Monday, 13 December 2010

No such thing as bad publicity

The Irish playwright Brendan Behan is credited with uttering the immortal phrase there is no such thing as bad publicity, although he goes on to add except your own obituary.

This all comes to mind in the story last week of an American online peddler of eye-wear who had supposedly gained his high Google ranking as a result of the online criticism his actions attracted. A story in the New York Times on November 26th told the story of a lady in New York and her customer experience after buying some glasses from said outlet.

Can this be true? Well, apparently it was, but is no more. Two things have happened.

Firstly, Google have reacted to the situation by refining their algorithms further. They have posted about this on their company blog and it makes interesting reading. Have you ever heard of sentiment analysis? It's a new one on me but I can imagine what it is. You demote disparaging items about X while promoting positive ones. However, that doesn't work very well since genuinely controversial subjects will fall foul of such a rule, as might what Google refers to as elected officials. So they've done something else, and they're not saying what it is, except that
we developed an algorithmic solution which detects the merchant from the Times article along with hundreds of other merchants that, in our opinion, provide an extremely poor user experience.
Secondly, the retailer has now been arrested, as this story in the Register tells. The charges include mail and wire fraud, which the Americans take very seriously. Follow the story through to the PDF of the criminal complaint.

Not quite an obituary, but close.

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