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Why Derek Powazek’s Posts Were Reprehensible

Derek Powazek

Derek Powazek

Since Derek Powazek wouldn’t allow my comment on his blog, I’ll put it on his SideWiki and briefly discuss the issue here.

Derek projected all his darkness on to the SEO community, calling them “cockroaches, bastards, evildoers, spammers, and jerkwads.” Then when they replied he called them touchy. He then played the victim when people criticized him, somehow inhabiting his own moral universe where condemning an entire group of good people is nicer than condemning an individual who takes his anger out on others.

Now, it’s human nature to get angry at others. I do it all the time. But I try to channel my anger at rotten individuals who abuse others. So Derek, please feel free to attack me back, but do it personally, OK?

For more depth, read these excellent spoofs and critiques from

Peter and Ari’s posts ridicule Powazek’s posts. Danny plays it straight. I won’t link to Powazek’s post, but you can get there from the links above.

Anyway, I know I need to control my anger. This post is an attempt to vent. I’m channeling my anger against a man who wrote a reprehensible post slandering good people. I wish Derek would channel his darkside in a more productive manner.

To clarify a few final points:

  • You can’t just say all Politicians are Crooks, All Artists are Drunks, etc. and then say “well if you’re not than you’re not a politician, you’re a public figure, etc.”
  • Some SEOs are bad. So are some politicians, doctors, web designers, bloggers, and puppies. To say the bad ones define the group and the good ones should find another name is ridiculous.
  • Saying “just create a good site and you don’t need SEO” is like saying “just eat well and exercise and you don’t need a doctor” or “just be good and you won’t need PR, marketing, or lawyers.” Sure, everything starts with being good and doing good. But to think it ends there is naive.
  • I don’t know whether Powazek is an idiot, a charlatan, neither, or both. I don’t know whether this post was representative of his other work. It didn’t inspire me to learn more about him. I do know that his SEO posts were written to cast a group of good people as villains, and that he should apologize and stop projecting his darkness onto others.
  • Update: Powazek posted a faux-apology which had 16 paragraphs explaining that even the SEOs know that he’s right. Proof? They were offended by his post. If they didn’t know he was right, they wouldn’t have been offended. It’s a lame argument. By the same pseudo-logic the offense he took to being called an obnoxious jerk proves that he knows he is one. Oh, and Powazek snuck in a paragraph of a weak apology (“I cast too wide a net”) and ended with “Let’s all be friends.” Smarter and nicer people than me accepted his apology. I still have anger management issues, and his use of an apology post to restate his point didn’t help. I made this comment on his blog, but he’s been using his comments section as a testimonial section, so he rejected it.

Image courtesy of http://www.flickr.com/photos/gorriti/ / CC BY-SA 2.0

  • http://chrisarkwright.com/ Chris

    burn!

  • http://chrisarkwright.com Chris

    burn!

  • http://matt-burgess.com/ Matt Burgess

    Not to take away from the point of the post Gil (which is great, by the way), but just wanted to point out that it was actually PeterD that posted the SEOBook post :) (feel free to delete this if/when you update post) :)

    • Gil Reich

      Thanks Matt. I updated the post. I’ll leave your comment in to recognize your correction, thanx.

  • http://matt-burgess.com Matt Burgess

    Not to take away from the point of the post Gil (which is great, by the way), but just wanted to point out that it was actually PeterD that posted the SEOBook post :) (feel free to delete this if/when you update post) :)

    • Gil Reich

      Thanks Matt. I updated the post. I’ll leave your comment in to recognize your correction, thanx.

  • http://makeitrank.com/ Kevin Spence

    I spend enough time on forums to know a troll when I see one, and this dude is just trolling. Kudos to him for getting everyone’s attention, he may be the successor to Glenn Beck.

  • http://makeitrank.com Kevin Spence

    I spend enough time on forums to know a troll when I see one, and this dude is just trolling. Kudos to him for getting everyone’s attention, he may be the successor to Glenn Beck.

  • http://www.yourseoplan.com/ Gradiva Couzin

    Oooh — one mistake here. No *puppies* are bad! :)

    At my (SEO) company, we’re taking this whole meshugass as a great training opportunity for our junior staff, who haven’t lived through 16 rounds of the same argument before. It’s a chance for them to learn what a lot of people think about SEO, and read some wonderfully clear explanations of why those people are wrong.

    Thanks!
    Gradiva

    • Gil Reich

      Of course there are no bad puppies, don’t know how that got in :-)
      Yeah, looks like you need one of these every year to get everybody thinking “spam is bad, these are the good things we do and these are the benefits they bring.” Glad you’re taking advantage of the “learning moment.” Would be nice though if we could have the discussion without some of the venom.

  • http://www.yourseoplan.com Gradiva Couzin

    Oooh — one mistake here. No *puppies* are bad! :)

    At my (SEO) company, we’re taking this whole meshugass as a great training opportunity for our junior staff, who haven’t lived through 16 rounds of the same argument before. It’s a chance for them to learn what a lot of people think about SEO, and read some wonderfully clear explanations of why those people are wrong.

    Thanks!
    Gradiva

    • Gil Reich

      Of course there are no bad puppies, don’t know how that got in :-)
      Yeah, looks like you need one of these every year to get everybody thinking “spam is bad, these are the good things we do and these are the benefits they bring.” Glad you’re taking advantage of the “learning moment.” Would be nice though if we could have the discussion without some of the venom.

