The rumblings about innocent people getting caught in Google's super-secret spam and fraud detection systems is becoming impossible to ignore. The more I hear stories from folks I respect (Ned Batchelder's case is the latest I've run across), the more I think Google has a burgeoning problem of its hands. Google's benefits greatly from its "do no evil" reputation, but this reputation is starting to wear some seriously grungy shadows.
I'm also pondering the off chance that I may myself have fallen victim to some over-zealous fraud cop at Google. Recently I noticed that my personal home pages disappeared from Google search results. I recently changed to a hacked-up CherryPy set-up for these pages, and my first thought was that I'd done something violating some prime directive of search engine optimization. I've never paid much attention to SEO, so I figured I'd look into it when I had a moment and fix meta tags or whatever was looking skunky to Google's indexer. Then I noticed that the pages in question continue to occupy their typically high ranking on Yahoo search. I know the two indexes use different algorithms, but the contrast seems too sharp to be a question of simple metadata massage.
Then while doing research for my article "Google Sitemaps" I happened across this discussion of "exclusion" and "reinclusion" from Google indexes. This is the first I've ever heard of such matters, but it does rather feel like what happened to my home pages. I can't imagine what I would have done to fall afoul of Google's anti-fraud system considering I've never been the slightest bit interested in SEO, and my high ranking has always come because a gratifying number of people seem to like and link to what I write.
I'll be looking further into whether Google might have excluded my pages, but regardless of what's going on in my particular case, based on what I'm reading about Google lately, I'm beginning to think the company is really straining with the effort of balancing good vibes and break-neck growth.