is generally considered the best of the search engines available (there are
other search engines, remember), it has been shown that the
can be manipulated. Weblogs, in particular, seem to influence Google
disproportionately—and the word “seems” is important here, since controlled
experiments are impossible. Since Google’s primary exposure comes from word of
mouth, such as the frequent, vocal recommendations from weblogs,
the seeming undue influence given them might cause one to
question Google’s integrity,
as Duncan Wilcox has done.
I don’t know how much I agree with Mr Wilcox’s suggestion that
Google’s results are unfairly skewed. His article makes a number of assumptions
which may or may not be true, and his examples of searches where high
PageRank values distort results are mostly cases of too-general queries.
(If you were looking for information about the Wankel rotary engine,
wouldn’t you search for “rotary engine” or
“Wankel” instead of just
“rotary”?) A reference
in an interview of
CEO Eric Schmidt to
“recency” is assumed to mean that Google puts more weight on pages
discovered recently, but might it not refer to Google’s observed
tendency to index some frequently-updated, link-heavy sites more often?
He refers to the fact that searching for “more evil than satan” used to
return Microsoft as the first result but no longer does as Google having
“fixed the problem”, but a look at the results
shows that the new top-listed sites are either discussing the
phenomenon or sites trying to increase their exposure by taking
advantage of the phenomenon.
Although I find all three of Mr Wilcox suggested reasons for this
alleged bias unlikely, it’s still worth reading his article. A lot of people
tend to treat Google as though it were part of the fundamental infrastructure
of the web, but it is a service provided by a for-profit corporation. Google
knows that its advertising business depends on its credibility, but that doesn’t
guarantee perfection. Google’s goal is to be the best, but that was also the goal
of the previous dominant search engines.
Not the best timing
As some of you are aware, I’m currently in the midst of a job search. In fact,
I got some promising leads last week; after refreshing my resume at a few on-line
job sites, I was contacted by two companies. I told them I was available for interviews
and e-mailed my resume in Word format (which is tricky for me, since I don’t own
Word), and then… silence. I was disappointed, but I didn’t sense anything unusual
until a friend called me yesterday morning and told me that her e-mails to me were
I use a mail forwarding service provided by the Penn State Alumni Association,
which allows me to give people an address independent of my
ISP. As my web site is also
independent, this means that I can switch ISPs
with minimal adjustment. Penn State alumni who graduated around the time I did got
addresses in the alumni.psu.edu domain. Some time after that, they switched to
using psualum.com as the preferred domain, keeping the old one for alumni like me
who had always been using it.
Unfortunately, there’s some problem with the alumni.psu.edu domain right now,
and it’s possibly been going on since Thursday. I hadn’t noticed because the spam
was still coming through—but that was spam sent to my actual account, not
my forwarding address. (I don’t know how the spammers got my account
name, as I’ve never given it out, but that’s a different rant.)
To sum up: No one who’s tried to e-mail me for the past few days has been
able to do so, possibly including the employers who were interested in me.
Isn’t that a kick in the teeth? (I’ve written to them to explain what
happened, but I haven’t seen a response as of this writing.)
As this particular problem seems less likely to happen to the psualum.com
address, I’ll probably be switching my contact information over to it soon.
(I’m being coy about referring to it in a futile attempt to thwart spammers.)
My faith in the alumni forwarder has been shaken, though, and with my recent
success in securing a domain name for an organization in my church
demonstrating how ridiculously simple it is to get a vanity domain, I’m
this close to just registering zednenem.org and using it for my e-mail needs.
(My thrifty heritage is fighting with my bargain-seeking heritage: “It’s
cheap and easy” vs “You have already have
something good enough for free”.)
Two articles I’ve been meaning to mention: