The Adversarial & Evolutionary Behavior

The other day I saw Paul Haahr, a Google Search engineer vet, retweet something shared by Daphne Keller, former Google Search lawyer, who shared Facebook VP’s Nick Clegg Medium piece named You and the Algorithm: It Takes Two to Tango. With me so far? Anyway, the tweet from Daphne Keller “we will reward this behavior until you adapt your business and get too good at it, and then we will punish it” caught my attention. Paul Haahr explained “The idea here about adversarial/evolutionary behavior is one I’ve thought about a lot over the years. One interesting aspect of it being evolutionary is that intent doesn’t really matter – it happens because certain behaviors are rewarded.”

Here is the tweet, I 100% recommend you click on it, and scroll up and read through the whole summary. When you are done with that, keep reading below.

So when I that Paul Haahr tweeted the above tweet, I asked him for his thoughts on this cycle of a search engine coming up with a way to reward behavior and then having later to punish it because SEOs figured it out… Paul took some time to respond but his tweets are super insightful. Here they are:

I did ask Paul to expand on this last tweet and this is what he said:

Here is his response:

I do not want to add any commentary around what was written here because I think I might misstate something or potentially take some of the words out of context. But I found these responses from Paul to be super interesting and thought you’d all like to see this.

Forum discussion at Twitter.