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google - slates criticism

i think this search engine: overcomes 2 of the three criticisms.

type 'flower' & most your results will contain online florists.
but then click on the engine tab & select the encyclopedia option & u will get more relevant info. (the same for apple)

Thursday, July 17, 2003

It still lists me as the top "Brad Wilson", even over the guy who has I'd say that it's still heavily influenced by blogs.

Brad Wilson (
Thursday, July 17, 2003

Pretty lame article, actually.

The main thrust of it is that Google does not in fact read users' minds, and good-golly, sometimes when you only search on one keyword, this fact becomes strikingly apparent.

Thursday, July 17, 2003

Agreed Edoc.

Switching the term from "apple" to "apples" yielded pertinent results, with Apple Computer sites nowhere in the top 10.  Maybe novice users don't realize the magnitude of change such subtle differences make. <shrug>

There may be merit in the lack of independent product reviews complaint, but it never really comes up for me.

Thursday, July 17, 2003

It is easy to simply react by saying that the so-called problems are dumb and can be easily solved by better keywords. But this misses the entire point of the article: if you do a search and get bad results, Google doesn't provide easy, explicit help.

The solution isn't hard: simply add explicit buttons to refine the search either by an additional keyword or by excluding a keyword.

Yes, the first can be done simply by adding words in the search box, but for new users or people not confortable with computers, explicit choices are better.

The second is available in advance searches, but again, this is intimidating.

Even better would be to offer commonly requested but mutually-exclusive branches off the current search.

Pierre B.
Thursday, July 17, 2003

And why would anyone search for "flowers" or "apple" on Google?

Thursday, July 17, 2003

Add "explicit" buttons? I don't think your average user will grasp what an explicit keyword search is, and I'm not sure how Google would determine which direction users want to influence the results.

In my past I've managed large search engines (corpii greater than 1 million files). In my experience, most search engine users have zero interest in learning how to use the engine more effectively. It's either "I found my results on the first try; this engine rulez", or "I searched on 'stuff' and got 50,000 results; this engine sux."

The fact that Google does a very respectable job most of the time is quite a feat.

Thursday, July 17, 2003

Googlehole No. 3: Book Learning

If you are looking for books, then why are you searching the web? Few books have their entire text online. Try a library. If you are looking for recent research, then the books are probably outdated anyways.

I think Google could address some of the author's other petty concerns with some search filters. The Google search results page already has "tabs" for Web, Images, Groups, Directory, and News. Maybe Google can add some more filters. In fact, dynamically-generated context-sensitive tabs could be very interesting.

Thursday, July 17, 2003

Google has a "Similar pages" link next to each search result; perhaps what you want is a link next to each result that does  something like "Re-run search, leaving out this and similar pages".

Thursday, July 17, 2003

"Maybe novice users don't realize the magnitude of change such subtle differences make. "

But then why should they have to? The experts are supposed to make something more usable in order for novices to be able to enjoy it.

I'm sure if you went into your doctor and said "I've broken my arm" she wouldn't chide you for being a medical novice who didn't know the difference if you actually turned out to have a broken wrist instead.

Robert Moir
Thursday, July 17, 2003

But that's a false analogy.

A better analogy would be that you have a broken arm, and go to your lawyer's office.  Is it the lawyer's fault that he can't set your arm?  Or it your fault because you're not bright enough (not you, personally) to read the online help Google provides?  Or to experiment a little?  Or - gasp - think about what you're doing?

Also, the query "apple -computer -newton -mac -fiona" returned a fairly useful list...

Grumpy Old-Timer
Thursday, July 17, 2003

The advice "be more specific" solves #2 without difficulty.  What do you want to know about apples, after all?

apple biology
apple growing
apple recipies
apple blossoms
apple orchard
apple farming
apple varieties

. . . etc.  If you know what you're looking for and tell Google what you're looking for, Google returns useful results.

Now, it would be sensible for Google to point this out by moving the "Search Within Results" link to the top with more user-friendly text, but that's a UI problem, not something wrong with Google's search mechanism.

Steven E. Ehrbar
Thursday, July 17, 2003

I agree with the article being lame.

Basicly they are saying they want more AI in google. So it can figure out what YOU (one from a billion users) want.

I think this will make google only more complicated to use and maybe also slower.

Thursday, July 17, 2003

The Web is techno- and commerce-centric. It's not surprising that "Apple Computer" and 1-800-Flowers come up for those searches. And, given how easy it is to move to a more relevant search (e.g., "apples" or "flowering plans"), I'd say the author's reaching a bit.

The top link for "flower" did surprise me, but it also put a smile on my face.

Thomas Sanders
Friday, July 18, 2003

Is typing 'florist' when looking for a florist somehow counter-intuitive?

Simon Lucy
Friday, July 18, 2003

"And why would anyone search for "flowers" or "apple" on Google?"

Agreed. However, a non-user once asked me to look for a particular magazine she was interested in. She asked me to look for it in "the gardening section of the Internet". No joke! I couldn't even explain to her why I was laughing so hard.

Friday, July 18, 2003

I've never ahd trouble finding product reviews, but maybe that's because I sprinkle my queries with words like 'review'? Hmm, let's see: "compaq presario", yup, no reviews on Page 1. Now, "Compaq Presario review": OK, first two are from Amazon (because they contain customer REVIEWS) then the rest of the page is zdnet, techtv, pcworld, and cnet. OK, so my theory is this: plug in the terms YOU'RE SEARCHING FOR and you might get better results. Duh. Like someone else said, google doesn't read your mind. I'm sure if you do some searches for 'tulip growing care' or 'gardening' you might turn up more relevant results than simply looking for 'flowers'. Want information on apples? OK, can you be just a *hair* more specific? "apple nutrition", "apple growing", hell, even "apple fruit"--not a computer to be seen. (Actually, 'apple growing' has a few links to an article "Is Apple growing leaner?" but in todays pun-hungry world of journalism, things like that can't be avoided. Not that that's a pun, but I bet if you search for things like 'broken windows' or 'bad word' you'll get a lot of MS-related matches.)

Friday, July 18, 2003

Out of all this conversation, I'm shocked that not one person has mentioned the obvious. (OK, maybe it's not obvious to everyone, but it seems pretty glaring to me.)

1) Google is widely considered the best search engine.

2) Recently, Microsoft announced a big (multi-hundred-million-dollar) investment in web search. The MSN search group basically said that Google was in their crosshairs. Article:

3) Slate, a brand name of MSN, publishes an article that criticizes Google.

I don't know about you all, but this seems just a little suspicious to me.

Ryan Barrett
Tuesday, July 22, 2003

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