Cuil – Gateway to Spam

So there’s a new player in the search engine space, founded by some really smart people from Google.  Named Cuil, pronounced “cool”, it differs from Goole’s algorithm:

As Cuil’s founders describe it, the search engine goes beyond today’s search techniques of link analysis and traffic ranking to analyze the context of each page and the concepts behind each query. It then organizes similar search results into groups and sorts them by category. Cuil displays results and offers organizing features, such as tabs to clarify subjects, images to identify topics, and search-refining suggestions.


Or, put simply:

Cuil is making a big push that it ranks pages by content, rather than popularity. The idea here is to poke at how Google is commonly viewed to just reward pages that have the most PageRank value.


Ranking by content?  Uh oh!  Remember “back in the day”, when content was the main factor in ranking websites?  What did we end up with?  That’s right, lots of spammy search results.  SE rankings were determined by the number of times search terms were repeated in the page content, and it was easy to repeat your way to the top results.  Content ranking was pretty much the death of Lycos and Alta Vista–the signal to noise ratio was way too low.

Just to test this brave new world of content ranking, I ran a test myself.  Wifey owns The Bloomery Florist in Butler, PA, so I did searches on Google and Cuil for “florist butler pa”.


The top of Google’s results list the local results, with listings and maps of florists actually in Butler, PA.  The first five search results include three listings for The Bloomery, and two other shops in town.  Not bad, considering there are only four florists in town and one doesn’t have a website.  If you’re looking to send flowers to Butler, Google is going to point you in the right direction.

It isn’t until the eighth result when spammy fake-florist sites start to show up.  You’ve seen them on Dateline and other places, the ones who pretend to be a florist in a local community, charge you a high service fee, and then send the order via FTD or Teleflora to a real local florist.  They’re a complete ripoff, but like P.T. Barnum said, “There’s a sucker born every minute”.  Florist Detective has more information about fake local florists at


The main way the fake florists work their way into the search results is with keyword repetition, usually in some gibberish at the bottom of the page.  And, Cuil got suckered.  All but one of the results on Cuil’s first page are fake florists, pretending to be in Butler.  Part of the spammy text from the first result is below (you have to scroll way down on the page to find this text):

Everybody in Butler needs Butler, PA Pennsylvania Flower Delivery from the best Butler flower shop.
Our Butler floral shop and our Butler flowers are first in quality.
Send Butler, PA Pennsylvania florist greetings to any city or state with a Butler local florist.
We offer Butler florist shop delivery everywhere. Order Butler flower bouquets with a Butler local florist.
Whenever you want a Butler centerpiece call our Butler flower shop.
Butler florist shops will bring your Butler sympathy arrangements wherever you need them.
Try our Butler, PA gift baskets for holiday giving or any time including any specified gift items.
Butler Thanksgiving flowers, and Butler Christmas flowers sent near or far.

See the result at  Wesley Berry is actually located in Michigan, not Butler, PA.  When you place an order with them, you’re talking to someone at a call center (or will be handled by no one if you place online), and you’re charged a high service fee.  The call center has no idea what’s in the local coolers, or what’s available.  Not exactly what you’re looking for if you want to send flowers to Butler, PA.

Danny Sullivan also ran some tests himself, and you can see the results at  His conclusion was also that relevancy alone isn’t enough to overcome Google’s algorithm.

Long story short, let the searcher beware with Cuil for the time being.  I think there’s some promise here, but they need a better algorithm than just keyword repetition.  There are some really smart people behind Cuil, and a good deal of money, too, so it’s one to watch.  For now, use Google to find your local florists, and double check with Florist Detective if you’re unsure.

<update 2008-08-02>

This isn’t something made up, but an actual consumer warning.  Cuil is leading consumers into an unsatisfactory experience.  Wesley Berry has an Unsatisfactory rating at the BBB, and has a long list of complaints at Complaints Board.

iPhone in the Enterprise—beware of the remote wipe!

The new iPhone has hit the streets, and with its ActiveSync support, that means it’s hit our enterprise, too.  We support Windows Mobile via Activesync and Blackberries via BES, and we enforce password and locking policies on all devices.  The deal breaker is whether or not a device can be remotely wiped, which Windows Mobile and Blackberries can.  One of our coworkers scored a new iPhone on “Release Day”, so we had a chance to test it out.

After configuring ActiveSync, the iPhone picked up the policies fine, after a reboot, the PIN policy was in place, as was the user’s e-mail.  When we tested the remote wipe, trouble ensued.

It appears that remotely wiping an iPhone bricks the device.  Unlike a Blackberry or Smart Phone, which are basically reset to factory after a remote wipe, the iPhone starts to an Apple logo and just sits there.  Attempts to resurrect it by sync’ing it with iTunes had no effect.  The error messages indicate that the OS is not found on the device.

We’re still working on it, and are about ready to visit a Genius Bar or AT&T store to resolve the issue.


The iPhone has been rejuvenated.  The user was attempting to reactivate the iPhone through his iTunes, which originally activated the phone (and was installed Friday, Release Day.  For some reason, it wasn’t working.  When the iPhone was hooked up to a new install of iTunes today (Tuesday), the iPhone came back to life.  We’re not sure if there was a hotfix for a known problem or just a different iTunes or what, but the issue seems to be resolved.

New Office Terminology for 2008

(note: this came to me as an e-mail with a thousand forwards, so if you know the original copyright holder, please let me know)

1. BLAMESTORMING: Sitting around in a group, discussing why a deadline was missed or a project failed, and who was responsible.
2.SEAGULL MANAGER: A manager, who flies in, makes a lot of noise, craps on everything, and then leaves.
3.ASSMOSIS: The process by which some people seem to absorb success, and advancement by kissing up to the boss, rather than working hard
4.SALMON DAY: The experience of spending an entire day swimming upstream only to get screwed and die in the end.
5. CUBE FARM : An office filled with cubicles.
6.PRAIRIE DOGGING : When someone yells or drops something loudly in a cube farm, and people’s heads pop up over the walls, to see what’s going on.
7. MOUSE POTATO : The on-line, wired generation’s answer to the couch potato.
8.SITCOMs: Single Income, Two Children, Oppressive Mortgage. That Yuppies get into when they have children, and one of them stops working to stay home, with the kids.
9.STRESS PUPPY: A person who seems to thrive on being stressed out and whiny.
10.SWIPEOUT: An ATM or credit card that  has been rendered useless because magnetic strip is worn away from extensive use.
11.XEROX SUBSIDY: Euphemism for swiping free photocopies, from one’s workplace.
12.IRRITAINMENT: Entertainment and media spectacles that are Annoying, but you find yourself unable to stop watching them.
13. PERCUSSIVE MAINTENANCE: The fine art of whacking the crap out of an electronic device to get it to work again.
14. ADMINISPHERE : The rarefied organizational layers beginning just above the rank and file. Decisions that fall from the admonisher are often profoundly inappropriate or irrelevant to the problems they were designed to solve.
15. 404 : Someone who’s clueless. From the World Wide Web error Message ‘404 Not Found,’ meaning that the requested site, could not be located.
16. GENERICA : Features of the American landscape that are exactly the same, no matter where one is, such as fast food joints, strip malls, and subdivisions.
17.OHNOSECOND : That minuscule fraction of time in which you realize, that you’ve just made a BIG MISTAKE. (Like after hitting send on an email, by mistake).
18.WOOFS: Well-Off Older Folks.
19. CROP DUSTING: Surreptitiously passing gas, while passing through a Cube Farm.