The Useless Web: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

First, we’ll start off with the bad. That’s simply when you go to a page you thought would contain the content you were looking for, and all you get is this:


Of course, many websites (such as Livejournal in this case) have very creative 404 pages, which tends to reduce the sting a little bit.

Then, there’s the Ugly. These are data aggregators which are designed by black-hat SEO types; their only purpose is to get you to click on links for which they will be paid. For example, this morning I was looking for a reference to the “smiler“, an alternative punctuation mark which I first heard about in the early 60’s, about the same time as I learned of the interrobang. The “smiler” looked like this: ‿ and was designed to function as an irony mark, this long before the invention of the emoticon. Unfortunately, the preponderance of the latter, combined with the ubiquitous “smiley face,” has all but buried any possible reference to the mark I was looking for, and indeed it might have had a different name.

At any rate, I Googled for “alternative punctuation,” and the first hit on the list was this:


This, children, is called “spamdexing.” The Wikipedia article referenced above also calls it “search engine poisoning,” and that’s about as accurate as you could want. I left a comment on their website, to wit:

“Here is a perfect example of one of the worst evils of the Internet – aggregators that offer nothing but hqiz , and pollute valid search results. This page has virtually zero to do with alternate punctuation (for example, the interrobang) and instead plugs in an SEO search phrase plus reams of unrelated camel ejecta. Thank you very little.”

Unfortunately, the web is full of this sort of douchebaggery; even “more legitimate” information aggregators such as Ask, FixYa, or Yahoo Answers tend to be full of sound and fury but signify nothing. For a diligent web searcher, it means “looking for the ruby underneath the rot,”[1] shoveling through the horse manure to find the pony, processing 10 tons of ore for one ounce of platinum.

Lastly, there’s what I consider the Good. This kind of website can be found at The Useless Web, an aggregator of totally useless but often downright amusing or intriguing single-service web pages written by everyone under the sun. More fun to waste your time with than watching the bread rise. An example of one which made me laugh is here. You can thank me later.

The Old Wolf has spoken.

[1] Life Is, Kander and Ebb, from “Zorba.”

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