Friday, November 07, 2008

Is Google Evil?

The September 2008 ABA Journal Business of Law section has an interesting article on the perils of internet marketing and search engines. Not only does the a searcher have to worry about domain parking and cyberscams, it turns out that Google’s and Yahoo’s search algorithms add unspecified terms to queries. The added terms have been determined to have some relationship to the input terms. The concept is called broad matching.. Advertisers rely upon broad matching for their displays on result screens. The article did not state if the searcher could find out what terms had been added to their search. Yahoo and Google feel it is the user’s responsibility to determine relevancy. I cannot help but feel that these commercial search engines are being duplicitous here. The user thinks of Google and Yahoo as information services, a cooler type of library, but Google and Yahoo have to pay their bills. They rely on advertising, but cloak their work with coolness and techno wizardry. This discovery confirms my feeling that libraries should not try to imitate Google or Yahoo. We have different values and provide different services. A good part of my job is spent explaining to self-representing litigants that entering terms into lexis will not pull up what they want. They have to decide what they want first by reading to gain knowledge so they can find the right answer.

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