Packet Rat: Dr. StrangeGoogle or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Blog

The Rat

Michael J. Bechetti

The Rat slid quietly through the shadows at the National Healthcare Information Infrastructure conference, looking for a former colleague who had been drawn to the dark side of HMO tech support.

Instead, he bumped into a certain Secretary of Something, who was beating a retreat under cover of darkness.

'Excuse me, Mr. Secretary,' he whispered.

The appointee squinted at the Rat's conference ID badge. 'Say,' he snarled, 'aren't you the one who Google-bombed me?'

'Uh, no, sir,' stammered the cyberrodent, thankful for the shadows. 'You must be remembering me as the guy who showed you how to Google.'

Thankfully, Google.com is making changes to its PageRank algorithm (named after Google co-founder Larry Page'really) to de-emphasize the value of Web log posts. So the Rat's accidental assignment of an inappropriate nickname to a certain high-level official has fortunately begun to fade into the recesses of the Google cache. 'By the time he figures out how to boot his computer again,' the Rat reassured himself, 'that whole 'comb-over king' thing will have faded into obscurity. I hope. That and the whole Ted Kennedy 'man mane' thing.'

But the changes haven't stopped the wirebiter from using his power over various Web sites to inflict bad-hair days and other forms of vengeance upon deserving victims. Blog-bombing has become a favorite form of blood sport among the federal bloggerati'particularly the ones who work in the Rat's command bunker.

Google uses the same philosophy as post-debate spin strategy: If enough people say it, it must be true. Link someone's name to the phrase 'wily wirebiter' enough times, for example, and that Googlewhack (a word pair that yields only a single Google result) delivers you to that particular wily wirebiter.

The most famous political Google-bombing thus far is the assignment of 'miserable failure' to President Bush's official biography, despite numerous efforts to pass off the honor to former President Carter or 'Fahrenheit 9/11' filmmaker Michael Moore. But blogs have made Goggle-bombing an increasingly dangerous endeavor, creating the cyberspace equivalent of mutually assured destruction.

Sometimes the destruction is self-inflicted. The first victim of inadvertent self-blog-bombing was a congressional aide who documented certain'ahem'exploits on her home page, which led to her Internet plug being pulled. Too many people linked to her scarlet letters.

A blog-bomb of a different sort worked its way through Boston security as the Democrats prepared for their convention last week. An army of bloggers covered the event, despite grumblings about lousy tech support. Uber-blogger Dave Winer of Scripting News, at www.scripting.com, complained that WiFi didn't work at Fleet Center, which he mistakenly called Flint Center.

Browsing the returns from blogospheric Boston, the Rat couldn't help but wonder if the Democrats hadn't inflicted another inadvertent Google-bomb on themselves: 'incredibly dull.' But, considering how exciting the news has been elsewhere lately, that could turn out to be a compliment.

The Packet Rat once managed networks but now spends his time ferreting out bad packets in cyberspace. E-mail him at rat@postnewsweektech.com.

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