Search Engine Optimization (SEO), Google, Privacy, and Anonymity
We've been mulling over several facets of modern life lately and we came to some rather startling conclusions. About many realities, social evolution, trends, privacy, SEO and SERPs. Although we prefer the Google search engine to all others, we are disturbed to find the big G in the center of many critical controversies.
Greed is Good (?)
Microsoft said of Google: "consumers . . . will be unaware that they're now looking at paid advertisements [the new Google Shopping search engine] and that the top results are no longer determined solely based on relevance but instead will be manipulated according to which company paid the most." Also, "Critics charge that Google has effectively abandoned its 'Don't be evil' motto and that small businesses will be unable to compete against their larger counterparts."
Of course, most people—including Microsoft—realize that Google is NOT "evil." They are greedy. There is a big difference between the two. But then, Apple, Amazon, Ebay, and—of course—Microsoft, are ALL greedy. It is how they became huge successes. It is also called capitalism. So the question here isn't about evilness or even greed. It is about fairness. Google is our onramp to reality—the information gatekeeper. Is it fair to manipulate SERPs to their own advantage? Courts decide this stuff when someone sues. Google wins many of these, but loses some as well, and even has to pay huge fines at times.
Google is NOT 'evil.' They are greedy.
Google's and Facebook's War on Privacy
"In its 2007 Consultation Report, Privacy International ranked Google as 'Hostile to Privacy', its lowest rating on their entire report, making Google the only company in the list to receive that ranking." (Source: Google's March 1, 2012 privacy change)
"Google's online map service, 'Street View', has been accused of taking pictures and viewing too far into people's private homes and/or too close to people on the street when they do not know they are being photographed."
"Google+ requires users to identify themselves using their real names, and accounts may be suspended when this requirement is not met. Critics point out that pseudonymous speech has played a critical role throughout history and feel that the Google+ policy deprives some people of an important privacy protection tool. On October 19, 2011, at the Web 2.0 Summit, Google executive Vic Gundotra revealed that Google+ would begin supporting pseudonyms and other types of identity within a few months."
"In 2012, Google changed its policy to require Google members to use their real names instead of pen names, causing anger among members who use pen names. . . . According to critics, the real name policy is not like the real world, because real names and personal information are not known by everyone off-line. Critics say the policy is against privacy. The policy could benefit businesses, because it would allow them to link people to their activity. Critics call this greed over privacy. One fear is that the policy prevents users from protecting themselves by hiding their identity. For example, a person who records a human rights violation or crime and posts it on YouTube can no longer do so anonymously. The dangers cited include possible hate crimes against gays, retaliation against whistle-blowers, executions of rebels, religious persecution, and revenge against victims or witnesses of crimes." (Source: Criticism of Google)
In In Defense of Online Anonymity: The Google+ Policy is Wrong in PCWorld, Sarah Jacobsson Purewal does a great job of trying to wise Google+ up about its flawed privacy policies. She reminds big G that there are "people who want to change the world via social and political activism, but who also don't want to be killed for voicing their views. There are people who want to keep what semblance of privacy they have left in the modern-day world. There are people who want to be able to surf the Web without being harassed, bullied, or stalked." Well put! And the extreme persistence of Internet content she mentions as another reason. Here's another reason: security. Interestingly enough, one commenter raves about real names, openness, and transparency, but then used "nonseq" as his/her name and a picture of an eye as his/her real face! This is beautifully ironic—and hypocritical—but really highlights the way we have ALL come to rely on anonymity to preserve internet privacy, including self-righteous people with their foot in their mouth!
Mike Elgan of Computerworld has the most insightful article we've ever read on PCWorld: Even Google Hates Its 'Real Names' Policy about Google+'s wrong-headed real names privacy.
Security is something all surfers worry about, and with good reason. Scammers are committing more identity theft, phishing, spamming, and fraud crimes all the time, and the more we all lay out our real names and pictures, the more likely we are to become victims. Many of us have had bad experiences and feel rightfully paranoid. After all, it's not paranoia if they truly ARE out to get you. And somewhere between thousands and millions of criminals ARE out to get us—ALL of us. The initial fears about online predators has mostly died down because online sexual predators are relatively rare. Those fears are best replaced with fears of identity theft, phishing, spamming, and fraud crimes just waiting for us online. According to statistics, these crimes are NOT rare at all! And real name policies play right into the criminals' greedy little mitts. Perhaps they're giving Google a cut of the action? (Just kidding!)
Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg has been emphatically stressing that he wants users using real names. "Having two identities for yourself is an example of a lack of integrity.'' This is foolish and self-serving, and highly non-intuitive, of course. But 4chan.org founder Christopher Poole is a vigorous defender of the non-real-name Internet, where pseudonyms and anonymity are omnipresent. Who is right? Both, of course. Pseudonyms and anonymity tend to work in tandem, according to Bernie Hogan, research fellow, Oxford Internet Institute, University Of Oxford, in "Pseudonyms And The Rise Of The Real-Name Web". This article/abstract shows the kind of highly intelligent grasp of the dynamics involved that such critically important and timely matters deserve. Privacy is a fundamental right, and we should be able to control our private information, not let Google or Facebook do it for us, says Hogan.
Privacy is a fundamental right, so why do we let Google or Facebook abolish it?
Breaches in privacy are like when your doctor tells a friend about your STD, and the friend blogs about your condition on the Internet. If we really let corporations control our information we can expect all kinds of privacy invasions. Whatever they can get away with, they will do, as Google and Facebook are forever demonstrating. Another example: telling secrets online to friends and later losing a job opportunity because they gossiped about it and a prospective employer found it in a Google search.
Using pseudonyms, users can express competitive and aggressive urges in gaming environments, health and longevity concerns on health experts sites, sexual urges on adult sites, and political ideas and ambitions on political blogs, without clashes between any of them and without personal information exposure or interference with professional obligations. Only fools give real names on such websites.
It is a happy thing that, after a protracted public relations war, Google+ has dropped its real name requirement and joined a growing number of websites that admit that the legitimacy, functions, and utility of pseudonyms is as real as real names. After all, much "persistent content" will live forever. It is also fortuitous that Facebook allows pseudonyms, even though Mark Zuckerberg seems to find it necessary to belittle those that do this, and he strongly encourages real name use.
