Dumb Results Can Be Better Than Smart Results
The last couple posts have crossed over into a couple really big topics; one is web application usability, the other is the quality of results returned by an algorithm. They are not the same topic. Anything that can be made more usable should be. The quality of an algorithm’s results are not necessarily related to that. I started chatting with @Kurafire about this, and he is making some great points… but I still don’t precisely agree.
The problem with Google’s algorithm is that a “mere” blog could outweigh the second-most visited website on the planet.
My point is that a site’s traffic rank should be weighed more heavily, certainly when the difference btwn the two is so huge.
Let’s forget the “Facebook login” going to ReadWriteWeb rather than Facebook itself, for a moment. Let’s generalize.
Question: should an article about a company or entity ever get a higher search ranking than the website of the company or entity itself?
When you phrase it that way, I think the answer is clearly YES, there are situations where that could and should happen.
In late 2001, it would make a lot of sense for a search for “ENRON quarterly earnings” to point to an article about the accounting scandal rather than simply going straight to an official PDF of their earnings.
It’s reasonable that a search for “Amway” could return an article skeptical of MLMs as high or sometimes higher than the company’s own site.
Not all the time, and not every time, but there are situations where an article about something could or should get a higher result than the thing itself.
A human being organizing the results might never do that; or they would only do it after it became obvious. Algorithms are dumb. They will just spit out a result based on some sort of process. Sometimes, that’s better, since it removes our innate bias to how we think things should be ordered. If we try to weight an algorithm too much for the things we innately think should be on top, we could actually be detracting from the value of the algorithm.
Just a thought. I’m by no means saying that the googorithm can do no wrong, or has no room for improvement. Just that it’s possible for dumb results to be better than “smart” results.