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History. Helping out a Pal

February 24, 2010

On Zenbu we keep a record of every single edit ever made and, until this week, we made all of those historic versions visible to search engines and general web users. The idea was that if a business changed name or location you would be able to see those old details and link it with the new. Unfortunately it had some unintended consequences…

Last week we were contacted by an individual (we’ll call them Pal). Pal was (rightly) upset at regularly receiving phone calls for a business at his home residence. The phone number had belonged to that business, but not for several years, and now was Pal’s private residence number. Pal found out from his callers that they were obtaining his number through Google, a search for that number showed a half dozen results and Zenbu was number 1.

Now if you went to that page, it was boldly marked as Historic with a link to the correct current info but that didn’t matter because some people never saw that, they saw the number in the Google snippet and called it.

I only had to think about this for a second to know I would be pissed off if I was getting harassed at home by people calling a wrong number.

There was value in having that historic info available but it turned out there was a negative aspect too. The negative outweighs the positive in this case so we have made all old revisions not visible to the public. (It might take a little while for that to be reflected on search engines but it will happen.)

Thinking about all this made me wonder if Google’s motto “Don’t be evil” is really just a modern interpretation of The Golden Rule – do to others what you would like to be done to you.

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