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The Demographics of Web Search

kdawson posted more than 4 years ago | from the do-what-i-mean dept.

Yahoo! 131

adaviel sends a link to work out of Yahoo Research indicating that demographics can help Web searches; e.g. a women searching for "wagner" probably wants the 18th-century German composer, while for men in the US "wagner" is a paint sprayer. The Yahoo researchers claim that by taking user demographics into account, "they managed to get the chosen link to appear as the top-ranked result 7 per cent more often than in the standard Yahoo search." New Scientist mentions this research and two other innovative adjuncts to current search practice: following the mouse cursor as a proxy for eye tracking, and taking back bearings on online criminals by studying the searches they make. (The latter raises disburbing privacy questions: would you want Google trolling through your search data? How about governments?)

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Why is it red? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32868064)

Why is the story red and none of the others are?

Re:Why is it red? (1)

kronosopher (1531873) | more than 4 years ago | (#32868080)

I presume because it was brand new, which is no longer the case.

Re:Why is it red? (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32868174)

Because you're in the target demographic.

Re:Why is it red? (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32869152)

He's a nigger, searching for fried chicken?

Re:Why is it red? (1)

jonbryce (703250) | more than 4 years ago | (#32868390)

Because you had the opportunity to have the first post, which you managed to get.

Re:Why is it red? (1)

tomhudson (43916) | more than 4 years ago | (#32868550)

Why is the story red and none of the others are?

If you had read the story, you'd know that they can change the color to reflect what gender you are, making you more likely to read the article.

Then again, this is slashdot - 10x more likely is still 0.000-something %.

Wrong century (2, Informative)

Raffaello (230287) | more than 4 years ago | (#32869462)

Wilhelm Richard Wagner [wikipedia.org] was born in 1813 and died in 1883 which makes him a 19th Century German composer, not an 18th c. German composer.

Remember, here in 2010 it's the 21st century; in 1910 it was the 20th c.; in 1810 it was the 19th c., etc.

Re:Wrong century (2, Funny)

digitig (1056110) | more than 4 years ago | (#32869722)

Yes, but the women are searching for Agnes Wagner, the incredibly obscure 18th century German composer. Don't bother doing a web search for her, you're not in the right demographic to find anything.

who is asking you? (2, Insightful)

roman_mir (125474) | more than 4 years ago | (#32868072)

would you want Google trolling through your search data? How about governments?

- what do you mean 'would you want', who is asking you, plebes?

Re:who is asking you? (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32868136)

Thank goodness /. editors ask these probing questions in the summary. I wouldn't know what to discuss otherwise.

Re:who is asking you? (1)

asticia (1623063) | more than 4 years ago | (#32869456)

Aren't engines doing it anyway as long as you're logged on? Part of the customization. Or whats my tagging with stars and irrelevant links in google results?

Re:who is asking you? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32872188)

Trawling, not trolling.
Look it up

wow.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32868084)

When I google "rock climbing", "rock climbing in [my state]" in utah comes up in the suggestions already. seems google already considers stuff like this.

as for all the JS to tell my search engine company where my mouse is....thats a lot of ajaxy data back and forth for no reason. stupid and none of their business.

Re:wow.... (1)

Yaur (1069446) | more than 4 years ago | (#32869780)

Location has been taken into consideration for ads for a long time (probably since the beginning) using them to alter search results is something different.

Correction: (4, Informative)

BrokenHalo (565198) | more than 4 years ago | (#32868098)

Wagner was a 19th-century composer, not 18th.

Re:Correction: (5, Funny)

Yvan256 (722131) | more than 4 years ago | (#32868216)

Are you sure? I just searched and the first result is this Slashdot article which clearly says that he was an 18th century composer, right in the summary.

Re:Correction: (2, Insightful)

BitterOak (537666) | more than 4 years ago | (#32868544)

Are you sure? I just searched and the first result is this Slashdot article which clearly says that he was an 18th century composer, right in the summary.

