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Penny Herscher

Penny Herscher

Posted: January 14, 2011 08:21 PM

Google is getting cluttered up in a way that is now starting to impact its usefulness as a search engine -- and we users need a better solution. There has been a tirade from a number of writers over the last few months driven both by Google getting significantly worse and by the pending IPO of the kings of the new content wave, Demand Media.

The answer to the spam problem is that the search engine you use for a task needs to have some understanding of what type of answer you are looking for. Once you, as a user, can tell the engine what you care about, a good search system can present results to you that are relevant and useful. And many of the new generation of tools don't look and feel like a search engine. They feel like a specialized app but, like Google, they use a mix of search results and databases. For example Kayak runs a federated search across travel sites for you to find you travel options. Yelp helps you find reviews. CitySearch finds you things to do and places to go in a new city. FirstRain finds you the latest updates impacting your business. Hoovers finds you information on companies.

This new generation of tools also understands time. There is nothing more annoying than trying to research something and every search you run you see old results. Whether you are a consumer hunting for product reviews (as blogger Paul Kedrosky was a few months ago) or a salesperson wanting to understand his or her prospects or a patient searching for help with medication interactions -- in all cases you want the latest updates, not spammy results or old results.

We, as users, have to get smarter at finding the services that will help us save time. Lazily relying on one tool -- Google -- sets us up to be manipulated. The WSJ reported there is increasing evidence that Google is changing its algorithms to rank its own content higher and so subjecting us to their monoculture -- and "increasing uselessness". As Alan Patrick says: "Google's problem is [] that it is trying to navigate a line between income (systemically the more spam there is, the more Ad money it makes) and usefulness (how much spam can you run before the user walks away) and has veered too far to the spamside."

If we don't want to tolerate the gibberish of the spam sites then we need to be smarter and use the search apps designed for our individual interests, not the search app that assumes we are all the same. It's time.

 

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