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Jason Calacanis' response to Aaron Wall (calacanis.com)
27 points by hwijaya 2704 days ago | hide | past | web | 22 comments | favorite

I like how on Hacker News, Calacanis was getting his throat bitten out by Aaron and the community, while he was trying to feebly defend himself and do damage control.

However, when you read this article, it makes them sound like great friends, and it reads as if Mahalo is this awesome little indie site that wants the community to help. I especially love the comment by Dorfman reinforcing how he was ecstatic about Aaron's advice and had a great time noodling it over.

It's like if your dog takes a dump on the sidewalk and, like usual, you don't pick it up. When someone [and an angry mob of your peers] makes a big enough stink about it, you argue and argue, until it degenerates into a fiasco. Finally, you write on your blog, "Thanks for helping us be even better, buddies! You guys are awesome! Gonna think about picking up the shit real soon. We are all so excited about what you guys said! Let's grab sushi, ya?"

There's a lot of ways to lie, and I've just learned a new one. It would be cool to see an apology with an accurate representation of the scandal.

Calacanis is obviously a smart guy and a master of controlling the perception.

He may get away with the ignorance alibi just yet because the SEO aspect is technically nuanced enough that most people won't understand it.

If he were a master of controlling perception we would not be having this discussion.

We are 1% of 1% of the people he cares about.

I care about you.

in my opinion, the slimiest thing that mahalo is doing is scraping content and then nofollowing the attribution links. nofollow was designed for outgoing links that a publisher cannot vouch for - ie links in blog discussions.

but mahalo is nofollowing attribution links to content that THEY have decided to scrape.

jason is conflating two things when he says "Do you think we should remove nofollow from our links? we added this to avoid the problem of SEOs coming in and turning Mahalo into a link farm"

you can nofollow links created by users but you should not nofollow links to content that YOU decided was worthy of inclusion on your site.

it seems very clear to me, that this guy is playing dumb.

"you can nofollow links created by users but you should not nofollow links to content that YOU decided was worthy of inclusion on your site."

+1 ... Preach on!!!

The only reason there an (alleged) need for nofollow is because they are scraping tons of content & displaying it without any editorial curation.

If they actually were a human powered search (as they falsely claim to be) and did editorial review of the links then why would they need to add nofollow to links that passed their editorial guidelines?

Further lets not forget that in the past Mahalo did provide direct outbound links. 18 months ago I predicted them adding nofollow at some point, Jason stopped by with what he called a "fact check" ... and then they later added nofollow...pretty funny! http://www.seobook.com/when-will-mahalo-add-nofollow-outboun...

you can nofollow links created by users but you should not nofollow links to content that YOU decided was worthy of inclusion on your site.

To be fair, he can do whatever he likes - as long as it's legal. Aside from the murky spammy waters Mahalo seems to wading in, the "nofollow" is merely a hack devised by Google (that's also acknowledged by Bing and poorly implemented by Yahoo).

Jason can put anything legal on his pages with no qualms or being a "scammer" or whatever. It's Google's job, then, to remove Mahalo from the index if it doesn't like his "content." The ethical argument should be around this scraping, not the use of a proprietary hack Google came up with to get around an indexing problem they couldn't be arsed to solve properly.

i agree that mahalo is not doing anything illegal, the simple point is their actions are unethical.

scraping content is allowed under fair use, but going the extra step of nofollowing is an intentional attempt to use someone else's content without passing pagerank.

it is a deliberate attempt to outrank the sources. this is pretty much akin to a mid-level manager taking credit for the work performed by one of the people that reports to him. illegal? no. lame and worthy of being called out for? yes.

i also agree with you that the real onus is on google to not rank sites that engage in this tactic.

it is a deliberate attempt to outrank the sources.

Of course it is. That's like saying Obama's presidential campaign was a deliberate attempt to win the election.

The issue, though, is that Mahalo could not rank higher than original sources unless Google is doing a shoddy job of indexing the Web. Just because Mahalo has a few good pages doesn't mean the rest should automatically be trusted. Google need to figure that out - and fast.

