Planet13 - 6:03 am on Feb 14, 2011 (gmt 0)
So what are the takeaways from all this?
1) A moderate* amount of Spammy / paid links (the article cited a little over 2,000) did work quite well for getting the number 1 or 2 position in the SERPs on HIGHLY competitive keywords.
2) Even after the recent algorithm change, those results would only drop a few spots (I think the article said the average JCP SERP was knocked down to between #4 and #5 after the Algo change).
3) Google is not particularly good at detecting spammy / paid links, even on sites that they have already penalized or were determined to be in violation of the Terms of Service.
4) The -50 penalty is not a myth.
*NOTE: I said moderate because 2,000 back links is not that much considering that a lot of spam software can generate 30K back links A MONTH or more (way more, if you have the resources, such as a dedicated server and the cash to pay for lists of sties).