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Don't be fooled - If MS or Apple tried this, you'd complain

Though I can see where +AJ Kohn is comming from (and many others over the years),
they all seem to miss out certain somewhat darker points.

Google Corp is hypocritical.
They tell us not to create a bad User Experience by cramming out pages with adverts or forcing users to scroll down to find the content,
then flood their own SERPs with Adverts doing just that.
We are told that stealing other peoples content is bad - yet they will use your content however they see fit.  This includes displying your content in such a fashion that it may reduce CTR, and potentially causing an impact on your earnings.
Apparently we are meant to clearly indicate that a link is unnatural - yet they feel perfectly fine mixing some "natural" and "paid for" links together and utterly fail to tell the public some of the positions are paid for.

Google causes intentional harm.
Apparently they do have some form of Collateral Damage level.  The roll out certain changes knowing that they will impact innocent sites.
Worse yet, they do so whilst providing no means of rectification or rescue - they knowlingly sink some sites, and leave the innocent ones to suffer a loss of ranking and revenue.

They promote their own products over yours.
Though they do make some (tiny) effort to make it clear it isn't organic,
they will inject their own products/services at the top of the SERPs, forcing down the natural, organic listings that have earned the top positions.


So there you can see a company that is knowingly and intentionally causing harm, stealing content for their own benefit and doing what they tell others is bad.
Is that not "evil"?

If not - I dread to think what your definition of "evil" is!
 
Google's Evil Plan Is Simple (and not so evil)

Google’s strategy is to get people to use the Internet more. The more time people spend on the Internet the more time they’ll engage in revenue generating activities. As such, nearly every Google effort is focused on increasing Internet speed and access with the goal to shorten the distance between any activity and the Internet.

#google  
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I was thinking exactly the same thing the other day about the 'organic' content being way down the page in the search results. Very hypocritical. 
 
I've been railing against Google Corp for years ... and I'm still shocked at how many people seem to utterly fail to see the damage and dangers.

To me, the innocent harm and the stealign of content should get a reaction - but the vast majority still think G is "friendly".
That Google died 5+ years ago.
 
I agree. They give off a friendly image but no data is safe... including this comment. Hi Google :)
AJ Kohn
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Okay, I'll play the other side here.

Ads in Search

First off, get over it. It's a business. Fair is where you get cotton candy, not something you find in business. That said, Google views their ads in search as answers.

The quality score is part of the way they try to ensure that every ad is relevant. Remember that it's not that tough to match intent because the query is so specific. You can't say that about ads on a page.

And if they didn't have ads can you imagine the beating Google would take about how their algorithm locked people out of results. Paid search, in many ways, ensures proper coverage of results.

Collateral Damage

So every change has to be 100% positive? And Google has to handhold ever site that gets impacted? Sorry, but there's just no real world business that can do this. Maybe in Narnia but that's just not where we live.

It sucks but that's the reality. By and by, they do have a process set up for sites to talk to Google and while it's not perfect, it's more than a lot of companies would do. 

Aggregated Content

If you are an aggregator and deliver enough value then you'll survive, if you don't you're going to be disintermediated. That's business. 

You can choose not to participate (like Southwest has done in the airline industry) but you then need a plan to invest in advertising etc. Too many got fat and happy thinking Google would just be the traffic generating (and margin optimizing) machine forever. 

But I don't want to go to a weather site if I just want to know what the weather is right now. I don't want to know what day MLK day was on in 2012 by going to another site. That's not Google being evil, that's US being evil. We want things to be streamlined and easy, Google's just following along.

At any given point sites can choose to disconnect as Murdoch has threatened a few times. Google IS taking away light page views - those page views that probably don't even help the advertiser but do help those sites. What those sites need to realize is that those light page views are going away and that if they want to survive they need to provide more value or find alternate ways to make money.
 