This domain authority exploit is exactly what many business models are being built on...Demand Media, Mahalo, Aol, etc etc etc

Wow. Just...wow. Ugh.

Given all the posts on this forum, and even his direct participation in the discussion, I honestly thought that he would've recognized both the technical problems in Mahalo's content & linking stratagems as well as the hollow tenor of his words.

Sadly, no. More duplicitous ignorance and classic "PR framing" piece straight out Political Communications 101.

1. Couch direct criticism as "feedback". Do not directly apologize for any perceived or actual misdeeds as that is seen as an admission of purposeful dis-service and guilt.

2. Enumerate an ill-defined set of seemingly concrete, but very porous, actions to be enacted within an indefinite time frame. This overtly defines a 'scorecard', albeit one without any measurable boundaries for future compliance. In other words, the Overton Window is wide open.

3. Within the context of the response, inject positive spin on (any) tangentially related side-issue to serve as a defensive soundbite reservoir against any possible pointed questions within the limited time-windows of future radio and t.v. media interviews.

4. Make offers to "work more closely" with the opposite party, but exclusively on your turf/terms while (un)subtly highlighting your strengths and their weaknesses to continue business as usual. In this case, Aaron's individual "free" time & attention versus their "paid" team of developers.

5. Release "off-cycle" (e.g. late Friday, holidays, weekend) and in a forum where you can have as much control as possible in 'shaping the break' of the story as it makes its way through the media ecosystem.

This is just sad from every angle and, quite honestly, bumming me out. I wish I hadn't clicked on Hacker News this afternoon.

The tone of Jason's responses to Aaron is so different than his normal writing. It doesn't feel authentic Calacanis.

Agree...yet, it's a catch-22 for him. If he is his typical self, he gets attacked for trying to make it a joke(as he makes a lot of things). If he is serious(as he appears to be now), he is inauthentic.

Sounds like good damage control now.

First he made fun of Aaron and even this post almost comes off as sarcasm (although who knows if Jason's going to stick to his word, so it may very well be sarcasm). But the comment on the blog makes it seem like people at Mahalo actually care about not being branded as a content-less SEO cesspool.

Kudos to Aaron for making Mahalo right its wrongs!

Don't give kudos, till you see results.

Surely, Aaron deserves kudos for atleast bringing the issue to light and causing trouble!

oh yeah, but I mean wait on seeing the changes actually take place.

>> care about not being branded <<

Absolutely right. They care about brand.

If you look at the content (and I don't mean the top 100 guides, but the hundreds of thousands of backfill pages) most of it is nothing without being part of some branded collection (leveraging Google's authority site loophole). And thus protecting their brand is crucial to protecting their livelihoods.

If a scraper site is branded as a scraper then it falls out of Google's good graces. And without that traffic the site loses probably over 50% of its revenue.

But if they removed the scraped content they lose a huge chunk of revenues as well (if I had to guess I would say at least 25% to 30%...and it is the all margin piece of their business).

I think the only longterm solution is some sort of editorial curation and removing nofollow from the links.

Sure it will increase costs in the short term, but in the longterm it increases the value of their operation significantly. And it sets up a huge competitive barrier between them and other would be semi-legit to illegitimate scraper sites.

I wanted to learn a little more about the company, so I clicked on the "about Mahalo" link at the bottom of most pages.


How many other web companies serve ads on their "about" page? It seems like a really odd thing to do.

I thought Aaron went a bit personal in the last rant; but if it works (and was supposed to work rather than just be malicious) then fair enough.

Lots of ifs though.

Agreed. I wish Aaron Wall had not went personal in his last post. Ironically, Aaron Wall called out Calacanis the way Calacanis usually frames debates.

I am actually learning a ton about SEO from this debate. I wish both sides would frame the debate with just the facts and keep the name calling out of it. (IIRC, Calacanis called out SEOs a couple years back.)

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