a backlash is developing against the new 'nofollow' anti-spam initiative.  Internet purists regard it as divisive, denying PageRank to legitimate sites as well as the spammers.

I understand the solution to this admitted disadvantage is on the way.  Several of the participating software manufacturers are to implement varieties of 'whitelisting', whereby the comments of known, trusted commenters (commentators?) are not filtered, and whereby blog owners can remove the 'nofollow' attribute from links once they're approved.  That's how I'd choose to use it - all comments would be on 'nofollow' status until I'd seen them, at which point I'd 'activate' them (or delete them as spam, of course).

Unfortunately, the initially-released MT plugin doesn't permit that. I've just tested it: it inserts the 'nofollow' attribute, but as blog owner, I'm unable to go in afterwards and remove the attribute.

Hence, on the basis that I don't regard it as ready for use, I am removing the plugin for now. I approve of the concept, but the implementation needs work.

The main objection to the initiative seems to be that it discourages genuine bloggers who were commenting in order to be crawled or to build PageRank. Good. If anyone really is only commenting here for that reason (and, to be fair, I don't think that's ever been the case), you're unwelcome.
As the eminent ;) Anil Dash says:

The question is, are they supposed to get their ranking improved for posting a comment?

The "no rank improvement" school has an easy justification: Only a site owner can confer PageRank, since the owner controls the site and is responsible for its content. This is especially true since commenters can create their own links in many contexts, which amounts to a user being able to give himself legitimacy instead of earning it.

This is my basic view, but which acknowledges another potential argument identified by Anil:
... you can say that your comment, being cogent and articulate, increases the value of the page it's on. Therefore, you should be compensated for your contribution, and PageRank is a currency in which you accept compensation.
I'm not entirely sure that commenters 'deserve' anything, but I am sympathetic to the basic idea, with a caveat: if I regard a comment as 'worthy', I will 'reward' it - it is not a right, automatically accorded to all commenters. As Russell Beattie says:
Now that I've added the nofollow attribute, I know that if there's a link on this weblog that's counted by the indexes, it's because I have given it my seal of approval.

Comments

Just a thought,

"PageRank is a currency in which you accept compensation."

Traffic is also a valid currency isn't it? I would have thought that having a link off of someone else's page is more than enough 'compensation' for having contributed to it - and the more erudite and relevant the comment, the more likely you are to get the traffic.

With the no-follow tag, or more specifically, the removal of the tag, the page owner gets to further reward with page-rank anything that is of relevance, rather than just the "me too!" link-whores.

My pages have nothing to do with what you write about - so why should I get page-rank based on the topics you discuss here?

Posted by Siobhan at January 21, 2005 05:37 PM
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