Monday, March 7, 2011

New Google Algorithm Hides Relevant Results

Google has taken steps to suppress what many casual users of its search engines might consider to be relevant results. This February 25th article by Claire Miller in the NY Times - Seeking to Weed Out Drivel, Google Adjusts Search Engine - details some of the changes to the Google algorithm.

Google's problem appears to be what it perceives as poor quality or low-quality pages. The targeted sites are commonly referred to as "content farms." The content farms use online inquiries made to search engines and, through the use of their own algorithm, post short easy to read articles that attempt to answer those questions. Miller takes a adverse view of content farms. She claims that such sites -
"...churn out sometimes mindless articles based on what people are searching for..."
Miller must be using a different Internet than the rest of us. Some people would say that most of the articles that are accessible by casual searching on the Internet are mindless. Weeding through irrelevant results has always been the bane of any search engine user's existence.

Google's problem is that it has noticed that producers of content farm material have found a way to game the existing Google algorithm to make their sites appear at the top of the results list without paying for that privilege. Others seem to have a problem with the quality of the results. Librarians, however, know that every user has his or her answer (see Raganathan's Five Laws or Noruzi's application of the five laws to the Internet). Who, other than the user, has the right to determine whether a particular result is a good one or not?

What does all this have to do with information and the law? Well, some legal futurists see the freely accessible electronic resources that the search engines find as the means by which potential clients will get their legal information, starting now. With the pace of change in information development it should come as no surprise that these content farms are fielding legal questions. So. Why bother to hire an attorney when you can find the answer to your specific question online for free?

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