We know we're all in trouble when social networks start checking up on people to see who is using unreal names. Background checks or even name legitimacy verification activities are appropriate on certain types of dating sites, but on regular social networking sites are simply an obscene violation of privacy. What about people being stalked, oppressed, hunted by criminals, and what about whistleblowers and witnesses? It is okay if the government gets and acts on court orders for personal information of social network users to locate criminals and terrorists, but regular Facebook and Google+ users should have their privacy respected. We do need police. We do NOT need a police state.
Bosses Cannot Request Facebook Password of a Prospective Employee
It is no longer legal for a company or university in California, Illinois, Delaware, Maryland, Michigan, or New Jersey to request the Facebook password of a prospective employee. This one's a toss-up. We favor privacy rights, but employers are in an untenable position these days. The educational system is a flop and applicants come in with no experience or skills, and present themselves as the best thing since the invention of sliced bread. How can employers make informed decisions since much of the "great people person," "team player," "hard and fast worker," "very responsible" stuff they hear is a load of crap?
We're mostly not raising people in ways that produce such responsible, fast, hard-working, people-person, team-player people, and we're mostly not educating people in ways that produces such people. The applicant is simply looking for someone to pay his or her bills, and he or she is willing to misrepresent himself or herself to whatever degree is needed. And when employers ask people why they left their last job, they get exaggerations, tall tales, and outright lies. They often were let go because none of the "great people person," "team player," "hard and fast worker," "very responsible" stuff was true about them, but their last employer will be looking at possible expensive litigation if he tattles, so he just says: "yes, he worked here." So, the score adds up to this: the applicant lies, the former employers cover their own tails rather than act helpful and tell the truth, and the references are simply the few people around willing to paint a rosy picture (beside his mother!) about the not-so-rosy applicant.
If there is NO way to get real information about an applicant, the poor employer is screwed, and hiring and later firing losers is expensive and unproductive. Hence the legitimate need to peruse social network data—the only place on Earth where one can get a true picture of what a person is like. He or she may be a drunk, a druggie, a troublemaker, a litigious egotist, a womanizer, a phony, a bully, a bar-fight starter, or even a con artist or criminal. Facebook or Google+ or Twitter may or may not reveal this stuff, but what other recourse does an employer have? The sad fact is that in states where it isn't legal to request the Facebook password of a prospective employee, the employer must hire someone to friend the person in order to check him or her out—which takes too much time unless s/he accepts all friend requests. Or the employer must resort to hiring a private investigator, which we're sure big corporations do, at least for higher-up positions.
If there is NO way to get real information about an applicant, the poor employer is screwed
The Privacy-Loving Introvert
Many people who are great thinkers, innovators, inventors, artists, or writers are very private people. Many of the people on the following list are very private people, and all of them are introverts. Famous introverts: Abraham Lincoln, Eleanor Roosevelt, Marcel Proust, Frédéric Chopin, Charles Darwin, Steve Wozniak, Mother Teresa, Gandhi, Steven Spielberg, J.K. Rowling, Charles Schulz, Bill Gates, Barack Obama, Mitt Romney, Ron Paul, Dale Carnegie, Albert Einstein, Dr. Seuss, Warren Buffett, Al Gore, Larry Page, Charles Schwab, David Letterman, Barbara Walters, Isaac Newton, Pablo Picasso, W. B. Yeats, J. M. Barrie, George Orwell, Moses, Jesus, Buddha, Johnny Carson, Meryl Streep, Tom Hanks, Keanu Reeves, Audrey Hepburn, Johnny Depp, Angelina Jolie, van Gogh, W.B. Yeats, Tim Cook, Katharine Graham, Candice Bergen, Ingrid Bergman, Ellen Burstyn, Glenn Close, Helen Hunt, Diane Keaton, Grace Kelly, Jessica Lange, Gwyneth Paltrow, Michelle Pfeiffer, Julia Roberts, Meg Ryan, Clint Eastwood, Harrison Ford, Tom Hanks, Alfred Hitchcock, Jack Lemmon, Matt Lauer, Diane Sawyer, Rosa Parks, Guy Kawasaki, Pete Cashmore, William Wordsworth, and Steve Martin.
Although many of them are or were talented only in their acting abilities, many others are or were talented in much more important ways. If Charles Darwin, Steve Wozniak, Peter the Great, Dwight D. Eisenhower, Stephen Hawking, Gandhi, Bill Gates, Albert Einstein, Larry Page, Jesus, Moses, Buddha or Isaac Newton had been forced to create high Author Rank in order for anyone to pay any attention to them, would they have done this? (It's ironic that Larry Page, co-founder of Google, is very introverted, right?)
No one will pay attention to anything on any SERP page except page one, so if any of these people were unwilling to give out a photo and real name and spend a ton of time on social networks, pumping up their brands and their ideas and pumping up their Author Rank scores, they would to this day be unknown people. Extroverts dominate public life. All in the list were (or are, if they are still alive) introverts.
Author Rank Requirements Disrespect People's Privacy Desires
All of the above were spared the current necessity of pumping up Author Ranks and becoming social networking junkies—that necessity is only a very recent one. "Here's a word to the wise: If you're looking to up your Search Engine Page Rankings (SERPs), you should start caring very deeply about author rank," says Tina Courtney-Brown, who is a recognized expert at online business, social media, and marketing trends.
The function of Author Rank is to penalize anonymous players, while rewarding verified authors with higher visibility and clickthroughs. It is a portable score and tied only to authors, not websites. According to Demian Farnworth, "AuthorRank makes the identity of an author capable of being traced across the web, as long as he has a Google+ account and authorship markup implemented. . . . More participation on Google+ could mean a higher AR score. Google might even evaluate the content you share in detail: Are you posting text, videos, or images? Are you creating original work or just re-sharing others? Are you liking and commenting? Are you replying to the comments you get? Are you doing hangouts? Joining communities? What does your participation look like in those channels? Have you fleshed out your profile and created Circles?" (Source: The Writer’s Author Rank Cheat Sheet)
Again according to Demian Farnworth, internet and copywriting expert, your reputation (and therefore the SERP positions of your blog posts and websites) depend on these factors: The number of followers you have. The number of re-shares your content gets. The number of +1s you get. Activity—are you posting regularly? And are you Commenting? And are you Resharing and plus one-ing? All of this takes time. Lots of it.
