Rosalind - 12:09 pm on May 26, 2012 (gmt 0)
Not so many years ago the web used to be all about infinite monkeys with typewriters. Auto-generated mega-sites were making use of every long tail phrase you could think of, and the web was exploding in size. Then the concept of a crawl budget was introduced, and more recently Panda has stamped down on those sites using multiple articles on similar topics.
That has curbed some of the internet's excess pages, but it doesn't seem to be doing much about waffle at the level of each individual page. In fact the situation seems to be getting worse: if you take Twitter, people are rewarded with more followers in proportion to their volume of tweets, almost without regard to what they're saying. Twitter's discovery isn't the web, but I think it's representative of where we're at: there's still an element of the more words you use, the more likely you are to be found in any search engine. There's no obvious penalty for not being concise.
I think if the web experience is to improve we need to find ways of tightening it up. Keyword stuffing has already been a target, but what about all the other fluff that makes articles harder to read? I'm thinking of overused filler words, passive sentence construction, and repeating the same idea using synonyms. There's at least one very good piece of software that will highlight this in your text, and search engines have improved their synonym recognition capabilities.
Maybe we can get away with waffling now, but I don't think it will be long before the algos will be able to detect overweight copy.