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Saturday, April 29, 2006

ok, let's go retroactive

I was cruising through the readings from previous units, until a particular title caught my eye: Use the blog, Luke. Damn those writers at Salon.com...they sure do know how to reel in nerdy bloggers such as myself. I have a few questions for Steven Johnson, the author of this article.

"There are significant political consequences to the Blogger Effect: Because the blogging community contains a disproportionate number of libertarians, it's possible that Google searches on certain hot-button issues will start skewing toward libertarian-friendly pages. Given Google's increasing prominence, this libertarian slant could prove to be more significant than the more familiar concerns about liberal bias in the major networks, and conservative bias on Fox News. No sensible person thinks "The O'Reilly Factor" is free of political slant (save O'Reilly himself). But the great oracle of Google is supposed to be above such partisan concerns."

What information is he using to back up statements like this? I think some source about the prominence of libertarian blogs needs to be cited. I'd even settle for a screen capture of his Google search. Or is this his own opinion? If that's the case, I respectfully disagree...at least until I see some valid research to back it up.

And who said the "great oracle of Google" is supposed to be above partisan concerns? As far as I know, Google has never claimed to be a non-partisan site....it's a search engine, for Christ's sake. I think Johnson is complaining that political bloggers are engaged in some sort of link war for supremacy...but there's no feasible way to regulate or control the deluge of information without some selective exclusion.

Johnson's solution to the problem: "...to transform the data generated by the bloggers into something that rivals what Google does -- to extract some new kind of collective wisdom out of a universe of armchair opinion leaders." This is my problem with Johnson...he has a lot of big ideas, but offers no feasible methods of implementation. Which goes back to my point...a specific search engine can't extract collective wisdom, because a search engine functions by calculating links and hits...it's the responsibility of the individual to filter the information on their own.

Here's an example of one solution Johnson comes up with: "You define a few "guardian" Bloggers, perhaps by checking a box when you visit their site. You also instruct your software to watch the activity on sites maintained by "friends" of those key bloggers. You tell the software that you want a medium level of intrusiveness: In other words, you want the system to point out useful information to you, but you don't want it constantly bombarding you with data at every turn."
Honestly, who is actually going to do this?? Does the average person care enough about filtering the information they receive via the Web to implement this strategy? More importantly, does the average person have enough time? Perhaps those who want to evolve from information management sites like Bloglines are convinced Johnson is on the right track....The casual Googler probably isn't too actively involved in political blogging. I'm going to assume the political blogger, plus a portion of people who actively seek them out, aren't the ones using Google. They're probably using one of the many blog-specific search tools.

What Johnson is really saying, in a roundabout way, is that he wants the bloggers to take the work out of political blogs. You don't even have to visit a site if you already know what part of the political spectrum a specific blogger resides. Say you're a conservative looking for a blog that matches your opinion....if Google would just go ahead and tailor to your interests, rather than including links to blogs like Daily Kos, that would be just dandy. What he doesn't realize is that search engines already have similar features...MyYahoo is one that springs to mind.

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