Regarding Author Rank, while the full aspects of Google Authorship and Author Rank have yet to be implemented in April 2013 (now), more followers on Google+ show that you are popular, and Google will therefore assume you're an expert in your field. Mentions in authoritative websites like Wikipedia, such websites as The New York Times, academic journals, universities, or some types of government sites will also suggest to Google that you're a notable expert in your field. But anyone can edit Wikipedia, getting into The New York Times may be simply because you have a friend who works there, and the same is true for the other website types. You may or may not be an expert—how would Google truly know for sure?
Experts vs. Pseudo-Experts
But the Internet is full of popular things that are written by people who are anything but experts, such as pathetic "spare the rod and spoil the child" parenting sites that somehow have decided that this is God's will so you must beat kids into submission! They're likely to have great Author Rank, lots of followers, and high SERP ranking. Google's algorithms will assume they are experts in their field. Other parenting sites with modern, Authoritative Parenting advice will be seen as non-experts because they have few followers on Google+ as they have better ways to spend their time. Followers can easily be like sheep, in no way demonstrating that what they're following has any validity.
Google PageRank evolved as a founding principle of Google philosophy, in the mid-90s right when the company was born. Its assumption is that web pages with more backlinks to them are more important than web page with fewer backlinks, which, of course, is only sometimes true. The same can be said for Author Rank and the higher SERP results it may engender. The Author could simply be a popular person who spouts nonsense, or a person who is much better at marketing himself than he is at thinking and producing ideas and content that have actual worth and validity—how would Google truly know for sure?
We have worked in a company where the employee who communicated the most—to anyone who would listen—was the least knowledgeable, did the least work, was the least "expert" at anything, and spent most of his time trying to get others to believe he was an expert at everything. He was a true extrovert who claimed to be an introvert who thought a lot, but what came out of his pie-hole confirmed to all but the foolish that his alleged thoughts were either nonexistent or rare occurrences indeed.
Have you ever noticed that those who talk the most are usually those with the least to say? They're the least worth listening to. Most bloggers are not worth reading, but a few are. Those people who think, create, program, build, and innovate a lot often have only a little bit to say, and this is often the stuff worth listening to. They were willing to think, study, experiment, and learn before talking or blogging. But in Google's eyes, they might have few followers and relatively little content, and they might follow few or even no others, so they will rank lower than the blabbermouth with the busy pie-hole and the idle brain.
Is the guy who won't shut up about himself necessarily an expert?
So which is the expert, the guy who won't shut up or the thinker who puts a lot of thought into what he says or writes? You know. We know. But Google will curse the thinker with a lower AuthorRank, lower PageRanks, lower SERPs, lower everything, while the blabbermouth will be Google's darling because of the great amount of social networking activity, especially on Google+, lots of content, etc. and, worst of all, a lot of people buying the guy's line of B.S. and following him, because they're just as ignorant on the subject as the blabbermouth, so they plus one him, give him links and follows buy the hundreds. He's their spokesman. He verbalizes what they think. When people search for the subjects the blabbermouth blabs/blogs about, he comes up on page one, while the thinker who occasionally writes very wise, well-thought-out blogs and is the true expert is on page five.
Jacob, in On Experts and Pseudo-experts, says that "The novice can not tell the difference between experts and pseudo-experts and he is thus much more likely to follow the pseudo-experts simply because there are more of them. . . . Pseudo-experts can appear supremely confident which makes them so much more dangerous and likely to be followed by the novice."
Exactly—they're more likely, like con artists, to spend lots of time and effort on marketing themselves, crafting an impressive style, learning some impressive jargon, and—these days—social networking a lot to develop a following of yes-men. Like the blabbermouth, above. Some actual experts are willing to give up privacy, spend lots of time social networking, and put up with all the nonsense and time wasting this entails. Other experts value their privacy and are too busy thinking and innovating to play the social networking game. Since Google is the reality filter on planet Earth, it should be known that the big G is about to take all those in this latter group and wave their magic filter-wand and send them to an alternate universe. Their ideas, their brilliance, their innovations—all gone. Are we citizens of Earth all completely sure we're okay with this unwarranted banishment?
Curtis M. Faith, in "Way of the Turtle: The Secret Methods that Turned Ordinary People into Legendary Traders," says that "For every true expert, there are scores of pseudo-experts who are able to perform in the field, have assembled loads of knowledge, and in the eyes of those who are not experts are indistinguishable from the true experts. . . . Don't confuse experience with expertise or knowledge with wisdom." And, we might add—to Google—don't confuse plus ones, follows, tweets, shares, and likes with true indications of expertise. They are indications of popularity and/or self-marketing campaigns.
Paris Hilton was popular as an effective "bad girl" yet she has little to offer that we can see. Kim Kardasian is popular and has little to offer except a great backside. J.Lo, on the other hand, has a great backside, but on top of that has nearly EVERYTHING going for her. She's a successful singer, entrepreneur, dancer, actress, music video star, and businesswoman. All were equally popular at various times, but only J.Lo deserves popularity, plus ones, follows, tweets, shares, and likes. And yet the other two got or get plenty of these as well. So these things (plus ones, follows, tweets, shares, and likes) are good measures of media popularity, but will never come anywhere near being good measures of expertise.
And since AuthorRank will spring from both notoriously unreliable backlinks as well as the above social media signals, we can say unequivocally that Google has its work cut out for it to combine unreliable and unreliable and get reliable. One hopes this isn't them believing that minus times minus equals plus, because, although true, is it applicable?
Google's Overall Theory Flawed
The Google theory is that if someone is knowledgeable and writes on the Internet, lots of people will link to him and follow him and plus one him so he'll come up near the top of the SERPs. Their theory is that people with the most backlinks and follows have more important content. Our experience of the Internet shows that this is sometimes true and often not. Google's going to try to make up for the fact that it was shown over and over to them that "the most links" idea often was leading to low quality content. How? By letting the Authorship factor swoop in and save the day, like a superhero with a big A on his chest and, of course, a cape. How AuthorRank will be used in their algorithms is still to be determined in mid-2013; they're still experimenting.
One thing for sure is that, while their author factor will weed out some fakes and fools and send some brilliant writers' content to the top of the SERPS, it will also render invisible anyone who is shy about plastering his or her photo all over (along with his or her real name). If you value privacy (most people do), you can kiss relevance and decent SERP ranking goodbye. Unfortunately, this means that some of the best thinkers, the wisest people, the most innovative and insightful people's stuff will never be seen, since these are the types of people most likely to value privacy and least likely to want to be social networking junkies. All of which brings up the question, in light of Google's throwing these people out of their SERPS, is Google throwing out the baby with the bathwater?
