Google’s ClickFraud Report

Google published their findings after investigating several allegations of Click Fraud.

The report is good, and Google rebuts that the ClickFraud detection companies are doing sloppy detection.  Naturally, hearing Google claim that ClickFraud is bogus sounds like they are being defensive.  But, if you read the paper, Google clearly did some solid engineering to investigate these claims.

Google found that the ClickFraud-detection companies are just making basic errors in their detection of fraud.  According to ArsTechnica, at least one of the ClickFraud claimants (ClickFacts) has agreed that Google did identify real problems in the ClickFact’s detection logic.

Google also researched the results from an AdWatcher report.  In the report, AdWatcher told the advertiser that they had been a victim to ~12,000 fraudulent clicks.  However, during that period, the customer was only billed by Google for ~6,000 clicks.  This is just impossible; obviously the fraud count can’t be larger than the total clicks billed.

If you know even a little about how http, referrers, and web-browsers work, you should check out the Appendices in the Google report.  Frankly, it’s shocking that the ClickFraud companies are making such basic errors in their reporting.  Obviously, their business is hinged on proving that ClickFraud exists, but they need to do a lot more diligence in their engineering before making their claims.

It’s refreshing to see real engineering research being done on this stuff rather than the marketing claims based on fuzzy data that we usually see. 

Thoughts on Niall leaving Microsoft

I’ve had some time to think about Niall Kennedy’s announcement that he’s leaving Microsoft.  I met him once for probably less than a minute, so I don’t really know him.  I have read his blog a fair bit and have a lot of respect for him.  But….

I’m a little disappointed with Niall too.  He started work at Microsoft only 4 months ago.  Frankly, he should have known that Microsoft could be like this.  To quit after such a short period of time, and then to declare the company of being in “general paralysis” seems unfair to Microsoft, his colleagues, and his readers. He did generate a lot of press for himself though (ZDNet, Information Week, CNet, Seattle Post, SoftPedia).

There is no doubt that Microsoft is undergoing major changes in order to compete going forward.  This type of metamorphasis is one that Microsoft has successfully done before, but it takes a long time.  The change can take a huge toll on employees while the company gets priorities sorted out.  Coming from small companies myself, I definitely sympathize with Niall’s frustration that Microsoft and Windows Live is moving too slowly!  It’s fair, but any seasoned engineer should expect this when they start with Microsoft (and then work like a dog to make it faster/cheaper/better).

Obviously, each of us faces our own career/life decisions and sometimes the best thing to do is to leave.  In making his decision, I’m sure Niall did the right thing.  I’m just a little disappointed at the damning words that he left for Microsoft on his exit.  He’s a smart guy, but when you only had the patience for 4 months of it, you didn’t earn the right to conclude the whole thing is just screwed up.

Anyway – Niall – best of luck to you with your new adventure!  I’m sure you’ll go far.