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Molly and the myth of the perfect web search

by Ken from Chicago / January 22, 2008 7:07 PM PST

Molly is making a huge mistake about the nature of web searchs in her desire to want web searches untainted by mere users and their opinions. Aside from Google, Yahoo and other web search engines already weighting their search algorithms to account for some "gaming" of the system by individuals, the simple fact is the most "relevant" result to web search is DEFINED by PEOPLE.

Relevancy is subjective and so of course what's the most relevant answer today may not be relevant, or as relevant tomorrow. "Stock market crash" is gonna generate a different result now (4:56 AM Central) than 24 hours ago.

Put it this way, which would have been more "relevant" to a web search of stock market crashes yesterday morning at 8:33 AM Central? Older crashes from weeks, months, years ago OR what was happening yesterday morning even if only a handful of news sites had them versus the legion of financial archival websites?

It's like when people look for THE definition of a word in "the dictionary" and complain when dictionary includes slang--not realizing that PEOPLE define words and the dictionaries merely list the most popular definitions. Yeah, a half dozen people using a word a billion times in a certain way over a year isn't the same as a million people using a word a certain way a half dozen times over a year's time. The former might be "gaming" the dictionary (or a bunch of scifi / tech geeks using twitter, jaiku, stargate, jump drive, lightsaber, beaming, jeffries tubes, etc. during online chats) but not as impactful as a wider spread usage by a much larger population.

It's not Molly's fault. The myth started long before her and will likely exist even if she herself denounced it.

-- Ken from Chicago

P.S. Love the show. Keep it up.

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Yeah
by Nicholas Buenk / January 22, 2008 8:59 PM PST

Way google works they look at linking. People create web sites and create links, hence the way search engines currently work is completely based on people and popularity.
Further more all knowledge is based on consensus. Knowledge comes from communication, and what is communicated the most is what the greatest number of people have looked at and agreed with.
The internet in my opinion has done a lot to help spread ideas further, so less popular ideas have a better chance of becoming accepted.

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I can see her frustration though...
by ibcrandy-2120454356981420 / January 23, 2008 9:21 AM PST

We've all had an experience when we've plugged in a search for something and get a totally different result than what we were looking for with just one or two search terms in common. Not to mention how often do you search for something and end up with the wikipedia entry as the first or second search result? Don't get me wrong, most of the time I find exactly what I'm searching for, but sometimes you do get some out of left field results. Of course the argument for that is "well you should learn to do more well defined searches" which is also true. But if I want music by the band "James" I don't want to have to scroll through 3 pages of James Brown, James Taylor, and Etta James to get to it (I'm looking at YOU amazon MP3 store). Until we have computers that can read our minds though I don't see search getting much better than it currently is anytime soon.

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If wikipedia comes up
by Nicholas Buenk / January 23, 2008 1:30 PM PST

I usually go to it, I trust it as a source of information, it has more peer reviewing and fact checking than any source you'll find because it has the largest editing staff on the planet, everyone. Wink

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