Monday, 1 August 2011

Bruce Charlton Sacked and the nature of Google fame

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Looking at the prompts on Google searches, and leaving aside the contamination from a famous Golf Course designer with the same name, my distinctive fame rests on either being sacked from the editorship of Medical Hypotheses, or from having a Blog.

But the ranking of results in Google is done by humans, not by algorithms, and the rankings are rather strange.

Typing Bruce Charlton produces an immediate prompt of the words 1. Newcastle (1 380 000 results), 2. Sacked (912 000) and 3. Wiki (1 400 000).

Why is sacked second when it has fewer results than Wiki, I wonder - and what the heck does 'Wiki' mean in this context?

Then typing Bruce Charlton and simply adding a space gives a slightly different ranking of prompts - why?: 1. Newcastle (1 380 000), 2. Blog (2 070 000), and 3. Sacked (912 000).

I cannot understand why adding a space should change the prompts, I cannot understand why Blog only appears after adding a space, and I cannot understand why Newcastle should appear above Blog.

Considering that some human being did this, I just don't get the underlying rationale - it is not algorithmic, it is not based on distinctiveness, it is not random - what is it?.

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5 comments:

Anonymous said...

In this context what are we to make of St. Augustine's "Felix peccatum!"?

The Crow said...

"...it is not random - what is it?"
It is just one more thing to worry about.

LDiracDelta said...

Professor,
As far as I can tell, "wiki" in google's search engine is a synonymous with "site:en.wikipedia.org" ( see "Search within a specific website (site:)". It means, find "Bruce Charleton" on wikipedia. Using "wiki" this way is not precise or technically accurate, but it appears that the public has aliased "wiki" with "wikipedia".

BS Footprint said...

Actually, it *is* algorithmic. The only people involved are the millions of users who type in queries.

Google's 'auto suggest' presents popular search terms (terms others have entered, and will provide results) as you type. They filter out 'offensive' material if you have not disabled 'safe search' features.

I really doubt there was any rational process behind it. Don't give Google more credit than they deserve.

Big G does as much as possible via the almighty algorithm.

bgc said...

@BSF - I believe Steve Sailer

http://isteve.blogspot.com/2010/01/google-no-like.html

and also my own tests and investigations. Whatever G may or may not *say* I see many signs of human hands at work. Indeed, the pattern of prompts I described in this post was changed since I wrote it.