I refuse to join the dark side :P
 
I think its good Google has this business model. Paid ads make up a lot of their income but its good for users in that Google uses this money to provide high quality free services such as YouTube, Gmail and Google+, etc! Thanks Google :)

The AdWords system works very well for advertisers that are relevant and hinders those that aren't. But I expect there are a few small businesses out there who can only afford to appear in the natural results and perhaps they are being pushed out a bit by the improvements in the visibility of the paid adverts and extensions.

But advertising is at the end of the day a business model and you need an element of advertising to make money out of your own business in any case. I don't even feel bad about Google being as big as they are, after all they've built a great search service and created great a brand image. 

I can help but wonder if the Google results was just another website and how well they would appear in the results of another search engine. :D
AJ Kohn
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I do think Google could do a lot better with giving small businesses a chance using AdWords +Dean Marsden. Right now I think Google seems to maximize revenue in the sort term there instead of thinking of it long-term.

The fact that broad match is still the default or that there isn't a very rich stream of email notifications about how a user can take advantage of numerous options to refine their ad targeting and efficiency is not thinking long-term. 

How many small businesses have said 'I tried AdWords once and it didn't work.' So ... here's a place where Google is not satisfying the user and need to really work to be better.
 
1>Google Corp is hypercritical.

Can't agree here, now if you had said hypocritical instead of hypercritical.... :)

Seriously, I find their interfaces for the most part (forums aside) to be quite good and the ads clearly marked and not taking up a massive amount of the content. A bit more than I would like maybe but I barely even notice them now.

2>Google causes intentional harm.
You don't even suggest this in your comments, you suggest Google is Ok with causing accidental harm  if it thinks that will bring the general quality of the search results up. 
Ok it sucks for webmasters, but probably good for the general public. Also if you only made an update when you were sure it wasn't going to harm ANY innocents, you'd never see any updates released. 
Manual fixes for sites mistakenly hit wouldn't do anything cos every spammer would flood that.

3>They promote their own products over yours.
True, but its their page. I accept that and I've found the labelling of which is which fairly blatant (if it says Google on it, its not your's! :) )
 
+AJ Kohn
Ads :
You ignored the Hypocrisy point (which was the issue raised).
Further, the opportunity to pay for advertising doesn't equate to G pushing your organicly earned rankings.

Collateral damage :
Did I say they had to be 100%?  No.
The focus was on the intentional ommision of providing a rectification method.  G have ensured that a (incredibly?) small number of sites will be incorrectly hit, with no way out.
(You cannot correct what is not wrong, thus you are forced to wait upon G to rollout an update that may/may not correct the problem - and you may face the same wait after correction?)

Content theft :
Again, you;ve ignored the points raised - those being that G is taking other peoples content and using it in a manner that is likely to prove harmful to the originator (less traffic, less conversions, less monetisation etc.).
As for the "disconnect" sentiment - highly unrealistic.  G have positioned themselves within an economy they created.  Things like ethics and morality are merely inconvenient things to be utterly ignored.
As for the concept of G doing what we want - I think it may be the other way around at times.  G decides to do something that is better for the "searcher", and the searcher likes it.  The order is moot mind you - as the point is that G is harvesting other peoples content and benefiting from it without permission.

G have refused to utilise additional crawlers.
The reason being they know they would be prevented from a lot of content they could benefit from, being forced to remain as a SE.
Instead, they are basically forcing the issue - either you let them rape your site and do as they wish, or you don't appear in the worlds largest SE.
There is no "or", nor is there an "opt out" of that.

+Steven Lockey
I think they are both hyper-/hypo- critical :D
(Though I'm now wondering if I typed the wrong one (may need to amend, TY))

Hypocrisy :
So you missed the whole thing about the paid inclussion in some of their "one box" results?
Or that we are told not to go ad heavy at the top etc., yet they do it?

Accidental harm :
I'm fine with that concept - it's inevitable.
The issue is the intentional harm and the lack of options for those caught in that net who shouldn't be.

Self favouring:
Solid point - but why not place theirs off to the side (oh, it would eat their ad rev.), or make it a link to a tool etc.?
Or place it after the top 3 (who, lets face it, should have "earned" those positions by following G's guidelines).