Is Google throwing out the baby with the bathwater?
Unfortunately, the blabbermouth who manages to get other ignorant people to follow him is the image we get of social network junkies out to impress people, and yet Google has determined that that is the type of person and behavior they wish to highly rank in SERPs. Sometimes people write a lot, know a lot, talk a lot, and deserve the high rank. Other times the high rank goes to the blabbermouth. Sigh . . .
In our opinion, a person's work speaks for itself. Google is in the process of turning this on its head, and now a person's work is invalidated and low-ranked unless the person is willing to violate his own privacy instincts and principles and adopt the Google principle of sticking our names and mug shots in front of the world. Being shy introverts who highly value privacy, we find the idea of spending a lot of time singing our own praises distasteful, if not obscene. We are not braggarts, but modest, bashful people who also happen to be very smart, productive, creative, and wise (fact, not boast).
However, Google Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt made some headlines by saying: "Within search results, information tied to verified online profiles will be ranked higher than content without such verification, which will result in most users naturally clicking on the top (verified) results. The true cost of remaining anonymous, then, might be irrelevance." So anyone unwilling to dump privacy concerns and become a boastful braggart whose name and face are plastered everywhere is now irrelevant, and no matter how wonderful their written creations are on many different websites, we're told that no one will ever see them or read them. Our work, then, will not only NOT speak for itself, it won't speak at all! We haven't the slightest desire or inclination to become a Facebook and Google+ and Twitter junky.
Google is twisting our arms, forcing us onto Google+ where they can hit us with ads that make them money. Our alternative is to—at least on the Internet—cease to exist. Become irrelevant. Lose our traffic and whatever money that generated. It doesn't seem fair that they can use their position so ruthlessly to force us into their lair. Did someone say class action lawsuit? The millions of web authors that hate the idea of celebrity and giving up privacy will suddenly get dumped like yesterday's garbage. "For all of its potentially positive effects, the development of the human [authorship] algorithm does force the issue of privacy among Internet users back into the public arena, where opinions are certain to be sharply divided" says Ted Ricasa, on the 2013 Einstein Medical Blog: The Game Changer: Google Authorship. Perusing blog comments, we find most people saying they're hesitant to give up all privacy to Google—they very much value their privacy, and the implication is that they resent Google's shady method of ramping up Google+ membership.
Think about a classic duo: Steve Jobs was a born salesman, comfortable with demanding the world's attention. He was an extrovert, even if he was more introverted in his childhood—think of him as a closet extrovert waiting for the opportunity for his true inner extrovert nature to blossom and thrive and change the world. Steve Wozniak is a creative, innovative engineer who likes working and thinking alone. Would the Apple II computer have gotten much attention if introvert Steve Wozniak had merely showed it around to a few techie friends? And would introvert Steve Wozniak's personal computer ideas and designs have changed the world forever had there been no extroverted, charismatic cheerleader/visionary/salesman named Steve Jobs to demand the world's attention?
Would the Apple II computer have gotten much attention if there was no Steve Jobs?
So Steve Wozniac would rather think, create, build, engineer, test, tinker, and think some more—while alone and UNDISTRACTED, which allows incredibly focused attention. Out of this comes great engineering accomplishments. Steve Jobs would rather cheerlead, envision, network with others, demand the world's attention as he sales-pitched and told everyone he knew and everyone he met about the Next Big Thing. He was a charismatic communicator. Obviously, had Wozniac spent half his time sharing, re-sharing, plus-one-ing, posting, and commenting, then his focused, UNDISTRACTED engineering accomplishments would have been slow and frustrating and scattered.
The best thinking and programming and engineering REQUIRES undistracted, incredibly focused attention. We speak from years of experience, beginning in 1979. On the other hand, had Steve Jobs spent half his time sharing, re-sharing, plus-one-ing, posting, and commenting, (if that had been possible in the late 1970s—which it wasn't, of course), it would have gotten Woz's computer in front of lots more people and lots faster. All this social networking activity would have been right up Jobs' alley, combined with charismatic one-on-one meetings with strategic individuals. The combination would have made Apple bigger faster.
Sadly, however, most introverts know mostly other introverts—"nerds" like themselves who like to program and build and engineer and think. Most do not have a Steve Jobs, so most of their ideas do not hit it big. And if they forced themselves to spend half their time on Google+ and Facebook and Twitter, they'd only build/create/think/program half as much—if that.
Let's look at Google's biggest and most naive assumption of all: that when people find content valuable and useful, they'll give that website a natural link and/or they'll blog about it, often giving a link to the website in their post. This is gospel to Google. But is it true? Google, please forgive us, because we are about to commit blasphemy. Sorry! And we mean that—we really do WISH that these assumptions were true. But, sadly, they're somewhere around 90% false, 10% true.
We've had lots of people contact us saying how useful and helpful our tutorials are. None gave links, nor did they blog about it. They simply used our ideas and felt grateful for our work. Period. We've also sold software to thousands of users. Sometimes they're thrilled with the software and send us nice, complementary emails about how it was just what they needed. We use their comments in our sell pages. However, none give links, nor do they blog about it. So the idea that "when people find content valuable and useful, they'll give us natural links and/or they'll blog about it, often giving a link to it in their post" is wrong, mostly. And in no case are any of the software users or tutorial readers posting about us on Twitter, Facebook, or Google+. Mind you, there have been countless happy users that find our stuff useful and a perfect fit for their needs, and they do let us know. But no links, blog posts, or social network buzz. We have quite a few other sites, covering quite a few topics. Same deal there—we get comments but no links, blog posts, or social network buzz.
First, the good news: for people who blog about stuff that plenty of people are talking about, such as SEO, movies, news, entertainment, and religion, for example, people give links, likes, plus ones, follows, tweets, shares, and post about it in their blogs. This covers about 10% of all websites. You can see why Google and SEO blogs are thoroughly convinced that when people find content valuable and useful, they'll give that website a natural link and/or they'll blog about it, often giving a link to the website in their post. Both Google and SEO blogs experience that their subjects (Google and SEO) do get such results. But once you get away from such limited subjects, it's a different story.
