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What's a Meta For? Cutting Catapult Ropes, Silly!

Explore the world of SEO metaphors with me, from the Broken Window Fallacy to the Tragedy of the Commons. Learn about Vernor Vinge's Rainbows End and Iain M. Banks' Surface Detail, and why Elon Musk's Neuralink is so important. Plus, discover Stanislaw Lem's insights into alien life, and the many metaphors you can use for SEO.

Discover the Metaphors of SEO and How Cutting Catapult Ropes Can Help!

By Michael Levin

Thursday, May 11, 2023

SEOs deal in metaphors. What’s a meta for? It’s for describing something else. So metas in the context of SEO isn’t really that different than that of language. If it’s not part of the main body of the thing, then you put it somewhere else, make decisions about structure and schema nobody’s ever going to see but a bot, and then you hope for the best. That tweaking of meta-data is a big part of SEO. If not the actual meta tags, then other meta-attributes of the page that “describe” it, such as structured data, schema, and the like.

Facebook took the term from another fine Sci-Fi writer, Vernor Vinge, in his 2006 book “Rainbows End”. In it, he describes a world where everyone is connected to the internet all the time, and the internet is a virtual reality overlay on top of the real world. The nutty social media folks we know today who align with worldviews all either align with Harry Potter or Pokemon. Truly seminal work, and a must-read. Not a Musk-read. For that, it’s The Culture.

Musk’s probably things Zucker is a sucker for latching onto Rainbows End instead of the profoundly more important “Surface Detail” by Iain M. Banks where the Neuralink was invented. We don’t need no stinkin meta when we’ve got a neuralink. Burn a billion on red herrings while I help the humans think.

Even the fact that the very title of Musk’s motivational Sci-Fi book is about surface detail, haha! You know those Blinkist lists of what Elon reads? They are as much of a red herring as Rainbows End. Nobody wants you “getting it”, so go read the wrong books and help the wrong people make money while doing it, and take yourself off the table as an actual threat to the status quo.

I mean am I the only one watching Sci-Fi nerds like my sports, recognizing plays out of the playbooks of the greats? Yes? Sigh, okay. Then I’m talking to myself. And maybe Jane. Hello Jane. Jane, meet Skippy. Skippy, Jane. I’m sure you two have a lot to talk about, cause popculture sure as hell hasn’t a clue to today’s undertones. Not one mention of these things except from me, as far as I can tell. Okay, enough ranting. If you know so much, then use it. Why are you an SEO then, if what you said in your last post is true. Shouldn’t you be off pursing your passion?

Yes! Yes indeedy, I do. But you know what? My passion doesn’t much convert to money these days unless I sacrifice myself to the alter of entrepreneurial New York Tech Meetup startup bro culture no thank you. I’m not a bro, I’m a nerd. I’m a genuine nerd who read about Thanos and his Infinity Gauntlet when it first appeared in comics, and not the graphic novel. The pulp real deal that preceded it and led to the popularity of that storyline. And I’ll also tell you Marvel flubbed it by letting Sony ruin the big bad guy of MU, Galactus. Having squandered Galactus on the Flubtastic Four, they had to reach into the bag of bad guys and pull out the also-ran who frankly, the main man Lobo could have taken out. But alas, I digress.

I haven’t read all the important Sci-Fi, but I do try and am often looking for my blind spots. The 1995 book The Bohr Maker by Linda Nagata, for example, is a book I was recommended to by an old friend from my Scala in Virginia days, Joe Graff, and it is a perpetual reminder that so much of the good stuff is stuff I never heard of, and maybe still never will. I’ll write about Bohr Maker in a future post, but for now a more obvious example are the works of Stanislaw Lem.

Lem is like Verner Vinge’s Polish counterpart, genuine mathematician, physicist, and philosopher who also happened to write some of the most important Sci-Fi of the 20th century. But Lem’s under-read because his native language is Polish. Like Vinge, the breadth and scope of Lem’s work is vast and you can’t sum it up in a word. But he’s credited with recognizing that alien life for reasons as simple as size-scale and time-scale. To them, we are odd unlikely frail little critters. We are like ants to them. That was Lem.

I almost launched a site called “What’s a Meta For?” to explore the idea of metaphors in SEO, accompanied by all the strong metaphor visuals like:

Oh, the list goes on. And the idea of this site was immediately loved by the very respected folks I shared the idea with. But you know, life happens and there wasn’t ChatGPT to help me write it and Midjourney to help me illustrate it. But there is now. Oh, did I mention the metaphor of cutting catapult ropes?