On Friday, Matt Cutts returned to the internet after taking a month off. He posted on his blog, what he learned from it.
A HackerNews thread picked it up and asked some questions like how can Matt unplug and depend on figuring out what is going on in the SEO space from just his colleagues at Google? How come Googlers in general don't respond to user emails? Stuff like that.
So Matt went on the defensive, trying to explain the concept of scaling. Here is his responses:
I went ahead and updated the blog post to explain, but I'll include what I wrote here too. Sorry if I didn't explain that clearly. I still see what people are discussing on SEO blogs and on the Google webmaster forum. I know the most recent trends in how blackhats try to spam Google--that's my primary job, after all. I look through the questions and comments that people send me on Twitter. When I put out a call for webmaster video questions, I use Google Moderator so people can vote up questions that interest them. I keep an eye on what flavors of spam snake oil are being marketing to newbies on various forums ("I know Google pulled apart my last link network, but now try my Social Rank Tout Suite product! It will automate 100% of all of your link building!"). And lots of people at Google keep an eye open themselves and alert me if they see issues.
So I feel like I have a pretty good feel for the pulse of what people are talking about; it's just that I lack the time to have one-on-one conversations with every person that emails me.
I've tried auto-replies. People get even more offended by that. Here's someone that posted after getting an auto-reply in 2007. He was angry because he thought the battle against paid links was useless, and wanted me to email him back to justify our efforts on paid links. His conclusion? "When I met up with Matt at SES San Jose, he seemed like a cool guy, but I guess this [getting an auto-reply] proves my positive-assumptions wrong."
Don't get me wrong. I like Jonathan (the author of the blog) and stopped by his blog to leave a comment to answer his question.
But if you asked a neutral third party, "Which is better? To spend your time working on new algorithms for paid links? To write blog posts or make videos about paid links? Or to reply to emails justifying working on paid links?" I think the the neutral party would put replying to emails about paid links at the bottom of the priority list.
And the amount of email at Google is pretty epic. Even after trying to reduce my email load through all the conventional methods like unsubscribing from newsletters, my mail storage is over 50 gigabytes.
So there may not be a good conventional answer to the email issue for me. I really don't want to be rude by not responding to emails, but I also believe I should also be working on the biggest-impact things I can.
I honestly don't respond to many emails that ask for my direct response. I just don't have the time, I wish I did. But most of them are directed at Google anyway, and I am not Google, so why should I respond. ;-)
That being said, that is Matt's rationale for why he wants to spend less time on one-on-one with webmasters and more time with one-on-many with webmasters. Honestly, I can't disagree.
Forum discussion at HackerNews.