Good heavens, why was this modded Insightful? I think the poster was going for Funny. Anyhow, a quick Wikipedia search reveals that Richard Wagner lived from 1813-1883, making him a 19th century composer.

Re:Correction: (3, Insightful)

Yvan256 (722131) | more than 4 years ago | (#32868640)

Modded insightful twice too... I guess some people can't be bothered to think for themselves and just moderate to increase whatever the current moderation is.

Re:Correction: (1, Offtopic)

Hognoxious (631665) | more than 4 years ago | (#32869186)

What's really amusing is that two people posting mutually exclusive answers are currently at +3 and +4.

Re:Correction: (1)

Sique (173459) | more than 4 years ago | (#32869608)

And BitterOak can't be bothered to actually read Yvan256's answer for what it is: an ironic twist citing the summary as a reference for itself.

Re:Correction: (0, Offtopic)

thePowerOfGrayskull (905905) | more than 4 years ago | (#32871668)

Modded insightful twice too... I guess some people can't be bothered to think for themselves and just moderate to increase whatever the current moderation is.

I've seen that trend from time to time -- it becomes most obvious when two people make essentially the same comment; one gets modded up, the other modded down.

Re:Correction: (1)

rarecandy (1521481) | more than 4 years ago | (#32868936)

Says something about believing in the results of a cursory web search.

Re:Correction: (1)

davester666 (731373) | more than 4 years ago | (#32871790)

..but he just plagiarized stuff from the 18th century...

Re:Correction: (4, Funny)

Phroggy (441) | more than 4 years ago | (#32869818)

Are you sure? I just searched and the first result is this Slashdot article which clearly says that he was an 18th century composer, right in the summary.

Quick, somebody update Wikipedia! You can cite this Slashdot article as your source.

Re:Correction: (2, Funny)

MagusSlurpy (592575) | more than 4 years ago | (#32870148)

Are you sure? I just searched and the first result is this Slashdot article which clearly says that he was an 18th century composer, right in the summary.

No it doesn't, it says he's a 20th century paint-sprayer company.

Re:Correction: (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32868220)

Weel, Josef Wagner wrote his most famous piece in 1902; maybe he should be considered 20th C.

Re:Correction: (2, Informative)

jonbryce (703250) | more than 4 years ago | (#32868384)

Richard Wagner is much more famous though.

Re:Correction: (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32871136)

Hitler's Fave.

As far as governments mining your search data, I would be quite surprised if they weren't.
Try binging "how to make a giant b - m b" a few times and see how long it takes to get a friendly visit from your local federal investigators.

Re:Correction: (2, Insightful)

icebike (68054) | more than 4 years ago | (#32868990)

Wagner was a 19th-century composer, not 18th.

But when I (male) search for Wagner I'm more interested in Jill [imdb.com] than Josef or Richard.

Re:Correction: (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32869258)

He's a relief pitcher for the Atlanta Braves.

Robert Wagner (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32869262)

I thought Wagner was a 20th Century actor, He was in the British TV drama "Colditz" and also had a minor role in The Longest Day. Probably best known for "Hart to Hart"

Wanger *was* an 18th-century composer (2, Interesting)

geckoFeet (139137) | more than 4 years ago | (#32870298)

That would probably be Georg Gottfried Wagner (1698-1756), who also played violin for Bach (1685-1750), another 18th-century composer, and not to be confused with Leonhard Emil Bach (1849-1902), a 19th-century composer.

Either that or KDawson thinks that "18 century" means "1800s."

(I am a musicologist, but I am not your musicologist, and this post is not intended as musicological advice).

Re:Wanger *was* an 18th-century composer (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32870846)

No it probably would not.

If you look hard enough, you can find someone with any given last name who wrote some music in any given century.

Sauce for the goose. (5, Funny)

Aaron Denney (123626) | more than 4 years ago | (#32868108)

> would you want Google trolling through your search data? How about governments?

