My good friend Dale made what I think is an exceedingly interesting discovery. Let me quote a bit of his email:
For reasons related to a joke, I did a search on Halliburton in Google. Got the following response:
- Home page of Halliburton with links to many newspaper articles rebutting critics’ allegations of improper conduct.
www.halliburton.com/ – 17k – Cached – Similar pages
Okay. But, I don’t see that text in the page. Nor in the page source. This description, with a prominent mention of rebuttal of improper conduct, doesn’t seem to be in either the current page or the cached page. So who came up with this description? Google?
So the description comes from the open directory project. An entry quite deep, and in an dissenting view. Could just anyone become a volunteer editor for certain categories and modify the entries of major websites to be whatever they wanted? Why should Google or I trust this?
Or am I missing something?
A very good question – thoughts anyone? Is this just somebody at Google being mischievous? Dale later pointed out that the same is true of IBM. Google’s description of their home page is taken from here, and while that description’s uncontraversial, it does raise the same question…
Update: What’s more, it happens even on important sites! Google’s description of Status-Q also comes from DMoz. I think I submitted this entry, back in the days when the weblogs section had a couple of dozen entries!
The general problem here, I guess, is to decide whether the owner of a site gives a more balanced description of it than the editors of some moderated third-party site. Perhaps it’s not such a bad practice after all. Unless you’re Halliburton.