-

the simple reality is, if a site was doing some of these things (exc. the collateral & self favour), then G would rank them lower or ditch them.
G doesn't like sites that steal content.
G doesn't like sites that present adverts as natural links.
G doesn't like sites crammed with adverts
G doesn't like sites that are top-heavy with adverts
Yet they are happy to do so on their own site.
That's not good.

Throw on the intentional harm with no rescue - and it's evil.
AJ Kohn
 
Ads
I didn't ignore it but I'll make it more direct. Display ads are different than search ads. And BTW, who loses money when display ads aren't getting clicked more on sites? Reducing all that ad bloat on other sites reduced potential Google revenue.

And like I said, hypocrisy is all around us. Fair is where you get cotton candy. A restaurant sells a bottle of wine for an inflated price, I want to bring my own. Some may not even let me, others may charge an exorbitant corking fee. It sucks. But that's the way it is. (This is one of my poorest analogies IMO.)

Collateral Damage
I just don't see how this is any different than any other business. A small few get screwed, like erroneous billing that takes ages to get worked out. But why is Google somehow held to a higher standard? 

Content Theft
There's always been an exchange of content for traffic. I'm not sure where theft comes into play here.

But yes, the game has changed and if you're surviving or profiting on thin pages views (I check the weather, I want to know the height of the Eiffel Tower) then that's not a sustainable business model because users want it to be easier. 

And what about all those advertisers who buy into these sites with these thin page views? They're garbage views. What time is it in Lisbon now, oh, okay, great, I'm done. Do we not care for the advertiser? :)

Drive more value past these thin page views and you'll have a real business. 
 
First off--I think +AJ Kohn's article is well-thought and insightful that makes a lot of sense for the desire to drive people to be online more. The more people are online, the more they make money--with the view that online connectivity is a net positive to users. I think this really is Google's perceived goal and is the right path for the company to go down.

That said, I am increasingly seeing a more arrogant view from Google that is hard to ignore in the negative aspects for users, and this often occurs whenever a company gets too big (or has the wrong leadership) for its own good. It's a situation often sadly replicated where 1) Company X can do no wrong and it's right for the user/customer and 2) Company X's way is the only right way. Let's go down memory lane:

Pagination
Remember how +Jonathon Colman stood up and provided what he thought was useful for his users with regards to how to properly deal with multiple pages of products? Remember Google's reaction and how SEOs were up in arms about Google claiming it was wrong? The advice given by Google was awful and not well-thought out at the start (it did nothing for large websites). Eventually Google backed down by providing a new tag that was helpful for the users, but it was still the view at the start that there was only one way to improve the user experience.

Knowledge Graph
I'm sorry, but a search result within a search result is NOT a good user experience. If I'm looking for more information on Tron, I don't want to go to another search result, I want to go directly to a site that provides me the information I'm looking for. This isn't about providing a benefit for users, but an arrogance where Google can try to milk an extra revenue click.

Bing copying Google
That was the most vicious I've ever seen Google by complaining about Bing using click interactions. This was a PR attempt to stave off competition rather than work smarter to provide a better user experience that Bing couldn't easily use machine learning on.

In the end, it's Google's call and their results (to an extent where a monopoly exists to the detriment of competition) are of their own choice and making. Yet, one has to be realistic (in both ways) to recognize the amount(s) of good/bad things that are going on (not necessarily for the article, but at least with the debate here).
 
I agree with all above except that the acceptance of collateral damage no matter how small is immoral.

It might seem rational to a group of like-minded people but the damage will be far-reaching once it becomes generally known.
AJ Kohn
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Appreciate the comments +Micah Fisher-Kirshner.

Pagination
I think that's an instance of specific people not reacting well and not a reflection of the entire company's philosophy, but ... it wasn't (and still isn't) a high point for them and I frankly think we're going to see depagination in the near future.

