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Last post Author Topic: The conflict of interest that is Google  (Read 30935 times)

Tuxman

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Re: The conflict of interest that is Google
« Reply #50 on: November 13, 2010, 10:56:22 AM »
*push*

CodeTRUCKER

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Re: The conflict of interest that is Google
« Reply #51 on: November 13, 2010, 12:14:22 PM »

* not trying to boost my post count, I swear!

I am!  :eusa_dance:
« Last Edit: November 13, 2010, 12:22:08 PM by CodeTRUCKER »

J-Mac

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Re: The conflict of interest that is Google
« Reply #52 on: November 13, 2010, 01:12:25 PM »
@complearning123

Please refrain from double/tripple posting in the future  :D

Huh?  Did I miss something?   :huh:   :tellme:

Jim

J-Mac

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Re: The conflict of interest that is Google
« Reply #53 on: November 13, 2010, 01:20:40 PM »

The funny thing is I was pondering the subject of "logic" just yesterday and today [Cue Twilight Zone theme].  After some cogitation on the issue, I was struck that "logic" was illogical.  :o  Unfortunately, my post would be about twice the length of your missive, so I will try to distill it and get back to you.  In the meantime, here is a smattering...

If...
A = B
and
B = C
then
A = C

... see anything wrong with this?

OK, I am definitely NOT schooled formally in logic or philosophy, but I do remember seeing this before - isn't that called syllogistic logic or syllogistic reasoning, something like that?

Thank you.

Jim

Stephen66515

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Re: The conflict of interest that is Google
« Reply #54 on: November 13, 2010, 04:19:07 PM »

Renegade

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Re: The conflict of interest that is Google
« Reply #55 on: November 13, 2010, 07:08:56 PM »
If...
A = B
and
B = C
then
A = C

... see anything wrong with this?

OK, I am definitely NOT schooled formally in logic or philosophy, but I do remember seeing this before - isn't that called syllogistic logic or syllogistic reasoning, something like that?

Kind of. You're right because the above is a syllogism, but the general term is "symbolic logic" or "propositional logic" or "formal logic". It all really depends and isn't really important.

Strictly, "and" is usually expressed by "&" or the union symbol (∩ and sometimes written ^ though ^ is better reserved for exponents) while "then" is expressed by a right-pointing arrow (→ or hacked as -> or -->). Different texts will use different sets of symbols, and usually they are defined at the start, though it's not unusual to get dropped into some formal logic and need to sort out exactly which symbols mean what. For example, the exclusive conditional operator, "if and only if", uses the bidirectional arrow, ↔, and sometimes is written as "iff". However, it wouldn't be unusual or unexpected to see it written as <->.

A lot of that is because ASCII doesn't include symbols for all the mathematical operators or because writers are too lazy to use them or don't have any way to use them. Thank God for Unicode~! :D

If anyone is interested in logic, or more specifically argumentation and informal logic, I would strongly recommend getting a copy of "The Art of Deception" by Nicholas Capaldi. The full title is:

The Art of Deception: An Introduction to Critical Thinking : How to : Win an Argument, Defend a Case, Recognize a Fallacy, See Through a Deception, Persuade a Skeptic, and Turn Defeat into Victory

Capaldi is an Italian monk who taught informal logic at a university and was frustrated by students not being able to "get it", so he wrote a book on informal logic that takes the opposite approach. The result is a wonderfully written, humorous, and informative book that truly is a classic.

The section on the ad baculum argument is wonderful. :D "...there is no better way..."
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CodeTRUCKER

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Re: The conflict of interest that is Google
« Reply #56 on: November 13, 2010, 07:43:44 PM »
...
Anyways, I do tend to get carried away with logic. It's just so much fun~! :D


Ah!  Now we know what to do when we want to get Renegade to come out of his shell. 

kyrathaba

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Re: The conflict of interest that is Google
« Reply #57 on: November 13, 2010, 09:06:51 PM »
I took one logic course in college.  Really enjoyed it.  Need to review, though (it's been twenty years ago).