  • http://www.ask-kalena.com/ Kalena

    Was about to type what Matt said :-) Yep Peter DeVanzo’s post that one. You might also like my Deconstruction of Derek : http://www.ask-kalena.com/seo/dumbass-of-the-week-derek-powazek/ Anil Dash described Derek beautifully on another post: “Every community has jerks; Only thoughtless outsiders would care to define a community by those outliers.”

    • Gil Reich

      Thanx Kalena, your blog post was excellent.

  • http://www.ask-kalena.com Kalena

    Was about to type what Matt said :-) Yep Peter DeVanzo’s post that one. You might also like my Deconstruction of Derek : http://www.ask-kalena.com/seo/dumbass-of-the-week-derek-powazek/ Anil Dash described Derek beautifully on another post: “Every community has jerks; Only thoughtless outsiders would care to define a community by those outliers.”

    • Gil Reich

      Thanx Kalena, your blog post was excellent.

  • http://www.anildash.com/ Anil

    Since I was quoted above, I should probably give a little context here: I’ve known Derek for about ten years, and I can assure you that he’s not stupid and his heart is in the right place. I won the first-ever SEO contest on the web, and the reason I did was because I tapped into the blogosphere’s resentment of the impact that SEO (both white- and blackhat) has had on our medium of expression.

    The perception that Derek, and many other influential web developers and designers, have of the traditional SEO industry has been shaped by misdeeds that the SEO community has not done enough to try to curtail. I was happy to call out the inaccuracy in Derek’s post because he and I come from the same community, but each community should police its own. That means SEO folks should be taking a hard look inward to see why the perception has gotten so bad.

    For perspective, it may help to know that a lot of us were building websites initially for our personal expression, and things like links were made as a nuanced form of adding meaning to content. Thanks to the Google economy and the efforts of the SEO industry, that form of expression has now been completely destroyed by commercial interests. It’s worth a little bit of introspection to think about where the resentment comes from – for Derek, for myself and for many others like us, we were natives to the web whose culture was colonized and destroyed by newcomers who were just doing it for money, instead of for love of the medium. That’s a legacy the SEO community would do well to address.

    • Gil Reich

      Thanks Anil, I appreciate you taking the time to provide this perspective.

  • http://www.anildash.com/ Anil

    Since I was quoted above, I should probably give a little context here: I’ve known Derek for about ten years, and I can assure you that he’s not stupid and his heart is in the right place. I won the first-ever SEO contest on the web, and the reason I did was because I tapped into the blogosphere’s resentment of the impact that SEO (both white- and blackhat) has had on our medium of expression.

    The perception that Derek, and many other influential web developers and designers, have of the traditional SEO industry has been shaped by misdeeds that the SEO community has not done enough to try to curtail. I was happy to call out the inaccuracy in Derek’s post because he and I come from the same community, but each community should police its own. That means SEO folks should be taking a hard look inward to see why the perception has gotten so bad.

    For perspective, it may help to know that a lot of us were building websites initially for our personal expression, and things like links were made as a nuanced form of adding meaning to content. Thanks to the Google economy and the efforts of the SEO industry, that form of expression has now been completely destroyed by commercial interests. It’s worth a little bit of introspection to think about where the resentment comes from – for Derek, for myself and for many others like us, we were natives to the web whose culture was colonized and destroyed by newcomers who were just doing it for money, instead of for love of the medium. That’s a legacy the SEO community would do well to address.

    • Gil Reich

      Thanks Anil, I appreciate you taking the time to provide this perspective.

  • http://sebastians-pamphlets.com/detox-your-web-development-team/ Sebastian

    Derek’s insults were childish even from a Web developer’s POV. At least after Danny and others politely explained it to him, he could have learned that not everything SEO is a bad thing. Instead, he ignored all constructive criticism and posted an equally childish follow-up. This behavior doesn’t exactly indicate that “he’s not stupid and his heart is in the right place”.

  • http://sebastians-pamphlets.com/detox-your-web-development-team/ Sebastian

    Derek’s insults were childish even from a Web developer’s POV. At least after Danny and others politely explained it to him, he could have learned that not everything SEO is a bad thing. Instead, he ignored all constructive criticism and posted an equally childish follow-up. This behavior doesn’t exactly indicate that “he’s not stupid and his heart is in the right place”.

  • Gil Reich

    Yeah, I agree with you Sebastian. Even after reading Danny and others he kept Tweeting things like “Attacking me is easy. Explaining how SEO isn’t either obvious web design or an unethical scam seems to be the hard part.” As you point out, many of the replies to him (not mine of course) were calm explanations, to which he replied with more venom.

    FYI: Sebastian’s response to Derek is here http://sebastians-pamphlets.com/detox-your-web-development-team/

  • Gil Reich

    Yeah, I agree with you Sebastian. Even after reading Danny and others he kept Tweeting things like “Attacking me is easy. Explaining how SEO isn’t either obvious web design or an unethical scam seems to be the hard part.” As you point out, many of the replies to him (not mine of course) were calm explanations, to which he replied with more venom.

    FYI: Sebastian’s response to Derek is here http://sebastians-pamphlets.com/detox-your-web-development-team/

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  • PlainTruth

    Derek Powazek is obsolete, has been for a long time. Just ignore him; he is desperate for any kind of attention.

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