a node at the edge  

May 12, 2002
TechnologyMore on search engines

A previous posting has outgrown its comments, so I'm continuing it here.

I said:

    Webloggers aren't influencing decisions -- they're influencing the information that influences the decision, and that's dangerous.

When webloggers act as a cohesive group to deliberately influence the position of a link within Google's search results, this is influencing the information, not the decision. It is not equivalent to lobbying, which is an attempt to influence a decision. And it is not reflective of the interest of the populace -- its a deliberate and coordinated action.

To repeat, this is a deliberate attempt to influence the flow of the information. And this is dangerous.

Will the results that Google returns influence people? Not for larger issues that are well publicized. However, in issues of business and with less well publicized issues, this can make a difference. How much so, we don't know -- we would need Google's usage patterns and statistics to measure this.

Should webloggers not link because of this? No, because the problem doesn't rest with webloggers -- it rests with Google. The technology behind Google's ranking system breaks with weblogging.

A link is just that -- a link. It's a great way to connect people into a community, or to let others know about new information. However, it shouldn't be treated as a vote.

Google needs to get smarter; the technology that links the web together needs to get smarter. And we webloggers need to stop treating Google as a favorite pet that never pisses on the carpet -- especially when we're standing in the middle a puddle.

Continued here

Posted by Bb at May 12, 2002 04:52 PM


Wow. That is really fascinating--I never thought of it that way. I think people took the simple, non intrusive art of google whacking and built from there, seeing other ways they could play with google, but you're right. It ain't exactly fair play.

Posted by: jeneane on May 12, 2002 06:46 PM

"To repeat, this is a deliberate attempt to influence the flow of the information. And this is dangerous. "

Oh yes, and the Big Media never does this? People who only watch network news, or CNN or listen to talk radio get a less "controlled" view of news events? I think your "danger" is really a positive because it's fair. Everyone has access to a weblog and to Google and can, therefore, have some say, or some influence in how Google responds to some search queries. It's not a perfect system but it's 100 times better than having elite intelligentsia control informational flow.

Or is that what you actually want? Do you want some "informed elite" to control what sort of search results you should get from Google, to make sure it's a fair representation of opinions?

Posted by: Mike McBride on May 13, 2002 06:13 AM

It is not true that lobbyists don't try to influence information as well as decisionmaking. They use every means at their disposal to muster persuasive arguments, including influencing what information gets shown to whom.

Also, I thought deliberate and coordinated action was also a feature of democracy?

Let's be clear, though, obviously -some- methods of 'influencing information' are unethical, but not all are. I guess I'm not sure where you're trying to draw the line.

Also, I don't believe that Google's algorithms are so rudimentary as to say 'one link = one vote.'

Posted by: Medley on May 13, 2002 07:38 AM

This is really a very complicated issue, as is lobbying -- which when done for a cause that promotes actions that are for the public good (and there's where it gets complicated) is, of course, "good;" but when it's done for personal or purely monetary gain, then it's not so good. So, with Googlewhacking, like lobbying, our sense of what's ethical should prevail. Except, of course, that Googlewhacking becomes a game that really doesn't have the critical effect on our human situations as does lobbying. I just don't personally like to have my blogging driven by such contrived motivation (although it is a temptation to play the game.)

Posted by: Elaine on May 13, 2002 08:10 AM

"our sense of what's ethical should prevail."

Exactly right, which is why general statements like "influencing information is dangerous" set my spidey-sense to tingling.

Posted by: Medley on May 13, 2002 09:33 AM

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