I use the method I believe works best in the real world and that sometimes doesn't match up with what Google recommends and that's okay :)

Knowledge Graph
That's actually a good point. I'd prefer a lot of those links and clicks to go to the end destination instead of creating another search result. I'd like to hear from someone at Google as to why they think that interaction better suits the user. 

Bing Copying
It's funny I see that as one of the most humanizing points in Google's recent history. They were pissed that someone else was cribbing from them. I get that. To me Googlers don't mind getting beat on merit, but this was like having the Patriots spying on the other team before the big game.

The reaction was ... human. And it was harsh. It also happened to come at a time that Microsoft was doing a lot of PR FUD which was already putting Google in a bad mood.

Make no mistake, I think Google can be and is often a very sharp and ruthless business but I still wouldn't call it evil. They do think they're doing good and that could be scarier in the long run.


 
 
The road to hell is paved with good intentions.

I don't think Google is evil, but then again, I'm sure people said that about Microsoft early on too.

Edited to add: Microsoft lately seems to be the boy that keeps poking you. It's just egging you on to push you over the edge and it's best to just ignore them until they get bored.
AJ Kohn
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Exactly +Micah Fisher-Kirshner. I was close to putting a 'Have you heard the good news?' into the post. Because I think Google really does firmly believe that they can be a powerful force for good. And they might be right. I'm uniformly impressed with the Googlers I meet.

But ... at some point that type of faith and conviction can be ... troubling. So far they seem fairly immune to it but I think it gets harder as you get bigger and more powerful.

Power corrupts. Absolute power corrupts absolutely.  
 
nemesis follows hubris.
 
Fair : how about the concepts of "just", "correct" or "responsible"?
Will those concepts be treated with contempt?
Will those be deemed as worthy of disparaging, or flipped over for derogative comments?

There is nothing wrong with the concept of "fair"!
It's a solid ideal - and something to be striven for.
For every person that downplays such concepts, for everyone that defends contrary actions - the potential for abuse and misuse increases.
History is rife with examples of what happens when people decline to point the finger or stand up and say when something is "unjust".
And yet some people will sit back and say "it's a childish notion" or imply it's not worth the attempt to attain.
Such views is what permits humanity to commit attrocities.

At the end of the day, so long as people are willing to turn a blind eye, then G will contrinue to hold the perception that they are unaccountable, unresponsible and above reproach.
They won't feel the need to correct their mistakes.
There will be no pressure to do the right thing.
They will continue, freely, to cause harm without risk of punishment.

We aren't talking about websites.
We are talking about people and their livelihoods.
About peoples employment, homes, the welfare of their children.

If Google have corerctly adjudicated and slammed a spammer - then what they suffer is deserved.
Yet the fact they may cause the same sufferance to innocents, without means of correcting such negligence, is disgusting.
Worse, they know they are doing it!
They are intentionally causing some people to suffer estress, strain, possibly incurring additional costs and financial losses, needlessly - and think it is acceptable.

It is not.
 
'They are intentionally causing some people to suffer estress, strain, possibly incurring additional costs and financial losses, needlessly - and think it is acceptable.'

This argument could be used against any business that does well. 
Do you not cause harm/suffering to others every time you do something to get another site boosted in the rankings? How do you know you aren't pushing some mom/pop shop out of the 1st page sending them out of business.

How many phone companies has Apple sent out of business? The closures at Nokia could be directly attributed to Apple's rise, losing people their jobs.

The only difference is with Google is the scale, because they affect so many there will be ups and downs.

Can you suggest a SINGLE (non-manual) way to allow people to rectify their penalties from things like Panda/Penguin that the scammers and spammers wouldn't exploit? I think this is the big point you are missing. Anything that an affected business can use, the affected Scammers and Spammers can as well. Suggesting any manual intervention isn't going to work here either because of the sheer volume of them. 

At the end of the day Google are a business and work as such, the same as any other business. Its nice they also give a lot of freebies as well and don't employ dodgy tactics like MS, so it puts them on the 'Good' side of the scale.