Heck yes I want Google trolling through governments' search data.

Re:Sauce for the goose. (1)

shoehornjob (1632387) | more than 4 years ago | (#32868296)

I presume that the goverment and google are already trolling through my search data so nothing new for me here. It's too invasive if they start tracking the mouse cursor on my screen but since I don't surf much I'm not too worried.

Re:Sauce for the goose. (1)

masterwit (1800118) | more than 4 years ago | (#32869378)

The "but since I don't [insert something here] much so I'm not too worried." argument is dangerous:

"THEY CAME FIRST for the Communists,
and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a Communist.

THEN THEY CAME for the trade unionists,
and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a trade unionist.

THEN THEY CAME for the Jews,
and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a Jew.

THEN THEY CAME for me
and by that time no one was left to speak up."
-Martin Niemöller

more information [wikipedia.org]

Perhaps the example above is a bit extreme, but today liberties are not lost in large chunks, just inch-by-inch.

Re:Sauce for the goose. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32869672)

> would you want Google trolling through your search data? How about governments?

Wait, you mean they don't already? Hum, odd, I could have sworn they already did.

Speaking as a female slashdotter (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32868114)

I just know this thread is going to turn out bad.

Re:Speaking as a female slashdotter (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32868248)

what else would you expect from a site full of paranoid libertarian linux-using pedophile virgins?

Hey! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32868314)

I'm not paranoid!

Re:Speaking as a female slashdotter (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32869420)

I find it interesting that some people found it insightful when you called them "paranoid libertarian linux-using pedophile virgins"

Re:Speaking as a female slashdotter (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32869452)

Better a pedophile virgin than an active pedophile.

Re:Speaking as a female slashdotter (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32869778)

I would expect the cock-smoking teabaggers to pay their $699 license fees!

Then again... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32868134)

If I as a thirty something male am searching for Wagner, I'm probably searching for a German composer.

Applying demographic data like this is a non-sequitur.

Re:Then again... (4, Insightful)

TheLink (130905) | more than 4 years ago | (#32868192)

> Applying demographic data like this is a non-sequitur.

What would be useful is if I could choose to search from a different persons/demographic's point of view. Whether for ebay, amazon, google.

For example say I am looking for a gift for someone else. Or I am helping someone else search for stuff. Or I'm the sort of person who has rather different interests but with search keywords that overlap.

Same goes for reviews of restaurants/movies/etc. What I like, someone else may detest.

Lastly, it could also be interesting (and even beneficial) to be able to more easily see things from other people's point of view.

Re:Then again... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32868332)

I can see some merit in your idea. To an extent though, you can already do this via Amazon suggest -- as anybody who ever bought a gift for a friend has discovered.

That's besides the point though; the type of people who fit squarely in one demographic are more correctly called "fictional".

Re:Then again... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32869542)

Wow, some people just have no concept of privacy. You seriously think it should be okay to use other people's info this way? It's bad enough if your own info is used.

Re:Then again... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32868752)

If you were a thirty something straight male searching for Wagner, you'd probably be searching for Jill [google.com] .

Re:Then again... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32870212)

I had no idea who that was, so I foolowed (sic) your link and can conclude:

If you were a thirty something straight, unmarried male loser searching for Wagner, you'd probably be e-stalking some bit-part actress that nobody has ever heard of.

Neat-o. (4, Insightful)

Bieeanda (961632) | more than 4 years ago | (#32868138)

So the search I did last night, for 'how to fix a cracked toilet', might result in 'hire a plumber, lady' instead of 'go to Home Depot for a replacement, dude'.

(Yes, I'm being facetious, but still. That Wagner example is pretty awful.)

