As it becomes harder and harder for Google to avoid the spam sites, search becomes a less helpful way to find answers. Paul Kedrosky says that curation is the answer, and always has been.
Paul Kedrosky, Curation is the New Search is the New Curation
Any algorithm can be gamed; it’s only a matter of time. The Google algorithm is now well and thoroughly gamed, as I first wrote about late last year, and as now become an entire genre of web writing, and that has grown to include my friend Vivek Wadhwa’s smart piece on TechCrunch not long ago. Google has, they argue, lost its mojo — which is true, but it’s more interesting and complicated than that.
What has happened is that Google’s ranking algorithm, like any trading algorithm, has lost its alpha. It no longer has lists to draw and, on its own, it no longer generates the same outperformance — in part because it is, for practical purposes, reverse-engineered, well-understood and operating in an adaptive content landscape. Search results in many categories are now honey pots embedded in ruined landscapes — traps for the unwary. It has turned search back into something like it was in the dying days of first-generation algorithmic search, like Excite and Altavista: results so polluted by spam that you often started looking at results only on the second or third page — the first page was a smoking hulk of algo-optimized awfulness.
There are two things that can happen now. (Okay, three. We could stop search, which won’t happen.). We could get better algorithms, which is happening to some degree, with search engines like Blekko and others. Or, we could head back to curation, which is what I see happening, and watch new algos emerge on top of that next-gen curation again. Think of Twitter as a new stab at curation, but there are plenty of other examples.
Yes, that sounds mad. If we couldn’t index 100,000 websites in 1996 by hand, how do we propose to do 234-million by hand today?
The answer, of course, is that we won’t — do them all by hand, that is. Instead, the re-rise of curation is partly about crowd curation — not one people, but lots of people, whether consciously (lists, etc.) or unconsciously (tweets, etc) — and partly about hand curation (JetSetter, etc.). We are going to increasingly see nichey services that sell curation as a primary feature, with the primary advantage of being mostly unsullied by content farms, SEO spam, and nonsensical Q&A sites intended to create low-rent versions of Borges’ Library of Babylon. The result will be a subset of curated sites that will re-seed a new generation of algorithmic search sites, and the cycle will continue, over and over.
In short, curation is the new search. It’s also the old search. And it’s happening again, and again.
I take a different view, which is that meaning is the new search:
10 Minute Sprint From 140 Characters Conference: Social Business
Abundance economics means that we won’t rely on search: search is based on scarcity.
Imagine that all critical information is available, publicly, and the most important breaking news is a few seconds (at most) away. In this world the problem won’t be finding what you want, but minimizing the torrent so that you have a small number of things to look at.
This is as true inside of a 1000 person company as in the open web.
Increasingly, we will switch to a social connection mode to filter and find for us. Our networks will become engines of meaning, as Bruce Sterling said.
Everything we want to find has been found, and will find us through our social connections. Like head colds and happiness.
We will find everything through social relationships: what washing machine to buy, or the best Thai restaurant in Beacon NY, or the company that makes the horizontal corduroys. people that care about these issues, and to who we matter, will share meaning with us: they have beliefs that they can justify, also called knowledge.
Google is only the echo of our linking behavior, a second-order derivative of our combined gestures. But generally, we would be happier with fewer results from trusted sources, and the rise of social tools makes that almost as fast as Google search.
Google must plan to adapt to the social revolution or fall into the spam darkness.