Google and Search Trust: Math Is Objective, Right?

November 11, 2017

I trust Google. No, I really trust Google. The reason is that I have a reasonable grasp of the mechanism for displaying search result. I also have developed some okay behaviors when I cannot locate PowerPoint files, PDF files, or find current information from pastesites. I try to look quickly at ads on a page and then discard hits which point to those “relevant” inclusions. I even avoid Google’s free services because these —despite some Xoogler protests — these can and do disappear without warning.

Trust, however, seems to mean different things to different people. Consider the write up “It’s Time to Stop Trusting Google Search Already.” The write up suggests that people usually trust Google. The main point is that those people should not trust Google. I like the “already” too. Very hip. Breezy like almost, gentle reader.

I noted this passage:

Alongside pushing Google to stop “fake news,” we should be looking for ways to limit trust in, and reliance on, search algorithms themselves. That might mean seeking handpicked video playlists instead of searching YouTube Kids, which recently drew criticism for surfacing inappropriate videos.

I find the notion of trusting algorithms interesting. Perhaps the issue is not “algorithms” but:

  1. Threshold values which determine what’s in and what’s out
  2. Data quality
  3. Administrative controls which permit “overrides” by really bright sales “engineers”
  4. The sequence in the work flow for implementing particular algorithms or methods
  5. Inputs from other Google systems which function in a manner similar to human user clicks
  6. Quarterly financial objectives.

Trust is good; knowledge of systems and methods, engineer bias, sequence influence, and similar topics might be more fruitful than this fatalistic viewpoint:

But when something like search screws up, we can’t just tell Google to offer the right answers. We have to operate on the assumption that it won’t ever have them.

By the way, was Google’s search system and method “objective” when it integrated the GoTo, Overture, Yahoo pay to play methods which culminated in the hefty payment to the Yahooligans in 2004? Was Google ever more than “Clever”?

Stephen E Arnold, November 11, 2017

Comments

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