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Google Won't Manually Adjust Results


Author Message
GoogleGuy Says

PostPosted: April 7, 2004 2:25 PM 

Importance: Medium

GG expalins the reasoning behind a recent Google statement that Google cannot manually adjust search results.

GoogleGuy Says: [Link to quote]

I walked over to see David Krane and asked him about it, because I had a hunch that David was talking about the results for this particular search (the word "jew") and not our overall system. And that's the correct explanation.
To give some background: people write us all the time to say that they dislike or disagree with a particular set of search results. For example, at one point someone wrote in and claimed that one of the search results for Martin Luther King was a revisionist history and wasn't accurate. Should Google go and remove that result by hand? Who gets to decide whether a result deserves to be in the top 10? You can see where the slope gets slippery really quickly when you start bringing value judgments about the content of the site into the mix.

So historically Google has very strongly tried to follow a policy of letting our algorithmic search results stand as they are; we put our efforts much more into improving search by writing better algorithms instead of trying to fix a smaller set of searches by hand. We have a quite small set of circumstances that can result in taking manual action: things like a valid legal request (e.g. a DMCA complaint), spam and things outside our quality guidelines (e.g. off-topic porn for a person's name), and a very small amount of security-related stuff (e.g. credit card numbers on a web page). Other than that, we do our best to let our algorithms work out the results on their own. I think that's the right approach, and I think most of our users would prefer that instead of lots of hand-editing.

Does that mean every search is perfect? Of course not. With 200+ million searches a day, there will be some searches that aren't as good as they can be. But when a bad search is pointed out to us, we look to how to improve our algorithms instead of doing some one-off change. That's the principle that's coming into play here.

If you go back and read the article, you can see that idea underlying it. I did a double-take at the second paragraph of the article: "Weinstock has launched an online petition, asking Google to remove the site from its index. He said if Google receives 50,000 requests to remove the site, it will comply." I have to wonder why Weinstock would say that (if he did). That did not ring true to me at all--I can't imagine anyone in a position of responsibility at Google ever saying anything like that. I don't like the first result for this search either, but we're not going to tweak the results for "jew" by hand. Now go back and re-read the fifth and sixth paragraphs of the news.com article. I think knowing Google's philosophy and a little more background puts the quote into context. It's hard to communicate all of these ideas that I've mentioned here with complete specificity and absolutely no ambiguity in three sentences, but I think David did a great job; he was saying that we won't tweak the results for this search by hand. I asked David to make sure that's what he meant, and it was.

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