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I'm taking a page from Experts Exchange:

The comment that originally occupied this space is now behind a paywall (or, if you want to get technical, it's buried down further in the thread, and you now have to scroll through a bunch of other stuff to find it).

It begins with "Experts Exchange currently displays ..."

That's right, I've capitalized on the Hacker News "comment juice" my original comment received and the above-the-fold real estate it garnered, effectively "cloaking" my original answer.

Annoying, isn't it?

Experts Exchange currently displays its answers for free at the very bottom of its pages, but it misleads visitors into thinking that they have to pay for access. Unless you scroll through about eight pages' worth of filler, you would never know that the answers are there. And EE would love for them not to be there, but search engines won't index them otherwise.

That's actually an improvement from some of their earlier tactics, which involved cloaking (serving one version of the site -- with the answers -- to search engines and a different version to everyone else). The only reason they're not still cloaking is because search engines have gotten wise to their methods and won't tolerate it.

In short, Experts Exchange is willing to mislead people and search engines in any way that it can get away with. So, at least in EE's case, the fact that Google has tightened the screws is great.

(I should mention that I understand EE is a business and is trying to make a profit -- but profiting from deception is what really riles me.)

> Experts Exchange currently displays its answers for free at the very bottom of its pages, but it misleads visitors into thinking that they have to pay for access.

Only if you reach the site with a google.com referrer. Without referrer there's no answers at the bottom.

So basically "boo hoo" that they're not getting any rank.

Stack Overflow is a business too, but it's one worth supporting.

I just checked this, and it's true. Googled "experts exchange fix mod_rewrite," tried a resulting question as referred and in an incognito window. Only the former had the results at the bottom.

Notably, even if you're using secure google search because you're logged in, the referrer still gets sent - so it still works. I know some people were concerned referrers didn't get passed from the new "secure if logged in" option - this seems a decent confirmation they do.

I was a customer of Experts Exchange for 3 years, from 2004 to 2006. It was useful to me when I needed information on subjects I did not know well, like Apache mod_rewrite, or some Linux sysadmin stuff.

All the same, there is a great deal that I disliked about Experts Exchanged. Two complaints stand out:

1.) sometimes the other people on the site gave me excellent help, and some even put in an extraordinary amount of time to help me. And yet, they didn't get any money for their efforts. Experts Exchange kept 100% of the money that I paid. The people who answered questions just get meaningless "points". But clearly these experts deserve some money for their time.

2.) sometimes the other people on the site did not give me any help at all. In fact, sometimes some were rude, or they would only answer "RTFM", or they would fail to read my whole question and they would post an answer to what they thought I was asking, rather than what I was really asking. Again, this is a problem that would have vanished if I'd had an easy way to send money to the people trying to help me. People would take the time to answer my question if I was paying them to read my question.

I also thought it was disgusting that so many people put so much effort into helping each other and yet Experts Exchange keeps 100% of the money made off of those efforts. I've the same criticism of StackOverflow nowadays -- they keep 100% of the profits coming in from ads on their site, rather than share the money with the experts who answer questions.

My negative experiences with Experts Exchange were an influence when I created my own question and answer site ( http://www.wpquestions.com/ ). Here, 95% of the money goes to the people who answer the question, and the distribution of the money is decided by a community vote. I think a question and answer site has the right to charge some fee to pay its bills, but since the experts who answer questions are the one's doing most of the work, most of the money should go to them.

You seem to suggest that money is a better motivator than reputation. Money is a motivator, but it's often the wrong kind of motivator. Money can bring in people who do it just for the money. Especially as the money that any site can pay for it's experts is usually much-much less than the expert earns in its daily job.

I applaud that you have created a site that tries to compensate the effort to its contributors... I just hope that you have managed to tailor the site to avoid the problems that money can bring.

> You seem to suggest that money is

> a better motivator than reputation

Nothing I wrote suggested that in any way. You are reading a message into my words that simply isn't there. Rather, just the opposite: the top experts on WPQuestions.com have often written to me and said that the reputation that they gained on WPQuestions.com is worth far more to them than the money. More so, when they talk about WPQuestions.com on their own personal sites, they do so to advertise the fact that they have public reputation that is established on WPQuestions.com. Consider what Denzel Chia, our top expert, say about us on his own site:


"This is where I answer questions and get paid! Most of my clients came from here!"

