Tag Archives: search engines

Things I Learned this Week

Among the things I learned this week:
* In the late 19th century, women wore posy holders. There was a lot of variety, but the ornate ones are beautiful and many had ring attachments so they could dangle. (Courtesy: Smithsonian Gardens)

* The joy and amusement of watching people who have never played Pac-Man before trumps my desire to play. (Courtesy: Smithsonian American Art Museum)

* GMail searches don’t auto-stem. I’m shocked and appalled (that I just learned this). (Courtesy: Personal experience)

* 1982 Bordeaux wines are historically important for the evolution of the wine market. (Courtesy: The New York Times)

* General Ulysses S. Grant’s relationship with Jews, including General Orders No. 11, which expelled them from areas under his control during the Civil War, and his, later, assistance in eastern Europe. (Courtesy: The New Republic)

* Pyongyang’s subway system is more extensive than I expected, although it does not appear to be expanding. Plus, it has significance in the context of world subway systems (other sites with good information or photos: Unofficial Pyongyang Metro). (Courtesy: North Korean Economy Watch)

Search Index as the Web (Alternative Conceptualizations of the Internet)

The Register has a great piece on Cuil‘s launch, its impact on Google, and what the Web really is these days. While I don’t completely agree with the article’s point, thinking of the Web not as the culmination of linked documents but as The Index (i.e., search engine handling of the Web) is interesting and useful. Here are some of the key points from the article (“Spammers, Cuil, and the rescue from planet Google”):

With a little thought, Cuil not being as good as Google at finding what we want online is the least surprising piece of news since people familiar with the situation said JPII was partial to fish on a Friday. In 2008, Mountain View’s all-seeing algorithms in many ways are the web.

It’s easy to identify what happened. When it first surfaced in 1998, Google made sense of the web a bit better than anyone else. It was a useful improvement on existing services. Ten years later, the web does its best to make sense of Google.

The sorry upshot is that barring some unimaginable technological leap no search engine’s results will ever be better than Google’s, at least in the West. And the switch leaves the likes of Microsoft and Cuil (and a dozen other doomed start-ups) effectively attempting to reverse-engineer Google, not understand the information on the web.

The people at the vanguard of reverse-engineering Google are not its jealous search rivals. They’re the spammers and SEO consultants. They have driven an ever-closer relationship between the quirks and whims of Google’s algorithms and policies, and the structure and content of the web. It’s a feedback loop that was unavoidable once Google’s early rivals proved unable to respond to its better search results and presentation.

Media’s Coverage Of Search Engines And Privacy

A significant news story these last many hours has been Google’s refusal to hand over search-related data to the Department of Justice. We can debate the methodological issues associated with the DOJ project for all of the five minutes it takes to realize it’s fundamentally flawed, but I want to focus on the news coverage.

In every press account I initially saw, the headline focused on Google’s refusal, not on the other search engine’s (e.g., MSN and Yahoo) compliance. Is that bias a result of the popularity of Google? Is it reflective of what I perceive to be tendency to support enforcement over privacy issues?

Before asking those types of questions, however, it is important to make sure the facts are straight. Is Google receiving a disproportionate share of the attention of this story?

In support of this is the fact that the media did not pick up on the story until Google made it’s latest refusal, rather than when the other search engines complied. This, however, can be explained away by the fact that the press relies on the government to report the news before they report on it.

A better method would be a large-n study of news headlines. Thanks to the Internet, we can do that with news aggregators. I began with News.Google, the news aggregator I use most often. At first, I searched for each of the major search engine companies in the titles of news stories. Doing so yields these results (at 1210a, January 21):
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