Ungoogleable Rock

Personally I think Wired got it wrong. I think the really interesting ungoogleables are the ones who aren’t making an active effort to stay out of the search engines’ grand indexes but who nonetheless live their lives in some way such that their names just don’t get typed out and uploaded to the internets. I have a couple of friends like that, or more specifically I had a couple of friends who I’ve since lost touch with and who I have been googleing every few months for years with no results. Where are you and what are you doing? Google shall not tell me.

And unless the boffins at our favourite search engine decide to make a change, Google will never be able to tell you about the band !!!, as I learned tonight trying to do a search for them. Try googling them, it’s kind of an interesting result. While you’re at it, try a search for their song “Me And Guiliani Down By The Schoolyard (A True Story)”, 9 minutes well spent. Kind of ballsy, making your band structurally ungoogleable.

Google Earth: un-upping north

I’ve been playing with Google Earth, the free 3D earth visualizer that you can download from Google. Three things strike me. First, I’m suprised that more people aren’t excited by this program. Using it is such a striking experience that I would have expected a meme-ish propagation of interest in it. Given that there is some capacity for user upload of points of interest and commentary into the “keyhole community” space, I also would have expected more interest in user-repurposing. Perhaps it isn’t an open enough platform to encourage data-mashing on the scale of Google Maps, which seems to spawn off a new user side project daily. Regardless, just as a beautiful toy, I’m suprised more folk aren’t obsessing about it.

Second, I’m intrigued that some versions of the program exist that allow importation of some standard GIS data formats for overlay. ERDAS Imagine and TIFF image files, and shape files for vector. The program has no analysis tools of course, so it has no pretensions of being a real GIS platform, but as a data visualizer it could be hard to beat. How many times have I seen wary biologists converted to a belief in spatial computing by seeing their study site spun about in 3D? Well, okay, 3 that I can remember off hand, but that’s a lot. Google Earth’s visualizations are wildly compelling in their intuitivness and scalability – you can see scenes as small as a barnyard placed concretley in the context of the relief of a valley or the expanse of a continent in a few smooth shifts of a mouse. Plug some data into this thing and it could make a major difference doing hard-sell for a project proposal. Everybody likes colourful maps, and these are some colourful maps.

And what if Google did decide to go into GIS analysis? They are the information people. Could be interesting.

Finally, it takes me at least 10 minutes of playing with the globe before I feel comfortable without having north close to being up. After a while I get used to the idea of north not having a specific direction, but I really have to overcome a mental barrier to do it. Once that barrier is past, it opens up some striking new vistas and ways of looking at the earth and it’s forms. But it definitely doesn’t come naturally.

Told: the story of how “the 2nd superpower” was googlewashed

Google google google. I would estimate that someone somewhere points out that Google is now analagous to a natural resource about once a second. I suppose the ideas surrounding the search-engine debates aren’t new, in fact I bet if I could be bothered to read Marchall McLuhan, he was probably making some pertinent points was back there in the 60s or 70s or whatever. Probably he pointed out that with the emergence of more channels of information flow, the main problem of information access is no longer finding but filtering: how best to drink from the firehouse. There are too many answers out there for your question, so how do you find the ones that are most useful?

Of course, search engines have become our main firehose mouthpiece. And google has, through good hard work and smartness, become our main search engine. And so it has become one of our main filters on the world, arguably as important as the news media for those of us who use the internet a lot.

And of course, controversy has ensued.

I’ve just sort of woken up to this debate and I find it mucho interesting. I’d always seen google as a nuetral thing, doggedly returning what really was the best and most relevant answer to my question. I shouldn’t really be suprised that it’s a lot more complicated than that.

Back in March or April (when are we going to standardize numerical date formats?), The Register printed off a great story on the use of googlewashing to, in a sense, change the meaning of the term “the second superpower”. It hits on and illustrates many of the themes in the search engine controversy. If you are interested, here it is. Be breifly warned: the writing is about on level with my own. But the topic is sticky and the insight is deep, something you get from people writing about their own field (as opposed to news journalists, who do a great job of making their quickly researched shallow insight accessible). It’s sort of a like a conspiracy-theory story, but one you can verify yourself by playing around with Google. And they never point out that Google is like a natural resource, which is refreshing.

google conspiracy theory yes, but is it true?

Study this chart:

It comes from google-watch.com. Turns out there is a brewing controversy over the practices and technologies used by Google. Is it all conspiracy theory hyperbole, or is there a kernel of truth worth worrying about?

“At another level, it’s a struggle over who will have the predominant influence over the massive amounts of user data that Google collects. In the past, discussions about privacy issues and the web have been about consumer protection. That continues to be of interest, but since 9/11 there is a new threat to privacy — the federal government. Google has not shown any inclination to declare for the rights of its users across the globe, as opposed to the rights of the spies in Washington who would love to have access to Google’s user data. “

If that worries you, you have the option of searching google through Google-Watche’s own privacy-protecting, ad-free Google proxy:


It doesn’t have google’s simple to type URL. But, if you read further in google-watch.com, you may find yourself compelled to use it anyway.

Thanks to Chiron for alerting me to this. I can say from my own small experience as a non-rich internet author with a non-profit website, that it was a very difficult to get ranked on the search engines unless you’ve got cash to spend. That doesn’t only apply to Google, but it applies to google as well. And if your information isn’t showing up on the search engines, it might as well not exist.

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