Be All and Goog-All

A new study is indicating that students trust Google too much – assigning it too much trust to it’s ranking algorithm. I frankly don’t see the problem with this, seeing as trust is crucial to Google’s ranking scheme – Google is based on reputation. So the results you get have to be somewhat right otherwise you’ll turn somewhere else, that was the problem with Altavista and other search engines circa 1997, the ranking schemes weren’t trustworthy. It seems to me that the authors of the study might have missed that point, or maybe the brief didn’t spell out that issue in full detail (being brief and all). Of course people trust Google, it’s right most of the time. What the article should be looking at is if it’s the correct answer. It would be interesting if in this data if Google did return unreliable results… that might be useful. Seeing as Google’s main factors in ranking are essentially crowdsourced, it might be some evidence of the wisdom of crowds.

After a bit of searching, and looking at the previous works of the author, it seems that despite previous knowledge of the subject, that she’s missed a big piece of the puzzle. In the previous piece she’s dismissed that search engine use has been generally measured by folks like Danny Sullivan who’s been tracking that sort of information for years. If you cross reference Sullivan’s work with the two or three other measuring sticks and the reported use from the sites themselves you get a good picture that Sullivan is pretty close with his findings. Again, trust built up over years of work, I trust Sullivan’s results. Lots of other people do as well, there’s a reason he’s the guy to go to when you want numbers about the web.

The premise is correct though, people need to be more critical about the media they’re consuming and sure there’s a slippery slope concerning the dominant culture overwriting less dominating culture (specifically cultures that have a minimal web presence). Just seems that the issue could’ve been dealt with deeper. It’ll be interesting to read the study when it becomes available.

2 thoughts on “Be All and Goog-All

  1. Interesting post. I think what the researchers were getting at was how much trust users put in the results they get back from Google, and how they then don’t take that next step and verify that the information is valid or correct. The paper shows that there is a generally accepted trust that if the results are high on Google, they must be the ones I am looking for and no further action is needed to verify the validity of the results. They didn’t even do the most basic things, like check the authors of the articles, or check their credentials. They had blind trust in what Google gave them.

    The research (and a nice piece on the digital native angle of the research) has been posted on Net Gen Skeptic http://www.netgenskeptic.com/2010/07/digital-literacy-of-digital-natives.html

  2. Thanks for the link, I just dug into it and there’s already some issues I have with the paper, but the premise is good and seemingly solid research from a large population.

    Having taught Internet searching strategies, I agree totally, hardly anyone does the homework (pardon the pun). With that said, both papers talk about brand trust – which is the stumbling block I have. Google didn’t just get granted brand trust, they essentially earned it from being reliable in people’s experience. I’m not a huge Google fanboy either, I have issues with their data collection agenda and other privacy complaints, but the reason they dominate search is because the search is good. So, if there were a competitor that could do just as good a job, then you’d have an issue with brand trust. Unfortunately, Google has a search monopoly due to their data collection, so it’s unlikely that anyone will be able to catch up without really, really deep pockets… or organizing data about the web in meaningful ways for users.

    I wish they went further with investigating how a website looks effecting people’s perceptions of the information on it, or at least expanded on it rather than just a teaser. I think that’s an interesting angle (of course, I dig aesthetics as information) which could inform people about initial reactions.

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