Walking the world wide web…

I published my first book 17 years ago. It was called Walking the World Wide Web, and it was an edited selection of all the best websites out there, with detailed reviews. It’s hard to believe now, but the web was so young in the mid-90s that it was possible to list a large percentage of the available websites in a book, and not a very thick one at that.

I remember that one of the sites I reviewed in my book was Boing Boing. It’s one of the oldest sites on the web, and it’s still going strong. Back then, it was a catalog of wonderful things — meaning things on the Internet — and that’s essentially what it still is today. But it remains immensely popular because it’s very good at helping people find good stuff to read and look at on the web, which has become an increasingly difficult job for any casual web surfer.

Sometimes I wonder what my career would have been like if I had built on the success of my first book and become a web curator like Boing Boing or Kottke. Who would have guessed back then that such a thing as website curation could be a career, and a lucrative one at that?

I think we are going to need good curators more than ever in the near future. I have read that Google will be making some changes to its search algorithms so that websites can no longer rely on SEO and keywords to get to the top of search results. Instead, links and social networking shares will be major factors in determining which sites float to the top. This is good news for all of us web surfers, because our Google search results will be more likely to show us quality content, rather than all that search engine-optimized filler. But it means there will be a need for more curators who are finding good sites, writing about them and sharing the links with a broad audience.

And I suspect — or maybe I hope? — that busy people will be more willing to pay for good curation.

A few thoughts (and some links) about content mills…

Over the last couple of days, I have been reading a lot about content mills. In case you aren’t familiar with the term, content mills or content farms are websites or networks of sites that churn out thousands of pieces of content per day, which are optimized to score high on specific search engine results. These content mills pay freelance writers very poorly to pump out the content, and their quality reflects that. This is the crap that is cluttering up your Google search results, which I have written about before here.

I don’t have much to say about content mills, except that once I identify one, I avoid it with extreme prejudice. I also noticed that when you google the term content mill, the first result, “What Is a Content Mill,” comes from a well-known content mill. Irony in action.

Anyway, it appears a backlash is a-brewin’. People want this crap out of their search results. Yeah, me too. Anyhoo, here are some good links on the subject for further reading:

The Search Engine Backlash Against ‘Content Mills’ (MIT Technology Review)
Google, Content Farms & Why This May Be Blekko’s Moment (Search Engine Land)
MediaShift’s Guide to Content Farms (PBS)
Content Farms: Why Media, Blogs & Google Should Be Worried and How Google Can Combat Content Farms (ReadWriteWeb)
Content farms v. curating farmers (BuzzMachine)
Content dust bowls (Magellan Media)
The Future of Media Isn’t Free Content, It’s Cheap Content (Metafilter)