Re:Neat-o. (1)

girlintraining (1395911) | more than 4 years ago | (#32868382)

Stereotyping search queries causes problems: One, a lot of people lie about their age and other stats. Two, just because it's true for the group doesn't mean it's true for the individual. For example, gays and lesbians have far different profiles than their heterosexual demographically-matched counterparts. Profession can mean a lot to a search too, or even race. And I'm sure this isn't motivated at all by making more targeted advertisements, too! Last, what if you want to know what other people not from your demographic group are seeing?

Re:Neat-o. (1)

icebraining (1313345) | more than 4 years ago | (#32869728)

Remember this is for the top-ranked results; if you don't match the demographics, it just mean you'll possibly have to click a few more pages.

Besides, search engines (at least Google) give you a way to disable personalization [google.com] . I wouldn't bet that they actually delete and stop collecting data, but at least it probably doesn't apply it to re-order the results.

Re:Neat-o. (2, Insightful)

Capt. Skinny (969540) | more than 4 years ago | (#32870152)

Just because it's true for the group doesn't mean it's true for the individual.

Improving search results is about aggregates -- returning the best results for the most queries. Individuals don't matter. Google has used this fact to their advantage to show many links to many people while keeping their interface clean: each user only sees three links at the bottom of the main page, for example, but each of n>>3 links displayed in that spot is viewed many times.

If Yahoo can move relevant links higher in the result list for 15 percent of queries, the only concern is about the quantity of queries for which relevant links have moved lower. If stereotypes do in fact represent the majority of a demographic, then it doesn't really matter to a search provider whether you or I as individuals represent our respective stereotypes.

Last, what if you want to know what other people not from your demographic group are seeing?

Why would you want to know? SEO? The goal of search engine optimization is completely at odds with the goal of improving search results: higher rankings of a site in spite of its relevance to the user, versus higher rankings for a site based on its relevance to the user.

Oh gheeze. A philosophical rant. That wasn't my intention. It really wasn't.

Re:Neat-o. (1)

thePowerOfGrayskull (905905) | more than 4 years ago | (#32871684)

Valid point. Yet on the other hand, implementing those stereotypes -- oops, demographics -- as rules has increased their accuracy as measured by click-throughs. There's a reason for most stereotypes; and when you can build those stereotypes based on objective and measurable past data, there's more value to them.

Re:Neat-o. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32872314)

Stereotyping search queries causes problems:

Stereotyping is making an assumption about a group of people and then assuming that ALL members follow that trend. Demographics are about identifying a group based on a common trait, and then by guessing or using probability, determining approximately what % of that group is likely to fit the "stereotype". So they are a little bit different.

Example:
Stereotype- All black people like to eat fried chicken.
Demographic- Out of any given group of black people, there is a probability of X% that any given person will like fried chicken. (Or, that X% of the group will like fried chicken)
(Disclaimer- no I'm not racist, I'm just illustrating the point. My skin is white-ish, my heredity is mixed, and I love to eat fried chicken)

For example, gays and lesbians have far different profiles than their heterosexual demographically-matched counterparts

Sexuality is a demographic. Both in regards to orientation and to specific habits.

Profession can mean a lot to a search too, or even race.

Yes, those are indeed more examples of demographics.

Re:Neat-o. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32870908)

I my wife searched for "water sports" under my account she may be a bit surprised...

Yikes! (1)

rakslice (90330) | more than 4 years ago | (#32871714)

When Google started to change from just linking the "Did you mean?" results to actually inserting them in place of the results for what I actually searched for, I realized on some level that this might be appropriate for people who don't know what they're doing and aren't paying attention, and that those people might be in the majority... But I didn't bother mentioning that in my angry feedback. =)

Maybe Google doesn't care about customer feedback because they're not in a position where they have to worry about the quality of the customer experience; if so, I hope they notice when that changes.

Sexist search engines (5, Insightful)

loufoque (1400831) | more than 4 years ago | (#32868148)

Yes, that's really what we need...

What next, a search result that depends on your religion? If you type "Origin of the Universe", you get articles about the Bible if the engine thinks you're Christian, and scientific material otherwise?