mouser

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Re: The conflict of interest that is Google
« Reply #58 on: November 19, 2010, 05:55:28 PM »
Paper discussing ways in which google rigs the search results to put themselves at the top:
http://www.benedelman.org/hardcoding/

Quote
Hard-Coding Bias in Google "Algorithmic" Search Results
Benjamin Edelman - November 15, 2010

I present categories of searches for which available evidence indicates Google has "hard-coded" its own links to appear at the top of algorithmic search results, and I offer a methodology for detecting certain kinds of tampering by comparing Google results for similar searches. I compare Google's hard-coded results with Google's public statements and promises, including a dozen denials but at least one admission.

Screenshot - 11_19_2010 , 5_56_40 PM.png

from http://tech.slashdot...oogle-Search-Results
« Last Edit: November 19, 2010, 05:57:24 PM by mouser »

kyrathaba

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Re: The conflict of interest that is Google
« Reply #59 on: November 19, 2010, 06:03:04 PM »
It just goes to show that when a given company becomes this prominent in cornering any sort of market (could be automobiles, oil, etc., but in this case happens to be searches), it leads to abuses.

CodeTRUCKER

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Re: The conflict of interest that is Google
« Reply #60 on: November 19, 2010, 06:08:38 PM »
I recently read an article about Google-Analytics "myths."  The gist of it was given a number of competitors which are local to each other, the data from G-A will manipulate the search results to "Big G's" advantage.  

Consider merchants, "A," "B," and "C."  If "C" generates more revenue for Google than either "A" or "B," the search results are manipulated to send more business to "C" even though it takes customers away from "A" and "B," but this knowledge is never communicated to them, for obvious reasons.  

I'll post back, if I can find the article.

CodeTRUCKER

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Re: The conflict of interest that is Google
« Reply #61 on: November 19, 2010, 06:23:49 PM »
It just goes to show that when a given company becomes this prominent in cornering any sort of market (could be automobiles, oil, etc., but in this case happens to be searches), it leads to abuses.

Lord Acton was right... "Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely."

JavaJones

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Re: The conflict of interest that is Google
« Reply #62 on: November 19, 2010, 06:59:17 PM »
Do I get a badge for "Google Apologist" if I say that "bias" article is, er... BS? :D Well, I guess it depends on how you look at it. The way I've always thought of it, these "results" at the top are not actually search results, they're "info widgets" that *directly* provide potentially relevant info in case that will answer the user's question without actually having to visit a separate site. This is exactly like Google's "widgets" that can process equations or do unit conversions for you. I doubt that Yahoo or any other company would be willing to let them scrape and reformat data for "widget" presentation in the same way, at least not without a price, so I don't see this as unreasonable or anticompetitive at all.

Several Slashdot posters (in fact almost the majority) have already echoed my thoughts, so I guess I'm not the only one:
http://tech.slashdot...400&cid=34287362
http://tech.slashdot...400&cid=34287384
http://tech.slashdot...400&cid=34287574
http://tech.slashdot...400&cid=34287404
http://tech.slashdot...400&cid=34287426

Sorry, I don't doubt Google has some "evil" tendencies and certainly wields lots of power, but the incessant Google blood/witch hunt I just can't get behind. I think what happened with wireless data gathering is worse than this, but even that was probably not malicious and is arguably being handled fairly reasonably.

By the way, Yahoo does the exact same thing with their own content. And you know, I like Google's services more, but I have no problem with that either. Yahoo Health comes up for "acne" and Yahoo Finance for "goog" (or any other common stock name). The only difference is that with Yahoo, for the acne search, I had 4 3-line sponsored results *above* the widget, plus a 6-line widget, plus 5 lines of link to 2 articles and their summaries, *then* the real search results started (this is on top of 6 ads in the right column). In total I managed to get 5 search result links and summaries on Yahoo without scrolling, vs 7 with Google (and on Google one of the results is a news feed, with 1 news story and full summary, plus links to 2 other stories). Google's results are also wider and the ads are only 2 lines instead of 3. There's a reason Google is still #1.

