Ed Dale seems to be behind the times and from the post just looks like he is trying to attract users so he can be an influence (as he suggest you should do in your niche). Social validation as he speaks of has already been a part of Google's algorithm, this has been going on for over a year. This is not something new and if he predicts it will be the "new indicator of choice" then he is way behind. Social validation was talked about in 2010 that it would become a factor in 2011 and that is exactly what happened.
Now that Google has cleared the many spam sites (ezine articles, ehow, articles base, and etc) they targeted the overly populated ads sites with the Google Page Layout Algorithm. Semantics have been discussed with many on this forum since last year although some of us marketers have been talking about it for several years. Semantics is part of quality content and that is what Google, which has been said for years.
Build my rank getting slapped is a good thing in my opinion because many should stop trying to game the system and just play by the rules. Google states on their very own blog what they want and they have been doing so for years. The information is not always in plain english because sometimes you just have to read between the lines, but the information is there.
Overly optimized means sites that are solely focused on SEO and search engines and they do things like keyword stuffing and add in every single SEO element that they can think of.