Pharyngula

ERV needs minions

Any google experts out there? ERV has been having some difficulties — she keeps getting delisted by google, and then coming back up. Strangely, if you search for ERV, this currently comes up:

i-df0477ad92cce7e69c9500815521eaa0-erv_weirdness.jpg

Wha…? Go to the link, and that text isn’t there. It’s as if someone has been whining to google, and their complaint is what’s appearing in the search. Maybe someone can explain this to us.

By the way, that text sure sounds like poor pathetic Casey Luskin, the sad little mouse. He’s always getting picked on by all those people who are bigger and meaner and smarter than he is; he probably wears a football helmet when he goes on the internets to protect his delicate little brain.

Comments

  1. #1 Citizen Z
    February 3, 2008

    You’re right on the author. Looks like it’s a quote from an email of his that was posted on ERV’s blog earlier. Kind of weird that that section shows up in the Google summary…

  2. #2 Paul Lyon
    February 3, 2008

    I’m not sure why she would keep getting delisted, but Google would only update its cache of her site every so often, which is why the text from an older post is shown. The quoted section is actually the first piece of text on that page to have the search term “ERV” in it, which is why it is being shown.

    This is only educated guessing on my part, of course.

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    February 3, 2008

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  4. #4 Chris Granade
    February 3, 2008

    Doing a Google search for the odd term that keeps coming up reveals an interesting cached page on some very weird site called Health Blogging. A warning: the first link may fail to be valid for long. Not really sure.

  5. #5 foxfire
    February 3, 2008

    I just googled “erv”, results came up with “ERV blogspot” as first entry and clicking on the link brought up the latest post “Nuns can be…”. The text under the google results link is:

    Go ahead, go to Google. Type in ‘ERV’. I used to be the top hit. Now, nada. Put in “http://endogenousretrovirus.blogspot.com/”. Nada.

    My McAfee antivirus gave me a ? on the google link stating that the site hasn’t been tested and asked me if I wanted to test it. I clicked on yes.

    Wierd.

  6. #6 Alex
    February 3, 2008

    Someone should try to find out how Google gets their site summaries. I think I read about how once or something (I want to say Alexa, but that makes no sense). I would do it myself, but I’ve got tons of homework. :(

  7. #7 foxfire
    February 3, 2008

    I forgot: Abbie can has minions!

  8. #8 Gene Goldring
    February 3, 2008

    Someone has hacked the page I guess. Your result quote is in the source code of her page if you go to the page and “View” and then “Source”.

  9. #9 Quidam
    February 3, 2008

    http://www.google.com/technology/whyuse.html

    4. You see what you’re getting before you click.
    Instead of web page summaries that never change, Google shows an excerpt (or “snippet”) of the text that matches your query — with your search terms in boldface — right in the search results. This sneak preview gives you a good idea if a page is going to be relevant before you visit it.

    The text is there and contains the search term (look at the cached page)

    So no evil plot, just an artifact.

  10. #10 Joe Fredette
    February 3, 2008

    Looks like ERV got googlebombed, although, whoever did it would have to have a large force to do it with them.

    Almost like a google hijacking. interesting…

  11. #11 Christopher
    February 3, 2008

    Yes. If, in the google search results, you click “cached” instead of the regular link, you’ll see the actual text that was used when this page was last indexed. It’s a post she put up last week. It appears that that part of the page is the one with the highest density of the string “ERV”, four instances in two paragraphs, so perhaps that’s why it was excerpted for the summary.

    I think we can ignore the presence of the text in that summary, it appears to be accidental, and it is a verbatim extract from the web page (just one that happens to be unfortunate). We’re just left with the transient failure of the site to appear at all under a google search, which, unless it repeats, is probably just one of those mysterious things that happens once in a while. I don’t see any evidence that the site was compromised.

  12. #12 bstark
    February 3, 2008

    The text in question is actually quoted on the front page of ERV, in an article called “Little Women, Big Men, Casey Luskin Fails Again”. The site wasn’t hacked; Google just thinks “The ERV blogs page is all about…” sounds like a good summary of the page’s content.

    The way to fix this is to add a description tag to the page, like

    <meta name="description" 
    content="INSERT HERE WHAT THE PAGE IS REALLY ABOUT" />
    

    If Blogspot doesn’t allow this kind of fine-grained control (I’ve never used Blogspot), just wait until the article in question disappears from the front page.

