Thanks for the lead -- although I'm not primarily concerned about the "you loop" phenomena described in Pariser's book, in which the Filter Bubble feeds back to you more and more links to sites whose viewpoints or prejudices match your own, thus leading you into an increasingly narrow intellectual world.
Rather, I'm encountering an increasing number of situations where I carefully phrase my search to ask for some fairly specific piece of technical or product information and Google gives me in response not only several sponsored links, which are most often irrelevant but are at least marked as sponsored -- and then a bunch of additional links from firms or sites or organizations which actually have no useful information on my query, but try to make it look as if they do -- and want me to register, or to click on ad sites, or even pay an initial fee, for them to look for this information.
Seems to me to be happening with rapidly increasing frequency, in more and more areas of knowledge.
***** Moderator's Note *****
I've noticed this as well, and here's what caused it: the Google search algorithms became semi-common knowledge, and companies started selling "Seach Engine Optimization" services that reverse-engineered Google's search method so as to advance their client's page rankings.
I knew a guy who used to do the work - trust me, it's not rocket science - and he showed me some of the tricks involved. The root of the problem is that Google's algorithms work extremely well until seo comes along, and then they "fail" and deliver URL's that have been gerrymandered to appear at the top of the rankings. That means that Google took off like a rocket, and obtained "escape velocity" very quickly, because it was an extremely useful tool for searching the net WHEN IT FIRST STARTED. Now, it's usefullness has been compromised, but the Google management team was smart enough to know that they had to branch out quickly, so they used the revenue from the early years to finance the expansion, and have succeeded beyond anyone's estimates.
I fully agree with your explanation. Seems to me we'll have to wait and see how this battle of wits between Google and SEO-wielding advertisers will play out over coming years (or should that be "battle of nitwits"?).
It's not clear to me that Google will even fight the battle all that hard. There's a view of the conflict between the forces of knowledge and the forces of commerce that I've long held. Lord Acton, a noted British philosopher (1834-1902), is remembered for his famous quote:
"Power tends to corrupt. Absolute power corrupts absolutely."
Today's equivalent in my view is:
"Dependence on advertising tends to corrupt. Total dependence on advertising corrupts totally."
Google is of course, like so many other areas in our society, totally dependent on advertising.
***** Moderator's Note *****
It's possible to "repair" Google's search engine, albeit temporarily, but to do so would mean that Google would have to dedicate resources that are more profitably used elsewhere. Of course, it's also possible that will change: M$'s "Bing" service gained traction very quickly because Redmond took the trouble to find out what bothered users about Google, and scored lots of viewers by appealing to the average Google users' "Needle in a haystack" frustration at having to wade through all the artificially-enhanced rankings in order to reach one that they can use. If enough users abandon the Google site, they will have to take steps, and that means start an arms race that pits Google's techs against well-financed SEO providers who will always have another trick up their sleeve.
So long as Google is able to sell itself by reputation, then they have no motive to change: the only question is how long it will take.
The CEO of the Clear Channel radio network recently said "We're not in the music or entertainment business. We're in the advertising business."
I'm afraid there's a shift in thinking that affects ad-supported businesses as they grow. Many of them begin with the philosophy that advertising is a necessary evil to bring in the dollars to enable them to provide a service (music, search, email, etc.)
Eventually advertising drives the business, and the "service" becomes a necessary evil that delivers eyeballs to their ads.
I think Google reached that point long ago.
***** Moderator's Note *****
In a previous life, I was a Broadcast Engineer at various stations on both coasts. I always warn people who have any romantic notions about that industry that "When the lights go off, so do the smiles".
Any online entity that sells advertising is, ipso facto, in the advertising business, and it would be foolish for any business to start any effort that didn't have a profit model in place at the start. Whatever stary-eyed ideals an _individual_ might have when starting a career in journalism, broadcasting, or online media, the _corporations_ who employ those individuals have to be pragmatic.
Long story short: the public can't handle the truth, which is that
*everything* they see on TV or read in a newspaper or find at a portal site is approved for viewing by that entity's advertisers in one way or another.
I forget where I read this recently. I might have been from the Free Software Foundation website. Those of us with Facebook accounts are not Facebook's customers. We're Facebook's products. The paid advertisers are Facebook's customers.
Think about that for a moment.
true. I have been tempted for one reason or another to close my Facebook account (understanding they still own what little I have put there). But my family begs me not to, so I capitulate.
You have EVERYTHING about you here so why do you want to perpetuate Zuckerberg's company which, by the way, is referred to as Fecebook in many forums and groups I frequent. That name was coined by a [female] member of the Yahoo linux group of which I'm one of the moderators. :-)
All of the "social" sites are money magnets for their owners due to the advertising which is becoming almost obscene and extremely obnoxious in addition to being a vector for malware which inflicted even the New York Times whose ads are offsite-hosted.
I don't see ANY ads, anytime or anywhere, when I browse the web with thanks to my merger of the two free well-researched databases here:
as of 23-JUL-2011 and as of 21-JUL-2011
both of which are updated frequently.
