I hadn’t realized it until a couple of days ago, but Comstock Films had a celebrity visitor comment on my Will Google Kill Comstock Films post of a few days ago.
Matt Cutts is the head of Google’s webspam team, and if you spend any time surfing around the SEO-osphere, you’ll see his name come up rather frequently. Since that comment, Matt and I have had a bit of correspondence about sex on the internet
I worked on Google’s SafeSearch filter years ago, so I know that distinguishing between the “good porn” sites compared to the “regular porn” sites is a hard
problem. I used to be able to reel off names like Jane’s Guide, Persian Kitty, The Hun, Greenguy, Luke Ford, etc. These days I haven’t worked on porn-related stuff in years, so I’m less familiar with the space compared to how I used to be.
In fact, I’d be curious to hear your take on what several the highest-quality porn-related sites would be these days. I’m familiar with stuff like fleshbot.com or nerve.com, but less so with sites like tiny nibbles or erosblog.com. If it sounds like a lot of work for an email, you could also do it as a blog post. I’d be curious to hear what some of the leading lights are in the porn industry these days, and I’d be able to point a few people at it to make sure that we work on distinguishing higher-quality sites from run-of-the-mill sites.
I’m no expert, but it’s hard for me to image what sort of algorithm would be able to distinguish the highly entertaining, very intelligent, but often utterly filthy Pretty Dumb Things (apparently still in the Google penalty box) from run-of-the-mill sites that use similar language in similar quantities, and even in similar, but tremendously less artful ways. That’s not just my opinion either. An interview with the site’s author will be appearing in next week’s edition of The New York Observer, one of Gotham’s most influential weekly papers.
Perhaps that’s why Jane’s, Persian Kitty, etc were successful. Maybe distinguishing run of the mill filth from quality smut takes the human touch. Of course that’s not perfect either. In spite of each of our films taking prizes at film festival, including non-erotic film festivals, Jane has yet to bestow her Quality seal on ComstockFilms.com
In any case, I will give it some thought and see what ideas bubble up. If nothing else, your and apparently google’s ignorance of Violet Blue is a place to start. With nearly a dozen well-loved and best selling books about various aspects of sexuality to her credit, I’d rate her as probably the most authoritative, respected, and independent sex writers on the internet.
My wife and I have been hashing this around for the last few days, and some thoughts are starting to coalesce. A couple of things:
The sex industry is, if not actually dominated by, at least characterized by businesses which make their margin by *not* giving people what’s been promised (There is no sex in the champaign room.) By and large, this is possible because of the shame that surrounds sex.
From the outside, the core of Googles core business would seem to be Relevance. Perhaps value-laden taxonomies, like “good porn” vs. “regular porn” are not a useful way to parse the sexual content of the internet. Rather than “distinguishing higher-quality sites from run-of-the-mill sites” perhaps the challenge is to distinguish sexually oriented sites that are what they say they are and offer what they say they offer, from those site that are not and do not. (There is no sex in the champagne room.)
Up until recently, my vision of Google has been a rack of yellow pizzabox CPUs. I have, since my initial post, become substantially more educated about the inner workings of Google (in light of my ignorance, this is not a strong statement,) and have come to realize that I had substantially underestimated the importance of Google’s human assets.
With that in mind, I’d point you to the Boing Boing post in which Violet Blue offers, “I’m guessing that whoever might’ve tested their sex searches didn’t know the difference between Comstock Films and your average skanky porn film site.” Laying aside “skanky” (which is hardly a value-neutral descriptor,) being able to distinguish between Comstock Films, Vivid Video, Evil Angel, Bang Bus, and a TGP link farm would seem to be a key component of producing relevant search results.
As to your question about my take high-quality porn related sites, I don’t know that I’m the person to ask. I have a vitriolic hatred of nearly all porn, both what is produced and how it’s produced. I take my inspiration from the new generation of sex toy makers (Vixen Creations, Njoy Toys, Fun Factory). They make their money by offering well made products, sold honestly. This approach would bankrupt most porn companies inside of a month.
