Battelle Interviews Matt Cutts

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John Battelle recently published a brief interview with Matt. Matt also talks about liking the idea of using humans more and more to define relevancy, so long as it is scalable:

Bear in mind that this is just my personal opinion, but I think that Google should be open to almost any signal that improves search quality. Let's hop up to the 50,000 foot view. When savvy people think about Google, they think about algorithms, and algorithms are an important part of Google. But algorithms aren't magic; they don't leap fully-formed from computers like Athena bursting from the head of Zeus. Algorithms are written by people. People have to decide the starting points and inputs to algorithms. And quite often, those inputs are based on human contributions in some way.

Comments

Disclaimer: it's just my

Disclaimer: it's just my personal opinion, o' course.

Get out of Jail card?

Matt - When do you speak in an official capacity on behalf of Google? Not being facetious but it seems that almost everything we hear from you is a personal opinion rather than official Google business. How can we tell?

Cabbage

It sure seems like you are being facetious. Have you ever worked for a big company? Have you ever tried to get a statement approved for publication? If a guy wants to get any work done, he can't be chasing the PR and legal people for approvals.

Actually no...

Never worked for anyone but myself. I really do appreciate the occasional gems he throws out and the resolution of disputed issues and in particular the clarity of his explanations but I really can’t see the sense in reminding us that its his personal view point. When some one is in such a senior position the line between what is and what is not official policy becomes very blurred. Is anything that is said by him in the conferances, forums or blogs official. Some of them must be done on Company time. I really don’t know and that’s why I asked. Honestly, not trying to be a smart ass (this time).

Matt used examples like

Matt used examples like Amazon and other places where you can trust human judgement so these places get more weight algorithmically. Nothing new here, just look around.

The charms of deniability

Deniability is of the essence within almost any large corporative environment. (Similar to the spooks community and more often than not for very similar reasons, heh.)

Thus, while the info propagated may be entirely accurate (which is not necessarily a given, though - but neither is the opposite, of course), it will still be "inofficial", thus holding your setup harmless against possible legal claims, allowing for conceivable format switches further down the road, etc. Keeping your powder dry in this manner, you can always issue a dementi later if necessary without entirely compromising your credibility. Makes perfect sense from the company point of view.

On the receiving end, what you're stuck with most of the time is guesswork, the art of reading between the lines (don't expect erroneous interpretations to be rectified by the party issuing the original statement - that's simply not their job unless it threatens to jeopardize their PR agenda), and plain dumb luck.

It's quite like politics and diplomacy, really. And about as trustworthy.

You might recall when he

You might recall when he spole up in an official capacity about a certain company which was suing Mr. Wall.

If any search engine rep

If any search engine rep wants to speak only after getting every statement approved by PR and Legal and marketing, etc. then good for them. I've done that for several important things. But it slows down communication enormously.

cabbagelooking, if you want super-duper-official Google statements on everything, press [at] google.com would be the place to contact. Otherwise, you're stuck with me. And Adam. And Vanessa. And Brian White. And.. :)

It's quite like politics and

Quote:
It's quite like politics and diplomacy, really. And about as trustworthy.

Excellent note. And as in those fields, the more you know about the drivers of the individual, the better you can interpret the statements. Just as you might ask who is funding a politico, you can ask who is "funding" Mr. Cutts? Just as a politico might use each word of a set of synonyms to say the same thing yet mean different things, Mr. Cutts may similarly stick to a personal communications protocol. It is a means of maintaining a comfort level while walking the fine line between truth as known and truth as told. Some people mistakenly call it a matter of semantics. Funny, that.

Pay attention. Your attention is the only thing in this world that you actually own.

Jeezus

Ralph, John, step away from your keyboards. Take a walk, look at the pretty flowers, try a new brand of beer at the pub, eat some valium.

>>On the receiving end, what you're stuck with most of the time is guesswork, the art of reading between the lines (don't expect erroneous interpretations to be rectified by the party issuing the original statement - that's simply not their job unless it threatens to jeopardize their PR agenda), and plain dumb luck.

