A Whale of a Bad Analogy for Bandwidth Hogs

Having written my fair share, I know that bad analogies can stick out like a sore flower pot.

Case in point: A national business publication recently published an interesting analysis of the ongoing debate about wireless "bandwidth hogs." In making its case that it is the carriers, not heavy users, who are being piggish, this passage struck me like a harpoon in the side:

"Some people do use a lot of data. This month, Cisco Systems reported that the top 1 percent of wireless data customers account for 20 percent of traffic. In any other industry, this market segment would be called 'loyal customers.' Casinos call them 'whales' and give them free hotel rooms and special tables with high limits. Wireless carriers punish their whales."

[Verizon Wireless puts bandwidth hogs on a data diet]

Let's see why this analogy washed up on the beach: Whales, in casino parlance, are the highest of high rollers. They are the super rich who think nothing of dropping a few hundred grand - or a few million dollars - on a single session of their favorite game of chance. The reason casinos give them "free" hotel rooms is not because they are "loyal customers," but because they are - to introduce yet another member of the animal kingdom - cash cows. They don't necessarily show up every weekend, and they may win big once in awhile, but collectively and over time, they are certain to pad the casino's bottom line like no other subset of patrons.

Bandwidth hogs are more like blackjack card counters: They aren't cheating as you or I might understand the word, but they are violating house terms of service and as such their play is throttled. (I realize that carrier terms aren't being violated now, but, like casinos, the carriers are largely allowed to write their own rules; that's why this debate is ongoing). Bandwidth hogs are also like those who load up on shrimp at a casino's all-you-can-eat buffet; the classic analogy.

But, bandwidth hogs could only be to the wireless industry what whales are to casinos if the hogs were willing to pay any price whatsoever to play the game the way they want to play. Does that sound like your typical bandwidth hog?

When a retail whale gets caught gaming Google

J.C. Penney currently finds itself in hot water for gaming Google's page-rank system, which means that shoppers now using Google to find goods are much less likely to find them at JCPenney.com.

According to The New York Times, J.C. Penney's search engine optimization contractor littered the Internet with thousands of links pointing from low-quality or dormant Web sites back to J.C. Penney's Web site. Such practices are expressly forbidden by Google but nonetheless prove irresistible to the unscrupulous because, as was the case here, they can produce dramatic results.

The Times story described how J.C. Penney benefited from being undeservedly listed first for a wide variety of search terms, including dresses, bedding, area rugs, skinny jeans, home decor, comforter sets and many more. "This striking performance lasted for months, most crucially through the holiday season, when there is a huge spike in online shopping," wrote the Times.

Sweet deal, until you get caught. Now Google has sent J.C. Penney's page ranks plummeting.

The retailer says it wasn't aware of what was being done on its behalf and summarily fired its SEO contractor. Too late.

Have an analogy of your own? The address is buzz@nww.com.

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