Edit: more experimental validation fun! So try "flu" in Yahoo and Google. On Google, the top "widget" is flu.gov! Next is the CDC, the top actual search result. Wikipedia is 3rd. On Yahoo, Yahoo Health is the widget, then flu.gov as the top search result, Wikipedia 2nd, and CDC 3rd.

Adding Bing into the mix now. Oddly, searching for flu gives me a map listing first, but it's links to a bunch of drug stores where I can get flu shots so I guess it's ok. Big widget though. Flu.gov is the first search result, followed by Wikipedia. No flu info widget (besides the map). Interestingly Bing has the fewest ads with just 1 2-line ad on top, and 5 on the right. Bing uses a different provider of stock quotes (interestingly it seems to not be the same data source as MSN moneycentral), but has the same type of widget at top. For acne, Bing has 4 2-line ads at top a Mayo Clinic sourced widget and "Bing Health", then regular search results (5.5 without scrolling). Interestingly, Bing dynamically adjusts its top tabs for domain-specific search, so for "acne" I have a "Health" tab at top. But if I search for flu I *don't* get the health tab (not even with "influenza"). Weird.

But regardless all this data just upholds my original contention. There's nothing wrong here. This is not a representation of "relevancy rank" per se, it's just another way to present data which a given company has that may be relevant to your query. It's just like the ads bar, an additional element of the search page design that shows *different* information than regular search results.

All this being said it would be nice if Google and others allowed you to turn off the widget stuff (maybe they do?).

- Oshyan
« Last Edit: November 19, 2010, 07:17:10 PM by JavaJones »

JavaJones

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Re: The conflict of interest that is Google
« Reply #63 on: November 19, 2010, 09:16:25 PM »
Ok, here are 2 conclusive proofs that Google isn't gaming the system to the benefit of their info above all else, and that these "widgets" are indeed *additional* to the search results.

First, in the search for "flu" in Google, as I said the widget for flu.gov comes up, followed by CDC, Wikipedia, etc. Google Health *does* have an entry for flu, but guess what, it's *not* on the first page. WebMD is. Google Flu Trends and Google Books (widget) are also (interesting). But not Google Health. In fact from what I saw, it's not in the first *5* pages!

Number 2: By default Google shows 10 search results per page. We all know this, right? Guess how many there are if you count the widgets? *13*. There are 10 normal results, and interspersed with those are widgets, 1 for flu.gov at the top, 1 for news almost half way down, and one for books at the bottom.

So there you have it, pretty conclusive IMHO.

Seems the original author also has a bit of a bone to pick with Google: http://www.benedelman.org/ :D Of course he claims that Microsoft being one of his consulting clients has nothing to do with it, but by his logic, correlation *does* equal causation, eh? ;)

- Oshyan

Bamse

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Re: The conflict of interest that is Google
« Reply #64 on: November 19, 2010, 09:35:18 PM »
God, it seems like some of you got internet access yesterday! The whole "system is fake with correct/impossible standards. Every heard of SEO? What you want is correct results based on who has the most effective SEO. So SEO is the truth then?
 
This about Google pimping own stuff has been an "issue" since forever. I remember Picasa and perhaps Picasa Web creating some debate years ago. Like when you searched for image/picture stuff it suddenly appeared on top. If this is considered a problem I think Google can screw everyone over and over without anyone noticing. They just need to make a "GUI" no one gets upset about. Then Google rocks!!!

Also I think best way to know their mindset is not reading prepared blogs/articles trying to make a fuss but seeing beast in the eyes. So Codetrucker, say hello to Google Analytics team blog, their twitter, install GA, check help pages and forums. Start using the tool. If you want to know Google that is a good way to start, many other offerings are biproducts of GA  - they would not exist without. But that is part of the evil scheme of course :)

When done - start placing Google in the big picture, you know all the other companies directing your internet activities. What is left to warn about?