They need to understand there is little value in subjective data. Their results are already biased enough, they should take steps to fix that, not make it worse.

Re:Sexist search engines (2, Insightful)

Krahar (1655029) | more than 4 years ago | (#32868342)

A search engine's purpose is finding what the searcher is looking to find, not in finding what you or someone else think they should be looking for.

Re:Sexist search engines (2, Insightful)

noidentity (188756) | more than 4 years ago | (#32868386)

Just imagine trying to share tips on finding things with someone. "Well, it helps if you're a male Atheist, otherwise I'm not sure how to find things related to this." Again, smart search engines are worse than dumb ones, because you can't predict how a smart one will respond to your query. Either it gets it right, or it gets it wrong and there's little insight you can have into why. Give me a dumb tool that does what I tell it and whose behavior I can predict and thus adjust to.

Re:Sexist search engines (2, Interesting)

Krahar (1655029) | more than 4 years ago | (#32868592)

We already don't know how Google works. If you want to tell someone about something, you can give them a link, or you can log out of your Google account if you are doing this on Google and this comes in the way. This technique allows to give people the link they are looking for more often than if it isn't in use, and that's exactly what a search engine is about. I'm sure you can opt out and most people using search engines aren't as knowledgeable about what they are doing as you might be.

Re:Sexist search engines (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32869512)

From Googles perspective they want to present the search result you were looking for as early as possible on the first page of search results. Preferably all links on the first resultpage should be links you want to read up on.
What they do is not to ask some dude what kind of result he thinks that you should get when you search, what they do is to measure what links you find relevant enough to follow. The problem is that two persons can type the same search qurey but be looking for different pages. By knowing more about you, your family and your interests they can provide links that you are more likely to find relevant but if they don't have that kind of information they might settle for gender and age.
The problem here is not as simple as "Google is too invasive!" The problem is that Google can provide you with a very good search engine but the price is that they have to know more about you, and the more they know about you the better result they can provide.

Re:Sexist search engines (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32869886)

What next, a search result that depends on your religion? If you type "Origin of the Universe", you get articles about the Bible if the engine thinks you're Christian, and scientific material otherwise?

Speaking as a Christian, I would immediately go elsewhere till I found a search engine that didn't insult my intelligence.

Thanks but no thanks (3, Funny)

jheath314 (916607) | more than 4 years ago | (#32868160)

I don't want my neighbors to find out about my obsessive and crippling fear of genetically engineered dinosaurs next time they do a search for "Toronto Raptors" from my computer.

Re:Thanks but no thanks (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32868500)

I don't want my neighbors to find out about my obsessive and crippling fear of genetically engineered dinosaurs next time they do a search for "Toronto Raptors" from my computer.

What do you get for "Chicago Bears"?

Re:Thanks but no thanks (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32871584)

Randall?

What's the point / they still bother? (0, Offtopic)

sznupi (719324) | more than 4 years ago | (#32868184)

Isn't Yahoo pretty much in the process of outsourcing their search to MS?

Re:What's the point / they still bother? (1)

thePowerOfGrayskull (905905) | more than 4 years ago | (#32871696)

Isn't Yahoo pretty much in the process of outsourcing their search to MS?

Have you seen bing search results lately? (That is -- if you can get past the "look at my first web site" graphics on the home page. ) They need all the help they can get.

Good luck with that (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32868194)

When I'm searching for pregnant-futanari-on-hermaphrodite-furry, I really mean pregnant-futanari-on-hermaphrodite-furry.

wow... Just, wow.. (3, Informative)

Dee Ann_1 (1731324) | more than 4 years ago | (#32868202)

"e.g. a women searching for "wagner" probably wants the 18th-century German composer"

A -- women -- ???

I see a FLOOD of this, women used where woman should be used and woman where women should be used.

Wow......

