Vast Active Library and Information Science blog. From a recent library science graduate in Wellington, New Zealand. A focus on reference and current awareness tools and issues, especially free, web-based resources.

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Sunday, July 27, 2003
(searching) weblogs - The trouble with Google  
I'm belated commenting on this article from Slate, on "Googleholes". The author considers "skewed synonyms" to be a major problem on Google (e.g. search for 'Apple' and the first 50 results will be for the Apple computer, not for the fruit). Now, I don't think this is a problem, but I'm noticing some weird results from searches that suggest Google's ranking needs tweaking.

First up: complaining that you get poor results from Google when searching on 'apple' is like complaining that you looked up Smith in the phone book, dialed the first number you found, and were disappointed that it wasn't the Smith you wanted. You have to be a bit cleverer than that, use the advanced search, or at least use more than one keyword. I don't think that's really a problem, if you take some time to think about what you actually want to find out ('growing apples' gets good results on Google, even 'apples' gets relatively good results compared with 'apple').

What I've noticed, though, is the way Google is elevating blogs in its search rankings, ahead of mainstream media. For example, recently there's been stories in the news regarding the 'blanket man', a well-known homeless man in Wellington. But the only Google results for a search on "'blanket man' wellington" are various weblogs. Same for a search on "Rob Jones" homeless Wellington (another homeless man who died here recently. My blog entry comes up in Google, but the articles I link to don't. Even though they're from a major news website. Why is that?

Why does Google priviledge what I have to say, ahead of what the mainstream media are saying? Isn't this a bit worrying? The only explanation I can think of is that Google hasn't spidered the website since that story was posted (5 July 2003). But it spiders my blog within a day or this because Google owns Blogger? What implications does this have for web searchers, if Blogger-powered weblogs are turning up in web searches higher than, or instead of, mainstream news sources?


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