Good News/Bad News

by admin on December 21, 2018

This will be a short non-chess post, with some good news and some bad news.

First, the bad news: A couple of my regular readers have e-mailed me within the past two weeks saying that when they googled my website, Google displayed it with a message saying, “This site may be hacked.”

I’ve been aware of this problem for a little while, a couple months at least, and it’s not easy to solve. But first let me say the most important thing: as far as I can tell, visitors to this site are NOT in any danger.

The type of hacking that has occurred on my website is called “cloaking,” where the hackers have inserted extra code that makes Google’s bots see links to an online pharmacy where you can order you-know-what. As far as I know, casual visitors to the site do not see those links. Someone please tell me if they have had any bad experiences, but as far as I know, if you click on any of the links in my blog you will not be taken to an online pharmacy.

I want to especially emphasize that this is not a malware attack. Google’s bots do not report any viruses, just bogus pages and links.

I’ve watched the Google videos on this sort of problem, and I can see why they take it very seriously. It’s not really an attack on me or on you, it’s an attack on Google. By creating bogus links from legitimate websites to their own site, the hackers improve their ranking on Google’s Page Rank algorithm. Of course Google has ways to detect what they have done and correct the ranking, but you can understand why they want very much to discourage this kind of activity.

The hacking is a serious problem for me indirectly, though, because as long as Google puts up the warning, “This site may be hacked,” a lot of people are going to be scared away from coming here. It’s even worse on other search engines. Microsoft’s Bing simply does not show my website at all. I’ve been blacklisted. I might as well not even be here.

For that reason, it’s imperative for me to do something about this problem, and I am working on it. I think that the ultimate solution is going to be to move my website to another web space provider (one with some experience at restoring hacked sites). Hopefully this change will be completely transparent to visitors. I’ll let you know when I find out more.

In the meantime, please continue to come, and please let me know if you detect anything amiss, especially if you get redirected to one of those online pharmacy sites.

Now for the good news! Ironically, at the same time as I’ve been trying to learn more about this problem, I got an e-mail from the founder of a site called Feedspot, telling me that they have selected “dana blogs chess” as one of the 30 top chess blogs on the Internet. You can click here to see the Feedspot list (which actually has 75 blogs on it). Yes, really! It’s okay to click! It looks legit to me.

Also, I’d like to follow up on some earlier good news that I posted. As you know, The Book of Why (the book I co-authored with Judea Pearl) was named two weeks ago as one of Science Friday‘s Best Science Books of 2018. One of my readers asked what kind of effect an honor like this would have on the book’s sales. Quite frankly, I was wondering the same thing! As of last Friday I wasn’t really sure, but this Friday I can give you a definitive answer: it’s made a big difference. Here is a graph of the week-by-week sales of The Book of Why as recorded by Nielsen BookScan:

What happens when Science Friday notices your book.

One reason I wasn’t sure of the effect was that the week before the Science Friday selection came out, there was a big spike in sales due simply to the fact that the book was back in stock at Amazon (after being out of stock for four weeks). So on Science Friday week, my sales actually went down. But that’s because the data for that week only include two days after the Best Science Book mention went public. Last week, ending December 16, was a much better test, and as you can see it was a spectacular week. The Book of Why sold 664 copies, its most since mid-June.

For context, to make the New York Times bestseller list, your book has to sell at least 3000 copies per week, maybe even 4000 to make sure. So my book has never been a threat to make the bestseller list. But as I wrote a few months ago, there is a huge variety of books that are “goodsellers” (a word I’d like to introduce to the language!) though not “bestsellers,” and I’d like to think that The Book of Why is among them!

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{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Robert White December 27, 2018 at 12:05 pm

Dana, very glad to see that this spiked your sales! Congrats! Also, thanks for sharing this with your readers.

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