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<nettime> googological digest [alexander, hwang]
nettime's_sameness_engine on Mon, 7 Jul 2003 07:56:00 +0200 (CEST)


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<nettime> googological digest [alexander, hwang]


Amy Alexander <plagiari {AT} plagiarist.org>
     Re: <nettime> Google's Weapons of Mass Destruction (fwd)
Francis Hwang <sera {AT} fhwang.net>
     Children of a Lesser Google

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Date: Sun, 6 Jul 2003 15:45:11 -0700 (PDT)
From: Amy Alexander <plagiari {AT} plagiarist.org>
Subject: Re: <nettime> Google's Weapons of Mass Destruction (fwd)

like i always say, "you can't trust google." :-)

there's been a lot of talk about how blogs have influenced google, and at 
least one major rumor afloat that google is changing pagerank so as to go 
back to being influenced by corporations with money instead of bloggers with 
links.
http://jeremy.zawodny.com/blog/archives/000751.html

but, google has been known to muck with the results before. for example, 
AFAIK, the only page with a perfect pagerank of 10 is www.google.com 
itself. beyond that though, there are the legal-inspired manipulations. 
there was last year's scientology/xenu.net  fiasco, and their removal of 
results from the listings at the behest of german, french, and other 
governments. google is also introducing a new "add this website to my 
blog" feature in their toolbar, which may have some implications. 

i have just blogged a story earlier today on discordia about all that, 
the links i mentioned can be found there:
http://www.discordia.us/scoop/story/2003/7/6/151744/2118 

in addition, google gets other legal threats all the time:
http://www.chillingeffects.org/dmca512/keyword.cgi?KeywordID=2

i realize that responding to a legal threat isn't the same thing as 
manipulating search results for PR... but then again, there seems to be 
lots of evidence that they tweak pagerank to their liking periodically. 

the thing to remember is that google hide behind pagerank as a neutral 
algorithm. no algorithm is neutral; they are written by people with 
opinions. results have the bias that humans write them to give.  
to bias the results, and thus bias culture, just tweak the 
algorithm. 

On Sun, 6 Jul 2003, Keith Sanborn wrote:

> I agree with your characterization of Google and it is not 
> impossible. It would certainly be interesting to know whether this 
> was engineered behind the scenes to "succeed." It does certainly 
> focus more attention on Google and in this case that is translatable 
> into profits. However, if it did happen and word got out, it would 
> immediately discredit them. One wonders why they'd risk so much when 
> they're already at the top of the heap of search engines themselves. 
> But then they didn't get there by not taking risks and by not 
> innovating in information culture.
> 
> Keith
 <...>


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Date: Sun, 6 Jul 2003 20:20:56 -0400
Subject: Children of a Lesser Google
From: Francis Hwang <sera {AT} fhwang.net>

Of course, nobody outside of Google gets to know the nitty-gritty about 
Google's PageRank algorithm, but personally I find it hard to believe 
that they'd go to the trouble of doctoring it to make that 404 spoof 
show up at the top. I mean, they get plenty of P.R. as it is, what with 
"google" entering the lexicon as a verb, and with, say, Thomas Friedman 
asking his New York Times readers "Is Google God?" 
(http://www.cnn.com/2003/US/06/29/nyt.friedman/) If Google actually 
were God then I should like to ask it a few questions about the nature 
of evil, the impermanence of the self, and why some people still use 
PHP, but it's best to let imponderables stay imponderables, no?

I'd bet my hard-earned Technohipster badge that the 404 spoof is the 
top link because of blogs. It's easy to see how this page would appeal 
to the lefty corner of the blogging world; as of this writing it's tied 
for 11th on the Blogdex (http://blogdex.net/). It's already been 
well-discussed elsewhere how blogs have a high influence over Google's 
algorithms. The reasons are simple enough: PageRank gives higher weight 
to pages that are updated frequently, and it gives a page higher weight 
if it's linked to from multiple sources.

Only a few short years ago, this (patent-protected) formula won nearly 
unanimous praise from all corners of the 'net. But now that blogs are 
causing so much froth, PageRank is making some, such as Andrew Orlowski 
and that guy at GoogleWatch, quite wary. Orlowski called it a "blog 
noise" issue. Personally, I don't think it's a problem. When it comes 
to defining where search terms go, one random blogger is about as 
important to Google as, say, http://whitehouse.gov. I don't have a 
problem with that sort of math.

Far more interesting, I think, and less widely noticed, was Google's 
recent announcement of their AdSense program. You can read about it at 
https://www.google.com/adsense/, but the long and short of it is that 
anybody with their own website can use it to get targeted advertising. 
Google compares the text on your page with its keyword-driven text-ads 
database, serves appropriate ads to your page, and then gives you a few 
pennies for your trouble. If you want to see what sort of ads Google 
would put on your site there's even a form at 
http://google.blogspace.com/.

Most of Google's reach has been contained to their own site, but if 
this takes off then it may lead to a future in which, say, 5% or 10% of 
every web site you look at will have some Google-driven content on it. 
The web is more semantic than it's been for years, and Google has a 
better grasp of the web's semantics than anybody else. Are people's 
anxieties becoming justified? Is Google becoming so powerful and 
ubiquitous as to become part of the web's infrastructure? Are we 
looking at the budding of the next Sony, or the next Microsoft?

Francis

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