Its not like a company is either Good or Evil, its all shades of grey.

Could they do it better? Maybe, but I think there is a reason all the major search engines do it pretty much the same.
 
I just don't see how this is any different than any other business. A small few get screwed, 

A Brave Statement?

Applied online that doesn't really put a lump in anyones throat as everyone is just text and pictures on a screen..

Take that same statement OFFLINE and you have a whole different ball game,

What happened to all the farmers and small businesses when the Big Guns moved into their street?

Generations of farming went down the plug, generations of small shops closed up because they can't compete...

The large Supermarkets/Chains tried to backtrack and say we will sell your local produce in our supermarkets,

They do , But at the tightest margins possible!!!

I just don't see how this is any different than any other business. A small few get screwed, 
 
I repeat: Google wants to introduce their own proprietary Internet. These points above are just symptoms.
 Whether you like it or not is another question. It depends on whether you have Google shares or not or another stake in Google's success. In the long run their domination will hurt everybody though.
I want a free Web not one dominated by a single multinational corporation that doesn't pay taxes anywhere.
 
I did type out a large response - but at the end of the day, it's merely wasted keystrokes.

There are always those that will support/defend such actions.  There are always reasons for not trying to save the minority. 
There is always a legitimate reason to refrain from making an effort to do the right thing. 
There is always some justification to salve a conscience.
History is rife with them.
The end result is stuff that we commonly refer to as attrocities or holocausts.

The comparison between G algorythmically smacking down innocent sites and denying them the opportunity of correction is not equaly to ranking adjsutments due to optimisation/promotion.
If you cannot realise that, then it's a wasted discussion.

It's not down to a matter of scale.
It's down to the fact that there is no recourse for the innocent.
That a bunch of sites, a bunch of people, have become victims - and there is no way of saving them (how do you get a penalty/filter lifted for a transgression you didn't commit???)

Instead of reasoned logic - I see excuses and justifications.
Rather than looking for solutions - I see shrugs and "oh well" sentiments.
 
"There is always a legitimate reason to refrain from making an effort to do the right thing."

Can you say with ANY certainty that its the right thing?
Can you show how to do it better?

"If you cannot realise that, then it's a wasted discussion."
If you can't demonstrate a way of doing it that won't be flooded by spammers/scammers, then yeah its wasted. Critism is all very well, but its not constructive unless you can suggest a better way.

"Rather than looking for solutions - I see shrugs and "oh well" sentiments."
Rather than suggesting solutions, I just see complaining :)
Also, all the sentiments you expressed about people struggling due to been penalise, are due to them ignoring the advice from Google and pretty much everyone else in the mean-time to not rely on the organic search results.  
 
For the first response - WTF!
Seriously?
You think that innocent sites being hit and there being no way to undo that damage is "right"?
That you think fixing the mistakes would be "wrong"?
For real?

What is with the whole "constructive"?
Why on earth do I need to be constructive?
I'm pointing out their failures and exploitations - I have no need to be constructive about it at all!

Oh, so because g have built a system that is prone to abuse, it's perfectly fine to let innocents suffer so long as G aren't flooded with false claims.

No - this isn't about reliance on G.  This is about failure to do what is right.

You keep changing the tact - whilst I remain on target.
You seem unable to follow that path of the arguement.

It's not difficult.

Google punishes those that transgress.
Google also punishes a tiny number of innocents.
Google refuses to provide a means of helping out those innocents after they have been incorrectly punished.
That is "wrong".

It's nothing to do with;
1) rankings
2) reliance on a platform
3) contructive critique
etc.

Try to stay on topic.

Try answering the following;
a) Do you think it is acceptable that G punish sites that break the rules?
b) Do you think it is acceptable that G may make the occassional mistake and let a bad site rank, or derank a good site?
c) Do you think it is acceptable that G do not provide a means to correct those mistakes?

