Sunday, July 31, 2011

Oh, Google

People are always telling me that Google is going to steal my job. Like Google would want my job.

I was filling in at the reference desk of another library recently, and a patron wanted to show me a website, so she put her cursor in the Google toolbar on the browser and typed--I kid you not--"Google" and hit enter. When the list of search results appeared on the screen, framed by what was obviously the Google interface, she clicked on the first result, which was, of course, Google. Only then did she do her keyword search.

Am I even making sense? What I'm saying is, she Googled Google and then clicked on the first link in the list of results from Google, which was also Google.

Google is not going to steal my job, because my job is to teach people how to use Google. Among other things.

But that's not really what I wanted to post about: Did you know that the Google search results you get are tailored to you? I knew the ads were tailored to my searches, and to my emails when I'm logged in, but I didn't realize that when I search for "Debt Crisis," I get a different list of results from you. I thought we all got the same results--whatever pages were most popular based on that magic algorithm. But no. My preferences and past searches are also taken to account, so my list of results might include different news sources than yours.

I do think this is kind of a big deal, even though I usually yawn at people who decry Google. I guess it isn't inherently bad, but I didn't know it was happening until I read this article, so until then I treated Google results as an indicator of what The World is clicking on. Now I have to treat it as an indicator of what I am clicking on, which is less interesting to me.

There was a recent article in the New York Review of Books about how Google's product isn't really searching--it's advertising. That's what made me think about all this. And everyone knows that Google's making us stupid, too, right?

But not stealing my job. Just for the record.

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