But I do understand what you’re getting at, clean sites, trusted sites in the community, and all that. With that in mind, via my blog I’d like to open up your question my readers and our community. While some of them might enjoy jacking off to Bang Bus (yuck!), none of them like being ripped off or led astray. If Google is truly interested in delivering relevant search results in this area of inquiry, there’s a wealth of knowledge that can be tapped.
I think it would be a great question to open up to your blog. Maybe a good way to do it would be to ask people what their favorite three sex-industry sites are? I’m guessing that you would also be able to use your industry knowledge to prune the lamer suggestions for sites that don’t add value in some way (e.g. deleting cookie-cutter sites that don’t have any original content or links, and only exist to shunt people somewhere to make money).
I’d be curious to see what sex sites people really valued.
It would seem that Comstock Films has caught, or at least been caught up in the Zeitgeist. Just yesterday on my post Google Fails When Language Fails, Part 2 I quoted a Times Online article about a theoretical wiki-based challenger to Google’s algorithm-based approach. Then just this morning I see there’s a Q&A With Jimmy Wales On Search Wikia, the same fellow quoted in the Times Online article I posted. The human touch seems to be the topic de jour in search.
Meanwhile, whether you subscribe to the Google Porn Purge point of view, or the It’s Happened to Other Industries and It’s Just a Bug point of view, it’s pretty clear that something’s amiss in the High House of Search.
An overly aggressive algorithm when it comes to sexual language, especially sexual colloquial language is certainly an explanation for how sites like TinyNibbles.com, Pretty Dumb Things, or our own Comstock Films could ever be mistaken for spam sites. The implications of that spin off in all manner of troubling directions.
Alternately, if it’s Merely A Bug, and this happens all the time in other industries, the implications of that aren’t particularly reassuring either. (Especially not, if like me, you’re holding Google stock.)
Some of you might be old enough to remember it was human indexing that made Yahoo such a useful tool in the early days of the internet. (I’m not bragging, but back in day, two of Peggy’s projects go the Yahoo Sunglasses of Cool.) Of course the internet exploded, overwhelming Yahoo’s human indexing capability, and pretty soon the only way to get listed on Yahoo was to pay them, completely devaluing Yahoo’s listings, and opening the door for Google.
I’ll confess, my faith in Google has been, shall we say, a little naive. You won’t even find meta-tags on Comstock Films, because I always figured that with the crunching power of those millions and millions of yellow pizzaboxes, *actual* content would count for more than meta-content. We’ll be adding meta-data ASAP, but it looks like we’re a little late to that party.
If Jimmy Wales is to be believed, actually human beings actually looking at webpages is the wave of the future. Will “Real People, Real Search, Real Results” be the tagline of the company that displaces Google? (More importantly, if it comes to pass, how will Comstock Films fare in this new order?)
Meanwhile, Comstock Films’ google ranking on our core search terms has crashed again, this even time worse than before. In some cases so low I quit clicking to the next page when I saw we were out ranked by zoophilia sites. (That’s people having sex with animals.)
Does the googlebot really think that people searching ‘couples porn’ are looking for pictures of women getting fucked by horses? I’m not ready to take a short position, but I do think I’m ready to sell half and look for other opportunities.
And oh yeah, Matt’s question looks like it just begging to be my first ever blog meme:
What are your three indespensible sex URLs and why? Me?
Violet Blue’s Tiny Nibbles
As far as I’m concerned, Violet is the internet’s most passionate voice for sex being treated in an intelligent, adult and fun-loving way.
Adult DVD Talk
ADT is giant repository of viewer-written reviews of all sorts of porn, erotica, and adult films (pick the name you like). I rarely read them. I am, however, addicted to hang out in the ADT Discusion Forums. Purile enough to make things fun, smart enough to keep things interesting.
It’s where I shop when I want something new to shove up my ass.
Your turn, Matt. And everyone else too!