Reno - 12:20 am on Feb 28, 2010 (gmt 0)
We do it when we don't pay close attention to the details of what Google actually does say
Agreed, but in cyberspace just as in the real world, perception is reality. Having muddied the waters, it's up to Google to clearly and unambiguously make it crystal clear that link trading cannot hurt in any way. That is to say, it may not help with PR, but it won't hurt either.
Like most people here, I run multiple websites. There was a time when I regularly got unsolicited requests from website owners (NOT just SEOers!) to exchange links -- now, it is just a trickle. Yes, there may be several factors for that, but overwhelmingly it is because of what Google did. If there is a wrong impression out there, then it's up to them to make things right, since they're the ones who created the confusion in the first place.
When the king sneezes, the people catch a cold.