Most websites, however, (90%?) are commercial sites selling whatever they can to whoever will visit; or they're tutorial or info sites trying to spread good useful, and sometimes unique content to visitors who want to learn from these tutorials and info. When people find content valuable and useful on such sites, they very very rarely give links and they rarely talk about it, post about it, or think about it, although they often email us good comments, which has absolutely no effect on SERPs. Okay, the customers that buy on these commercial sites now have a new fan. Or furnace filter. Or (fill in the blank). Any posting about it is self-generated by the site itself, not the customer, and any backlink to the site is generated by begging, trading, or buying—such links aren't coming about naturally.
So Google gives high ranks to big companies that can afford to spend lots of marketing bucks on Google and that can hire someone to spend all their time posting about the products on social networks and then they hire a webmaster to link their website to their 100 subsidiaries, and vise versa, and the cross-linking orgy begins. And Google gives them great SERP ranking.
Even if a smaller company did manage to beg a few links somewhere, they'd succeed only to the degree they made it a reciprocal link deal, which Google has declared useless. And no one will ever blog, post, or plus one related to this smaller company so there's no hope of getting off page 7—or worse.
The smaller company could have a vastly superior product, but no Googlebot will ever find a way to detect that, any more than AuthorRank will ever detect who really is expert and who is a pseudo-expert who cares nothing for privacy but spends a huge amount of time sell themselves on Google+ and Facebook and Twitter. Algorithms have no A.I. (artificial intelligence).
Admittedly, Google's ranking algorithms are the closest thing on Earth to ranking A.I. But being able to detect who is a wise thinker and who is a pretentious stinker? No chance! The personality of the extroverted, egotistical stinker is perfect for the social networking chore Google demands for good ranking, whereas the introverted, innovative thinker's personality is often no match for what Google requires of high rankers.
So AuthorRank A.I. is going to backfire, grabbing posers by the millions along with the actual experts that everyone has known about for a long time: Peter-Paul Koch for browser compatibility information, Limbaugh and O'Reilly for rightwing political views, Thomas Gordon for parenting effectiveness, etc. So—the rich get richer, the poor get poorer, the little guy gets the shaft once again, privacy is declared suicidal, introverts are declared persona non grata, small businesses get declared unimportant and irrelevant by the big G, big companies laugh all the way to the bank, and those that have, get. So what else is new?
So—the rich get richer, the poor get poorer, the little guy gets the shaft once again, privacy is declared suicidal, introverts are declared persona non grata, small businesses get declared unimportant and irrelevant by the big G, big companies laugh all the way to the bank, and those that have, get. So what else is new?
Tents—The Invisible Barrier That Keeps Some In And Others Out
Okay, now let us look at tents. Not the kind you can see. The kind that you experience. There are three tents we have in mind: the book publishing industry tent, the Hollywood tent, and the Internet tent. Tent? Let us define this: a tent is an invisible barrier that keeps some in and others out.
When book publishing started, it welcomed all comers—their liberal phase. The same is true in the earliest film production companies before unions were around in that industry. Again, it was their liberal phase. The Internet tent seems a bit more nebulous at first blush. In the 1990s the Internet was more inclusive and open—their liberal phase. But it doesn't take a rocket scientist to see what happened in all these industries. Call it greed, or call it money or call it capitalism. In a nutshell, what happened in all three is the transformation from being liberal and inclusive to being conservative and exclusive. Bye-bye free self-expression, hello shareholders. Hey, nothing personal—it's just business.
When enough players play, there evolves intense competition, and those that are big and successful begin to do what they can to keep others out. They're conserving what they have: power, money, position, reputation, influence. In capitalism, competitors do this by influencing those in charge to make exclusive laws, rules, and practices. And by buying out the little guy and killing his creations. And by dirty tricks. And by lobbying and influence peddling. And by getting others to besmirch the reputations of rivals. But they also do it by outspending the little guy, out-marketing him, and even outsmarting him. Examples of reputation sullying are convincing reviewers to denigrate competing works or people or products. Or using black hat SEO to give the competitor lots of backlinks from "bad neighborhoods"—crappy sites that lower our SERPs.
The end result of unfair business practices is: the tent. Everyone in the book publishing industry knows that you're either in the tent or out. Most people cannot get in—period. Some people, like Oprah, J.Lo, Hillary Clinton, the heads of Google or Facebook or Microsoft or Apple, or someone convicted of being a serial killer, can get in easily. Most people cannot. Let us say you're Joe Blow. You're the smartest, wisest guy ever. You write a book. You submit it. It gets returned, unopened. Then you go there in person and the secretary says go away—I don't know you. You plead your case but security ejects you. You buttonhole their publishing director in a cafe and he feels generous so he talks to you. How many books have you published? [None.] Who do you know that counts? [Nobody.] Are you rich? [No.] Are you willing to fly all over the country doing talk shows and book signings for as long as we tell you to? [No—I have a job—I'd get fired.] Why should we let you into our tent—we have the subject area covered by published, validated authors. Why should you take the place of one of them? Just who do you think you are? [So you won't even read my book?] No, but I'll be happy to wipe my butt with it—now get out!
Think the Hollywood folks are different? They're worse. The tent is made of even thicker stuff. There are endless script writers, actors, and crew people outside the tent hoping to get in. But there's a union to join and dues are not cheap. And then you have to already know someone influential. At least you need to have a relative in the business—good old nepotism. No one will read a script unless they know you and you are in a union. No one will hire you for your acting ability unless you're in their union and have connections. If you make a movie yourself and try to get them to look at it, no one will return your calls, answer your emails, or let you talk to them. They won't look at nonunion films with nonunion actors made by nonunion producers directed by nonunion directors with nonunion crews and writer. Not even the slightest glance—even if you pay them. But you can't get into their union unless you know someone influential, which you cannot possibly do, since you just got there. If you're lucky you may get to be an unpaid extra dressing up like a zombie and walking around growling. This isn't acting—it's just you doing them a favor. Get the picture? (But they won't get YOUR picture!)
Finally, there's the Internet. It starts out with freedom, liberal attitudes, come one come all. But the 90s are over and now the Internet—like everything else—is serious business. At first the Googlebots were looking for relevant text, keywords, and metatags, and we all had a decent chance to play. The scumbags started to game the system with keyword stuffing and other such tactics. Google kept making filters to keep the scum either indexed low or unindexed. The scum kept being more and more covert and clever and stealthy with their tactics. Google wanted lots of backlinks—so the scum got thousands overnight, not because of how visitors loved their site but because the scum loved money more than ethics. Google kept evolving and now that they see how fickle backlinks are, they want authors to dump privacy and submit to body cavity searches (okay, not really!). But the bottom line is that once again the big guys get the money and the SERP rank—and the little guys get shown the cyber-door.
