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Search, the Internet, and me

On the NGC4LIB list, James Weinheimer posted a link to an article in the New York Times, The Dirty Little Secrets of Search.  The article both scares and fascinates me.  I sort of figured something was going on with search since I would get high hits for companies that had nothing to do (not really) with the object of my search. [and no, I shan’t name the company so it won’t get additional hits but it is big and has a red circular logo…]

Another article “How the Internet Gets Inside Us“, this from the New Yorker, was also posted on the NGC4LIB list but this time by B.J. Sloan. I think I am a Ever-Waser, based on the description in the article. I am cautiously optimistic. Actually, in general I am an optimistic person but with distinct paranoid tendencies.

Have you read the two articles? No? Go on. I’ll wait here [tapping foot], go on! Yes, they ARE long articles. Read.

OK. Why would I post these two articles together? You think they are unrelated? Au contraire mon frere! If the Internet is getting inside us AND if search is being so easily manipulated then… well then my paranoid self jumps aboard.

Search has been manipulated since Day 1. I remember when the “relevancy” ranking meant how many times a term appeared in the page (B.G. – Before Google).  Many sites added massive amounts of metadata to their pages to drive their ranking and get more hits. Then along came Google with their sneaky-cool algorithms.  Of  course spammers had to figure out how to work around that and they did. I think Google automatically ranks the domain extension as higher (such as a .gov would go higher than a .com) but then it relies on more complex computing, metadata, links, etc. to determine ranking.

I used to teach a class on how to read the URL and analyze the website to determine validity (at least, to get an idea if the site was credible). Few people really look at where they are getting the information, just so they get it.  This is no different from B.I. (Before Internet). My grandmother swore by the tabloids – after all, if they printed it then it must be true. The Internet via WWW carries on that tradition.

We now are seeing the phenomena of the Internet and World Wide Web. We can get to information (and misinformation) much more quickly than ever before.  We have the capability to instantly speak to someone in a completely different location – and share pictures, lectures, music, etc. practically at the speed of light. This is the change. It is faster. Human nature is the same. We still have evil. We still have manipulation. We still have beauty. We still have love. We can just access each other and the information faster.

“Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it” said George Santayana [yes, I did google to find that-wait! no, I actually yahoo’ed]. Behind all the technology are human beings. Our nature has not changed drastically. Despite the new technology, the speed, etc. we are still we. We must be responsible enough to keep that grain of salt as we carry on using the glorious new techie tools for behind the tools lie humans [cue Dorothy and the Wizard behind the curtain]

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