Well, I can’t say I haven’t tried ashes. I can vouch for both the taste and the consistency, and the smell lands somewhere between “work-from-home-sweatpants” and “garbage, lvl. 60”, the kind Google recently has set its own Kung Fu Panda upon. I never worked directly for Demand Studios but I did, during our desperate month (without classes at the end of the summer when all of Zafra is dreading coming back from the beach), work under someone else’s name in the field of freelance content generation for these people. I (we) fired off enough $15 articles in a month to net us $750 after taxes, pay our rent, and keep us from earning a black reputation with the landlord. I guess sometimes you blacken yourself to keep yourself from looking blackened.
Of course you’re curious about the system. It’s outdated now, thankfully, but in short Demand hired thousands of drones to sit at their computers and write articles which later, after some SEO optimization, were published on cheap-content sites like eHow.com, about.com Livestrong.com, Trails Travel, and other trash compactors along this vein. Whores all, and nickel-cheap.
My first contact with Demand Studios came through a proxy, i.e. a professional person who through them had added a third income to his household take a couple of years ago. He explained what it was and I witnessed the time he put into it. My first impression was that it was a scam, and I felt sad to see his life drained through the computer monitor. Sure he was making money, but what he was creating offended me as a writer (as it can’t be called writing, what these freelancers do) and its effect on Internet search results offended me as a web user (as I find these cheap-content sites repulsive as I know and loathe the sort of minds which birth them). A lot of bad noise here, but apparently the price to open my mind to hypocrisy is $15/hr, so bear with this mercenary.
Last month business-as-usual became upset. Available titles for basic-level writers to write (i.e. “How to Fray the Edges of a Piece of Paper” and “Tips for Pouring Concrete”, among other endless inanity) began to dwindle. No one outside the private DS Forums heard the cries of the poor, axed stay-at-home “writers”, at least not until one disenchanted person sent Business Insider the email which DS broadcasted to its freelance workforce. I must say that it was a thing of (beauty? horror?) to read/listen to the cries of despair rising up from the ranks of these freelancers. Some took the attitude of “how could you” or “I knew it would come to this” while still others, who perhaps have freelanced before and have been taught the painful lesson of how they rank in a given employer’s estimation, said something like “This is how it is in this business. The company’s under no obligation to you, so move on and good luck.”
These responses set me to wondering about the DS project and so I did some Wikipedia research and read some articles from popular online publications. Turns out the folks who founded the company have been players in Silicon Valley for some time (let the smell of MySpace enter your nostrils) and were recently in talks to give DS up to Yahoo! for a paltry $2+ billion. I lurked the forum some more and followed a link a poster…posted…about Google Panda.
If you live outside the reach of web news, you may not have heard of Panda but if you’re definitely reaping its rewards. The algorithm which was given the name of the Chinese bear-sloth-plushie is designed to flush duplicated or otherwise low-quality content from the top pages in Google Search results. So, goodbye <enter name of DS cheap-content affiliate site here>.
We’d planned on using DS income to buy new wardrobes, to pay for plane tickets to Thailand, to subsist upon for the hot months we’ll be without contracts on a foreign peninsula…
But this, this feels in spite of the cries of the freshly unemployed non-commuters and in spite of our dreams which now want modifying, this feels just like reckoning. It feels like the web cancer that is the SEO business is losing its footing as the platform upon which it stands is being yanked out from below its feet. Google good, Google bad, of course, but this time someone got something right. A web power has, in a way, taken a stand for its user base against cheap, fast-food web results.
On a semi-related note, good people are doing good things on Wall Street. What parts of American culture have been designed to quickly fill us but somehow keep us wanting are feeling the stiletto’s edge needling in through their breast-pockets. It’s small now, but I hope that it doesn’t slow down. Quality (as an issue) must be addressed at some stage. As it costs money to maintain, the meaning of the word “friendly” has gradually shrunk in potency since the 1950’s, and today we’re ruled by whether a thing can be made profitable. Fiscal power, like all forms of governance, looks good on paper but will run into all the walls which every other form of governance invariably encounter and all miraculously fail to plan for: human nature. I’m eager to see how this spotlighted democracy will adapt to the burning anger next to its wallet.
On an unrelated note, the young Neil Young’s lambchops are a tour de force in facial hair management, aren’t they? Along that line, I offer a feast of lambchops with hippie seasoning and a side of protest inspiration. Buffalo Springfield vs. Mungo Jerry. Dig that boot-heel into the ground!