Comments:, Google results, and punditry

"The journomind has no good way to deal with thinking about private power"?

You can score one Technorati point for that - I'm fulminating so much I will just have to blog this isolated point.

If you said some journominds, then maybe I'd have to agree but you've slipped into the same over-generalisation and hyperbole as your intended victims. The mainstream press's coverage of this issue has been pretty fair - Google has the right to do what it did and BMW got a slap on the wrist in a situation that will probably be repaired quite soon. If you said the amateur pundit or journoblogger mind in search of linkjuice, then that would be different.

But, generally, what do you expect from a medium that is based on SEO of one form or another? The fear is almost tangible: if Google can do that to a big carmaker what could they do to me if the search company decides that blogs get too much exposure because of the way they are crosslinked and promoted? I need an accountable Google because I fear their next move in improving search.

Posted by Chris Edwards at February 8, 2006 02:35 AM

Controversy works! :-)

Overblown statements get reaction, while a more moderate take would be ignored.

Though really, I do believe that an overall journomind (here meaning the audience-weighted aggregation of coverage, as there's always thoughful exceptions) doesn't have a good framework for private power. Rather, I think the question isn't really being engaged the mainstream press coverage of this issue, but that's OK, since in my view there's not much in this case.

There's certainly a lot of food for thought that's contained in a phrase like "an accountable Google".

Posted by Seth Finkelstein at February 8, 2006 01:57 PM

"Controversy works": Aah, the first lesson of the MSM. Good to see it catching on across the bogosphere. It gives us grizzled old hacks the comfort of realising we're not so far off the money as some would think. :-)

Behind my tongue-in-cheek comment however, there was a serious point. Journalists tend - and this really is a gross generalisation - to be suspicious of government intervention, especially when it is well-intentioned. Most have been round long enough to realise that government diktat and civil service assistance rarely works. Few would regard themselves as card-carrying members of the Hayek and Fukuyama fan clubs, but a lot of people realise that market-based techniques tend to show better results over the long term. That means private power, albeit constrained by rules.

However, against that you have to weigh up the attitudes of the readership. Any newspaper or similar medium is a mirror on its audience. It has to be, or the audience would go elsewhere. When the public see corporate greed unrestrained, as an example of private power gone wrong, most people will react negatively. It's been well-covered in the game-theory literature and you can see it acted out in numerous situations - greedy behaviour is very unpopular. So, I have to confess, we all write editorials that say "something must be done" (but avoiding any detail). So, I'm going to pass the buck and blame the public - it's the general population that has a problem with private power.

I should really have put the last para in quotes - I hope you realise that was meant to be the voice of 'everyblogger'. I can see people coming to demand accountability - whatever that means for a search engine - when Google starts to address the problem it caused for itself by giving blogs greater prominence in search results than was good for it. I guess the Pyra acquisition and the need to drive Adsense clouded the company's judgment there. When that adjustment comes there will be an almighty scream and the A-word is going to get used an awful lot.

Links work as a great proxy for quality when links are used fairly uniformly across websites. But when you have one medium that lives on them, skewed search results are all you are going to get. I guess it's thanks to the splogs for making that so obvious.

Personally I think Google has all the accountability it needs: effectiveness of search is everything. Anybody remember AltaVista?

Posted by Chris Edwards at February 8, 2006 03:39 PM

Sorry, the last sentence-and-a-half of the last para should have been in quotes. D'oh!

Posted by Chris Edwards at February 8, 2006 03:41 PM

Well... i do think, that google has the right to prevent itself - as a search enginge- from receiving even worse results than now... shutting down doorway-pages and stuff like that is an option for a private enterprise which only works as long as the results are actually relevant to the people... Death to spammer is too aggressive, though.. To divide spam from information on the www-marketplace isn't always that easy... for some it is and for some not...

Posted by Lambert at February 10, 2006 06:00 AM