Search Engine Optimization, Google’s Algorithm, and Library Selection

Posting to NGC4LIB

I suggest the article “Can Google survive its blind faith in the algorithm?” from Tech Republic about the problems with the Google algorithm:

This article describes the problem of the original Google algorithm as clearly as any I have seen; that spam, using Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is overwhelming the traditional Google algorithms and other methods are needed. This is why the Facebook-type system is now seen as the salvation, since it relies much more on human-made links instead of a machine-centered algorithm. I have concerns about this method as well.  For instance, while I have friends and acquaintances who I want to talk with and spend time, they have all kinds of interests–some I don’t approve of, and I am positive they have other interests I am not aware of and that I don’t want to even think about. While they are my friends, I certainly wouldn’t want them to determine my reading material, and even less so having their friends decide what I should read. Add to this the idea that each of these persons’ *web surfing history* would be used and the scenario actually becomes repellent to me. Probably if someone had mentioned such a possibility to me 25 years ago, I would have just laughed out loud, finding it too bizarre to even imagine.

It seems to me however, that this entire discussion is actually one that librarians know quite a bit about: selection. How to do it and who should do it. I personally like the idea of a selector who is professional and more important, *ethical*, determining the most important resources for me so that I don’t have to waste my time.

Apparently, this is what the Google algorithm is trying to achieve automatically. Once you have a series of sites that are reliable and useful, it would seem that SEO would be far more powerful. Traditional library selection which is based a lot on managing a budget where the selector only has so many dollars or euros is quite different from selection of free web resources. In any case, I think there would be a great opening for libraries here, by establishing some kind of real cooperative selection. There have been some sites for this, e.g.  Infomine. Intute, which was great, has unfortunately been discontinued.

Still, there seems to be an important area of need where the information companies are actually struggling. When Google changes their algorithm, the consequences are pretty much unpredictable and the sites involved  consider themselves to be punished. Library selection is not punishment or reward, but something completely different.

Maybe libraries could step in.




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    December 5, 2011
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