Just today an interesting story came up on a German news site which goes back to Eli Pariser’s (Homepage, follow @Twitter ) talk on TED about a thing he calls the Filter Bubble and how personalization is changing the Internet. Before commenting on his talk I want to personally thank him to use his reputation and start a discussion on such a fundamental and important topic!
UPDATE most likely you are looking for my list of almost 57 signals google might use to filter
I had a short Mail conversation with Eli. He asked me to temporarly remove his TED talk since his book isn’t on sale yet. I found a very similar talk by him which he allowed me to make public in my blog. So here you go folks:
Google is filtering and personalizing search results
Eli is pointing out a thing some people might have already noticed. If two different people search for the same thing on Google it is very probable that the search results will be very different. Google is doing this without telling the user that it is acutally filtering the results based on what the algorithm thinks the user might like. According to Eli Pariser Google is using 57 signals to determine the interest of us. Among those we find:
- Our Search History.
- Our location
- the browser we use.
- The computer we use
- The language we use
- find my list of almost 57 signals google might use to filter
Of course this kind of personalization has its good sides. When I am about to buy a new notebook computer y I definitely want to see different Websites if I live in Germany or in the US. This could be due to tax and shipping fees. Which means that I am most probably interested in local stores and not in oversea shops. Still this personalization and filtering is a huge potential for serious problems. Let me ask a few questions:
- What happens if Google misinterprets our 57 signals?
- What happens if I only receive results from a certain type?
- What if I rely to the fact that I have access to all kind of information?
We might think we get all the information we need. But in reality we are becoming blinded by the filters Google is using. We have no chance to determine what other information is filtert and potentially available for a certain topic. On the other hand due to the amount of information we need filters and computers to help us. But the systems should be more transparent!
Facebook is also filtering the newsstream from your friends:
I have always been thinking Facebook’s huge success is strongly correlated to the fact that there is hardly Spam on Facebook and the information economy is very smart and user friendly. The attention of users to status updates is very high making facebook a great place for every company to do online and viral marketing. This of course contributes to Facebook’s reach. In fact the information architecture on Facebook is even so smart that your 20’000 followers on Facebook might not receive your status updates since Facebook’s EdgeRank algorithm decides it is not relevant to your fans or friends. Edgerank might not have 57 signals but it still takes into consideration:
- who your fans are friend with
- what other news they like
- how heavy they have interacted with you in the past
- the time passed since your last status update
Great news isn’t it? Just compare this with my statement in a recent blog post about creating newsletters as a musician in order to communicate with your fans and not solely rely on other services like Facebook or MySpace.
You don’t believe the Facebook thing? There is a video about the EdgeRank algorithm used by Facebook to determine which status updates should reach us and which shouldn’t. Feel free to have a look and thanks to the guys from Klurig Analytics for producing such a great video resource:
So what can we do?
- We should join the discussion in order to pursue Google, Facebook and others to become more transparent.
- We should be aware of the fact that a lot of information might not reach us.
- Even though more and more information is made available through the Internet we should not become lazy and rely on all these great web services.
- Last but not least you can help to spread the information about this topic! As we have seen only if a lot of people spread the information it breaks through the filtering system. And this topic is worth to be spread!
Again thanks a lot to Eli Pariser to start this discussion!