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Author Topic: Infectious Greed: Dishwashers, and How Google Eats Its Own Tail  (Read 5533 times)

mouser

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Infectious Greed: Dishwashers, and How Google Eats Its Own Tail
« on: December 20, 2009, 03:13:56 AM »
Looks like I have a new site to put on my regular reading list. This is a nice summary of why google ads are corrupting web searches and making it hard to find useful content.

Quote
Over the weekend I tried to buy a new dishwasher. Being the fine net-friendly fellow that I am, I  began Google-ing for information. And Google-ing. and Google-ing. As I tweeted frustratedly at the tend of the failed exercise, "To a first approximation, the entire web is spam when it comes to appliance reviews".  This is, of course, merely a personal example of the drive-by damage done by keyword-driven content -- material created to be consumed like info-krill by Google's algorithms.
...
Google has become a snake that too readily consumes its own keyword tail. Identify some words that show up in profitable searches -- from appliances, to mesothelioma suits, to kayak lessons -- churn out content cheaply and regularly, and you're done. On the web, no-one knows you're a content-grinder.  The result, however, is awful. Pages and pages of Google results that are just, for practical purposes, advertisements in the loose guise of articles, original or re-purposed. It hearkens back to the dark days of 1999, before Google arrived, when search had become largely useless, with results completely overwhelmed by spam and info-clutter.  Google has to know this. The problem is too big and too obvious to miss. But it's hard to know what you can do algorithmically to solve the problem. Content creators are simply using Google against itself, feeding its hungry crawlers the sort of thing that Google loves to consume, to the detriment of search results and utility.
...
Something has to give, but I wonder what will -- the snake, its tail, or us?



from http://waxy.org/

mouser

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Re: Infectious Greed: Dishwashers, and How Google Eats Its Own Tail
« Reply #1 on: December 20, 2009, 03:16:34 AM »
and a follow up also from waxy.org:
http://cdixon.org/20...a-bad-search-result/

mnemonic

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Re: Infectious Greed: Dishwashers, and How Google Eats Its Own Tail
« Reply #2 on: December 20, 2009, 03:35:42 AM »
He's hit on a really good point there.  If you try and type any shareware title followed by the word "review" into Google, you get  hundreds of useless results from the same shareware download sites.  Even if they have a "review", it's generally just the author's blurb.  Or one of those "5-star must download software" awards that sites give away to any old piece of software, irregardless of quality.

The only one that is generally worth looking at for customer reviews is Fileforum.  Problem with customer reviews though is that they're only ever written by fanboys and haters.

Rant over  ;D

housetier

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Re: Infectious Greed: Dishwashers, and How Google Eats Its Own Tail
« Reply #3 on: December 20, 2009, 04:56:03 AM »
Well when you are looking for reviews you have to add "site:donationcoder.com" otherwise you won't get any honest results :)

I too have come to rely less on google for finding stuff. Rather, I use it to help me remember things. I remember a phrase and a site name, and giving that to google usually yields the desired url.

I do not trust online reviews anymore. For purchases I rely on real people I know personally. This is apparently a wide-spread problem. The other day I came across a unique webshop that seems to dissuade its customers from purchasing more:
Quote
Customers who did not buy this product also did not buy these products


It is a parody of course and imho it only emphasizes the importance of "Try before you trust". The less you know people the more truth is to that saying.

Other recommendation systems such as StumbleUpon, where I select who has an influence on recommendations could work better, but I have not enough experience yet. I fear these can be gamed just like amazon reviews.

doctorfrog

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Re: Infectious Greed: Dishwashers, and How Google Eats Its Own Tail
« Reply #4 on: December 20, 2009, 01:35:01 PM »
I'm glad some attention is being focused on this problem. I haven't been able to locate a useful review for any product, software, or game on Google for years. I'm forced to just select a few sites that I trust, or ask an internet community I trust what they think.

The same problem exists when using price search engines. I don't know how many times I've searched for a good price on something, only to be led to a sky-high shipping price recoup, a worthless ebay auction, or a product number that's off by a digit and is no longer in stock anywhere.

