Google and "blog noise"
Andrew Orlowski, some kind of columnist for the The Register, seems to hate Google and hate blogs (see Blog noise is 'life or death' for Google and Google to fix blog noise problem). And he says that blogs are ruining Google (not that he seems to have liked Google much anyway). When blogs come up in Google search results, he calls it "blog noise."
Yes, when you do a Google search, you will often find blogs show up in the search results, depending on what you're searching for. This shouldn't come as a shock to anyone other than Orlowski. This is because Google's mission is to search the web, and blogs are one of the things you find on the web. And because Orlowski can't do math, he incorrectly under-estimated the quantity of blog web pages by a factor of 100! Great thanks to a clever sheep for pointing this out (and do read his blog post, it's very informative).
It's hard to understand what kind of stuff Orlowski is expecting to find in a Google search. From the very beginning of the web, people's personal pages were an important part of it. Blogs are just personal pages in a new trendy format.
Orlowski writes, "the problem is that the resulting degradation in the quality of information makes it even harder to find primary source material." Primary source material? If he's talking about books and academic journals, he's not going to find them on the web. Maybe he thinks he's searching the Library of Congress?
Maybe he should check out LexisNexis where you can search a wide variety of newspapers, magazines, and journals. The difference between LexisNexis and Google is that LexisNexis costs money. He's complaining because the free search engine isn't as good as the one that you have to pay to use. As we used to say when we were little kids, "no duh!"
One of the keys to being found on Google is that the webmaster has to want the page to be found. And most of what one would normally consider "primary source material" doesn't want to be found. You won't find the contents of books in a Google search because authors don't post their books to the web. They want you to pay them money to buy a copy. You won't find articles from a lot of newspapers in a Google search either. The Wall Street Journal makes you pay money to read their paper (and it's worth the money too, I pay for my subscription). The New York Times and many other newspapers make you register before you can read the articles, and then they remove them after two weeks because they want to make money from the old articles, which they sell to companies like LexisNexis.
With most of the good reading material unavailable for free, what's left? Websites that tell you how great the sponsoring company is. Websites that want to sell you something directly (like Amazon.com). Websites that hope to make money by getting paid to direct you to a website that wants to sell you something. And personal websites like this blog.
Orlowski can call me "narcissistic," but I am firmly convinced that my blogs provide more useful information than Orlowski's columns. My Gold and Silver Blog provides links to information about gold and silver investing that would otherwise be hard to find, along with my own insightful comments which are far better than the comments of those professional journalists who told you that the NASDAQ was a good buy when it was at 5000 points.
My Calico Cat blog (which you are reading right now) not only provides links to other articles (including Orlowski's, unfortunately), but it also contains my commentary which is far more valuable that the junk you read in "real" newspapers and magazines. For example, I recently commented on the article in U.S. News about student loans, but I went beyond what the article said and explained that the whole concept of student loans is misconceived. That's something that mainstream publications are afraid to tell you. They will only tell you what they think the majority of readers want to pay to read, even if it's wrong.
Beyond merely having useful information, blogs will help to save our country. Yes, it's a bold statement, but I believe it. Every year our country slips further in the direction of authoritarianism. Blogs can bring freedom back to our society. For example, there's not a single mainstream publication that I can think of that actively supports legalization of drugs. Yet the "war on drugs" has put millions of people in prison and has cost us hundreds of billions of dollars of taxpayer money. According to Drug Sense, we spend approximately $40 billion a year fighting drugs (I don't know if that's true, but it sounds about right, and they have links to U.S. government websites which hopefully confirm the figure). Yet people still buy and use the stuff, including Marion Barry, the former mayor of Washington, D.C. who was sentenced to six months in prison for possessing cocaine.
In the blogosphere, many people besides myself see the flawed thinking behind the "war on drugs." One of my favorite bloggers, Staunch Moderate, wrote today in his blog about the drug war, and what he writes makes a lot more sense than what's in the regular mainstream media.
Drugs are just one example of how blogs bring you better commentary than what you get in the New York Times and on CNN. I hope that the people who run Google aren't fooled by Orlowski's article, and that they continue to allow blogs to be returned in search engine results, as they are rightfully entitled to be.
posted Friday, October 24, 2003