June 03, 2007

Some Google Bits

Today in the NY Times is a fascinating article about Google's search engine and some of the people who are leading the way in providing new enhancements. Google ranks as one of my personal top best software programs ever written based on the elegance of its user interface and on its overall usefulness. One cannot imagine the blogosphere being as vibrant without something like Google which provides instant information to those of us hungry for sources and knowledge.

One of the points from the article is how high our expectations have gotten in regards to search.

“Expectations are higher now,” said Udi Manber, who oversees Google’s entire search-quality group. “When search first started, if you searched for something and you found it, it was a miracle. Now, if you don’t get exactly what you want in the first three results, something is wrong.”

This echoes the expectation shift for computers as well. Once just getting an internet connection was an incredible experience and dialup modems were how we interacted with other computers. Today, high-speed internet connections have made most of us impatient with the slow pace of dialup.

So how does Google go about satisfying our need for better information? As this piece says, with great care. When a change is made to the algorithms that rank pages, some queries can get worse while others improve. So new changes are always put through a rigorous review before they are rolled out. The team also needs to compensate for all the spam and fake links that try to claim the eye-balls of the searcher. And they compensate for our spelling errors in our queries.

This piece illustrates the process by describing the recent change to provide for better "freshness" when the topic is hot and to allow aged links with better quality get a better page rank when the query is about something not in the hot topics list (like what is the name of the Greek playwright who wrote Medea).

Google truly has changed our world. And the people who work for the company do know how to make beautiful and useful software.

Posted by Mary at June 3, 2007 03:50 PM | Technology | Technorati links |

Don't forget the evil: they're stealthily collecting a very detailed profile of just about everything you do, both on- and off-line. I agree that they have been admirable in keeping their interface clean and not just blatantly cashing in (remember when Alta Vista didn't suck?). But having advertising, search and (unfortunately) other applications almost completely centralized and unregulated is just scary

Posted by: sean at June 3, 2007 06:17 PM

Dude, somehow I stumbled across your blog searching for Cake's War Pig and your tagline caught my eye. Very well done. You may or may not know that Malcom X's birthday way about two weeks ago. He would have been 82.

I'm with Sean. Be careful what you wish for. I think my search behavior is broader than the average bear. It could just be my paranoia but it seems like whenever I search for controverial subject matter (however slight), my search gets more limited and I have to go back to my Plan B like www.metracrawler.com

Google is not the company they used to be and it's easy to gloss over the fact they're a machine that's now fed by advertising revenue. To believe anything coming from Google's communication/media department without independent verification or scrutiny is lazy and pollyannish. While the NYT's is a more reliable media source, don't forget they're royally fucked us on Bush and Iraq. They're not above padding their advertising budget in exchange for a few positive words for Google. I've been doing this way too long to ignore how the game is played. Google is not a charity. Don't be fooled by their "altrustic facade". I'm sure you're aware their obligations to China? The US isn't far behind. Within my lifetime we will all be strangers in a strange land.

Posted by: Johnny "Secondhand" Smoke at June 3, 2007 10:22 PM

I'd like to think tech billionairism doesn't create Sellouts Disease and that Google founders can maintain a modicum of principled behavior beyond requisite philanthropy to offset all the people they might hurt scrambling to the top.

So far, it seems that hurtpile is minimal and they do seem motivated to keep making usefulness the prime consideration. Yet rising concerns about privacy and datamining ultimately pose a challenge to that.

Like you, I'm thankful for their efforts to date, mostly. I hope I can say the same in 2 or 5 years.

Posted by: Kevin Hayden at June 6, 2007 12:01 AM