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Blog noise is ‘life or death’ for Google

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Letters Sick of blog noise polluting the Google search results? We didn't realize how popular this idea would be. Evidently, the quality of information is dear to the hearts of many readers.

It's also dear to the hearts of Google engineers, who privately acknowledge the problem.

Blogs aren't the only problem Google faces on the issue. People who publish lists are also a nuisance. And, to some extent, the two groups overlap. But the most popular reaction to our suggestion that Google implement a -noblog flag - in other words, that it return search results without trackbacks, mindless links and other noise - is that it should be turned on by default.

Even webloggers think that a Google Blog tab would benefit both the bloggers and the rest of us - the 99.97 per cent of us who don't blog, and who are selective with our reading.

Michael Hall greeted the suggestion with "supreme happiness".

"Bloggers are a tiny minority of the population, but they've created an echo chamber that gives inappropriate weight to their choices. They're proud of this, and they brag about their capacity to game Google with Googlebombs and other search-skewing play. Some intentionally, some not, they've subverted a search engine people liked because it was meritocratic about information, and made it about themselves and their narcissism. "

A Wired follow-up, entitled Search results clogged by blogged, notes that weblogger Russell Beattie "is far from the only blogger who's seeing even his most cursory references to a place, idea or technology result in search engine-generated traffic."

And commenting in a discussion on Lessig's weblog, Karl Davis described the blog clean-up as a "necessary change".

"I think removing blogs from Google?s main search is a necessary change," he wrote.

"I think there are certain types of searches and searchers google will better serve by allowing the searching of blogs only. I?ve also noticed the difficulty of picking through a multitude of opinion pieces at the top of a search result when I was looking for facts. That said, I don?t think this is as big a blow to blogs as some are making it out to be."

Indeed not.

However Google's hand may be forced by rivals. "If Google doesn't offer a blog filter they will be forced to by an engine that does or risk becoming the next AltaVista", writers a reader.

Rejecting the "We Are The World" argument proposed by blog-lobbyists, he argues that the sheer quality of a blogless search engine may be hard to resist, and the market will vote with its mice.

Here's his letter in full.


Subject: May the best search engine win.

Letter to the editor:

Hyperlinking with the emphasis on hyper, does not good content make.

There is a point to be made that some publications online are annoying to link to whether because they require intrusive registration or they do not index well or even at all, but it's a misleading example upon which to argue in favour of search indexing blogs. This debate is not about big media publications who don't quite 'get it' online, it's about finding relevant information instead of the self referencing inane babble of a minority sub culture. It is actually deceptive for blog supporters to claim that the NYT example is representative of the blogging complaints nor is it about mainstream media interests complaining about their lack of ranking.

A minority of irrelevant self referencing narcissistic voices that benefit and are amplified by a weakness in search indexing algorithms is not what search engines are intended to find. They're part of the PROBLEM search engines were largely designed to solve. I don't want to have to wade through the ranking Google references of information I'm not looking for any more than I want to wade through the SPAM in my mailbox. I'm not a journalist or a blogger, I just want to get to the information I'm interested in with the least effort. Search indexing is there for one reason and one reason alone; to get me the information I'm interested in quickly. It's not about self promotion, it's not about nurturing the next Gutenberg, it's about getting these people out of my way. It they're in my way then search engines should
filter them. Search engines are tools, they serve a very simple purpose.
That bloggers are even debating this is telling.

Why should bloggers be up in arms over this? Is it their intent to rise to the top of a search parade list and pollute my result with their prose, or would they rather my Google search gets me to the relevant information I requested? Their consternation is telling.

This is NOT about anyone's right to publish in a wonderful new medium, carry on, nobody is stopping you. This is about my ability to find the information I'm searching for online. It is about the utility of a tool to perform it's function. The debate is settled by the simple answer to a single question: "When a given keyword is typed which result best fits the users search intent?". Forget the eosoteric arguments used to obfuscate the issue. The answer to this question is absolutely clear, As soon as a major search engine realizes that then they will be able to use that fact to help win in the market.

I can say with some degree of confidence that this is inevitable. If Google doesn't offer a blog filter they will be forced to by an engine that does or risk becoming the next AltaVista. Someone will do to them what they did to all other engines. There's little need to debate this further, offer the idea up, let people who index the web implement the suggestion or decline and may the best search engine win.

[name witheld at request of author]

However, as Russell Beattie has pointed out, Google now owns Blogger, and views weblogs as a vast advertising billboards for its Adwords service. So it has a clear commercial conflict of interest.

Will it take the blog money, or will it do the Right Thing by its hundreds of millions of non-blogging users?

We'll see. ®

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