nettime's digest on Mon, 7 Jul 2003 11:25:23 +0200 (CEST)

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Re: <nettime> Google's Weapons of Mass Destruction [3x]

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   Re: <nettime> Google's Weapons of Mass Destruction (fwd)                        
     Keith Sanborn <>                                                

   Re: <nettime> googological digest [alexander, hwang]                            
     Alan Sondheim <>                                              

   Re: <nettime> googological digest [alexander, hwang]                                                                                      


Date: Mon, 7 Jul 2003 00:03:57 -0400
From: Keith Sanborn <>
Subject: Re: <nettime> Google's Weapons of Mass Destruction (fwd)

That's very good history and a nice summation. Google has become like the
old Walter Cronkite "And that's the way it is." It wasn't the way Walter
and his writers said it was, but it was widely believed. It carried a
veneer of objectivity, like the NY Times's laughable "all the news that
fit to print." Even Dan Rather, the elder statesman of that tradition can
hardly be seen in the same way; the mere proliferation of other channels
of news, makes such a claim preposterous.

The strange thing is that Google has a kind of Microsoft-like stranglehold
on the search engine market. Their algorithms are cultural objects and
thus far from neutral as you point out. But they are the horizonline of
the self-image of the net. The line beyond which it is impossible to see.
Blogging represents a kind of radically subjective alternative to
algorithmic constructions of the shape of infoworld. That is a competing
and vastly more intelligent paradigm for what people find interesting than
whatever they can offer on a purely algorithmic basis. Hence their
interest in coopting that alternative and competing paradigm of the
construction of the horizon.

Nonetheless, given the dominant position of Google, my guess is that there
will be established through a messy series of law suits a body of law
which establishes some kind of working definition of reasonably fair page
ranking. The implications of the removal of the scientology hits from the
rankings is not good. Top down censorship.  There are no doubt lessons to
be learned here as well from attempts to restrict net access in China and

Welcome to the recentralization of information.

Keith Sanborn


Date: Mon, 7 Jul 2003 01:16:28 -0400 (EDT)
From: Alan Sondheim <>
Subject: Re: <nettime> googological digest [alexander, hwang]

The page rank algorithm for Google is no big secret - it's reproduced on
pp. 294-95 of Google Hacks. To roughly quote -

PR(A) = (1-d) +d( (PR(T1)/C(T1))+...+(PR(Tn)/C(Tn)) ) where PR(A) is the
PageRank of page A; PR(T1) is the PageRank of page T1; C(T1) is the number
of outgoing links from page T1 - and d is a damping factor 0<d<1, usually
set here to .85. "The PageRank of a webpage is therefore calculated as a
sum of the PageRanks of all pages linking to it (its incoming links),
divided by the number of links on each of those pages (its outgoing

This is fairly simple, given the usefulness of the system. You can find
information in the book on how to increase your ranking etc. Pages 59-61
give information on blogging rating etc.

For me what makes Google successful is precisely this simplicity - not
only front-end but back-end as well.

Trace projects


Date: Mon, 7 Jul 2003 09:23:55 +0200
Subject: Re: <nettime> googological digest [alexander, hwang]


> but, google has been known to muck with the results before. for example, 
> AFAIK, the only page with a perfect pagerank of 10 is 
> itself. beyond that though, there are the legal-inspired manipulations. also has a 10 rating.

The first hit on there (at least based on my language preferences etc)
points to the "weapons of mass destruction not found" 404 error page.

I believe that in this case it's probably a simple algorithm thing:

1) is rated 10
2) links to the error-404 page.
3) All the "competing" pages on the net that link to more "relevant"
pages have lower ratings than, thus the top link gets put at the top.

It seems that one of the most powerful things you can do is to become a moderator, or have a highly linked site in there.


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