The good news is that the big G is trying as hard as it can to create fair algorithms that give everyone a chance. But the effect of what they've done with their big, very complex filter is welcome the big, dump the small, and welcome the rich and the famous and the infamous, while locking the door when the little guy, the unknown genius, and the small business come knocking. They didn't do this out of meanness or even purposely. They did it because they tried everything else in their filters, and the scum kept clawing their way to the top via subterfuge or whathaveyou. But, as we've shown, the end result of making an AuthorRank factor that is good only for those in the tent, and bad for the unknowns, and murder for the unknowns who happen to care about privacy, is to let in those already in the tent and to let in those who care nothing for privacy. But for thousands or millions, for the thoughtful rather than the boastful, it will be throwing out the baby with the bathwater.
Tents, like castle walls of old, protect the big and rich from the serfs who will never get in. But is it fair?
Google, the Social Darwinist
How does social evolution fit into all this? Let us go back to our primate ancestors who decided who gets what on the basis of one alpha male per band who got the first pick at food and females, while the other males got leftovers but usually no lady action. It was all very win-lose. In Shadows Of Forgotten Ancestors, a book by Carl Sagan and Ann Druyan, they say that we can't wait for evolution to select more survivable genetics for ourselves; we need to use our intelligence and transcend any negatively aggressive proclivities; we must create a society that brings out the best in us and that no longer elicits so much of our negative potentials. They say we're absolutely not condemned to live out our lives in "a barely disguised chimpanzee social order." We have the ability to change and to transcend any tendencies to revert to primate instincts. Let's not make monkeys of ourselves due to greed, is Sagan's overall point. Just because we have greed and aggression in our primate instincts doesn't mean we have to get run by them. How about let's live conscious lives where we control both our response to our instincts and our overall destinies as well? If the best we can do is people killing people in wars and companies killing companies (nothing personal, it's just business!) then shouldn't we be in trees eating bananas because we've clearly made monkeys of ourselves?
Conservatives love survival of the fittest and many subscribe to Social Darwinism (at least subconsciously), which believes that those with strength (economic, physical, technological) flourish and those without are destined for extinction. It is a dangerous, erroneous theory because when applied to human culture, it says a few alpha male companies should WIN and all others should LOSE. Note the uncanny parallel between this Social Darwinism theory and the current setup of the Google SERP pages. Few people click links lower than the first few, so these first few win and the rest (and there are millions of these) lose. But Google has the gold, and he who has the gold makes the rules. This is known as the Golden Rule, though we must confess to preferring another version that advises people to do unto others as you want them to do unto you.
Okay, back to humans: Things start liberal in cave-man days, where there are few people around at first and no stuff to horde and no reason for win-lose fighting except against animals. We cannot know if women were passed around, possessed like property, or treated kindly or not, but it's obvious that cooperation amongst people in a small clan would be the most pro-survival, and fighting amongst themselves the least pro-survival. Survival of the fittest would be about health, size, hunting prowess, insightfulness, and sexual prowess. (The only true evidence of treatment of prehistoric women are the "Venus figurines" a.k.a. goddess statues, dating 35,000 years ago, which show people were in awe of women's reproductive abilities.)
Hence we say they started out as liberal, meaning generous (within their clan, where all would share in their kills) and permissive, as opposed to conservative, meaning pessimistically resisting change. The status quo would often have been very challenging, involving difficulties with food, shelter, water, animal dangers, weather, etc. So they'd logically have been seeking to change/improve their lives so that they had more and better resources re: food, shelter, water, safety. Change = liberal = progressive.
So people work and eventually acquire stuff. Populations grow so there would start being competition. Too many people? I want what you have, you want what I have, let's fight, then our whole group can fight, then (eventually) our whole country can fight. Everyone wants the stuff, resources, and land of everyone else. Some fight better, some are bigger, some are slyer, some are sneakier, some fight dirty or just plain cheat. Alpha males, human or chimps, insist on being at the WIN end of the WIN-LOSE stick, regardless of consequences to others. Some alpha males are natural leaders—others fight for them. This was pro-survival when a good leader did a good job of leading. Some people win and some people lose and end up screwed over and destitute, while others end up owning lots of slaves, things, land, resources. They build castles with moats around them to protect the people and things and treasure and kings and queens and soldiers in the castle. It was pro-survival when such protection evolved from competent leadership.
Okay, let's think about the evolution of the tent, which is a way for the big guy to flourish and the small guy to get smaller and end up like a serf. It's totally win-lose. Compare this tent to the castle wall and moat. Honestly, is there really any difference?! One is more visible and more honest.
But, functionally, the book and movie industries and the Internet are all playing the same game as the aristocracies from centuries ago. It was pro-survival, when lots of people competed for limited land and resources, to build protective structures to keep some in and some out. But is it pro-survival for one huge mega-corporation to monopolize and exploit Internet searches so that they become obscenely rich while other search engines go unused? It's very win-lose, and it's good for them, but bad for all other search engine companies. But that's capitalism, and they have the right and the freedom to do all this.
But now the stickier question: Should their algorithms be set up so that only a very few companies can prosper, while others whither away? (America was BUILT on the backs of small farmers and businessmen and businesswomen, and people in villages and communities—most people—had a lot of win-win in their ethics.)
The most extreme conservative Social Darwinist would say fine—let a few alpha male entities get rich while everyone else is rendered irrelevant, invisible, virtually non-existent. Let them whither away. The trouble here is that this THEY just referred to refers to MOST OF US! And we all need to remember that Google has become, functionally, our filter on reality, our information gatekeeper. Isn't there some way we can hold them to a higher standard—since they don't seem like they're going to adopt such standards on their own initiative?
Today's era of economic crisis has sent a powerful message: The age of "mercenary" capitalism needs to be ending. We must finally embark on a new age of sustainable, stakeholder-based capitalism, sustainable business models. Sustainable isn't only about clever, effective strategies. Sustainability interfaces with economics through the social and environmental consequences of economic activity. Sustainability economics involves ecological economics where social aspects including cultural, health-related and monetary/financial aspects are integrated. Sustainability "concerns the specification of a set of actions to be taken by present persons that will not diminish the prospects of future persons to enjoy levels of consumption, wealth, utility, or welfare comparable to those enjoyed by present persons," according to Bromley, Daniel W. (2008), "sustainability," The New Palgrave Dictionary of Economics, 2nd Edition.
