nettime's_hoover on Fri, 11 Jul 2003 23:24:59 +0200 (CEST)

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<nettime> googolo-structural digest [sheetz, douwe]

Dan Sheetz <>
     Re: <nettime> googological digest [hwang, douwe]
     Searchengine Structuralism  (was  googological digest [hwang, douwe])
     FW: [Reader-list] the 404 error story

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Date: Tue, 08 Jul 2003 13:59:29 -0500
Subject: Re: <nettime> googological digest [hwang, douwe]
From: Dan Sheetz <>

Time is now "quoting" the google search engine:

> From: Amy Alexander <>
> Reply-To: Amy Alexander <>
> Date: Mon, 7 Jul 2003 13:15:03 -0700 (PDT)
> To:
> Subject: Re: <nettime> googological digest [hwang, douwe]

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From: <>
Subject: Searchengine Structuralism  (was  googological digest [hwang, douwe])
Date: Wed, 9 Jul 2003 12:42:56 +0200

> but the point -- that google's technology is a political one -- holds
> because its algorithm encodes the political structure of popularity...

An interesting idea. What are the other possible search engine political
structures. The two most succesfull approaches right now are:

The Google model. The distinguishing feature of Google is that the role
link popularity plays. This is independent of the actual search term (as far
as we know), ie a page has a certain Google Rank and that helps the page, no
matter what the user is searching for.
This is not as much a populistic structure, but more a technocratic. It is
the popularity among searchers that determines success, but the popularity
website builders/bloggers/corporations, what have you.

The other model is the more capitalistic Goto (Overture) model. Here the
pages that are search just pay for their position in the ranking. The more
you pay, the higher you end up in the listing. Note that this is dependend
on the search terms used. This is obviously more a capitalistic political

The two models already seem to merge, with Google offering paid links
(distinguishible from search results, but still) and Overture buying Altavista
giving it a more serious presence in the searchengine space.

What else would be possible?

One could very well imagine a truely populistic search engine, where not link
popularity determines the position in the charts, but website traffic.  Google
couldn't really measure that, but ISPs like MSN or AOL could. Of course this
would be a rather conservative searchengine, making things popular that are
already popular, but then, so is Google.

Another option would be a search engine where you can just buy general
positions in a search engines, or the companies with the biggest market
capitalisation would score best in the search engines. After all, these
companies are the most succesfull and should therefore be listened to.

A third option would be a Google variant where a searcher can rate websites.
The Google rating following from links from websites I like is increased, the
Google rating following from websites I dislike is decreased. This way I get
results from websites that are liked by websites I like, etc. This would create
a very fractioned searchengine where everybody finds the answers she likes. Ie,
if I don't like microsoft, I will get the microsoft sucks websites, if I like
them I get

Any other suggestions as to what would be possible?

Douwe Osinga

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From: <>
Subject: FW: [Reader-list] the 404 error story
Date: Thu, 10 Jul 2003 15:05:18 +0200

As a little side information for the Google's Weapons of Mass Destruction. I
picked it up from the mailinglist.

Douwe Osinga

-----Original Message-----
[]On Behalf Of Ravi Sundaram
Sent: Thursday, July 10, 2003 1:00 PM
Subject: [Reader-list] the 404 error story

The war on the web
Anthony Cox describes how his spoof error page turned into a 'Google bomb'
for weapons of mass destruction
Anthony Cox
Wednesday July 09 2003
The Guardian

I had always wondered how those viral emails or amusing web page addresses
forwarded to me built up such momentum. Little did I know that I would be
responsible for one of the most successful internet memes this year, and be
accused of developing a so-called "Google bomb" of mass destruction.

In early February, I was reading online a Guardian article about Hans Blix's
problems obtaining cooperation in Iraq. Immediately after, I was confronted
with the ubiquitous 404 error page, which usually tells the reader that a
website is unavailable. With this serendipitous inspiration in mind, along
with a text editor and some fiddling in a graphics package, I created a
spoof 404 "weapons of mass destruction" error page. Saddam would have been
proud; the page was deployed and operational well within 45 minutes.

After favourable comments from friends, I posted it in the newsgroup
uk.rec.humour. Within the next 24 hours, the website had had 150,000 hits
and had propagated to 118 newsgroups. By the end of February, it had
received more than one million page impressions. Perhaps the ultimate
accolade was having the original email come back to me with a note saying:
"Have you seen this?" Visits declined throughout the subsequent war, and I
suspected its 15MB of fame had passed.

Yet, suddenly, in the first four days of July I received nearly 4m page
impressions, more than the previous five months combined. The reason? Typing
"weapons of mass destruction" in Google and hitting the "I'm feeling lucky"
button did not bring up Number 10's "dodgy dossier", but my spoof site.
Suddenly, it was a lot funnier and accessible: even Google couldn't find the

The first Google bomb was created by Adam Mathes in 2001. He exploited
Google's page ranking system to return a friend's website when the words
"talentless hack" were used as a search term. He used a multitude of pages
linking to his friend's site, with the specific term "talentless hack". Even
though his friend's site did not contain the search term itself, after
calling upon others to insert such links into their sites, the Google bomb
found its target.

Google's page ranking treats links as votes for a website, and both the
number and the importance of the link helps increase the ranking of a site.
My site had steadily increased its ranking, including a link from the
Channel 4 news website and the Guardian, but perhaps the majority were from
personal pages, discussion boards and blogs.

However, this was not a deliberate attempt to use Google to make a political
point. This Google bomb was slowly and unknowingly built, and only by chance
coincided with the accusations that intelligence documents had been "sexed

Last Friday, bloggers really picked up on it and it was the highest linked
to page in weblogs according to On Monday, however, a search for
"weapons of mass destruction" sent you to a White House strategy document,
which might be seen as a step forward for Google users and perhaps the White
Then on Tuesday my page was back at the top, so it may have been a glitch at
Google, rather than a deliberate decision to drop the site.

This is a problem for Google: weblogs have been accused of causing "noise"
in their searches. Instead of providing good original source material, reams
of musings from bloggers are returned. The success of my WMD page underlines
a problem Google needs to address. Sure it's funny, but if you wanted
documents on WMD, is that what you really expect from a search engine?

I have received about 200 emails from such diverse sources as United Nations
Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission and serving soldiers in
the Gulf. Even those critical of the perceived anti-war message thought it
was funny. One of the more offensive messages called me a cowardly little
boy and stated: "I am grateful to the almighty that not all Englishmen are
slithering bottom-feeders."

Ironically, I was not against the war, my views on the war being similar to
those of journalist David Aaronovitch and MP Ann Clwyd. But if you are going
to make a topical joke, then Bush is an obvious and easy target.
&#183; Anthony Cox is a pharmacist at the West Midlands Adverse Drug
Reaction Monitoring Centre and a teaching fellow at Aston University. He
also writes a blog on drug safety at

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