« Last Edit: November 19, 2010, 09:37:52 PM by Bamse »

Renegade

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Re: The conflict of interest that is Google
« Reply #65 on: November 19, 2010, 09:39:21 PM »
Part of the outrage against Google is that many years ago, when the Internet was yet young, a rebel group defied the "man" by declaring that they would serve up search results that were based on relevance, and not self-interest. Moreover, they declared that they would "do no evil" as their competitors did... We bought that. We supported them. We believed.

Now, years later, our belief and trust has been betrayed.
Slow Down Music - Where I commit thought crimes...

Freedom is the right to be wrong, not the right to do wrong. - John Diefenbaker

Bamse

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Re: The conflict of interest that is Google
« Reply #66 on: November 19, 2010, 09:43:42 PM »
Exactly but how can anyone believe that? It is so strange to see people get sad now Google has become evil! They have always been evil. They are a business operating in the same environment as Microsoft etc. They just do it with more transparency (yes) and well better :) They speak to YOU right? You feel Google is there to help you. Now you are disappointed, have lost a friend. They are good, heh.

JavaJones

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Re: The conflict of interest that is Google
« Reply #67 on: November 19, 2010, 09:44:55 PM »
How exactly are they evil again? Isn't transparency *not* evil?

- Oshyan

mouser

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Re: The conflict of interest that is Google
« Reply #68 on: November 19, 2010, 09:47:18 PM »
I think one can fairly argue about whether this behavior is evil, monopolistic, unfair, whatever, and about the relative good that google does,

but i'm not sure i "get" the explanation that "well google isn't actually manipulating the search results so they come out on top, they are just adding a special 'widget' display that lists them at the top before the first result.. and it might look just like it's the first search result and have the exact same impact on readers but it doesnt 'count' as malicious because it was just snuck in there at the top after the backend search engine computed the results."  i just dont get that.

either they are specifically injecting themselves at the top of pages when people search for things to ensure they continue to have market dominance amongst and can send people where they profit, or they dont.  now you might not see anything wrong with that, i won't try to convince you otherwise.  personally i think that when you start doing this with a search engine it becomes harmful to the culture at large.  but regardless it seems to me the point of the article was that google is doing this, not whether the top first result was delivered via the search engine algorithm or artificially inserted by google before displaying the page.  or am i missing something?

JavaJones

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Re: The conflict of interest that is Google
« Reply #69 on: November 19, 2010, 10:06:15 PM »
I guess we just disagree then. I see the widgets as really no different than the ads. They are, to me at least, clearly different than the normal search results, they are presented *in addition* to them rather than *instead* of them, and they don't seem to affect the actual ranking of normal results. You could argue that this is just Google's way of getting around the idea of nuetrality and fair ranking, by introducing "services" that they can rank however they want, vs. regular results which *are* still ranked "fairly". That would be a reasonable argument, but in reality I don't think it makes much difference; it's an academic argument, and the important point in the end is whether the user is greater served as a result. I believe they are, vs. not having widgets at all (they're not going to pay for someone else's widgets, would you?).

Google has become as successful as they are partly by diversifying. Search is still their core strength, but they now have maps, shopping, finance, health, and a myriad of other things. Yahoo and Bing are no different. And all of them use these additional services to enhance their presentation of information in search. Ultimately the goal is to present searchers with the information that best matches their search criteria. If this can be improved by introducing these "widget" systems, then so be it (and I happen to think they *are* an improvement). To expect Google to pay someone else to use their service when they have an in-house option is frankly ridiculous, even if the in-house option is arguably not as good or comprehensive as some 3rd party might be. It would be one thing if the 3rd party didn't show up in the *search results*, but they do, and generally right where they should.

I want to make it clear however that I don't just give Google (or any other company) a "free pass" on anything, particularly security, privacy, or fairness issues. I'm not a big fan of capitalism either and the direction it tends to lead all companies as they succeed. I have seen Google compromise (less so and slower than most other companies of its size and growth rate, I would argue), and I have see some missteps, but overall as a US-based corporation I still think they're doing very well and I'm still a fan of theirs. I *understand* the suspicion and discomfort with their size and reach, I just want to make sure my reactions are not knee-jerk; that they are based firmly in reality and reason. I continue to watch Google with a skeptical but interested eye. So far they're doing OK. Much better, for me, than Facebook or Microsoft.