As Leon F. Seltzer said in Are You a Victim of Predatory Capitalism?, "But in this country today, we seem to have drifted toward a mutant (cancerous?) form of capitalism, or free enterprise. One that's under-regulated, dysregulated—or both. . . . relentless opportunists—or corporations—frequently prevent others from succeeding through hard work, diligence, and perseverance. In other words, the American Way (not to mention the American Dream) has become increasingly perverted." And—once again—almost ALL of us are the victims of predatory capitalism.
In PREDATORY CAPITALISM: Bushism - Economic Fascism Dictating Foreign Policy, by Dr. James J. Crook, we hear that "the theory and unwritten Doctrine of Predatory Capitalism . . . is the re-appearance of Social Darwinisim (renamed) in the United States of America. . . . Social Darwinism is a 'survival of the fittest' philosophy, economically speaking, wherein poor and lower middle class people's only purpose in life, it is theorized, is to serve, and be eaten by, the rich and powerful as a legitimate law of Nature. This economic philosophy is spawned from the same discriminatory social mentality accounting for economic caste systems and the historical concept of human slavery." He goes on to say that corrupt business and corrupt government are in each other's pockets—and beds—and the result of this win-lose situation is the middle class shrinking and losing its wealth, wealth which ends up in the full-to-bursting pockets of big corporations and the upper class. Greed. Again. America, we can do better. If we don't, he sees the current oligarchy heading toward feudalism, complete with greedy aristocrats and an economic caste system of "mercantile princes." He reminds us that the only justification for any economic system and any government is the meeting of the needs of a country's people.
Crook sees the current oligarchy heading toward feudalism, complete with greedy aristocrats and an economic caste system
Is our government doing that? Are our corporations doing that? Do you trust our government to act in our interests? A 2013 survey by Pew Research finds continued widespread distrust in government. Only about a quarter of Americans (26%) trust the government in Washington to do the right thing just about always or most of the time, but 73% say they can trust the government only some of the time or volunteer that they can never trust the government. We love the USA and WANT to trust it. But we are not blind, deaf, or dumb—the evidence speaks for itself. We and a great majority of other Americans distrust the government, the corporations, and the incest between these two!
Both Liberals and Conservatives Hate Corporate Socialism (Where the Federal Government Favors Giant Corporations at the Expense of the Little Guy) "They are furious that there is no separation between government and a handful of favored giant corporations. In other words, Americans are angry that we've gone from capitalism to oligarchy."
Having established that most Americans are as dissatisfied as we are with how neither the government nor the corporations seem to give a crap about them, we continue perusing Google's values, according to what they do (as opposed to their values according to what they say, which we are not all that impressed about):
Google can say that the large variety of relevant search terms will spread the wealth around so that all good sites get a piece of the action. But we all know that big companies have the money to hire competent SEO people that do everything they can to grab ALL relevant search terms for themselves, and hire teams of people that dedicate ALL of their time to social media, while small companies do not have the money for this—especially since Google has recently been shafting them more and more in the SERPs, so they have less funds than ever. And if the mega-corporations come out first for nearly everything, is Google going to finally be fair and purposely spread the wealth and make their position tenth instead of first on many terms, even if this company spends a fortune on Google's AdWords? We doubt it.
We've certainly experienced plenty of Google searches where the site we know positively to be the most relevant site for the search terms is on page three or worse. We ourselves have some pretty unique content on a few sites and searching for it puts us on page seven, apparently since we're not on Google+ or Facebook and don't have time for such activity nor extra funds to pay for a social networking campaign. And yet the public would be served best if our content—the most relevant to the search terms—came up first!
In our opinion, content should speak for itself, not needing Google+ to leverage it into visibility! Admittedly we like Google's search engine a lot, in general, but dislike some of the unfair SERPs we encounter, and the incredibly time-consuming SEO campaigns (which require social networking campaigns which we are not interested in) which decent positioning requires. Many smaller companies simply don't have the budget in time or money to do such things.
And many authors don't wish to allow Google to force them to dump all privacy concerns. In our opinion, we should be able to use unique user names and avatars and be known as that. Look at the zillions of avatars that are all over the Internet in forums, game sites and blogs, just to name a few. It's what people are comfortable with. Rarely, people post their actual photos, but the vast majority feel more secure and comfy with alter-ego avatars and creative user names. Most people like this technique best, and feel vulnerable, exposed, and insecure with too much self-disclosure. If this was not true, the forums, game sites and blogs would be oozing with headshots and real names. BUT THEY ARE NOT. Here's a guarantee: they NEVER will be, unless USA becomes a police state complete with thought police and regulations against passwords and even curtains on windows (after all, Big Brother is watching and he's often not in a brotherly mood!).
A More Humane, Fair, Insightful, Wise Search Engine
An example of a search engine that a compassionate, fully-human society might evolve would be one that still weeded out obvious spammers, black-hatters, and truly irrelevant sites, but if there are really 30 to 100 very relevant, decent web site pages that strongly fit the search terms, why not rotate these 30 to 100 great sites through the top 5 positions so that Google quits giving away the store to the 5 biggest companies and telling the next 25 to 95 sites to go sit in the corner and pound sand up their butts? After all, the top 5 are virtually the only ones clicked on with Google SERPs, so how about fairness?
Google exposes its Social Darwinist leanings by setting it up so that a very few alpha male companies and authors get the banana and the others get the shaft—not even giving the less big or relevant companies the "leftovers," like our primate ancestors used to allow. Again, the above setup is an example of a search engine that a compassionate, fully-human society might evolve. Google, what are you in our world? What is your intention for the non-alpha male authors and companies with great sites and relevance? Are you part of the solution or part of the problem that is America's current economic woes? We agree that the best sites that come out near the top (30 to 100, depending on how many truly good results really came up) should be at the top, but our rotation idea is a billion times more fair, wise, and conscious than your all-too-revealing winner-take-all survival-of-the-fittest technique.
