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11/25/2008
05:18 PM
Thomas Claburn
Thomas Claburn
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Google SearchWiki Must Die

Google's SearchWiki must die. It's a fine idea, allowing people to re-rank search results and comment on them. Viva democracy.

Google's SearchWiki must die. It's a fine idea, allowing people to re-rank search results and comment on them. Viva democracy.But making everyone's comments available for everyone to see undermines the aura of neutrality that Google has cultivated and turns the Google search results page into a potentially hostile environment for advertisers.

Consider some of the comments appended to the 73 comments currently filed under the Microsoft Corporation Web site:

"Hi, I'm a Mac!"

"Microsoft sucks."

"They are sucking less... but they still suck."

And under Google:

"Google is awesome!"

"IS AMAZING!!!!!!!!!"

One person commenting under Google gets it: "For popular keywords, this isn't going to scale. For less trafficked ones, one asinine reviewer can hurt the experience for everyone."

Most of the comments I have seen do nothing to enhance the user search experience or to provide useful information. They are a waste of bandwidth.

Everyone is entitled to an opinion, but not every opinion deserves to be broadcast on Google. (Go tell it to YouTube.)

Consider this SearchWiki comment posted under Sarah Palin's Wikipedia entry listing: "The first mentally handicapped woman to become governor of Alaska. Despite her disability she still manages the impressive feat of reading ALL the newspapers."

I didn't vote for her, but I see no reason why Google's search page has to become a forum for disrespect.

Google wants to take a hands-off approach and let users clean up the comments by voting them down. But why should users be obligated to clean up the mess Google has enabled? (If anything, Google should be paying users per click to police SearchWiki.)

I'm fairly sure Google is aware of the problems with SearchWiki, which is why the implementation is such a kludge. Putting the link to display all SearchWiki comments at the bottom of the page is one step away from burying the option.

The fact that Google doesn't index SearchWiki comments, to make them accessible via search, suggests that Google doesn't consider user comments to be legitimate information. Google's mission after all is to "organize the world's information and make it universally accessible and useful."

There's also no URL or identifier to link to specific comments, which presumably one would want if they provided valuable information.

And if user comments are not valuable, why bother including them at all?

Google should take SearchWiki offline and re-work it so that one can only see the comments from friends in one's Gmail address book or from social networking friends lists. It should make those comments viewable with a simple button alongside every search result, rather than though a link at the bottom of the search results page.

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