Once upon a time, a scientist wrote a brilliant blog post solving the answer to life, the universe and everything. A few people linked to him, and anyone searching for the answer to the ultimate question could find it easily, by just a simple search in Google.
The scientist appeared right at the top of the results.
A Wikipedia editor read the article, and because it was free to use due to its CC license added an entry to the Wikipedia.
He didn’t use the article word for word, but it contained many of the same keywords.
Of course the student linked through to the original source, but the link was nofollowed.
Lots of websites were free to use the content from Wikipedia, so the article appeared in all the national newspapers, major online publications etc.
Most of those didn’t link back to the poor scientists website, but to Wikipedia.
All these other sites already had huge authority in the search engines, so whatever they published also enjoyed a high position in search results.
Now, a few months later, whenever someone is looking for the answer to life, the universe and everything, the first 50 results contain the Wikipedia entry, plus 50 versions of the Wikipedia entry with a slightly different slant, all pointing back to Wikipedia.
The original work by the scientist is no longer visible.
This might be looked upon as a Darwinian process, but what happens if there was actually a mistake in the entry created by the student?
Oh, and of course, the scientist isn’t yet regarded as “notable”
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