March 30, 2011

"Gaming" Google's New "+1" Social Recommendations System?

Greetings. Google has begun deploying a new social recommendations system, called "+1" (the term "+1" has long been shorthand within Google for "I like this" or "I agree with this").

This system appears to have a great deal of merit and positive possibilities.

Of course, since these recommendations are typically shared in various ways, there are a range of implications.

Initially, +1 will reportedly be used to "tag" search results and ads, though ultimately +1 data may also affect search results rankings in the future.

Google appears to have well thought out the privacy issues associated with the +1 implementation.

However, I do have some concerns about the potential for purposeful "gaming" of the system to artificially distort and boost perceived "value" or "goodness" of specific results or ads, even in the absence of direct ranking effects per se at present.

And at such a time as +1 may be used for ranking, there's a key question to be considered (even in the absence of specific boost-oriented gaming attempts): Is a popular result necessarily a better result -- or the best result?

I brought this up with Google's Matt Cutts this morning, and he agreed that popular was not the same as best, but noted that Google was interested in exploring the +1 ratings as a potential rankings signal.

It will be interesting to see where this all leads.

But one possible hint of the complexities is already obvious. Within literally minutes of Google's official announcement of +1, I started receiving requests from various parties begging me to immediately +1 specific search results -- even telling me in detail how to find those results.

That sure didn't take long. Ouch.


Posted by Lauren at March 30, 2011 12:40 PM | Permalink
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