We're stuck with that no matter who is speaking. Yes, Matt is circumspective. No news that eh? But Ralph and John, you feel compelled to tell us to consider the motivations of the speaker as well as the words he speaks? Damn and thank you. You are both gentlemen and scholars. The rest of us have been taking everything at face value...

to speak of cabbages and kings....

for many of us who work for corp America, it's very difficult to make any public-facing statements without official approval. Just as Matt said, getting approvals can take so long that the conversational moment has already passed. For those of us who want to participate with public discourse, we must frequently make it clear that we're not speaking in official capacity, or else we risk losing our jobs.

I'm sure Mat also has some discretion in decide whether what he says is safe for disclosure as well vs. a corp secret.

We should all be glad for what open conversation there is, because the alternative is silence. Remember, before the trend of "technovangelists", corps kept a lot more stuff as proprietary. It's always safer from legal perspective to say nothing.

Remember, even with the disclaimers, any time one of us corporate grunts opens our mouths, we're incurring *personal* risk that our employers might not like what we say.

|

Well have your department contact my department, then I will contact your department and you contact my department, after that I will have my department call your department to send the statement, then you call my department to confirm the confirmation of the statement. At that time you have your department contact the Board and have them contact my department with a confirmation of the statement. Then I will have my department contact your department with the confirmation of the confirmation. Then we will have the other department release the statement. At which point both departments will receive confirmations that the statement was released and then we will wait for the public commentary. At that time we should get the departments together to discuss whether or not we need to issue another statement. If so, have your department contact my department.

DG - what's bitten you?

Who's to say what "the rest of us" have been doing or not - you, perhaps?

While I'll happily concede that what John and I stated was probably uberobvious for you personally, I suggest you drop pimping those valiums, the new brand of beer at the pub and postpone looking at the pretty flowers for a minute to sit down at your keyboard and check out how just about everything Matt and other SE reps happen to voice is being taken for divine gospel across an incredibly huge part of the SEO community. Not here at TW and a few select other haunts, of course, but all across the board.

I could even show you some SEO "reports" being sold for good money proposing "new safe SEO strategies" based entirely on some (IMV) exceedingly vague and ambiguous remarks purportedly made in passing by Matt at some conference.

So pointing out the corporate mechanics and social dynamics governing such statements here may actually be of some practical use to those who are interested and perhaps less experienced in such matters. Indeed they may well assist one or two poor souls from actually coming to grief SEO wise.

If this bores you to death, that's just too bad, but I guess you do still know how to hit the back button, eh? I for my part certainly didn't mean to insult your intelligence and neither did John as I read him.

This said, I'm not faulting Matt or any other SE rep for what they're doing - it's their job and "the rest of us" will simply have to live with it. Nor am I insinuating that it's all entirely useless or misleading. But nobody can prevent us all from taking most if not all of this stuff with a mountain of salt or two, either.

What Can Be Dissected Here?

That Matt thinks humans can aid relevancy? That Matt understands that algos are written by humans and therefore subject to human bias and faults? That critical thinking is necessary in order to form educated opinions?

And why is it that it's only the SE reps that deserve a mountain of salt? What agenda is Aaron pushing? Oilman? Boser? Naylor? What agenda are you pushing? John? What agenda am I pushing? Or should critical thinking be reserved for those evil SE reps pushing their corporate agenda?

I've seen more crap roll off the keys of SEOs in fora than I've seen Matt create, yet I rarely see anyone rushing to post caveats. I've certainly seen more dangerous information espoused in fora by SEOs than bad information given by SE reps.

>>I could even show you some SEO "reports" being sold for good money proposing "new safe SEO strategies" based entirely on some )IMV) exceedingly vague and ambiguous remarks purportedly made in passing by Matt at some conference.

Well that is certainly the fault of the SEO selling that drivel isn't it? So who's creating the majority of the crap out there? SEOs isn't it?

>>So pointing out the corporate mechanics and social dynamics governing such statements here may actually be of some practical use to those who are interested and perhaps less experienced in such matters. Indeed they may well assist one or two poor souls from actually coming to grief SEO wise.

Of course, now apply that same sentiment to SEOs. ;)

But how much reach does each

But how much reach does each of us have relative to Matt. How many in the industry have anywhere near as much affect on the industry as he does? Consider that he crafts some of the algorithm AND guides public opinion. Most of us don't do both, let alone either, as much as Matt does.

