Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Experts Agree: Emperor Google is Naked

In case you were wondering, no, you're not alone: a lot of people are becoming unhappy with the amount of "spam" in Google's search results (see this article on Metafilter today). During the holiday gift-buying season (ie, the last couple of months) my wife and I wondered aloud just what was going on: we'd try to find information on, say, bicycles, and Google would give us pages and pages of junk. Was it just us?

Apparently not -- I'll trust that you can click the link and read the Metafilter article and associated links on your own that speculate on details about why this is happening (summary: spammers and "search engine optimizers" are getting too good at gaming Google). I'm not happy that this is happening, but in a small way, it's nice to know that it's not just us.

Some people suggest using alternative search engines like DuckDuckGo or Blekko, and Blekko's "slashtags" seem like an interesting idea.

I've seen complaints that it's hard to break the Google habit because it's become second-nature for many of us to use Google, but I'm noticing that Firefox's searchbar defaults to Google but also allows one to add / manage additional search engines. So maybe I'll add Blekko and see how it goes.

One of the Metafilter commenters ponders that it'd be nice if Google would allow one to permanently remove a given website from search results, and then (on the Google end) analyze that information to push trash results to the bottom, thus leveraging crowdsourcing to beat the spam invasion. Sounds like a good idea (actually, I've had the same idea myself); I wonder how well it would work?

While I'm bitching about spam: I'm getting really tired of ads that try to trick me with fake "download" or "begin" buttons. Case in point, here's what I got this morning when I went to

Note that there are buttons / links for "Start Scan Now", "Test PC Speed", "Start Test", "Begin Test", "Start PC speed test", "Free PC Speed Test", and something that may or may not be a button labeled "". Mea culpa, I know that I'm part of the problem, that my goldfish-like attention span pushes me to attempt to speed-read the page. But I've been seeing this "technique" popping up more and more lately, and it's annoying.

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