- Oshyan

mouser

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Re: The conflict of interest that is Google
« Reply #70 on: November 19, 2010, 10:14:26 PM »
i hear ya.

i suppose things like this wouldn't get my dander up so much if the public as a whole had a basic understanding that went something like this:

"Google is trying to be both a very good search provider, and takes steps to ensure they promote their own versions of a huge and increasingly growing and diversifying variety of services offered by competitors.  If i use the google search engine i know that google is going to take aggressive steps to steer me towards it's products, and favor sending me to their own sites and sites that they make money from.  I understand that this attempt to funnel people into sites and services they make money from will also be counterbalanced by the need to be judged as providing an objectively good search engine without which they would lose customers."

But i think the reality of the situation is that for the media and for the public, they view google incorrectly as:

"Google is a service designed to find and recommend sites to us that it *thinks* we will be best served by, that will help us find what we are looking for in the best way."

And i think that represents a fundamental misunderstanding of what google is and what it is doing, and the direction it's going.  Google has absolutely mastered the PR game.  They are not out there to help the public.  They are a giant corporation and their primary driving force is to figure out to make more money every day than they did the day before.  They will adjust their search algorithms and website pages to ensure they keep on this trajectory, while working hard to preserve the good will and remarkable public relations that they get.

Like all corporations, when the company's path to increased profits also coincide with the benefit of the public (as it often does with medical devices, search engine improvements, new drug inventions, etc.), we all benefit.  BUT when these paths and interest diverse, guess which path the company takes?
« Last Edit: November 19, 2010, 10:22:02 PM by mouser »

Bamse

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Re: The conflict of interest that is Google
« Reply #71 on: November 19, 2010, 10:33:36 PM »
Of course, those with knowledge and power wins Mouser. Anything new in that? How business world is. Majority are sheeps, have no insight in Googles 200+ services, probably don't care at all since Facebook is more interesting - you are right. Google are free to do whatever they want. Which is why situation could be a lot worse than someone taking a screenshot as "proof" of anything. How would Google develop if Microsoft bought them?

CodeTRUCKER

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Re: The conflict of interest that is Google
« Reply #72 on: November 19, 2010, 10:35:45 PM »
Like a previous poster, I won't try to persuade to the contrary.  I would like to take this out of the realms of opinion and deal with some facts of life.  I can accept that there are no hard exhibits to condemn Google as "evil," but for me to accept that "Big "G" (with G-A or not) has other's (competitor and/or customer) interests ahead of their own is contrary to any level of commercial acumen.  The facts are Google is in business to make money and they possess a monopoly (intended or not) that is irrefutable.  Further, they possess tools produced by some of the most brilliant professionals (remember their "want a job" billboard) that allows them an indisputable advantage.   To suggest that "Big G" would not lawfully take full advantage of all of their resources is..., well, you judge for yourselves.

Unless Google, as a $$$$$ corporation, has received some special celestial dispensation that exempts the employees and officers from the failings of human nature of control and greed, there is no reason to expect their behavior would be any different than any other financial giants.  I have gathered that Lord Acton's wisdom is not real popular around here, but it is ever germane.


J-Mac

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Re: The conflict of interest that is Google
« Reply #73 on: November 19, 2010, 10:42:56 PM »
Anyone read the rest of this year's columns/articles on Ben Edelman's site? Most would probably get a somewhat different opinion of Google after reading them. The Google Toolbar issues, Ads labeling, etc. Fascinating.

Thanks!

Jim

CodeTRUCKER

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Re: The conflict of interest that is Google
« Reply #74 on: November 19, 2010, 10:55:01 PM »
My apologies for double posting, but I did not want this to get lost.

Historical precedent demands that any discussion of information aggrandizement and control by an entity as large as Google must encompass the lessons of history.  I am not prophesying this will occur within any specific time frame, but please consider the ramifications of the inevitable "what if" when the vast power and resources are usurped by a future non-benevolent government?  This is the real "inconvenient truth."