I'm back to being on my own in web searching.

Probably better that way, anyway. This decline in usefulness has mysteriously coincided with a similar decline in my own willingness to spend money on things.

mouser

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Re: Infectious Greed: Dishwashers, and How Google Eats Its Own Tail
« Reply #5 on: December 20, 2009, 01:43:09 PM »
i wonder if this means there is room for a major search engine player that had a system similar to google's pageranking, but specifically spread negative scores based on sites actually selling products.. so a site selling products would spread it's negative energy to sites that link to it, etc.

this would penalize some good honest sites, so you wouldn't want it as your only search engine, but it might be useful when searching for reviews and things that are otherwise dominated by commercial entities trying to game the system.

the problem of course is that there is much more money in what google does -- putting ads on everything and raking in money from seo experts trying to game the system for profit.

40hz

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Re: Infectious Greed: Dishwashers, and How Google Eats Its Own Tail
« Reply #6 on: December 20, 2009, 05:30:18 PM »
the problem of course is that there is much more money in what google does

And the story ended right there... ;)


JavaJones

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Re: Infectious Greed: Dishwashers, and How Google Eats Its Own Tail
« Reply #7 on: December 20, 2009, 10:51:52 PM »
The other problem with a negative rating for sites that link to sales sites is most legitimate review sites use sales referrals to generate money to support their site. The idea itself is interesting though, as a possible component for an improved search engine.

- Oshyan

40hz

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Re: Infectious Greed: Dishwashers, and How Google Eats Its Own Tail
« Reply #8 on: December 21, 2009, 12:06:27 PM »
i wonder if this means there is room for a major search engine player that had a system similar to google's pageranking, but specifically spread negative scores based on sites actually selling products.. so a site selling products would spread it's negative energy to sites that link to it, etc.

this would penalize some good honest sites...

Ooo! I just reread that and let it sink in.

Cool idea. Problem is it's rife with the potential for legal liability. Especially if it could be shown to have a negative impact on somebody's sales. (Annoying as bogus whoops! cancel that :mrgreen: some reviews may be, they're not illegal under current law.)

Even consumer advocacy groups have to be careful what they say and how they say it no matter how true it is. That's why they have a battery of editors and lawyers review everything twice before they publish. I'd hate to trust something that sensitive to an algorithm.

An attorney once told me there was a saying he learned in law school:

"Keep all your words soft, sweet, and wholesome - because you're about to eat them."


Probably not a bad thing to keep in mind. 8)


JavaJones

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Re: Infectious Greed: Dishwashers, and How Google Eats Its Own Tail
« Reply #9 on: December 21, 2009, 01:22:10 PM »
Hmm, I wonder if you can be legally held liable for the work of an algorithm if no malicious, slanderous, or personal intent could be proven. In other words you code the algorithm without bias to site or author, but by clearly weeding out a class of content/links you see as less "relevant". It's just another search engine. It never targets anyone unduly - it's just part of its algorithm. A new site could arise that perfectly plays against your algorithm's coding, and gets essentially buried in the search results, but you didn't code it knowing of that site, so how is it discriminatory or illegal? I don't know, I'm not a lawyer, and some of the things people sue over these days drive me nuts (what am I saying "some" - MOST). But it seems reasonably defensible...

- Oshyan

OldElmerFudd

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Re: Infectious Greed: Dishwashers, and How Google Eats Its Own Tail
« Reply #10 on: December 23, 2009, 12:22:46 PM »
While most of my review searches are for a limited range of products, I have noticed how many "review" sites are typically composed of wording from the manufacturer/press release. If I see the same brief description on the search page, I usually just pass those by. Over time, there are sites I've found that actually review the products I'm interested in, so I tend to return there for information.

In actual practice, while "depth-charging" some of the sales linking sites is intriguing, I suspect it's just a fantasy. Search engines follow Google's model because it generates revenue. They're not likely to let anything interfere with that, imo.

 ;)
Always code as if the guy who ends up maintaining your code is a violent psychopath and knows where you live.