Friday, November 5, 2010

Slog Contest: The Answer

Here's the answer to Wednesday's Slog Contest:

The first thing I did was to google
"carrot top" and "$70 Million". And I found 320 pages mentioning both terms, but none of them actually associated him with the $70 Million. The guy just happens to be mentioned on a number of web pages which happen to contain the phrase "$70 Million".

And that's the "eureka". This site works its dubious and unreliable magic purely by algorithm. It's a computer program written to search the web for pages containing famous names, dollar signs, and numbers in the millions. It looks for multiple citations, hoping to eliminate some of the "noise" (it may also disregard pages with words like "house" or "contract" to weed out some flagrantly irrelevant hits). And since the name "Carrot Top" is on lots of pages which also include "$70 Million", that's how it tagged him (more evidence: Nikki Sixx googles "Nikki Sixx"' $40 Million"," Art Garfunkel googles "Art Garfunkel""$35 Million", and Mario Lopez, googles "mario lopez" "$9 Million").

The brief bios, likewise, are grabbed from elsewhere (I guffawed at
the one for Yoko Ono, who's "a Japanese-American artist, musician and author, perhaps best known for her marriage to John Lennon", which was snarfed from this random blog comment). Likewise, the photos are all drawn from the first page of google image results.

This explains the weirdly bland nature of the site. There's no one home! Just a computer creating amusingly shitty content. But it's also terrifically enticing shitty content for those googling for what's essentially unfindable information (there's no legitimate resource listing the net worth of lots of movie stars, as that info isn't public knowledge). And, as Seth Godin pointed out in the comments to my first entry on this (link above), they've done a pretty fancy job of search engine optimization (SEO) to ensure maximal mileage from this scheme.

Very clever! Figure out something lots of people search for but which doesn't exist. And make it appear to exist in some slapdash manner, with no human effort. Even without the search engine tricks, because no one else out there can possibly be offering this info, you'll get the big traffic (and the big ad revenue).


Seth Godin said...

And now you're #1 for that search!

bravo and touche

Jim Leff said...

Which just goes to show, you can do all the search engine optimization in the world, and it may work some, but if you just let google be google by offering the best content you can, it all works out fine in the end.

Chowhound never did any SEO at all, but we had great google ranking. Because google was trying to "float" good resources, and that's what we were.

Why do so few people strike upon the novel idea of "gaming" the system by simply offering a really, really good resource???

Jim Leff said...

BTW, my link to you got edited out before, Seth, but I've reinserted it!

Dave said...

This has nothing to do with the point of your contest, but I wouldn't be surprised if Carrot Top has several tens of millions in the old bank account.

He works about 300 nights a year, much of it guaranteed Las Vegas gigs at the Luxor. At his height, Danny Gans was making about $20 million a year just from the Mirage. So if Mr. Top invested his money well...

Jim Leff said...

Color me skeptical. :)

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