I am still not sure how I feel about this, everyone in the comments field of the last post have valid points to make. As I understand it from the Google Guy post (and I am not sure this really is a “Google Guy” – when will Google just stop being coy and let actual real people make comments?) the rel = tag will possibly extend how comment URLs can be understood, built upon, etc. That sounds like a good thing.
But certainly then one question is, do we default to “no follow”?
Now, I’m not questioning No Follow simply because I want to ensure that those who leave URLs in a blog’s comment space get more search juice. For the most part, I agree with Danny’s approach on this question. But what bothers me is that there may well be an ecology that evolves based on the link mojo in comments which we can’t imagine, but that would be important and wonderful, and that will not develop if every comment has a tag telling search engines to ignore it. Like it or not, search engines are now processors of our collective reality, and fiddling with that requires some comtemplation.
My gut take on this yesterday was “We’re making a decision without thinking through the implications.” My second gut take was “We can’t possibly imagine all the implications.” So my third gut take is “Don’t do it if we can’t imagine what consequences it might have.”
OTOH, there is much to recommend any system that foils spammers, and ecologies always evolve through a rubicon of conscious choice and unconscious wandering. I have found, however, that using the tools provided by MT, comment spam is no longer a big deal for me. I manage the problem on my end (with able help from my webmaster), and that’s that.
In the end, I remain unsure how I feel about this, and will continue to grok it, and if I come to some conclusion, I’ll share it, but for now, I’m still pondering it. Meanwhile, my webmaster has installed the software, but I’m going to ask him to take it off mine, till I figure out how I feel about it.
Update: I’m told by my webmaster that “No Follow” also applies to Trackbacks. I totally disagree with that, so for now, I won’t be No Following. If I have this wrong, can someone clue me in? I know there is trackback spam, but it’s about 1% the problem of comment spam….
Update 2: Anil has a good post on all this here. But as I read through it, I realized I really wanted to read the comments too. And bingo, they were great. Danny chimed in, as did many others, and I learned something. The comments themselves were very valuable information. Let’s imagine a scenario five years from now when someone – perhaps a student doing his thesis on the early growth of blogs – wants to do a search for intelligent commentary on the emergence of post-PageRank relevance schema. Assuming that everyone follows No Follow, does that mean that the comments in Anil’s post, which I found very good, will have less juice in the index, even though they use linking to make posts? What if the comments brought up entirely new ideas, ones that deserve to be found later, or linked to important concepts which elucidate the discussion?
In other words, here is one of the unintended consequences I worried about already becoming apparent: No Follow will discourage people from doing what I’ll call “fully web-expressed writing” on other people’s blogs – where they write in that rather post-modern way of linking as they write, which is what we all do in this bloggy world we live in. A deft web writer is like a spider pulling strands to support his or her central thesis – it’s an emerging form of communication, and from what I can tell, it’s going to be very important long term to our culture.
If as a commentator on someone’s blog, you know that you’re spending ten, twenty, or more minutes crafting a response, and that response – because it lives in someone’s comments field – will be ignored by the conferrers of future societal attention (ie – search indexes) – then I can imagine many folks will simply avoid writing thoughtful responses in comemnts altogether. Instead, they’ll post on their own site. It seems that one of the things No Follow will do – subtley or not – is discourage active and intelligent dialog on a post. That is not, to my mind, a good thing.
So far what I have read seems to frame the folks who are unsure about No Follow as not wanting to lose the ability to gain PageRank from comments they might post elsewhere. Danny pointed out in Anil’s comments that there is something rather seamy about using comments to announce your blog, or point to your favorite post, or whatever. With exceptions, I agree with that. But I don’t think this is about that – it’s not why I am still unsure. It’s more subtle – what am I locking down here that otherwise might flourish? What am I cutting off that might prove important in the future?
Also, the idea that we need to get “back to PageRank as it was in the beginning” feels a bit off – that was then, this is now. We can’t go back.
I would have liked to have posted this on Anil’s site, but he has TypeKey registration set up, and I’m not against it per se, but I just don’t like the siging up proceess getting in the way of thinking out loud as the impulse hit me. Sorry about that, but there you have it, proof in the process. As I have said many times, f*ing spammers.
Lastly, I sense that this is more about the search engines and their need to despam their indexes (important certainly), than it is about the bloggers and the need to despam our sites (which as I said before, we all are getting reasonably good at). Note that Ask – which takes a different indexing approach from the more PageRank-centric MSN, Google, and Yahoo – is on the sidelines on this one. Not that we don’t all live in an intertwingled ecology, and not that we don’t all potentially benefit from this move, but … this felt rushed and rather unilateral.
Anyway, yet more to chew on. This is drawing an amazing array of responses, far more than I can read right now. My apologies in advance if I missing some obvious advancements in the discussion, or have my facts dead wrong.