Google Is Speeding Up Our Transformation to Feudalism
ALL or nearly all big corporations seem to be acting like Social Darwinists. They set up policies and strategies so that just a very few alpha male companies and authors get the banana and all the others get the shaft. It's not only Google! But wouldn't it be utterly wonderful if either Bing or Google would become an example of a search engine that a compassionate, fully-human society might evolve, as described above? We're not holding our breaths, but we feel the money they'd lose (when the biggest corporations spent a bit less ad money on their site in protest) would be more than offset by the fact that the new policies would make them the overnight darling of the search engine world, the SEO world, the webmasters world, the techie world, and perhaps just the world in general. It would surely heal their reputation's flaws, in a burst of PR glory. But they are a mega-corporation. They make all decisions based on probable effects on the bottom line. They might even make MORE money if they followed our advice—who knows? (The less big companies might start buying more ads.) Bing or Google would consider our plan a bit risky. But anyone can see that they could change back to the old way if they did not like the results of implementing our plan. So it's not much of a risk, and they'd surely get lots of respect for trying.
Google and the rest of the mega-corporations all try to have a "do no evil" motto. And none that we know of ARE doing any intentional evil. But what about UNintentional evil? As Edmund Burke said, "all it takes for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing." The invisible capitalist market forces that are so dear to Conservative and Republican hearts are transforming our American culture and way of life into something quite remote from the original intentions of the Founding Fathers of the United States. What was dear to THEIR hearts was effective checks and balances and voting scenarios where our votes truly made a real difference. We categorically double-dare any American politician or corporate giant to look us in the eyes and tell us that "effective checks and balances and voting scenarios where our votes truly make a real difference" represents the current American reality!
Back to human social evolution: the liberal free-for-all evolved into the conservative protection of things and people and treasure once enough people owned enough stuff and some kings wanted what other kings had—usually land. They had gold as a way to pay for stuff, and no one could ever get enough, it seems. They wanted to be the biggest and have the most stuff and slaves and soldiers and knights and lands.
So feudalism had its aristocracy, serfs, knights, captured women and captured slaves. It had its class system and they got the Church in on it and the religions convinced people to accept their station in life as the will of God. No sense letting the underclass start dreaming about upward mobility! Know your place, the parents admonished the children. All this class stuff was great for those on top, but it made for a dreary life for those at the bottom.
This feudalism could never happen today, right? Especially in our great democracy, the USA. Right? Well, the democracy already functions like an oligarchy, due to the fact that the corporations run the show and keep down the little guy, and elections are shams where regardless of who votes for whom, we end up with special interests and the corporatocracy making the decisions behind the scenes. They may not be kings in palaces, but the corporate heads have been keeping down the little guy ruthlessly for decades, and the little guy's powers and choices and conditions and pseudo-communities are starting to resemble the situation the serfs were in a few centuries ago. And it is getting worse.
If the president takes a trillion dollars from us without asking and gives it to the huge "too big to fail" corporations, what you're seeing is merely an update to the taxes that were laid on the serfs in feudal times whenever the kings felt greedy. THEY didn't ask either.
If King Google and their king friends fix it so the kings in the big castles are the only ones who can get anywhere, and the serfs get to scrub out their outhouses for a pittance, you're seeing social evolution at work. It's all part of the social and political evolution that has taken Americans from being:
- rebels in the American Revolution
- to citizens in a new democracy
- to citizens in a corrupt democracy in which pretense, lies, and back-room deals abound
- to second-class citizens in an oligarchy
- and nearly to the scenario where we're simply rent- and taxes-paying serfs in a feudalistic society
In 2007, the subprime mortgage industry collapsed, and a surge of foreclosure activity occurred that put many "serfs" into the streets, and many saw this crisis as one generated by greedy bankers and others in the "aristocracy." Now the greedy bankers could be landholders and get renters and exploit the property they swiped from the "serfs." There are plenty more examples of how the current American scene is being reframed as rich vs. poor, owners vs. renters, royalty vs. peasants. A frog hops like crazy if dumped into boiling water, but acts calm if he's put into cold water and the water is heated slowly until it boils. Similarly, our Serfdom and the Feudal System: What's Old is New Again current slide back into feudalism is slow enough to hold back panic or rebellion but fast enough to be noticed and even remedied if enough people act in grassroots movements.
If you could see right through all the lies and pretenses of our leaders and politicians, what would you see? What is their true essence?
Feudalism is the only place all this greed can lead to in the long run, the only result of constant screwing over of the little guy, the only destination we can end up at with all this growth of corporations into power-wielding monoliths with fingers in all pots as well as the cookie jar. The powers-that-be answer only to the drumbeat of the obscenely powerful. If that's a democracy, then Paris Hilton should get the Nobel Peace Prize. For doing what? Why, what does that matter? She has money. Isn't that all that counts?! (Perhaps BEing is more important than being rich, and community and character trump wealth, as well.)
Voting for leaders to lead us is about as hollow and fraudulent an exercise as joining one of the two political parties. They are not leading. They are following. Do you think Bush pulling us into an Iraq War under false pretenses was just something he decided on a whim? Fat chance. The real powers-that-be did that. Was it a whim of Obama's to give away the trillion bucks as soon as he got into office, or tell us he'd never support tax breaks for the rich and then he turned right around and did exactly that? That was no presidential whim. That was directions from those in power—and we do not mean Obama. Notice that since we are not in a real democracy, we cannot vote for anything about these behind-the-scenes powers, and we wouldn't know how to vote if we could. This is by design. This is not paranoia or conspiracy theory, folks. It is simply having the guts to face facts. We have entered the ultimate phase of capitalism before things transform quickly through the stages of oligarchy to feudalism. Look around. Wake up! (And read all the web pages we've been linking to throughout this article before you make up your mind about anything. We are among great, wise company with these realizations. And our government will not be our savior. Our solution must be grassroots movements and civil actions in a context of community.)
This transformation, this social evolution into feudalism, is great if you happen to be the king or even one of his many knights. But for the serfs? The greatest disparity between rich and poor ever. The banks foreclosing on houses after getting them to sign unfair deals. The S&L Crisis, the housing bubble bursting, the US sub-prime mortgage crisis, the financial crisis, the market crash of 2008, the bailouts, the huge and growing gap between rich and poor, the decreasing corporate accountability concomitant with increasing corporate power, the sham that politics has become in the USA. These are all arrows pointing toward the same destination, and they're more like the swinging banjo in the 1972 movie Deliverance than they are like innocent road signs. No one is in charge here. There are no conspirators. Only one thing is in charge. And there can be only one final endpoint to infinite, unstoppable, limitless greed: feudalism, where the greedy kings rule and when they tell us to jump, we all reply: "How high, Sir?"