FYI: I am taking this opportunity to OUT DigitalGhost as an SEO! :)

>>reach

>public opinion

Outside of the SEO world I doubt if 1 person in 100,000 can tell you who Matt Cutts is. I can almost bet that everyone that has heard of Matt Cutts has heard of Danny Sullivan, Brett Tabke, SEObook, Fantomaster, Oilman, Webguerrilla, etc.

I've had similar arguments in the past about why people should be believed or not and it's not post counts, it is not reputation, it is not affiliations, it is always about the merit of the idea or technique. Scrutiny should be applied equally.

>>OUT DigitalGhost as an SEO

Damn, damn, damn, I was trying to keep that a secret...

>I can almost bet that

>I can almost bet that everyone that has heard of Matt Cutts has heard of Danny Sullivan, Brett Tabke, SEObook, Fantomaster, Oilman, Webguerrilla, etc.

Have you done link analysis to back that up? I mean in the core group of people talking SEO we all know who each other are, but many many many people know of Matt and take syndicate his viewpoint without considering it much...and this is especially true as you move away from the core group of people talking SEO to the bloggers blogging about blogging and the web designers blogging search, etc.

Have you done link analysis to back that up

Hell no, there's no money in that. Hence the 'almost'. Not really the point though. Critical analysis should be performed without regard to name or affiliation. Understanding the affiliation might be helpful in understanding bias if it is found, but affiliation shouldn't be understood to equal bias.

bloggers blogging about...

bloggers blogging about blogging

I am so sick of these blogs. The old axiom "those who can do, those who can't, teach." should be replaced with "those who can do, those who can't, blog about those who can". Apparently all you need to do now to consider yourself a webmaster, site designer, SEO, is download wordpress and pick a theme.

That axiom

should just be relegated to the 'cutesy' sayings bin. I've had some pretty fantastic teachers that 'could'.

So who's creating the majority of the crap out there?

So who's creating the majority of the crap out there? SEOs isn't it?

Now that I would seriously contest. But Aaron's indisputable observation aside that the likes of Matt Cutts are wielding a promo club arguably heavier by orders of magnitude than that of all SEOs combined, this thread wasn't initially about SEOs' incestuous drivel pimping, it was about a major representative and spinmeister of Google's musing about the way he feels they should run their engine in future.

Maybe I'm getting too old and cynical for this game because I for my part am positively cursed with a pretty detailed memory of most of the drivel and disinformation and downright lies spawned and propagated and churned and repeated by SE reps ever since the first public search engines saw the light of day.

You know, all those nice and helpful smiling and utterly patronizing people who would blithely rate any form of search engine optimization as "spam" by definition, no matter that it was actually they who were staking out their parasitic corporate claims left, right and center. And hitting all the major media with it big time ever and again. Little more than FUD schmucks...

But then again, maybe you actually don't know because that was long before Aaron finally outed you as an SEO so perhaps you've really been spared this experience throughout, lucky bastard. :)

DG, you're asking what's to dissect here. So what's your own suggestion? Is that interview perhaps an indication that Google just may be discussing to return to the good old days of the Yahoo! directory with its focus on human edited content, albeit perhaps 21st century style, whatever that may mean? Talking of which: What does all this mean anyway?

And: If there's actually nothing of relevance in Matt's statement to dissect, whose bloody fault is it in the first place? Ours, because we're simply too dumb to grok what he's feeding the search community? Or his because he's voicing a view about what well could, after all, constitute a truly dramatic change in policy of the world's #1 search engine company and disclaiming it in the same stride?

So what else does this leave us with in terms of substance except to contextualize it and put it in perspective?

And yes, something similar may well be called for regarding all those self-declared SEO shamans out there (most of them little more than AdSense scrapers) who keep popping up cheaper by the dozen now, flogging their snake oil to the great unwashed. But that, I'm afraid, would be another thread entirely.

And why is it that it's only

Quote:
And why is it that it's only the SE reps that deserve a mountain of salt? What agenda is Aaron pushing? Oilman? Boser? Naylor? What agenda are you pushing? John? What agenda am I pushing? Or should critical thinking be reserved for those evil SE reps pushing their corporate agenda?

Geesh DG I thought I did a great job keeping below 200 words or so. I guess it was too many for you. Good thing I can count on Ralph to out loquate me most of the time.