Re:wow... Just, wow.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32868350)

Came in here just to say that... Come on, people... just sound it out! I don't know anyone who pronounces those two words the same way.

Re:wow... Just, wow.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32869146)

Fewer people would think that "women", "children" etc. are singular if we wrote "womans", "childs". Blame the language.

Re:wow... Just, wow.. (1, Insightful)

Dee Ann_1 (1731324) | more than 4 years ago | (#32870058)

No, blame the laziness of Americans in general to learn proper English.

Mkay?

Re:wow... Just, wow.. (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32868710)

Apparently search *wasn't* able to teach the author to spell. :)

Re:wow... Just, wow.. (1)

misexistentialist (1537887) | more than 4 years ago | (#32869032)

Only (a) Fräulein would be interested in Wagner.

Re:wow... Just, wow.. (2, Funny)

girlintraining (1395911) | more than 4 years ago | (#32869082)

We are borg. Resistance is futile. Make us a sammich and give us your wallet, man-slave.

Re:wow... Just, wow.. (1)

thePowerOfGrayskull (905905) | more than 4 years ago | (#32871702)

Funny part is that he got "e.g." right, which is pretty rare...

Unwarranted assumptions based on demographics... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32868274)

A quick way to lose market share by annoying searchers who get misidentified.

The term "wagner" may indeed be looking for:

Richard Wagner - 19th Century composer
William Wagner - some sort of rounders player, I believe....
Wagner Spraytech - coating applicators
Wagner College - an educational institution
Wagner - a 1983 fillum
Robert Wagner - an actor
Lindsay Wagner - an actress
Connell Wagner - a civil engineering consultancy

anyhow, my point is that these came up on the first page of a Google search. If I were misdirected, I wouldn't be very impressed...

ROI at 7 Percent (2, Interesting)

Sully2161 (1042864) | more than 4 years ago | (#32868310)

I don't disagree with the general principle, but I have to wonder if 7 percent is worth the time, effort, and privacy issues involved. Also, note that the 7% is of a specific 30% subset; the actual value for all queries is 1.5%. I then have to ask how many of those 'upgraded' top-ranked results were already near the top (i.e. in the top 10/first page of results). I feel that the whole idea is getting less fruitful by the second... - S

Mis-aligned demographic (1)

CAIMLAS (41445) | more than 4 years ago | (#32868414)

They must have my demographic setting wrong. Half my searches for naked women come back with women's undergarment stores.

Joking aside, when you've got multiple people of different genders (such as in your average multifamily dwelling) using the same computer, such demographic results won't work too well. I wonder if this might explain, in part, why my search results really are less pertinent when I'm not signed into my gmail account.

Re:Mis-aligned demographic (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32868556)

And that's why user accounts are so valuable.

But damn it's hard convincing others that they should do things...when "I don't want to log in, I just want to click things and make them work...hey why are you looking at what I was doing!!"

Great button but shouldn't always work that way (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32868416)

If you're searching for something where this would help - like home depot products and you fit the demographic you are in then great - add a button that keeps you in your area and helps you avoid german composers.

To me though, this would be very restricting if I'm truly trying to look up something I (and therefore maybe my demographic) knows just a little about. Steering me back to results that I already know about would get to be very annoying when what I am looking for isn't usually searched by my demographic.

If you are surfing from France, you speak French.. (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32868438)

... not!

When I was living in France for a while (job related), I was quite annoyed by all those websites that assumed that because my computer's IP was in France I wanted to see the site in French, even if the site was a .com and I explicitly tried to click the "English" link. (My French is good enough to buy some baguettes with rillettes, but not for reading technical articles.)