If it helps - switch the context to things like bombing a village, or pushing a vacine that may have allergy issues to some etc.
Those are transferable/comparable (though more emotive).
Maybe then you'll see the line that others see.
 
Its entirely relevant and to the point, the fact you don't like it doesn't mean its not valid!

Simply put, can you blame Google when there doesn't appear to be a better option? 
Would you prefer it if the SEs didn't exist? Would that make the world a better place? 

Pretty much the answer is no. At the end of the day, everything is evil on some scale. On the whole Google do good. 

a) Yes
b) Yes
c) Yes - If no-one can suggest a way to do it better than is currently been done, which I've not seen anyone able to do. 

At the end of the day its a private website. We don't have any right to complain about which sites rank there, any-more than if you decide you like my competitor's site more than mine and link from that on your home-page. 

Any anguish/pain/suffering caused by loss of ranking in Google is caused by the Business owner/Web-master relying too much on Google, its not Google's responsibility or fault. Putting it at their feet is fairly ridiculous. If they had revenue sources in place like they should have, its dam annoying but not the end of the world.
 
What is valid?
You've made poor comparisons that don't transfer.
You've provided justification points and little else.

Yes, I can blame Google (obviously, else I wouldn't have made the post).

No SE's?  Now you're resorting to childishness.

Yes, it's a private site - but offering a public service, utilising what other public sites possess, and claiming it shows the best, the most relevant etc.

Again with the "don't rely on G" angle?
:sigh:
It's not the reliance that is the issue - nor is it the degree of "damage"; it's the willingness to potentially harm, and the decision to not attempt rectification that is being questioned.
It is their responsibility - it is their engine, their methodology, their decision.  They actively chose to role out a method that was known to have fault.  Rather than roll it out with measures in place to correct things, or planning to fix the issues as they arose, they rolled out with no intention of fixing things at all.
 
Which is why I'm pointing out that not only is your argument based in ideology but that its completely impractical in the real world. 

By your standards, can you name ONE for-profit company that would pass? 

"It is their responsibility - it is their engine, their methodology, their decision."

No, its not. Its their responsibility to make sure the engine returns the best search results possible for searchers. Thats it. That is there job. They have ZERO responsibility to webmasters or companies at all.

"the decision to not attempt rectification"
If there is no reasonable way to implement rectification then there isn't really a choice here..... Either show a reasonable (non-manual) way to implement this or its not a point at all. Its just asking for the impossible.

"They actively chose to role out a method that was known to have fault"
Its pretty much impossible to make a perfect patch.....

Basically, in the real world, if Google did what you are suggesting they should, they would never update the algorithm (because they couldn't be sure it wouldn't cause harm) and the search results would be flooded with scammers. 
 
You missed the point.
G are crippling innocent sites -t hat are good (else they wouldn't be innocent).
Therefore they are Not returning the best sites.

The rest ... it is not about causing harm, it is about doing so intentionally, and not attempting to remedy the issue.

It is not impossible, nor should it not be asked just because it would be "effort".
The logic you suggest may result in G killing off most of the sites and returning only a fraction of possibles.

Further, the logic/justificaiton for "real world" is one of the reason we have such strife.
Maybe if more people had the spine to say "no", things wouldn't be so bad in the first place?
 
"They actively chose to role out a method that was known to have fault"

Perfect? No... Better than anyone else? Yes

"The rest ... it is not about causing harm, it is about doing so intentionally, and not attempting to remedy the issue."

I don't doubt the harm is caused unintentionally to innocent sites and they do make efforts to rectify it, by making the algorithm better. 

"It is not impossible, nor should it not be asked just because it would be "effort"."
Then suggest how... that wouldn't be abused by spammers...

The justification is because we live in the real world, which doesn't deal in black and white, it deals in shades of grey.

If we said no to everything that might possibly cause some harm, we wouldn't have ANY medicines since ALL medicines are potentially harmful, no industry of any sort... and no food production so we all starve to death. 

EVERYTHING has a downside. Everything. 
 
