Sweatshop blogging. Good for marketers, bad for writers.

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A recent post by content guru Christina Gleason uncovers the dark underbelly of what Google considers good practices for creating link bait. For any of you who don’t know, link bait is simply the act of spreading content on the web (in this case, just like fertilizer) in the hopes that you’ll get people to link to your site. Matt Cutts, head of Google’s webspam team, is an advocate of creating fresh and interesting content as a way to increase rankings. In a recent video , he seems to contradict himself. In the video Mr. Cutts is suggesting using a service called Amazon Mechanical Turk, which many writers feel is akin to a sweatshop that employs writers. Mechanical Turk is dirt cheap, and in my opinion, exploitative. Getting something for nothing because a new technology allows one to do so is not a new idea. Remember when “desktop publishing” took the world by storm? With the proliferation of computers that could handle graphics-based software, anyone with a Mac or PC was suddenly calling themselves designers, even though they had no formal knowledge of color, typography, design, etc. These self-proclaimed designers also knew nothing about how to price the market and often undercut professional designers, thus turning the design world on it’s ass for a bit. In the short term, it was bad for everyone because these “designers” were churning out terrible logos, websites with animated flames and hard to read content by the bushel load. But as design became more and more of a commodity, clients quickly saw the need to stand out. They realized the adage that “just because it’s cheap doesn’t mean it’s good” and came to their senses, going back to professionals who could tell the difference between a serif, slab and sans-serif typeface and who charged accordingly for their services. I believe we are in the same situation here for the written word. While it may take some time, at least we don’t have to put up with over-animated flames.

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