This goes into the same direction: It works in many cases but when it doesn't, it will piss off the user.

highly dubious (5, Insightful)

Audax_23 (869457) | more than 4 years ago | (#32868446)

... this idea smacks of a tool that's trying to be *too* helpful, and ends up getting in the way. Kinda like the old microsoft paperclip. I went and turned off this function in google accounts when I realized that my search results were being shaped based on my history, since that partially defeats my expectations of how a search engine behaves, and degrades the utility, insofar as the utility (to me the user) is based on receiving an unbiased sampling of the matches. I'm also troubled by this trend in the way that google delivers their news offerings, it seems that the logical progression of this is that we will mostly only be exposed to material that fit our highly individualized pre-existing reality bubbles.

Re:highly dubious (1)

John Hasler (414242) | more than 4 years ago | (#32868800)

> I'm also troubled by this trend in the way that google delivers their news
> offerings, it seems that the logical progression of this is that we will
> mostly only be exposed to material that fit our highly individualized
> pre-existing reality bubbles.

You don't have to be logged in to a Google account to use Google News or Google Search, you know (in fact, you needn't even accept cookies). As for the "highly individualized pre-existing reality bubbles", that's why people read Huffington Post/Fox News. They don't want truly individualized news. They want news that conforms to the dogma of their reference group,

Re:highly dubious (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32871198)

maybe they can give your stereotype at the type of the results:

"As a 52 year old North Korean left handed hermaphrodite"

1. .. wagner 18th 1/2 centry composer...
2. .. wagner baseball pitcher

Would be useful to try it as a red neck hermaphrodite etc., (or just turn it off even when you are logged in :)

Re:highly dubious (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32872556)

... this idea smacks of a tool that's trying to be *too* helpful, and ends up getting in the way. Kinda like the old microsoft paperclip. I went and turned off this function in google accounts when I realized that my search results were being shaped based on my history, since that partially defeats my expectations of how a search engine behaves, and degrades the utility, insofar as the utility (to me the user) is based on receiving an unbiased sampling of the matches.

I'm also troubled by this trend in the way that google delivers their news offerings, it seems that the logical progression of this is that we will mostly only be exposed to material that fit our highly individualized pre-existing reality bubbles.

I actually like the feature- if I want 'unbiased' (i.e. based on total hits from all queries from all users) results I can just log out of my account to search. Or I can log in when I want a targetted search. It makes it a hell of a lot easier to find the right sort of pages when I search for the keywords "Water Sports" (When logged in, I get water skiing, boating, fishing, etc. when logged out it's all defecation porn).
Of course Google could make this a LOT easier, and just put a check box in the 'advanced' search page which allows you to use predicted results or general ones.

funny .... (2, Insightful)

smisle (1640863) | more than 4 years ago | (#32868464)

The first thing I thought of when I read Wagner was the popular brand of jeans.

There was/are gender predictors out there that will look through your search history and try to predict what gender you are. They were mildly successful (though dead wrong in my case). I think I prefer Google's more invasive yet more accurate method of paying attention to which results I click on and giving me more of the same without regard to gender or age. I DO like getting local results though.

As far as women vs woman goes ... tsk! just think, "would I use man or men here?", and then add a wo onto the front of it, its not that hard.

I don't want my search history examined. (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32868492)

Search history presents a great potential for loss of IP. I do technology development in an area of considerable interest/value. From looking at my search entries, it would be pretty easy to determine the directions of my development work and anticipate it. It's clear that search history mining is gonna happen. I'm interested in anonymizing my search activities as a result.

This is wrong. (2, Insightful)

sea4ever (1628181) | more than 4 years ago | (#32868518)

A search engine is supposed to find things which fit the regexp that you request.
Often someone will tell me in a forum to "search for x in google", what happens when the results are not exactly the same worldwide because of this technique?
Also, there are loads of people that use proxies and so on to search the web. (like people in china) Their demographics would appear all skewed because it would seem that someone in the proxy's country of origin is requesting to search for webpage x.
I don't agree with this technique at all. It just doesn't fit. Imagine if 'egrep' started filtering strings based on additional info that you could not easily control (like timezone), it would be annoying.