Clearly, his reputation on the site matters to him, it's not wholly a matter of the money that he earned, it's also he's proud of the work he did and he wants people to go and look at how knowledgeable he is.

Same with Ivaylo Draganov, who links to his profile on my site from his site: http://druuf.com/

Same with the others, the top experts who link to the site from their own sites, which several of them have: http://www.wpquestions.com/user/winners/order/desc/

I don't think money is more powerful than reputation as a motivator, but I do think the 2 of them together can be combined in powerful ways, perhaps so powerful that people sometimes find the implications unsettling.

I do understand what you mean when you write:

> I just hope that you have managed to tailor the site to avoid the problems that money can bring

That's why the money is distributed by a vote. So that people can give public recognition to what they think was a good answer. All votes on the site are public, so if you vote $10 to what you thought was a really good answer, everyone on the site sees that you are voting $10 to that answer. It's a form of applause: a way of saying "Well Done". But votes carry more weight when they are backed up with money, rather than just being votes for something like reputation points. Or rather, votes carry more weight when they impact real world events, as opposed to those situations where they only impact a system of relations that only exist on a single web site. There are a lot of systems of voting in the world, and some impact upon real world events. Basing voting on money on a site is a way of tying the voting on that site to concerns that are important in the wider world.

As to the overall amount paid, it has apparently worked out pretty well for a number of the top experts. I cover the details in this old video from November of 2010:


People don't use services like EE or SO to make money, they do it because if feels good to help someone, and it's a great place to pick up and learn new stuff.

Also, I think you highly overrate how much SO makes from advertisements.

The only reason Stack remains free is because of the large cash infusions they received from VCs. As soon as they burn through it without coming up with a viable replacement that still allows free access, they will begin charging or they will disappear. One one site makes money from ads and it rhymes with Moogle.

They used to use rot13 to encode their answers. That was nice When I noticed that, since I already had the bookmarklet.

Stack Overflow is also a business and also trying to make money doing the same thing, but it does it in a way that’s much better for the site user. I’m not surprised that it’s doing better than EE in the search results these days.

Part of the problem, though, is that they don't always show you the same results as the search engine sees. I've just started using the SSL version of Google search, and now I no longer see any answers on the EE pages, where I did before. It looks like they only display the answers in the bare minimum number of case necessary to still get search rankings, rather than displaying them for all google referrers.

If you're going from an HTTPS site to a HTTP site, then your browser doesn't send a referer header, so they can't really know you came from google.

True, but it still does break google's requirement that the page Google sees must be the same as the one Google's user sees (which was the original reason they did this anyway).

You NEVER said "annoying". You used the terms "mislead" and "deception".

THIS is annoying.

That's not really fair. At one time, cloaking data was a good way to get found and still put up a pay wall. They built a business around being able to do this. Shady folks turned this practice into a method of deception.

Experts exchange was only hiding from view REAL data that they were selling access to, and to let us know they had the data we needed, they found a way to show it to google.

At least they didn't fill pages with bogus questions without answers and a ton of keywords.

The only part of EE I don't care for is that they want us to pay for data they didn't create, however, the experts are probably aware they will not get paid when answering.

I strongly disagree that cloaking behind-paywall pages is ever "good".

If I'm searching for a specific term, I want to see pages that are relevant to that term when I click the links, not pages that ask for my credit card and that may or may not (probably not) show me a relevant page after I've been charged.

Experts Exchange was a fairly decent site very long ago, but it sucks horribly now and has for years and has nobody to blame for their downfall but their own deceptive practices and lack of vision in terms of alternate revenue models.

I'm glad Stack Overflow is totally eating their lunch. Good riddance.

I totally agree. Stack Overflow is awesome and a great alternative to EE.

When I searched for a programming answer and EE came up, most times the questions and answers were relevant. I never opted to pay for the service, and I stopped clicking the links to EE because I didn't want to pay. However, that didn't mean they didn't have the relevant answer, and I just had to pay for it if I wanted it.

I don't find this deceptive, just a form of advertising.

"At one time, cloaking data was a good way to get found and still put up a pay wall."

It was good for the business maybe, but never -- not then and not now -- good for the user.

Nobody EVER said it had to be. They had data. It was GOOD data, and they wanted to be paid for it, but they had to tell Google they had it so people could find it. It's how advertising works. Look what we have! Come buy it.

Uh. No.

If they wanted advertising they could have bought google adwords and pointed it to the appropriate landing pages to buy the answers.

If they want free advertising, well TANSTAAFL.

