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dumb and dumber

In response to this fact:

Using the keywords “Martin Luther King,” the first result on Google and AOL–whose search is powered by Google–and the second result on Microsoft Windows Live search is a Web site created by a white supremacists group that purports to provide “a true historical examination” of the civil rights leader.

…a representative from Google responded like this:

“In this particular example, the page is relevant to the query and many people have linked to it, giving it more PageRank than some of the other pages. These two factors contribute to its ranking,” the [Google] representative wrote in an e-mail.

This is exactly the point Merlin made to my post about Amazon’s infuriating search – they’re thinking like engineers, rather than even trying to understand why the problem matters so much to some people. I’m trying to figure out which is worse, having the system behave in such an obtuse manner, or trying to explain it away as simply how the god in the machine works.

[As an aside, this is definitely something that sucks, but I’m puzzled how to best offer a constructive way around it. I can’t tell Google to change how PageRank works – they simply need to undestand that people don’t accept the idiosyncracies of their method when it gets gamed to produce results like this.]

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[update] Nick Carr posts his own synopsis, and adds the following withering riposte:

… human judgment, it seems, is an unfit substitute for the mindless, automated calculations of an algorithm. We are not worthy to question the machine we have made. It is so pure that even its corruption is a sign of its integrity.

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