Matt Cutts is a topic in himself. I don't think you can compare talking about Matt to talking about regular people. In context, context being Matt Cutts, human qualities are not obvious and should indeed be highlighted. If not, as Ralph says, cuttletts tend to deify.

As for those others you mention... I haven't read those ;-)

Life Of Brian

>>major representative and spinmeister of Google's musing about the way he feels they N

So dolts turn Matt into the Messiah of Search and it is his fault? ;)

ARTHUR:
He has given us a sign!
FOLLOWER:
Oh!
SHOE FOLLOWER:
He has given us... His shoe!
ARTHUR:
The shoe is the sign. Let us follow His example.
SPIKE:
What?
ARTHUR:
Let us, like Him, hold up one shoe and let the other be upon our foot, for this is His sign, that all who follow Him shall do likewise.
EDDIE:
Yes.
SHOE FOLLOWER:
No, no, no. The shoe is...
YOUTH:
No.
SHOE FOLLOWER:
...a sign that we must gather shoes together in abundance.
GIRL:
Cast off...
SPIKE:
Aye. What?
GIRL:
...the shoes! Follow the Gourd!

SPIKE:
Aye. What?
GIRL:
...the shoes! Follow the Gourd!
SHOE FOLLOWER:
No! Let us gather shoes together!

link analysis

Have you done link analysis to back that up?

Matt has more TrustRank than Boser, Naylor, Oilman, et al.

His fault?

So dolts turn Matt into the Messiah of Search and it is his fault? ;)

Whoever said it was?

And anyway, why should he care - after all, that's just about every spinmeister's dream, isn't it?
But whatever view you may take of my personal contention with Google past and present - accusing them of dumb promo is nothing I've ever been guilty of.

However: Does this messiah scenario lend his statements any greater (or lesser) value/credibility in terms of tangible, factual information?

Just The Facts

>>any greater (or lesser) value/credibility

Nope. Matt makes statements just as you make statements, I judge them as they're made, with what intellect I can muster. I don't think our views regarding Google or their promotional efforts are dissimilar.

I happen to think that the religion of Cutts is propogated by its followers and has little to do with the words of Cutts himself. Words and ideas taken out of context, shouted from the rooftops by disciples and sycophants, words twisted to promote ideas they were never intended to promote. Remind you of anything? Wouldn't surprise me if there's a Cutts reliquary out there somewhere... (there's already a 'Collected Sayings of the Prophet')

But the people out there collecting splinters of the One True Google won't be bothered by admonitions concerning grains of salt.

Jeez.....

World War III (again) and I only asked what was and was not official stuff.

Which Would You Prefer?

Official lies or unofficial truths? ;) Either way it's a bag of dicks. The only truthful 'official' statement a search engine rep can make is BOHICA.

It is these schisms within the SEO world...

..that are causing a problem.

You get the cult followers of Matt Cutts - the Googlies and the cult followers of the Adsense scraper shamans, which combined tends to drown out the voices of those that hold positions somewhere between the two.

It also tends to categorise techniques as being black or white, when in fact there is a myriad of different uses for a particular technique. This gives the followers in both camps, who carry out their work parrot fashion, more abuse to hurl at the other camp; thus widening the schism.

It would be best if that

It would be best if that schism existed between every single webmaster out there, and was as wide as possible. Just like in grade school... everybody stretch out there arms and move away from everyone else. There are no SEOs, only web masters of varing levels of skill and competitiveness.

Just like in grade school -

Just like in grade school - every one get in line, single file, behind their teacher: Mr. Cutt's class over here and Mr. Naylor's over there. Quickly now children. And remember that teacher knows best...

I found myself agreeing with some to all of each preceding post...me thinks MattCutt's ear and fantomaster's leg and DigitalGhost's trunk and John Andrew's tail all belong to the same elephant.

Perhaps we should replace coloured hats with canes?

whitecaneseo.com

whitecaneseo.com blackcaneseo.com ... registered :)

White hats, Pink Elephants and Scrapers - Oh My!

Quote:
Official lies or unofficial truths? ;) Either way it's a bag of dicks. The only truthful 'official' statement a search engine rep can make is BOHICA.

BOHICA = Bend Over Here It Comes Again

Hyuuup

iamlost that's too funny. I

iamlost that's too funny. I just read 7 Blind Mice as tonight's bed time story.

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