December 15, 2008

Two Wacky Anti-Google Media Blasts: Neutrality and Search Horrors!

Greetings. With the elections over, and the year winding down as we continue (to quote Tom Lehrer) "sliding down the razor blade of life ..." -- it appears that some media outlets have decided that now's the time to try come up with some dirt on Google -- whether accurate or not isn't the issue, of course.

The big blowup was in today's Wall Street Journal, which published a story essentially claiming that Google and Lawrence Lessig had abandoned their network neutrality principles. In reality, it turns out that what I'll charitably call a "confused" WSJ was inappropriately commingling net neutrality with Google's desire to deploy "edge servers" for high volume content (e.g. YouTube) and so attempted -- falsely -- to portray Google as acting in a duplicitous manner.

Google quickly blogged a statement clarifying the situation, which was followed up by an AP story today as well. Lessig published his own retort.

Now, how could the "fair and balanced" Journal have made such a mistake? Oh wait, I'm sorry, that's the slogan for Fox News -- they're so easy to confuse since Murdoch bought the Journal!

Across the pond, The Register published a piece blasting Google for statements made by Google Search VP Marissa Mayer, suggesting that at some point in the future Google might use input from the user community to help modify obvious problems with particular search results listings.

It's been long known that despite diligent work by Google to try limit their impacts, the use of "Google bombing" and "Googlewashing" techniques by sites -- in attempts to unfairly skew search results -- are still continuing. This can cause obviously inappropriate results to be driven to the top, and meaningful organic results being suppressed. Even with the best tuning, autonomous algorithms can only go so far in blocking abusive techniques.

I for one find to be inappropriate any knee-jerk reactions against the concept of the tuning of search results based on the careful analysis of user input. I'm not saying that there aren't a bunch of potentially complex issues involved, including when such actions should be taken (my vote would be as infrequently as practicable) and to what extent such changes would be human-supervised to avoid "gaming actions" similar in concept to Google bombing/washing.

But overall, the concept of such tuning (and keep in mind that it's only a theoretical at this stage) has considerable potential merit -- if appropriately used -- to improve the user search experience.

Enough for now. Back to sliding down the razor blade, gang. The fun never stops.


Posted by Lauren at December 15, 2008 01:11 PM | Permalink
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