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« Computer History | Main | Talent is Overrated »

May 10, 2010


Kartik Agaram

Google needs to find a signal better than popularity. PageRank basically boils down to popularity. I know Google has a bunch of other signals, but the whole still seems very popularity-driven.

Why is popularity bad? It is susceptible to initial conditions, and therefore easy to game. I found Tom Slee's entertaining writeup very influential: http://whimsley.typepad.com/whimsley/2008/03/mr-googles-guid.html -- it got me to write about how popularity emphasizes quantity over quality: http://akkartik.name/blog/2009-05-19-21-30-46-soc, and it has deeply influenced the design of http://readwarp.com


Why would anyone hate Google search? There are still alternatives and no one is forcing anyone to use one over another. It is not like there are any switching costs involved with using another search engine if Google no longer produces quality results. No algorithm is perfect and there will always be those trying to game the system, especially if you're the best.

Old friend...

Karthik - I think page rank is like number of references in one's research paper, bibliography. I am sure they are not just using page rank alone, albeit with major focus, - but myriad of other considerations. I have seen some research papers during my brief encounter being research assistant during my Masters - and I found not everything gets full due attention. Sometimes you have more generic references, and sometimes more specific and sometimes you ignore some of the old references.

I agree with you on how popularity is mostly quantity but not quality - perhaps it's that what motivates some of the niche startups focusing on search trying to beat Google - but alas, masses like quantity not quality. Before quantitative indications become more qualitative - it takes a while (that's usually the reason why people moved from older search engines to Google back in 99-00 - including myself...

Will call you and Jaggu over the coming weekend...

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