Oh, so you now resort ot mitigation by comparison to others.
So it's fine for me to bomb a vilalge and kill innocents so long as;
a) I kill fewer innocents than anyone else bombing villages
and/or
b) I kill more terrorists than anyone else bombing villages
?
(Okay, extreme example - but I hope it shows how poor the logic is)

Attempting to fix it algorythmically ... yes, I believe they are.
But - look at how long that takes ... and there is every chance that those sites suffer the wiat-out period as well.
That means they may suffer for Months ... for no reason!

The reason for the Grey is because peopel chose to have it that way.
There is wrong and there is right, and there is land inbetween.  But that land will be either whiter or blacker that others.  Claiming it is all "grey" is incorrect.
It then falls down to semantics and sleighting - the realm of politicians and legals so they can get away with what they wish to.

And - again - it is Not about Causing Harm
Is That Clear?
Do You Actually Understand That Point?

It Is Not About Causing Harm!

It is about failing to provide measures or take action to help deal with the harm that may occur.

Got it?
Make sense yet?
Do I need to explain it again?
 
Well if everyone is bombing everyone else's village, it won't matter cos we are all dead :)

The point I was making that you missed completely was, if everyone is doing it like that, theres probably a damm good reason why it is done like that even if you can't see it. 

There have been several attempts to do it via human based search engines, they are failed horribly. 

"But that land will be either whiter or blacker that others."
Your forgetting that different parts will be different to different people, right, wrong and 'the greys' are no absolutes.

"It is about failing to provide measures or take action to help deal with the harm that may occur."

They do, they just don't do it in the way you would like, instead they try to do it algorithmically. 

I already understood what you are saying, perhaps you should try and understand what I'm saying instead of repeating the same point over and over. Because they already do what you are complaining they don't do, they just don't do it in the way you would of liked.
 
Yes/No.

I understand your views (and those of AJs etc.).
I can even see why they may be held, and agree up to a point.

But to my mind, the lack of manual intervention and letting a few sites suffer as they are is "wrong".
(Unequivocally, unjustifiably etc.)

I don't have anything against the algo appraoch (it's logical, efficient, scalable etc.) - but in the cases when they know there will be problems, they should be doing "more" and "differently".

They could flip the switch on the good site badly labeled - solving the problem.
When it comes to testing and improving, all they have to do is flip the switch back on their test sets (and lets face it, including a copy of the innocent sites would be smart).
That would solve for all, would it not?
 
True, except for the minor problem that EVERY site that got de-valued and we both know that most 'penalties' are simply sites losing credit from stuff they shouldn't have been getting credit for, and they would all go and submit for a manual fix. 

Which is pretty much what a reconsideration request is already. Ok it doesn't address the algorithmic changes, but can you imagine the problems that might cascade through the system if they started manually boosting sites? Its a whole can of worms I wouldn't want to open if I worked at Google. 

Also it would be open to legal challenge (you boosted their site, you should do mine as well) which is another nightmare.
 
The problem I have is they do Manually alter some sites (usually downwards, but sometimes they have gone in and lifted an incorrect flag or whatnot).

Which is why the whole automated approach is so stupid, dangerous and negligent.  G knows from experience they have to make corrections.  But someone, somewhere has decided to let a tiny % of sites burn, to leave people suffering.
 
As far as I'm aware, the only manual 'uplifting' they have done is to remove a flag that has been manually added to a site. I could be wrong there but I'm not aware of any examples otherwise. 

With the sheer number of websites and changes, I don't think anything other than an algorithmic approach is possible, not to mention that if a site is manually boosted, it could easily be converted to a spam/con site and it would still rank very well thanks to the manual uplifting that wouldn't be removed until someone at Google noticed it, which could be years.

I don't disagree that in a perfect world that would be the case and they would do it manually, I just don't see how it would be practical to do so without it causing massive problems in the long-run. 
 
I encountered a few such issues whilst being a TC (amazing some of the issues that exist - and only G can deal with them!)
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