Viggen started a thread at our forums named Does Google hire spammers? It is actually a very interesting question. I asked Tim Mayer of Yahoo! this question at the Yahoo! Party at the Palm's Club Rain at WebmasterWorld Pub Con Vegas 2004. This is how the conversation went...
Tim Mayer came over to me, when I was sitting on some sofa, kind of off in the corner. I asked him he they (Yahoo!) hires top notch spammers in an effort to combat spam. You know, like how governments and large companies hire hackers to prevent being hacked. Tim said they have not, they just hire 'engineers'. Which got me thinking, what if the Yahoo! people decided to pass some special gas through the air at this party. The gas contained a drug that turned spammers into the extreme opposite of a spammer (just a note to readers, I am not using the word 'spammer' in a derogatory fashion). I told Tim, that if they had this solution, it might solve a huge chunk of the spam issues they have overnight. Of course I was joking, everyone at the party were clean, white hats.
But if you look at recent patterns, search engines engineers and top folks are "buddies" with so called spammers. As randfish points out in the thread; "MSN certainly gets the opinions of spammers - particularly in last year's search champs." And yes, Matt Cutts from Google goes out for dinners and talks with spammers very often. Not only that at last years Google Dance DaveN and friends spent a whole night talking with Larry or Sergy (I forget which one) and Matt Cutts in the Google Plex. Yahoo! also invited a bunch of people, half consisting of self-proclaimed search engine spammers to Yahoo! headquarters to discuss the search technology.
Has a search engine ever hired a spammer? Gary Price hired by Ask Jeeves is far from Ask Jeeves hiring a spammer. I did hear a rumor of an old WebmasterWorld player who switched sides of the fence, but I do not know much more about that.
As far as I know, a spammer has never been hired by a search engine as an employee. But yes, they do serve up nice tokens to spammers.
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