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The Problems with Search Personalization

January 2004

What is Search Personalization?

I may like the Chicago Bulls. I may be interested in Bull markets. I may want to run with the Bulls. The goal of search personalization is to help the searcher save time. If in the past I liked the Chicago Bulls the when I search for Bulls again a search engine may weigh my search results to fit my needs or desires. They may still have a losing record, but my search for Bulls will be more relevant to Chicago than Spain or stocks.

The Problems With Offline Media

The cost of offline media is rather expensive. Its not easy for me to start a new local newspaper or to gain nationwide coverage, I can not afford to do so. Those who can afford to gain distribution have a major investment involved.

Often these news sources need to print news which is suitable to their advertisers. Thus many specific news stories are biased or omitted. We can not run ads about the national deficite durring the Superbowl, but we can run anti drug ads linking casual drug use to funding terrorism. While were are told great stories about terrorists from the Middle East most of us have not read the stories about the terrorists in our back yards.

The Problems With Online Media

The guy who is the terrorist in our back yard comes from somewhere. Most likely he is an individual who is filled with hate toward a certain sector of society. While it is true that he could be exceptionally detached, he could be part of a social network.

The low cost of online media is not only a blessing, but also a problem. People can coordinate attacks and breed intolerance in tight nit hate groups. After reading and writing enough of this literature we find the words of Friederich Nietzsche, "there are no facts, only interpretations," strikingly true.

I can pick targeted phrases and make people see my opinion, good or bad. Case and point: Google Search: "Why do cats pur." Look at this top search result for "Navy Corruption." I did not write that top search result, but people can create similar sites covering any racist or destructive topic the world has to offer. Their facts can be their own interpretations.

The Problems With Search Personalization

Psychologists have studied preschoolers telling them a lie about a purple dinosaur that came to class (pre Barney of course.) Initially when asked about the event the children would say that it did not exist. After weeks of grilling most of the kids actually came around and started providing detailed stories of what they remembered as being true.

If anyone can create or find a network of like minded people then they truly can find their own reality. Once we are comfortable we fall into routines and habits. It is human nature to resist change. The problem with search personalization is that it will make human change even harder to occur.

Low cost media makes incorrect opinionated fact easy to find. Micro community formations allow us to choose which reality is real. Here is where the big problem with search personalization comes into play. The search engines, as an unbiased resource, will keep driving us toward the information we were once interested in, thus making it harder to loose our biases.

The fact that a search engines do not know the difference between the Chicago "Bulls" and stock market "Bulls" is a clear indication that we are interfacing with machines that do not understand if you want information on September 11 or want to plan the next aggressive act.

Even semantic search engines still are mathematically driven. As I write this last sentence I find today launches a new social networking search engine which will have an even greater direct blinding effect than I was imagining. This one involves small clusters and not just individuals though.

- by Aaron Wall, owner of Search Marketing Info

We Value Privacy
This article may be syndicated in whole are part. Simply provide a link back to the original article or http://www.search-marketing.info. Please note that I do not usually update articles over time and the date last modified on article pages is usually referring to a navigational change.


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