Advertising is saying "free ice cream this weekend at EE's ice cream shop". What EE does though is say "free ice cream" in their ad on tv, and then inform customers at the cash register that the ice cream is only free if you purchase a $50 plastic spoon as well.

Not exactly. I don't recall Experts Exchange ever implying their data was free.

It was more like:

"You know that flavor you desperately need? We've got it, and we'll show you the box, but if you want to taste it you'll have to pay."

Don't get me wrong - I hated EE and I'm glad to see them gone from Google, but I don't think they implied their content was free.

When they show the content to free for google, that implies to me that the content is not behind a paywall. Showing different things to Google and to me is deceptive. It would be like a manufacturer someone finding out where Consumer Reports buys their test cars, and sending special high quality cars there, while selling the rest of us normal crappy cars.

yes, but to extend the metaphor, it's as though they offered a reporter free icecream and tricked him into writing a piece about it in the paper, rather than purchasing an ad.

Downvotes are for comments that don't belong on the site because they don't add anything to the discussion. I personally have found this discussion very interesting. Dpcan should not be downvoted just for making an unpopular argument.

In fact, dpcan has managed to convince me that he's right. When I search for the title of a book, and I get to see a preview of a few pages, it is a form of advertising. It's not "wrong" or "mischievous" or "evil" or any other negative, it's just how advertising works.

The reason you are all upset is because that's not how Search Engines, in particular, worked. With book previews on Amazon, we're used to it. What EE did was try a new tactic, built for the web, to advertise their product. Of course we didn't like it - when has anyone ever liked paying for something?

Nowadays, what they do has been ruled to be wrong. The "rules of the game", as defined by Google (the authority here, apparently), say that they aren't allowed to do that. They find "tricky" ways of doing it, which sucks. But remember, these rules are being written live - you can't hold EE at fault for trying to "hack" a system, and you definitely can't fault them for not living up to rules that never existed.

I agree, I don't understand the down voting on dpcan.

There seems to be two different complaints about EE.

1. They show data to Google but hide it from visitors unless they pay. Personally I see nothing wrong with this as explained by edanm. They are a business and this is their business model. They use a search engine as a form of free advertisement. If the search engines didn't have a problem with this then I don't understand why potential visitors should. If you don't like having to pay for the content then go elsewhere. Having results in the search engine that have data behind a paywall is the problem of the search engine, not the site that has the paywall. The data is still relevant even though you can't see it immediately on clicking the link.

2. They show one set of data to search engines but show a different set to visitors. To me, this is a no-no as long as they are actually doing this in the described manner. If by showing different data is because of the paywall and they do match up after you pay, then I see no problem. But in the end if they do not match then there's a problem and I would hope that the search engines would discourage this type of thing.

I think people need to be more clear on what exactly they are complaining about.

Plus, as edanm states, you shouldn't down vote someone simply because the statement is unpopular yet relevant to the topic.

That's still deception. Seems obvious to me that the reason search engines would penalize sites that put up real data behind firewalls is because users don't want to see them in their search results. To show search engines different data to circumvent this is deceptive.

But the data IS there. That is not deceptive.

Are you saying that if your content is in Google's database it's required to be free? As a site owner, I have the right to decide whether or not my data is available for free, but it is there, and you should know it's there, so I have to somehow get found in search engines.

Think of it this way. You search for an image in Google - you are presented with sites that sell licenses to stock photos. Is this any different?

Showing different things to search engines and users is deceptive. You're misrepresenting yourself to the search engine.

I want search engines to penalize sites that put content behind firewalls, because those sites are less relevant to me. If the site is good enough to overcome that penalty because the content is so good that it gets enough google juice anyway, awesome. But they should still be penalized for hiding stuff behind the paywall.

It's not a moral judgment on paywalling content, it's a practical one. As a search engine user, I don't want Google to show me paywall stuff unless it's really, really good. So Google is making the appropriate ranking by penalizing paywalled content. But if you trick Google by showing googlebot something that you don't show users, that's obviously deceptive. Which I will make a moral judgment on.

The only part of EE I don't care for is that they want us to pay for data they didn't create

In theory they provide a service that has value, that is a platform where questions can get answered. Just because they didn't pay the "experts" doesn't mean their overall concept is not worth paying for.

Now, I'm not saying that their implementation is worth paying for, I just don't buy the idea that because they didn't pay for their data it's wrong for them to charge for their service.

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