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Random Encounters => Everything Else => Topic started by: sgore on November 05, 2017, 10:35:29 pm

Title: Has Google been getting worse as a search engine?
Post by: sgore on November 05, 2017, 10:35:29 pm
On what is probably a completely unrelated note to everything else going on right now, this is going to sound weird, but has Google been getting steadily worse as a search engine over the last few years?

The results seem less and less relevant to what I'm actually trying to find, and more and more spammy.
Also I have to really wrangle it into searching for what I actually want it to search for. (Put individual words in quotes, hit verbatim, do a whole bunch of other stuff).

When I go to Google News and click 'read more' on a story cluster, it brings me to a nicely laid out page, but it doesn't actually show me stories in the cluster I just clicked on?

It's like the bones and connective tissues of the internet are getting sleeker but less functional/useful/informative/illuminating/educational?
Like the edges of the whole experience are being sanded off and heavily processed, and harder to actually steer or navigate in an exploratory sense?
Like it's harder to use it to discover cool internet things that aren't already deeply meme-ified and mediated?
I don't know how to put it properly. I'm feeling a similar vibe with certain parts of Wikipedia now compared to Wikipedia a few years back?

Has anyone else noticed this? The question's not just limited to Google.
Title: Re: Has Google been getting worse as a search engine?
Post by: sgore on November 05, 2017, 10:53:49 pm
Or like, the 'suggested videos' sidebar on YouTube used to be a semi-fixed, mappable thing.
The comment section had clickable page numbers.
There were community sections.

You knew other people were seeing what you were seeing, and you could give them directions, or go back and find something by following a path you'd just gone down. There was a sense of a digital physical space to explore, and not these hyper-personalized, individual content streams.

Those streams feel weirdly isolating and recursive now, honestly. Like I'm being fed back what I supposedly like based on whatever category sites like that think I fall into? But it just makes everything feel all same-ish and monotonous?

I apologize if I'm not making sense, or not explaining myself well.
Title: Re: Has Google been getting worse as a search engine?
Post by: Oviraptor on November 06, 2017, 02:32:04 pm
Try looking at your search settings: (

Turn off anything that personalizes your search for maximum effectiveness.
Title: Re: Has Google been getting worse as a search engine?
Post by: sgore on November 06, 2017, 02:56:17 pm
Ovi! Hi!
Something along these lines might be the culprit. Thank you.
Though I will notes it's a similar vibe/situation even when I'm not logged in.

It's not really exclusive to Google, and again, I'm sorry if I'm being vague, or if my point seems to meander a bit.
There's just an off-ness I'm not quite sure how to articulate.
Like the internet is still this amazing repository of information, resources, social connectivity, and craft.
But the signal to noise ratio is going all wonky.
Or, at least, our systems to wade through it aren't as effective/precise as they used to be.

Jonathan Coulton (the musician who wrote Still Alive, and Code Monkey, and Re: Your Brains, etc) just tweeted out a Medium article someone wrote on certain automated YouTube videos that sort of fits the theme of what I'm talking about (or at least runs parallel to some of what I'm seeing):

Then again, maybe it's just me.
Title: Re: Has Google been getting worse as a search engine?
Post by: Oviraptor on November 06, 2017, 03:05:50 pm
I know what you mean, it's not just Google. But Google was the one I know how to (at least partially) fix.

It's the tendency of media nowadays (especially social media) to be "curated." Algorithms showing you things that they think you want to see even ignoring that you literally requested to see instead. For example, on YouTube, subscribing to a channel no longer means that that channels videos are guaranteed to show up in your feed. You have to also turn on notifications. Wasn't that the whole point of subscribing, Youtube?!
Title: Re: Has Google been getting worse as a search engine?
Post by: Hydromancerx on November 07, 2017, 08:59:44 am
Well Google Images seems to be the worst in that everything you find is from Pinterest. I mean Pinterest is nice but I would like to actually find the original sources.

Note I realize you could exude the site from the search criteria but it is still troubling its there in the first place.
Title: Re: Has Google been getting worse as a search engine?
Post by: sgore on January 10, 2018, 10:29:19 am
I thought it would be worthwhile to update this conversation with a look at the criteria Google actually uses in asking people to evaluate search results as high, medium, or low quality:

Not saying it helps or hinders the phenomena I was talking about earlier, just thought it was interesting.

This answer, for instance, addressed one of my direct concerns:
Are we just giving High quality ratings to pages that “look” good?
"No! The goal is to do the exact opposite. These steps are designed to help you
analyze the page without using a superficial “does it look good?” approach."

Which is good! But I'm not always sure how well that's put into practice.

There have been times I find incredibly worthwhile, directly relevant, primary academic content from a respected expert on a particular subject, but the website is buried on a University domain and looks like it hasn't been updated since 1999.

And it'll show up on Google eventually, but it takes me, like, 30 minutes of trying out and winnowing search criteria on Google before it'll even start allowing me to see sites like that (6 or 7 pages back).

They do have Google Scholar ( though, which I'll admit I haven't used as much, and may actually address some of these issues.

In that same vein, Google Books is both a magnificent human achievement and a frustrating tangle of copyright issues. There's a fantastic Atlantic article on the subject:

Much as we feel like the internet's an infinite repository of information, I think we can also trick ourselves into forgetting how much we're not seeing.