When I’m Researching, Please Tell Me What I Don’t Know.

By | April 5, 2012

Smulsh. That’s what I’m getting from the new Google search.

When I checked the ranking of my website, Home Invasion News, on Google, first I searched the generic term, “home invasion.” Wow, my “Faces of Home Invasion” graphic showed up second on the list … followed by pages of hits for a variety of articles I have posted to the website.

But, wait .. something is wrong here. Several months ago, my site was appearing on page five. With serious nurturing it gradually climbed to page two. But, page one — and in the number two spot? What’s up?

It’s called Search Plus Your World, Google’s approach to making my search much more personal. Now Google finds both content that’s been shared with me privately, plus matches from the public web — all mixed into a single set of listings.

Well, wait. Let’s let Google explain this: “Search has always brought you information from across the web. Now, search gets better by including photos, posts, and more from you and your friends. When signed in with Google+, you’ll find personal results and profiles of people you know or follow. You can even expand your world by discovering people related to your search.”

I never asked for this and I don’t want it.

Online research — a serious function of what any writer does for a living — is not about connecting with friends in any way and shouldn’t be. When I’m researching, I don’t want to give my friends’ voice or opinions any greater weight than any other voice — and I certainly don’t want my own voice chiming in.

This meshing of research and friendship appears to be part of a larger trend to “groupthink.” Plenty of brainiacs are complaining about it. A January 13 article by Susan Cain in the New York Times decries “The Rise of the New Group Think.”  Jonah Lehrer’s January 2012 article in The New Yorker is even titled “Groupthink.” In a comprehensive discussion, Lehrer cites extensive research applauding the lone thinker. Read more here.

So, Google, maybe you don’t know what I want better than *I* know what I want. And maybe my “friends” and “circles” don’t know squat, either.

Search Plus Your World has been hit with the backlash, of course. An outfit called “Focus On the User”  has created a new tool — a bookmarklet that works in your browser — called “Don’t Be Evil.” This tool presumably incorporates the data from Facebok and Twitter that Google’s new browsing tactic excludes. Not so coincidentally, perhaps, “Don’t Be Evil” was created by the engineers at Facebook, Twitter, and My Space — whom in and of themselves are “evil.” But I installed it just the same.

Presumably, there’s another way to get rid of the new google search. Simply “sign out” of your Google account. Note: You may not be aware when you are signed into the new Search Plus Your World. I wasn’t. Here’s how you’ll know: If you do a Google search,you’ll see a bar at the top which displays “x number of personal results plus x number of other results. You’ll also see your photo in the search bar. Click on that photo in the top right-hand sign of your bar and select “Sign Out” from drop down.

Sigh. Is this just me resisting change? Quite possibly. Check out this blog written by an 18-year old . As Jeremy Liu puts it, “Google’s not evil, the company is simply growing out of old ideas and moving forward in a manner that can’t fit old molds anymore. Until we recognize that, we’ll all be living in a world that won’t even exist anymore.”

Welcome to Planet Smulsh.

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