“Right to be forgotten” – Yes or No?

Here is a thoughtful examination of the issues that underpin the “right to be forgotten” and Google’s response. It’s not black and white – the many aspects make the questions we need to address quite complex.

How Google determined our right to be forgotten, Julia Powles and Enrique Chaparro, The Guardian (Feb 18)

Google doesn’t show well.

“Nine months after the European ruling, it is clear that Google’s implementation has been fast, idiosyncratic, and allowed the company to shape interpretation to its own ends, as well as to gain an advantage on competitors and regulators forced into reactive mode. It avoided a broader and much deeper reflection on digital public space, information sedimentation, and the exploration of collaborative solutions between public and private actors – such as a joint request service across different search engines, with processes for getting confidential advice from publishers and public officials.”

And we need to learn to distinguish between public and private.

“So, if we concede that the internet is public space, that the web is the public record, then Google, on its logic, is the custodian and indexer of our personal records. We must be careful to distinguish the offerings of a handful of internet services from the real public record guaranteed by law, from archives, and even from human memory itself – which will all continue to be available when the amusement park closes.”

Reading Level in Google Search

Google Operating System has reported a Google Reading Level Bug (Feb 18). Reading level is a hard-to-find and therefore easy-to-forget search feature on web searches. Find it by picking Search Tools > All Results > Reading level. When it works it helps you zero in on content that is “advanced” or scholarly, vs basic / elementary or intermediate.

Google is still identifying the advanced items but isn’t capturing them in the graph.

google-readinglevel-2015

Patterns in Google’s Autocomplete

Next time you search Google watch the suggested searches that pop up – especially those for the first letter you enter. Host Advice has analyzed the autocompletes and created an alphabet according to Google. The letter A, as an example, is surely going to show Amazon first – likely worldwide; and there is a pretty good chance that E will be eBay.

The Phonetic Alphabet according to Google – 2015 by Eliran Ouzan, Host Advice (Jan 25)

There will be some variations depending on where you live. In Toronto, C is for Canadian Tire. These auto completes are influenced by current local search activity – how else would J be for Jian Ghomeshi? ut this will pass, and J might change to Joe Fresh, at least in Canada. Anyway – fun to watch.

Google health answers

Google will be adding “structured and curated health information” obtained from medical authorities (such as Mayo Clinic) into the Knowledge Graph side panels.

Google Introduces Rich Medical Content Into Knowledge Graph, Greg Sterling, Search Engine Land (Feb 10)

Of interest: 1 in 20 searches are health related.

Only in the US for now: “The rollout is for U.S. English, for the time being, on the Google app (Android and iOS) and for the PC. However Google plans to expand the number of conditions and later make the information available outside the US.”

Twitter real-time feed to Google

Good news – Google and Twitter are talking again with real time updates of tweets in Google search results. Unknown if Google will restore the real-time search option.

Twitter strikes deal for tweets to appear in Google searches, Sarah Frier, Bloomberg via Globe and Mail (Feb 5)

In the first half of this year, tweets will start to be visible in Google’s search results as soon as they’re posted, thanks to a deal giving the Web company access to Twitter’s firehose, the stream of data generated by the microblogging service’s 284 million users, people with knowledge of the matter said Wednesday. Google previously had to crawl Twitter’s site for the information, which will now be visible automatically.

Is Google really about information?

What is Google’s mission today? This pair of articles reminds us that a corporation (or any organization) may change its purpose and business, and abandon earlier commitments.

Never trust a corporation to do a library’s job, Andy Baio, The Medium (Jan 28)

For many years Google stated its mission as “to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.” This article identifies time and time again that Google took down tools it had developed as part of that mission statement. One of the more grievous examples has been the near total abandonment of Google News Archive. Today, Google is about future tech – smartglasses, operating systems, driverless cars, robotics.

Who can we trust for organizing information – or at least preserving it? The Internet Archive. But, the funding will be up to us, not a corporation.

Jessymn West, in The Medium, provided further evidence of Google’s changing interest in Google’s slow fade with librarians (Feb 2).

Related: Google has ‘outgrown’ its 14-year old mission statement, says Larry Page , Samuel Gibbs, The Guardian (Nov 3, 2014)

Web Search without the Social

Frederic Lardinois says Good Riddance To Social Search Techcrunch (Dec 28) – and I agree. By social search he means the practice by Google and Bing to intermix the “likes” of online connections with Web search results. Remember the side panel in Bing.com with supposedly relevant postings by Facebook friends? The results might have been amusing but were rarely (if ever) relevant. This kind of social search has disappeared from Google and Bing.

As Lardinois says:

“I think one of the reasons social search failed is because our social media “friendships” don’t actually represent our real-life tastes all that well. Just because we follow people on Twitter or are friends with old high school classmates on Facebook doesn’t mean we like the same restaurants they do or share the politics they do.”

The concept of having what colleagues found valuable influence the search results you receive on some topic of common interest had some merit but it would take incredible effort to create exactly the right community. Such communities may exist in specialized  social networking groups, but not in the casual relationships of Facebook or Google Plus.

The Growing Importance of Mobile

Google gives sites that are mobile friendly a ranking boost in search results.

Google Is Experimenting With Special Ranking For Mobile-Friendly Sites, Danny Sullivan, Search Engine Land (Nov 18)

Google already penalizes sites that provide a bad experience to mobile searchers. Now the company has confirmed that it’s testing with what seems like a boost for those providing a great experience.

This is good, but it is also part of the trend that makes mobile access to the web more important than desktop. Wall Street Journal has noted that The Web Is Dying; Apps Are Killing It by Phil Foster (Nov 17)

Mountains of data tell us that, in aggregate, we are spending time in apps that we once spent surfing the Web. We’re in love with apps, and they’ve taken over. On phones, 86% of our time is spent in apps, and just 14% is spent on the Web, according to mobile-analytics company Flurry.