Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Even paranoids....

I'm not the most diligent of bloggers, by any means, and the contents of this blog are pretty narrow in terms of topics. Mostly I have written about Google books, about RDA and other library metadata developments, and recently about OCLC. Although each post is probably offensive to someone out there, the total number of enemies that I can make is probably quite small -- and compared to some bloggers nearly infinitesimal.

So imagine my surprise this morning when I received a notice from Google saying that my blog had been marked as Spam, and would be removed if I didn't take action. There are two ways that your blog can get the Spam qualification: 1) if it is caught by Google's automatic spam detectors and 2) if someone clicks on the "flag blog" link and reports it as spam.

Given the technical nature of my posts, I find the first possibility highly unlikely. This means that I must consider the latter. I hope it is only coincidence that my latest post (and one that has lingered here as the latest for a bit too long, perhaps) is a critique of OCLC and its record use policy. I would love to be able to say that I know that OCLC would not stoop to this kind of censorship, but unfortunately I have experience to the contrary.

Earlier this year I arrived in Dublin only to be refused admittance to a meeting that they had agreed that I could attend (and that I had flown all of the way to Ohio to attend). Than, a few months ago when OCLC was told that I would be writing an article for InfoToday on their "web-scale service" the journal's editor received numerous phone calls from OCLC's press person voicing OCLC management's "concern" that I had been chosen to write the article. What the editor was supposed to do about that concern wasn't articulated, but she kept me on the story and even resisted their request to review the article before it was published. It was a dramatic couple of days, and I'm very grateful to her for her unwavering defense of freedom of the press.

I admit that it is at least equally likely that some random person with a cosmic grudge decided to click on "this is spam," but you may understand why I'm beginning to be a bit paranoid, and wondering if I don't have real enemies.


Jeffrey Beall said...

I swear I didn't do it!

Their help screen says, "Because this system is automated there will necessarily be some false positives, though we're continually working on improving our algorithms to avoid these. If your blog is not a spam blog, then it was one of the false positives, and we apologize."

So, it's just like information retrieval: full-text searching and ranking algorithms have low precision and often fail; deterministic metadata increases precision and increases successful retrieval.

The OCLC experience sounds horrible, and I am sorry you had to go through that. Some aspects of OCLC are malevolent.

Anonymous said...

I've had the same experience with OCLC. They have a serious Cold War PR department, complete with enemies list.

Jonathan Rochkind said...

Wow, you arrived at a meeting you had been invited to, and they woudln't let you in?

That's just ridiculous. My opinion of OCLC is lowered yet further.

And I wonder how long until I receive the same treatment, I wonder why I haven't yet.