  13. #13 Corey Schlueter
    February 3, 2008

    I agree that the meta tag for description has to be changed. Not sure why that happened.

  14. #14 lylebot
    February 3, 2008

    Google is looking for some snippet of text that includes the query “ERV”. Looking through there, most of the places the term “ERV” appears would make for strange snippets. I suspect it favors things that look like definitions or descriptions, e.g. “The ERV blogs page is all about..” which as others have pointed out is indeed on the page.

    The solution is to give Google something better to latch onto, like a one-sentence description of the blog in the banner: “ERV is…” Just like how Pharyngula has “Evolution, development, and random biological ejaculations from a godless liberal” in the banner, and that’s its snippet as well.

  15. #15 ERV
    February 3, 2008

    Its been a series of strange things on Google, and only this past week. ERV is up, then delisted, then I reregister and its normal, then its delisted, then strange ‘descriptions’ (its been more than just this quote– strange things, I change it, strange things), and other ERV pages not showing up at all.

    I emailed Google (nicely) just to ask what was going on, and I registered/verified my site with Google so hopefully no one can delist it without being me or going through other channels.

    *shrug*

    It might be a Google tweak. Or it might be a twirp. If its the latter, I want to fix it and make sure it doesnt happen again or to anyone else.

    hehehehe I have been getting a lot of hits from Google today, though. That description is kinda funny, written in Luskins odd, jilted toddler sentence structure :P

  16. #16 ERV
    February 3, 2008

    Thank you borrowed minions!

    As long as the delistings stop, Ill be happy, and Google will have to deal with that. The new description is growing on me :) But I added “If we’re made in Gods image, God’s made of gag, pol, and env.” as a meta tag (though every time I reregistered ERV I used that as the description?).

  17. #17 Brian Macker
    February 3, 2008

    Christopher’s right there is nothing mysterious about the entry. Just hit “cached” and you will see that the main page was crawled and the post at the time with the most references to “ERV” was cited. That’s all.

  18. #18 Venger
    February 3, 2008

    If you search under “endogenous retorvirus blog” you get a different result.

    ERV
    I just realized my blog has been delisted from Google. Go ahead, go to Google. Type in ‘ERV’. I used to be the top hit. Now, nada. …
    endogenousretrovirus.blogspot.com/ – 113k – Cached – Similar pages

    Makes me wonder how often Google caches quotes, because eventually more recent uses of ERV on the page should replace that one.

  19. #19 ERV
    February 3, 2008

    I just think its odd that Yahoo/AltaVista/MSN/etc are all fine. They look how theyve always looked. Its only Google thats been tweaking with ERV, with curious results.

    I didnt know that ‘webmaster’ feature existed until like, an hour ago. So Id suggest that anyone with a blag go to http://www.google.com/webmasters/start/ and verify your site.

  20. #20 waldteufel
    February 3, 2008

    About a minute ago, I went to Google, typed “ERV”, clicked on the link, and got Abbie’s blog. . . no problem.

    In fact, I’ve never had a problem finding ERV with Google.

    Curious. . . . ..

  21. #21 Don Smith, FCD
    February 3, 2008

    Yeah, I like the way Casey says, in that excerpt, that ERV’s mocking and attacks have substance.

  22. #22 aporeticus
    February 4, 2008

    Yes, yes, Google is searching for a snippet with the word “ERV” in it, because that’s the text you searched for. It’s a rather unfortunate side effect of an automated search process.

    Nothing to see here. Carry, on. We’re all skeptics here. Let’s take a dose of our own medicine and take off our tinfoil hats.

  23. #23 aporeticus
    February 4, 2008

    And you were right about Casey Luskin. Here’s ERV’s blog post in question.

  24. #24 Bride of Shrek
    February 4, 2008

    “That description is kinda funny, written in Luskins odd, jilted toddler sentence structure :P”

    Hey, I take exception to that ERV, I think my toddler is waaaayyyyyy more intelligent than Luskin.

  25. #25 Chris Noble
    February 4, 2008

    Yes, yes, Google is searching for a snippet with the word “ERV” in it, because that’s the text you searched for. It’s a rather unfortunate side effect of an automated search process.

    But do you think Casey will believe that this occurred soley by random processes? I wrote a quick program in javascript that gave the probability of this occurring by chance to be 1 in 10^39. This phenomenom is best explained by the Intelligent Design theory!

