July 31, 2009

Uncommon Google items - Barbie, Books, Horizontal Hold

Linkblogging from the Distant Dorsal

1) Tom Slee - "Googling Barbie Again". He said it, not me:

"[Law Intellectual BigHead] made a big deal of the Google search results for Barbie in his book ... where he claimed that, whereas other search engines gave you only sales-related Barbie sites in the top ten, Google's "radically decentralized" algorithm revealed an entirely different picture of Barbie. ...

The one big change in the last 18 months is that the remaining countercultural site from 2008 has now been pushed over the edge to page 2 of the search results, displaced by two Google-owned collections of links (News and Videos). ...

... It should be no surprise that as the web has become mainstream, and as corporations realise the necessity of investing in their web presence, the web begins to look more like other mainstream media. Perhaps more evidence that the Web's counter-cultural moment is over.

2) I should have noted a while back Walt Crawford's long Cites & Insights discussing Perspective: The Google Books Search Settlement.

The agreement could be a lot worse. The outcome could also be a lot better. I'm sure Google would agree with both statements, as it finds itself in businesses where it has neither expertise nor much chance of advertising-level profits. At the same time, the copyright maximalists didn't quite win this round. We'll almost certainly get somewhat better access to several million OP books—and will have to hope (and work to see) that the price (monetary and otherwise) isn't too high.

I was reminded of it today given that the Harvard Berkman Center is running a workshop on "Alternative Approaches to Open Digital Libraries in the Shadow of the Google Book Search Settlement"

3) David Weinberger inadvertently[Updated] provides a small lesson in how PageRank isn't everything in terms of Google ranking, in noting Britannica: #1 at Google

Today, for the very first time in my experience, The Encyclopedia Britannica was the #1 result at Google for a query ... It's good to see the EB making progress with its online offering, but I'm actually puzzled in this case. The query was "horizontal hold" (without quotes), and the EB page that's #1 is pretty much worthless. ... So, how did Google’s special sauce float this especially unhelpful page to the surface? ...

(I see it as #2 now, under a wiki.answers.com). I keep trying to tell various people that Google's ranking has multiple variables, but the simplistic model seems very difficult to displace.

[Update: David Weinberger commented: Seth, it was[n't] an "inadvertent" lesson. It was totally advertent. My reference to "secret sauce" intended to imply that Google's algorithm is complex and proprietary. And in the case I mentioned, those algorithms seem to have failed, for the top listing is unlikely to help anyone interested in the search terms ("horizontal hold").]

By Seth Finkelstein | posted in google | on July 31, 2009 11:59 PM (Infothought permalink)
Seth Finkelstein's Infothought blog (Wikipedia, Google, censorware, and an inside view of net-politics) - Syndicate site (subscribe, RSS)

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[SF - moved to body of post]

Posted by: David Weinberger at August 1, 2009 10:31 AM