The /etc/hosts trick works on every system in the world: BSD, Linux, MacOS, UNIX (AIX, HPUX, SLES, Solaris, et al), and Windows (Win98SE, Win2K, WinXP, Vista and Win7). And, yes, Windows is POSIX-compliant and has an "etc/hosts" file here: C:/Windows/System32/drivers/etc/ and, yes, the "/" does work correctly in the "DOS" Command Prompt of Windows systems.
***** Moderator's Note *****
Why do *YOU* moderate a group on Yahoo? Isn't it more pure to have everything on Usenet?
I never joined Friendster. After getting sick of hearing about it and how I needed to be on it, I created an account on MySpace which I quickly deleted without doing anything with. Then suddenly everything was Facebook! Facebook! Facebook! Many of my friends and family were on it and I kept getting pressure to join. I finally did. It was good to hear from people I hadn't talked to in many years. I have been careful what I put up on the site. However I'm also well aware that insurance companies, marketing firms, tax offices, etc. know all about me already. The idealist in me wants to kill my Facebook account. The realist in me knows it wouldn't do much good in a practical sense. I have all but "ghosted" my Facebook account. It's there. People can find me. But I rarely interact with it.
I'm quite familiar with /etc/hosts. I used to be militant about that file. I had it loaded with "bad" hostnames on my RedHat system at home, my Win2k system at work, and even my Zaurus PDA. Since then I'm moved on to Mac OS X (home), XP (work), and Android (phone) and just haven't bothered with it. But since you made it so easy for me. Hmmm.. ;-)
Bah! We should be exchanging text files on 5.25" floppies.
In short: I really believe in the ideals promoted by people like Richard Stallman and organizations like the FSF and GNU. But I also understand not everyone on the planet has the skills or resources to run their own web or email servers. If an individual is comfortable with exchanging some personal information for a free email service or presence on the web, that's fine. I think it's more productive to inform the general public exactly what they're giving up so they can mitigate it than to sit in an ivory tower in Cambridge, MA without giving the average computer user a viable alternative.
Several of the [now Yahoo] groups were founded in the 1990s and I'm not those groups' owner. Consider the linux group list:
- From 1993 to 1999 the group's submission address was firstname.lastname@example.org. The group really didn't "take off" until 1998 with about 1000 messages that year.
- Then it was snatched up by Egroups in 2000 and this email@example.com became the group's submission address.
- Yahoo acquired Egroups in 2001 and the new submission address became firstname.lastname@example.org
For the curious, the linux group archives are public (not too common for Yahoo groups):
Initiating new groups on Usenet is becoming dicey due to many ISPs dropping their news services. Even Duke U, where Usenet began, ceased its Usenet operations on May 20, 2010 per:
Many of the Usenet groups I used to frequent have turned into cesspools of antisocial and vulgar behavior -- we don't have that problem with Yahoogroups. GoogleGroups is useful only for searching the original Usenet archives prior to Google's acquisition. I frequently cite this URL in some other groups (it's one of my postings to sci.math in October 1988, long before Google existed):
I'll crank up my old H-89 if you have any hard-sectored floppies to trade: they're the kind with a hole at the start of every sector, not just one at the start of the disk MBR.
No, that's a lie: my H-89 went to electronic heaven years ago, replaced by a Zenith Z-150 that I built from the kit. It was a classic PC clone, but it worked OK, even though it used MS-DOS. I sold it to a couple who wanted to have a computer, back when that was a status symbol, and I sweatened the deal by throwing in a dot-matrix printer made by a company that had just gone out of business.
The Z-150 was replaced by a 386, which IIRC I built around a motherboard I got from the MIT flea market, and that was replaced by a motherboard I got from my sister, who worked at Intel back then. (Trust me: the Intel employee discount isn't all that it's cracked up to be).
That 486 is long gone, and last week I bought the first "store bought" computer I've ever owned, a Lenovo laptop that performs adequately, even though it runs MS-Windoze. I like the simple keyboard layout and the fact that the screen is visible in daylight.
The moral of the story is that things always change, and the early days of the Internet are gone and will never come back. It's tempting
- trust me, I know - to take the attitude "I crawled under the barbed wire to get here, and by Ghod *YOU* will crawl under the barbed wire, too!". It doesn't work. Children use Facebook because they want to, and I build the H-89 because I wanted to, and there's nothing you or I will ever be able to do that will change what the Internet's users want or do not want. That's life.
Bill Horne wrote in news: email@example.com:
I think I have an H-89 somewhere in the basement, which I last used as a dumb terminal for e-mail and Usenet. If you know anyone who wants it....
It's not the only piece of obsolete electronics down there - I should get a tuit and bring it all to a Flea one of these days... but that would mean getting organized, something I had thought would be easier now that I am retired.
Paul wrote in news:Xns9F2F7B7276948Senex@188.8.131.52:
Seacoast NH - I would travel a reasonable distance to give stuff a good home.
I was thinking of the Flea at MIT, e.g. I do not expect to get what it should be worth. I mostly want to avoid paying an "electronics disposal fee" and have some hope that it wouldn't just go to the shredder.
I am not good at making deals. If there were only a place to take all this stuff, like taking old clothes to Goodwill or Salvation Army.