Open Letter To Wikipedia Editors: Yes, Matt Cutts Is Notable
Dear Wikipedia Editors:
I came back from vacation today to
discover that in (some of) your infinite crowd wisdom, apparently
the page at Wikipedia
about Google’s Matt Cutts
might get deleted. Wow. It’s inept things like this that can instantly
reduce any respect I have for Wikipedia that builds up over time.
Editors, let me tell you a little story, since I’ve got you here. You know
how I tell if I want to trust a travel book about some place, say a Lonely
Planet or a Let’s Go? I find the edition about a place I know. I’ll look up what
they’re saying about Newport Beach, California, my home before I migrated to
England under the promise of sunnier skies (long story — we won’t go into it
If they’re talking about how nice Balboa Island is or
the piers or places I like to
eat, then I know I can trust the book. If they’re talking garbage, then I look
for something else I trust.
I can do this because I’m an expert on Newport Beach. OK, maybe not an
expert, but I know the subject well. Now let’s carry that over to Wikipedia. I
live in this old house in Britain. It’s so old that some of the lights have to
be plugged into these really small electrical outlets using BS 546 plugs. I
needed to order some of these to I could wire up more lights on one of my hated
DIY days, but I knew nothing
Thanks to Wikipedia, I was impressively given the history and background of
the BS 546 standard. I was
especially bemused at how the plugs got bigger depending on the amps they were
designed to carry. I could totally see that making sense to some British Empire
bureaucrat years and years ago coming up with the spec. Plus, I knew the correct
size to order.
Nice job, Wikipedia. You helped me, and I totally trusted what you wrote. But
now we’re talking search. And you know what? I’m kind of an expert in that area.
As an expert, the idea that Matt Cutts might not be notable in search is absurd.
Why? Because I said so. Darn, that generally works with my kids, but I
suppose since at least one of you is so ignorant of search that you demand
proof, I’ll waste some time and trot some out for you.
What type of proof? Actually, my first thought was that if Wikipedia is so
darn tooting of the people driving, everyone should have a biography if someone
wants to create it. Who is Wikipedia to be the judge? Ah, apparently you’ve
already debated some of this yourselves:
Like any encyclopedia, Wikipedia includes biographies of important
historical figures and people involved in current events. Even though wiki is
not paper, there are some criteria which may be considered for inclusion.
This guideline is not Wikipedia policy (and indeed the whole concept of
notability is contentious). However, it is the opinion of many, but not all,
Wikipedians that these criteria are a fair test of whether a person has
sufficient external notice to ensure that they can be covered from a neutral
point of view based on verifiable information from reliable sources, without
straying into original research (all of which are formal policies).
That’s from your page on the
notability requirements for people. It also covers the proof you want. And
In general, an article’s text should include enough information to explain
why the person is notable, and such information should be verifiable.
Biographies of living persons are subject to additional rules and
- The person has been the primary subject of multiple non-trivial
published works whose source is independent of the person.
- This criterion includes published works in all forms, such as
newspaper articles, magazine articles, books, scholarly papers, and
television documentaries except for the following:
- Media reprints of the person’s autobiography or self-promotional
- Works carrying merely trivial coverage, such as newspaper articles
that just mention the person in passing, telephone directory listings,
or simple records of births and deaths.
The above is the central criterion for inclusion. Below are some criteria
that make it very likely that sufficient reliable information is available
about a given person.
Wow, do I understand this right? Of the things Wikipedia is going to
centrally depend on what The Man — in the form of primarily mainstream media
(that’s who publishes those magazine articles, books and TV documentaries) –
decides is notable.
OK, I’ve written about Matt lots. Here’s a quick Google
search showing I’ve mentioned him in articles almost 12,000 times. That’s a
lot. OK, it’s probably fewer than that, if you subtract some of the summary
things, mentions on forums and so on. Still, flip-flop to Wikipedia , and a
similar search gets you only about 2,500 times. So he’s like six times more
notable than you are, at least to me.
OK, OK, what’s Matt really done that so notable? Most important, he’s been
the human face of Google to site owners specifically and to large degree the
world in general. Matt
protested recently that he’s not Google’s "unofficial" blogger. But he is.
To my knowledge, he operates the most popular blog run by a Google employee,
3 million page
views of popular.
Outside of Larry and Sergey (you know, the cofounders — they’ve got pages,
right), he’s one of the few Google employees to have spoken regularly on
critical issues for the company. He does it well, to the degree some want to
dismiss him as the PR guru of the company. He could certainly teach the PR folks
things, considering he’s worked at Google longer than any of them.
