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the problem that plagued the first generation of search engines such as Altavista now seems to be gaining traction on Google, which outdistanced those earlier rivals precisely because it dumped the spam so effectively.
Atwood consulted Matt Cutts, Google anti-spam king:
"We did a ton of due diligence on webmasters.stackexchange.com to ensure we weren't doing anything overtly stupid, and uber-mensch Matt Cutts went out of his way to investigate the hand-vetted search examples contributed in response to my tweet asking for search terms where the scrapers dominated. Issues were found on both sides, and changes were made. Success!"
Except it isn't really success. It's a temporary respite. As Atwood points out moments later, "Anecdotally, my personal search results have also been noticeably worse lately. As part of Christmas shopping for my wife, I searched for 'iPhone 4 case' in Google. I had to give up completely on the first two pages of search results as utterly useless, and searched Amazon instead."
Placing warnings (like the malware warnings) on participating sites would also send a clear message.