Tag: browsers

NYT article: The Dirty Little Secrets of Search

It’s not like search engine optimization uses and abuses haven’t been in the news before, but this is a good reminder that our World Net View comes filtered, not at the least by anything we ourselves do, but by the whims of one company. Don’t get me wrong; I like Google and really do believe their shtick about doing no evil (unlike Apple). However, they are a business. And a business’s continued existence relies on earning money.

That kind of control makes me nervous.

However, what this article did was to highlight a secret even dirtier than the “Black Hat” tactics: search engines require secrets. Right after my initial response to the article (thumping my desk, saying this is a problem in need of an open source solution!), I realized that an open-sourced search engine, whose search and ranking algorithms were publicly known, would not only be open to abuse out of the gate, but would encourage it. And so the searches would fail.

And so must we live with One Engine to seek them all and in the darkness find them, trusting that market competition will keep it from doing evil? Or should this become a government operated function–like a utility or even more so, like the Mint? After all, part of that function is to prevent counterfeiting. But do we really want the”success” and “efficiency” of government control involved? It seems that there would be as much temptation for abuse as there is in the private world.

What then? Does anyone know of an open source plan that could prevent search algorithm abuse?

The article can be found here (and speaking of  link manipulation, note that this link includes a variable being passed to the NYT that gives credit to the site from which I discovered the article. This is a legitimate way to give credit to the people who find and share this information (after all, I didn’t originally go to NYT’s site); but just in case it bothers you, here is the direct link)

Looking it up…

I couldn’t help but notice in my last post  that Firefox’s spell checker didn’t recognize the word, Obama. So just out of curiosity, I googled around for information that explained who maintained their dictionary. All I could find was this blurb (emphasis mine):

The contents of dictionaries are not maintained by Mozilla. In some cases they are not maintained by anyone. If you think the contents of a dictionary should be updated, you might be able to find out who maintains it by looking in its README file (if it has one). You can find the README file by using a zip tool or jar tool to open the dictionary’s installation file. .xpi files can be opened in windows explorer by first changing the .xpi extension to .zip

Well, I couldn’t find the readme file, so it may be that I’m just blind. However, I am concerned about that bold statement. Not that I’m a prescriptivist when it comes to language, but if you are going to offer a reference tool, should it not reflect the most current (accepted) data? Of course, not EVERY nonce word or even proper name should be included, however, a sitting president’s name ought to have more clout as it is bound to be relevant to many people.  That lack of relevant data  defeats the purpose of the tool and it’s ability to help me, the user. My pet turtle’s name–okay; I get it.  And yes, I know I can add words to my personal dictionary, but why should the current president’s last name be relegated to my personal dictionary? After all, I don’t think the president would think its my responsibility. This falls under the category of a good idea, but lack of follow-thru… (and yes, FF did catch that one…)

UPDATE:  I DID find, at least I think, who is responsible for the dictionary FF uses:  http://hunspell.sourceforge.net/ I was immediately happy to learn that that they support more than one product:

“Hunspell is the spell checker of OpenOffice.org and Mozilla Firefox 3 & Thunderbird, Google Chrome, and it is also used by proprietary softwares, like Mac OS X, memoQ, Opera and SDL Trados.”

after all, dictionaries should be a more communal oriented effort. I still need to search through their forums to see about the maintenance business.