    Your Google Web Crawler theory is just another Darwinian just-so-story!

  26. #26 Sigmund
    February 4, 2008

    So when are you moving the ERV blog to Scienceblogs?

  27. #27 Stephen
    February 4, 2008

    I have several times encountered the problem that the snippet of text which Google displays does not occur anywhere on the page linked to (not even if one views the page source HTML). Google is constantly playing with its software, and I think at the moment they’ve just got a version which isn’t very good. Maybe it’s time to try out a few of the other search engines again.

  28. #28 maxi
    February 4, 2008

    Ah, this explains so much. I was on a different computer trying to get to ERV the other week and couldn’t for the life of me find it anywhere. In the end I had to type in endogenous retrovirus to find her.

    Generally I have her favourited so it makes no difference to me!

  29. #29 truth machine
    February 4, 2008

    Someone should try to find out how Google gets their site summaries.

    Uh, google doesn’t yield “site summaries”, it yields pieces of text containing search terms.

  30. #30 mojoandy
    February 4, 2008

    I think Casey Luskin deserves an apology from ERV and PZ for thinking he has the ability inclination to actually rub two brain cells together hack Google.

  31. #31 truth machine
    February 4, 2008

    I have several times encountered the problem that the snippet of text which Google displays does not occur anywhere on the page linked to (not even if one views the page source HTML).

    As has already been noted, the text comes from the page as it was when google visited (and cached) it, not as it is when you visit it.

    I think at the moment they’ve just got a version which isn’t very good.

    People think a lot of silly things based on misinformation and poor reasoning.

  32. #32 CJ
    February 4, 2008

    Now it’s in directory.google.com (although it doesn’t appear to be available right now – so maybe that’s the issue) but it used to be called zmod or dmod -anyway it’s the directory that shows how sites are categorized – I’m uncertain as to whether it represents all sites or only commercial ones (I think only the top 100 or so in each category are listed).

    Anyway there are individuals from each category that act as ‘editors’ (likely founding site members in each category) who control the summary descriptions. In my business one of these editors was a competitor and after I arrived on the first page of search results, they altered my summary blurb so that it included my location which hadn’t had an effect once I spoke to potential clients (I’m not in a major U.S. city) but had a huge impact on the number of clients I got from the internet (luckily it’s not my primary client source) once that information appeared in the link blurb. There was a mechanism in which you could request a change, and that request must have gone to a different editor as for awhile my new blurb appeared and my internet traffic returned to normal (though it later reverted).

    This is to say, if it’s not a glitch in Google’s directory (which it looks as though they might be experiencing difficulties), ERV may have drawn the ire of someone who is a directory editor.

  33. #33 CJ
    February 4, 2008

    I found the link, while it is used by Google as well as other search engines – it’s an open directory project (dmoz), here’s the link. Here’s another link as it pertains to Google.

  34. #34 Darby
    February 4, 2008

    I had a similar Google invisibility problem for my regular pages. It turned out that our IT guy, after seeing some bandwidth-gobbling by “particularly aggressive Google spiders,” put up a “ROBOTS” text file in the root directory that requests that the spiders that gather information not come in. My traffic plummeted, and after 6 months of tinkering with files and folder placements, it didn’t recover until the whole file was deleted.

    This may not apply to a blogging site, but who knows? I suppose you could check to see if other bloggers on the site are also invisible.

  35. #35 t-guy
    February 4, 2008

    ERV may have drawn the ire of someone who is a directory editor.

    It wouldn’t be the first time Google Powers That Be interjected personal bias into the world’s most popular search engine. Not only that, the editors at Google seem to enjoy a cordial relationship with The Discovery Institute, which has the googlites convinced it’s a legitimate “news” site.

  36. #36 ERV
    February 4, 2008

    Thats another weird thing. ERV used to not have a description at all. It looked the same on Google as it did on other search engines: “erv, endogenousretrovirus.blogspot.com” Now it has that description.

    *shrug*

    No response from Google yet.

  37. #37 Chris Noble
    February 4, 2008

    If it’s any consolation UncommonDescent disappeared from google a while back.

    Google says we no longer exist.

  38. #38 ERV
    February 4, 2008

    “ERV
    If we”re made in Gods image, God”s made of gag, pol, and env.”

    All is well again!!

  39. #39 Zarquon
    February 4, 2008

    Either that, or you’re a horse float.

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