Re:This is wrong. (2, Insightful)

RobertLTux (260313) | more than 4 years ago | (#32868614)

what would help is a simple way to toggle custom/standard searches and to see which way the toggle is currently set

There is already bias in search results (4, Insightful)

jmcbain (1233044) | more than 4 years ago | (#32868646)

The search results are not just a regex matching. A modern search engine, like Google's, returns a ranked list of search results to you, and this ranking already has bias: the Pagerank algorithm sorts the results based on how popular the page is, as measured by the number of incoming links to that page. Of course, that is the general gyst of Pagerank as of the Google founders' research paper back in the late 1990s, and undoubtedly Google and other search engines have fine-tuned their algorithms since then to return "better" results to the user. But the point is still that there is already bias in the results.

Make no mistake that Google has not already thought of similar search result ranking algorithms similar to that posed in this Yahoo Research paper. The difference is that Google does not have a research arm like Yahoo, so they do not publish ideas like this. In hindsight, the Google founders were foolish to publish their Pagerank algorithm in the first place, but they were still at Stanford then.

Re:There is already bias in search results (1)

Radtoo (1646729) | more than 4 years ago | (#32870130)

Or maybe they were not so foolish since advertisers and others can actually trust the ranking. Secrecy isn't always good for business, even if you're absolutely dependent on some business secrets perhaps the core of what you're doing is best not to be secret, only the finer details on how to do it well.

Cursor tracking (1)

bjartur (1705192) | more than 4 years ago | (#32868718)

following the mouse cursor as a proxy for eye tracking

And if the user turns out to never touch the mouse? Keylogging every single character pressed? This is plain absurd.

When I think of Wagner (1)

countertrolling (1585477) | more than 4 years ago | (#32869278)

I expect something like this [youtube.com]

They could simply not save the info. (2, Insightful)

Jane Q. Public (1010737) | more than 4 years ago | (#32869348)

This would not be an issue if Google simply did not save that information. Sure, I know: they say they want all that information for "targeted advertising". BUT... surveys have shown that people do not want "targeted advertising" in the first place! Despite claims of the "benefits" to consumers, turns out they're not interested if it means losing privacy.

Sexist Search Engine Pigs! (1)

Rachel Lucid (964267) | more than 4 years ago | (#32870196)

What if I'm a woman and I WANTED the paint brand, huh? (Or a more pertinent issue, if I start looking up for MMO's and it tries to steer me towards Bella Sera or something instead of WoW?)

Seriously, this has "Bad Idea" written all over it, for the criticism levied against it for entrenching gender stereotypes if nothing else.

Can someone explain... (1)

BangaIorean (1848966) | more than 4 years ago | (#32871874)

How are the search engines capable of doing this on their own? It needs to be remembered that almost 80% of internet users (in India at least), use dynamic IPs. Most ISPs here charge extra for static IP and most users just don't bother - what use would the average layman user have for a static IP? I'm assuming that's how it is in most other places too. Correlating searches and search patterns with demographic details needs active cooperation from all ISPs, isn't it?

And oh, thanks to the submitter for reminding me that Yahoo has a search engine too :-)

Good option but a horrible default (1)

golodh (893453) | more than 4 years ago | (#32872298)

I absolutely don't mind a search engine giving me an option to interpret my search, but it would be terrible if I can't switch that option off.

How many times do we search for one keyword (or even a string), spelled exactly so? Just like in a library catalogue. The last thing we want is some algorithm applying an undocumented filter to our search results.

It's bad enough that Google insist on fuzzyfying that string (even when you put it between quotes), but when it starts interpreting my search intent based on my demographic profile is when I will stop using it.

I don't want my search engine to tailor my results (1)

KarlIsNotMyName (1529477) | more than 4 years ago | (#32872442)

I want the same damn results anyone else gets from making the same searches. Why would I want it any different?

I'm not searching for something I already know, I'm searching for something someone else already knows.

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