The Gross National Debt

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Goats on fire may be what you deserve

Some eons ago when the internet was just a new thing, I heard a comedian say the internet is greatest thing ever invented.
I am not kidding. But I only searched "goats on fire."

He said you could type in a search "sex with goats on fire" and the internet would come back and ask you which kind of goat you were most interested in.

I have never bothered to check on this. I suspect some readers are now doing so tho.

Which brings me to the point of this Information Superhighway commentary.

Do a simple search on goats. Look at your top 10 results. Compare them to my top 10 results.

I get in this order:
Wikipedia’s main piece on goats a link to an Oklahoma State website on breeds
News for goats (with 3 siblings)
    Something to do with sports and the Galaxy and SuperClasico
    See-eye sheep, goats and a blind horse
    Another sports piece on the Red Sox
A 4-H link about goats
4 images of goats (Google Images)
2 links for fainting goat videos

The chances are very very high that your search will not turn up the same results. Your search may turn up a few of the same links.

Google and other search engines used to base their searches on algorthims which generally looked at the websites which got the top hits for that search term.

That meant pretty much everybody got the same hits when they looked for something.

Now the search engines are moving away from this model to user-modeled.

In other words, Google et al use your past search history to decide what links are the ones you are most likely to choose. In net jargon this is called "The Filter Bubble."
Nothing really. Seriously.

It has some of the intelligensia in an uproar. Why? 'Cause when search engines start tailoring results to fit their preconceived notions of what you want, the search engines are also eliminating what they think you do not want.

"So? What's so bad about that Baker?"

Disclosure: I am not of the intelligensia. I am a redneck and so am permanently excluded from their ranks.

What's bad about it is that you are being directed, by an outside source, to information to the exclusion of other information.


Take your political persuasion. Whatever stripe that may be. Instead of giving you a broad spectrum of ideas, concepts, opinions and facts about an issue, search engines increasingly are pointing you ONLY to websites that you agree with. Websites which offer perspectives you disagree with won't show up.

"Again, so?"
I learn more from people I disagree with than people I agree with.

If you only intend to get information from people you agree with, then you will miss a great deal and you very likely will miss information that will directly affect you. At least until it's too late for you to do anything about it.

"I don't believe you. I'll find out what I need to know."

And the world is gonna end Oct. 21 according to Harold Camping.

On this point you'll either agree with me or not. So be it.

Opinion 2:

I also like this idea. For those of us who know this is going on and refuse to accept it, the search engines force us to be work harder for the information we know we need. By doing so, we retune the SE parameters for ourselves to make it provide the broad sources of information we want.
Now for your mind as well!

Furthermore, this is private industry at work, doing what it does best - providing the customer exactly what the customer asks for.

The fact that what most people ask for is not really what they want and absolutely not what they need is ... well, see above. You may consume and digest whatever you wish, even if that is watered down milk.

But when you get what you asked for and find out it is neither what you really wanted and really not what you needed, don't come running to me.

If you are not willing to work for what you need, then you deserve what you get.

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