Googlebombing “for good”

So, turns out that if you search for the word “Jew” on Google you end up with an anti-semitic site. As a response, an effort is afoot to googlebomb a new link into place pointing to a Wikipedia article on Judaism. While the thought is in the right place, I worry that this is an ineffectual form of protest.

First, since people are blogging, rarther than largely putting it on a more permenant link, it means that even if successful, it will be temporary.

Second, if successful, it will move the anti-semitic site to the second or third position. The net effect of this is effort is what exactly?

I guess it seems like a whole lot of demonstration with a whole little action or impact. Instead, the appearance of the site at the top of Google’s results should raise some questions. Especially:

Why is Jew Watch the number one hit? According to Google, the site is inked by about 34 other pages. Many of the most prominent of these links, including a Google Directory entry, note that it is a hate site. Currently about 10 times that number link to the Wikipedia article, but remember that Google “weights” many of these pages using an approach based on their own in-links (as well as some set of magic ingredients).

The effort to Googlebomb into the number one position places effort on a process that is clearly flawed. Google assumes that (in part) a link is a vote and that the cream will rise to the top. This occurs more often than not. But this is clearly one of the exceptions. Rather than stamping out fires, we should recognize that this is likely to continue to be a systemic problem. More effective solutions might include better incorporation of metadata into hyperlinks.

Since I don’t see that happening any time soon, another possibility would be requesting that webmasters give hate sites the silent treatment. I’m not sure if they would be willing to. I’ve done some research on hate websites, and considered putting it up on the web, but the question was whether I would, in effect, become the Yahoo of Hate. There is a good listing of sites provided in PDF format elsewhere on the Web–maybe the better campaign is to get webmasters who are linking to hate websites as examples of such discourse to delink, and perhaps to provide the URL without a hyperlink.

Would it be fair to ask the DMOZ editor for the categories that link to such sites to do so? To ask academic journal editors (pdf) not to provide such hyperlinks? I’m not sure. (Via… everybody.)

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  1. Posted 4/7/2004 at 12:56 am | Permalink

    Next, SuperVoteLinks. This is a problem because we can’t seem to figure out that the way machines evaluate links (quantitatively) is not particularly appropriate to the way people rank pages and links (qualitatively). Slapping more metadata just provides a way to game the qualitative as well as the quantitative. How about just showing the context for the highly weighted links so people can figure it out for themselves? It boggles my mind that technologists seem to want to make life easier for the machines rather than the people. I touched on this topic in this entry on generative entrenchment and this entry on VoteLinks).

  2. Alex
    Posted 4/8/2004 at 12:31 pm | Permalink

    I do like the idea of including the context of the link, and think that would be workable. But it is also too easy to underestimate how effective PageRank really is in *most* cases. That is, it is flawed, but only insofar as every way of ranking such pages are flawed. It can be improved, or superceded, but those solutions aren’t out there right now.

    Hillis, I think, is the one who says something along the lines of “the interface becomes the reality.” (Maybe it’s not Hillis, maybe it’s a bunch of people; whatever.) I think in the blogging world, that has definitely become the case. A link isn’t just a link: it’s an indication of friendship and respect. I recently removed my blogroll, figuring people could more effectively draw on my public Bloglines account to see what I’m reading. I actually got complaints about this, because it directly effects people’s Technorati rating.

    Can anyone say “second-order system”? The tools meant to measure importance or significance are now gamed as a routine sort of thing. The idea that links implied endoresement has always been flawed, but by making that assumption, I have a feeling many Web authors now include that calculus in the process of deciding to make a link.

One Trackback

  1. By scribblingwoman on 5/12/2004 at 1:21 pm

    Googlebomb update
    Alex Halavais points out that the recent googlebombing of the word “jew” was only successful in the short term, questions…

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