• http://blog.outer-court.com Philipp Lenssen

    > They can look at your past history and learn more
    > about you by what you have already done (…)
    > And finally, if they know something about you
    > and your social, geographic and demographic cohort,
    > the engine can hope that there is a similarity of
    > thinking within that cohort, at least when it comes
    > to common interests and intent

    I find this idea really unpleasant, and hope Google will always allow me to opt-out of this. It’s unfortunate that right now, you need to log-out to escape Google’s baby steps at personalization.

    I already hate it when Google pushes me to German Google due to IP geolocation. I prefer to see English Google.com, as I chose to enter “google.com” in the browser (I disambiguated this for Google already, just like I can disambiguate my search queries when necessary). I prefer to have a global view onto the world, and thankfully, the internet makes this much more possible. I don’t want Google to be stuck in my town, in my country, in my past, or in my belief system. Because when I use a search engine, then I want to precisely expand my horizon, not be limited to it. I precisely *want* to learn about when a word is amiguous in other cultures, to better understand other cultures. I *want* to *accidentally* stumble upon new communities or unknown zones of the web.

    There are some side-effects to personalization, too, beyond these major problems, such as the ability to discuss and reflect on search results. If I don’t see what other people see, then I can’t communicate about search results with them as well as before. This is why I really dislike CNN International which is supposedly targeted at people like me: but I want to see what a US citizen sees when they switch on CNN, as this information is crucial to me when reflecting on media (and we should always reflect on what media — or search engines — present to us). If there are personalized features, these should all be *expressively* communicated to the user — e.g. a Google Maps driving direction search may offer me my home location as start point, but it must output this to the search box so I can override it.

    If anything, give me *anti-personalization* so I finally discover all the stuff I’ve been missing out on due to my click patterns. Even then, make it an option, and not the default.

  • http://www.seodisco.com/ kid disco

    Great post Gord… I enjoyed this one very much.

    My only comment may be menial:

    “In my conversation with Marissa Mayer she felt strongly that the indications on whether or not you were signed in were very clear to the user. I do disagree here. I know for a fact that once users become engaged with the task of searching, a look up in the upper right-hand corner to see if or not their e-mail address is showing is just not something that happens very often. Every heat map we’ve ever produced of the search results page shows virtually zero scanning up in this area.”

    1. The image you show doesn’t have anything within the area outlined in orange. If nothing is there, why would people look up there?

    2. The area where the email address appears is actually higher than the boundaries of the image shown.

    Do you have an image that may support your statement more clearly?

    Nonetheless, I do agree that it should be made more apparent whether the page is personalized or not.

  • http://www.wolf-howl.com graywolf

    Quintura is pretty cool I’ve been playing with that for a while and like.

    It’s funny you brought up amazon, that’s part of where my bias comes from. Many moons ago I bought my sister-in-law a book for Christmas by John Edward the TV Psychic. I’ve told amazon to discount it from my preferences so many times it’s not funny, yet every so often they suggest something about the occult, psychics, the healing power of crystals or some other similar subject. I can “see” the code keeps trying to feel me out on those subjects by suggesting a very small portion of material based on that one purchase I made so long ago. From a programming point of view maybe I’ll want to buy her a present in the future, but for me as the end user it’s very annoying to have that one purchase keep cropping up into my personal life.

    Additionall if one of my so called “friends” continually sends me to some joke site I really don’t like should my results be personalized based on that? Just because I keep visiting a site doesn’t mean I like it. Humans have this funny tendency to do illogical things from time to time which makes programming really icky and unpredictable.

  • http://www.searchtools.com searchtools

    I’m a little late here but I find myself straddling the fence on this one.

    Personalization has been sold to the enterprise as a magic fix to search problems, so I tend to warn people away from major investments unless they have a darn good reason to think it will work. Part of the problem is the low traffic in intranet search — one funky mistake and everyone’s results could be affected!

    Where I do see personalization as possibly useful is in “tie-breaking” — those situations where several results are equal in relevance-scoring and there’s no way to decide which one comes first. And that’s pretty common, so you might as well, but does it pay back all the semantic and logical processing put into personalization? I’m skeptical