Perhaps the most famous Googler after cofounders Larry Page, Sergey Brin
and Google CEO Eric Schmidt is GoogleGuy, the long-time poster who has
provided advice and help on the WebmasterWorld.com forum. He’s now asked that
the GoogleGuySays web site to stop reposting his comments.
So Matt’s famous. He’s noteworthy. Even beyond the GoogleGuy persona, he has
a noteworthy blog and position as unofficial Google spokesperson that I’ve
touched on already. Sort of like, you know, Yahoo’s Jeremy Zawodny, who has a
page on Wikipedia here
largely for the same reason. Sort of like Robert Scoble, who also has a page
here. But Matt’s not
notable enough for a page, even though he fills the same type of role that both
Jeremy and Robert have filled?
OK, you need mainstream. What, an entire chapter about him in the book The
Google Story isn’t enough? You know, like you mention within his existing entry
at Wikipedia? An entire chapter in a major book by a noted author about Matt
isn’t notable enough?
More mainstream? How about
at least 260 mainstream newspaper or magazine articles that mention him.
That’s more than
Jeremy’s 170 references (no offense, Jeremy — just lining up some more
ammunition for Matt here). It’s not that far back from Robert Scoble’s
I know, I know. Some of those are blogs or online references. And you know
you can’t trust blogs or things that are online. Start doing that, and you might
trust things like Wikipedia.
Hey, I know! I never had a Wikipedia entry myself
until last year when USA Today did a
profile on me. That was cool. I mean the New York Times did a similar
profile five years earlier, but you probably missed that one. Clearly the
one you did see, from USA Today, gave me a nudge to finally being notable.
OK, now what does little old notable me
that article about Matt?
Sullivan holds well-attended Q&A sessions, where he takes questions from
the audience for several hours. But he harbors no illusions about how large
his niche fame actually is.
"Sure, you can get swamped at the show," he says. "A lot of people want to
talk to you. But then I’ll stand next to Matt Cutts, and he’ll get masses of
people vying for his attention.
See, more notable than me! If I could do math equations it would be like:
matt > danny > not notable
Still not enough? You remember Matt was the guy that got BMW banned in
Germany, right? I mean, he wiped out a major car web site in Google for
spamming, creating a
mini-controversy. BMW had to do PR
directly against the action he took. How many people do you know with the
power to yank a major site from the world’s most used search engine? How many
people can spark a major car manufacturer to respond to their actions in a
public manner? That notable enough?
I can’t believe I’m wasting time on this, wasting time that the
people-powered wonderful Wikipedia is supposed to do for itself. Drop the entire
debate over whether the article should be deleted or not, if you want to
maintain any shred of respect.
Geez — if this entire thing was kicked off by
Ju66l3r who purports:
I’m knee-deep in writing my Ph.D. thesis in bioinformatics at Boston
University and I just really need a release sometimes from the writing
process. Oddly, I’ve found the best thing to take my mind off of my thesis is
fixing vandalism and improving encyclopedia articles here at Wikipedia. Crazy,
Then can I suggest, Ju66l3r, that you get back to your area of expertise,
finish your thesis and stop ironically doing exactly what you profess to be
trying to stop. That is, you’re vandalizing Wikipedia by suggesting Matt isn’t
notable. He had a page happily sitting there for over a year before this absurd
review came along.
Oh, and I’d say Barry Schwartz is notable as well. He’s
up for deletion despite being the creator of an essential guide to search
forum discussions, Search Engine Roundtable. And
Mike Grehan deserves to be listed. He’s done pioneering work in explaining
search technologies to the general public.
I especially enjoyed this:
Can you provide any sources to give him notability? Speaking at SES is not
notable (it seems like every SEO consultant on WP has done this lately). Nor
is knowing higher-ups in Google. In fact, the article as it stands now borders
on a speedy.
ju66l3r 18:06, 5 January 2007 (UTC)
In general, if they’re one of the relatively few asked to speak at a major
conference on search marketing, yeah — they are notable. Every search
consultant does NOT get to speak. But here’s a thought. Rather than putting
article on review, then making a debate about whether to keep them, how about
making the debate first be about whether they should come up for review at all.
Moreover, the person starting the debate suggestion (ju66l3r
seems to have been the primary challenger in all these cases) should have do
some the easy research about people rather than issuing challenges based on only
what Wikipedia may be listing, since that information might not be complete.
Or just let everyone have a page. The people demand it! Power to the people!
The people united shall never be divided. We want Matt! Stop this miscarriage of
justice. Free the Wikipedia 3!
Some opinions expressed in this article may be those of a guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land. Staff authors are listed here.
(Some images used under license from Shutterstock.com.)
Discover what's up in the business of marketing each Friday.