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Googling at Google

veryard projects > knowledge management > google
googling on ... on this page
on this website
Googling has become the standard approach for finding information on the Internet, and the google is a powerful research tool for professional and private purposes - from serious scholarship to idle curiosity.

On this page, we discuss the google as an important technological and social phenomenon, whose strengths and weaknesses have widespread implications for all of us.

By far the leading google at present is the one maintained by the Google company. However, there are many other search engines around, whose differences may seem important, but which fall into the same general class and possess many of the same general characteristics.

And if Microsoft's Longhorn manages to outgoogle Google (as some people are suggesting), it will still be a google in the generic sense we are discussing here.

Google and spin

Google and God

Google and Longhorn

What is going on


Google as

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Google and Spin

veryard projects > knowledge management > google > and spin

News management and opinion management requires careful google-spinning.
November 13th, 2003

The marketing value of search engines has been obvious to many for ages. If you are selling spangled wangles, you want your website <> to appear near the top of any google search. Webmasters are constantly looking for new ways to trick google into giving them a higher ranking than they deserve.

As people (including journalists) rely increasingly on googling to find out what is going on (WIGO), then news management and opinion management also depend on google spinning.  There is often a systematic bias in the material that is presented to the googler. This bias may be contrived, or it may be an inevitable consequence of the economics of truth.

Here are a couple of examples from my own googling over the past few days.
The British home secretary recently made an announcement about biometrics. When I searched for <biometrics> I found hundreds of pro-biometric websites, from vendors, industry consortia and government bodies. There are undoubtedly also websites that present a more critical stance on biometrics, but these don't rank highly on google, and I didn't have the patience to page down and find them. (As it happens, I had other ways of reaching the material I wanted.) 
A member of the British Royal family recently denied some allegations that had been circulating on the Internet. If you search for this story now, you are presented with a lot of news items reporting the denial and discrediting the source - before you get to the allegation itself. This creates a different context for the allegation, and many people will read the allegation differently as a result.

A few days later, the British minister for children unwisely and perhaps inadvertently attempted a similar tactic, when she described one of her critics as "extremely disturbed".  Many years previously he had been a victim of child abuse when living in a children's home for which she had had overall responsibity.

veryard projects - innovation for demanding change

Google and God

veryard projects > knowledge management > google > and god

Anyone who seriously equates Google and God must be both intellectually and spiritually impoverished.
November 1st, 2003

Is Google omniscient? Only if all the knowledge in the world is accessible via the Internet, and Google provides reliable access to this knowledge. Neither of these conditions is valid.

Google and GooglePlex represent very large finite numbers. There is always a finite number of results from a Google search, and only a fraction of these are factual, meaningful, relevant or valuable. In contrast, God is usually conceived as infinite.

 Many improvements to Google have been suggested, and some of these might improve the fact, meaning, relevance and/or value of a search-act. Google becomes a kind of Panopticon, watching the whole world watching the whole world.

> suggested improvements to Google (pdf)

(compiled by Seth Godin and Ramit Sethi)

 The suggested improvements are just great for those people who want to ask the same questions as everyone else, and get the same answers. Google rankings already depend on the clicks of previous websurfers, and this dependency will become more sophisticated.  Google will therefore support, with ever-greater efficiency and effectiveness, an intellectual activity characterized by A.A. Milne (author of Winnie-The-Pooh) as "Thinking with the Majority".

Many believers say God is not sitting on a cloud somewhere, God is in ourselves, in our hearts. When Google is equated with God, we are supposed to interpret this equation as referencing not the Google software nor the Google company, but the Internet community as a whole - ourselves as Google users. And perhaps we geeks are supposed to be flattered by this.

But however much of our minds and our lives we publish on the Internet, lots of stuff - perhaps even the most important stuff - cannot be published, cannot be put into TXT and JPEG.

And the things that are really worth searching for - integrity, wisdom, justice, courage and love - are not simply listed on Google but can only be found through focal practices, and through authentic engagement with other people.

> Albert Borgmann on focal practices

veryard projects - innovation for demanding change

Google and Longhorn

veryard projects > knowledge management > google > and longhorn

How does an act of branding reveal problems with both Google and Microsoft?
October 31st, 2003

Popular commentary suggests that Microsoft's new generation operating system (code-named Longhorn) represents a threat to Google. There are lots of blogs discussing how Google should respond. But there is a deeper issue.
> suggested improvements to Google (pdf)
(compiled by Seth Godin and Ramit Sethi)

If you search for "LONGHORN" on Google you will get loads of references to Microsoft's latest software, at Microsoft and third party websites. You will also find some websites referring to Longhorn cattle and Longhorn sheep, and some of the places they can be found.

We must assume that Microsoft marketing people were aware of these associations, and of the opportunities they provided for some mild humour at Microsoft's expense.  After all, it is standard practice for IT-literate marketing people nowadays to run a proposed brand name or project name through Google, to see what comes up.

But now try putting "LONGHORN BEETLE" into Google. You will now find a load of other websites, referring to various species of a highly destructive pest. I imagine that Microsoft marketing people were not aware of these associations.

Of course, if you had scrolled through pages and pages of Google search, you would have come to the Longhorn beetle eventually. But the point is that most people only look at the first few (or few dozen) pages. If you don't already know about Longhorn beetles, Google will not draw your attention to them.

Anyone who uses search engines regularly is aware of their limitations.  While there are concerns in some quarters about Google's increasing dominance of the Internet search space, this isn't just about Google, since competing search engines may suffer from the same limitations. (While competition is important commercially, it doesn't always give us a genuine choice.)

How did I find out about longhorn beetles then? I looked in an old-fashioned reference book. Not very difficult - but the problem is that using Google (or Internet search engines generally) is so easy that people don't always remember to use other sources as well. Google was okay once I knew more precisely what I might be looking for.

This is one of the pitfalls of using the Internet for serious work. It is not a serious pitfall, as long as people are aware of its limitations, and take sensible precautions. But in its corporate enthusiasm for the Internet, Microsoft is often one of the first organizations to fall into any Internet pitfalls.
Google becoming dangerous when people start to act as if the Internet was the only available source of information, and Google the only way of finding stuff
Microsoft remaning dangerous, Google becoming vulnerable as long as Google represents a source of Internet value as yet untapped by Microsoft
Microsoft remaining vulnerable when its employees themselves get carried away by the wonders of the Internet, and fail to take ordinary precautions.

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veryard projects > knowledge management > google > observations


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Last update November 13th, 2003
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