Should Google give users a voice in search ?

Google is still debating the merits of an experiment that allowed users to re-rank and remove search engine results and comment on them.
The test, presented to a random portion of users, adds buttons next to result links to move them up and down, remove them from view and append comments to them. Implementing these features permanently would be a major step for Google in giving more participation to its users in influencing the process of ranking and evaluating search results.
Google has presented people with different variations of the experiment, which the company first publicly detailed about two weeks ago in an official blog posting.
One challenge is how to apply the collected feedback in a scalable and useful way, but what’s clear is that the data offers interesting insights to Google for search quality purposes.
Some Google critics complain that the company’s search engine remains too closed to user participation, ignoring a basic Web 2.0 principle and favoring automated processes and mathematical algorithms.


  • M. Joyce McMenamin

    Keep Google pure.
    (e.g., organic)

  • Michal 'Selmi' Seliga

    very bad idea. give users possibility to rate searchs etc and soon google will become unusable – full of porn, spam, ads and cheat business. i remember days before google with yahoo and altavista which were almost completely unusable search engines, i don’t want these times back

  • Valery Kotlarov

    In order to give users a voice in search, you don’t have to ask Google to implement this feature. It’s enough to have a simple add-on for popular browsers like Firefox and IE, where you’d be able to rate/re-rate/discuss each website content. I don’t know about anything like that, and it’s weird for me that such a basic need is not satisfied, as it’s relatively easy to implement.
    So my answer is: it could be really nice, but the one who’ll implement it would heavily benefit from this.

  • Kevin Harville

    If the experiment is successful they should proceed. Then they can offer either result. Eventually they may return to an approximation of the original or go with the user-moderated.
    But there is still a serious problem with the very things people fear, but under the current algorithm. For instance, when looking for a company I may get ten directories before I get the company. Google results could still stand to go a long way.
    Google should simply offer both and let the winner rise to the top.

  • Manoj Khiyani

    Well, Google does a lot of research and Analytics, Quality Control and related stuff to present the search result.
    All this OBVIOUSLY includes tracking data, user stats, what people click- how time time they spend on website, what sections they visit, how is the content, how many use the website etc. All this is in background – analytics, cookies, trends, market trends, etc. So, in a way they are definately considering what people want and what they like or what is “IN”. So, you do have a voice on it… but majority always wins!
    If they allow any anonymous visitors to participate in ranking and stuff, don’t you think any company would hire these work-at-home types and pay them to rank them and get themselves noticed even more.

  • John Feeney

    Let’s see, Google is willing to have an “Open” opinion which is nice. They should take advantage of the user have to say. But to turn around an give the “controlling” power to an “Uncontroled” group of cyber whatevers is nuts.
    Today these same individuals spend hours on hours focused on algorithms tell me they wouldn’t spend as much time creating a “spoof” of users to direct this same engine. Don’t like google results – change your search engine or get better at “narrowing your choices”. We still have not seen much advancement in tayloring search requests or should I say teaching users to better utilize a search term.

  • Zohaib Hisam

    Google is a mathematician. That’s exactly why it is effective. The dilemma most internet users face is that they don’t have a clear idea of what they are looking for. And perceptions vary from person to person. Inviting public ranking into google indexes means inviting multiple, impulse based perceptions to influencing rnakings, as opposed to a single, mathematical, indifferent perception. Telling google to base its rankings on people’s votes is like God letting people amend the laws of nature- loss of equilibrium is inevitable.

  • Jane Prusakova

    Google ranks links according to how popular they are – how many users click through, and how much time they spend there.
    I think it is better to get users opinion from what they do (as in, click through and spend time at the sites), rather than from when they say (explicitly manipulate rankings up and down via a provided interface). There is less opportunity for maliciously manipulating the rankings, and less work and simpler interface for users.
    There’s a caveat – explicit rankings work well in regulated environments. Many forums allow users to vote postings up and down, thus pushing up to public view listings that got the most votes. The ‘voice in search’ idea could be very useful in intranet searches.

  • Martin Thomas

    No…it’s an awful idea. I want fact based usage oriented searches. Not some whacko’s opinion or manipulated spam.
    Sure there are potential improvements but user control isn’t one of them.

  • Catherine Jenkins

    Give users choice and control but know that most users will be overwhelmed or too clueless. Also website owners will abuse it as they want to increase their own rankings. Google itself is respected ‘as is’ – why change that?
    They could however launch it as an extra option under that ‘more’ link. That way stays the same for the majority and the minority could choose to customize it.

  • Sander Ruitenbeek

    I think the problem changes from ‘how good is the content’ to ‘how trustable is the rater’.
    So my guess is that keeping things as they are is better in terms of content. There are other (arguably, better) ways to influence Google.

  • Hartog de Mik

    If they do; they should, imho, split Google up. 1 for the searchers who have a good clue as to what it is they are looking for and just need more details (techies like me) and the general public that is just searching for information on whatever it is they are searching for.
    I would be greatly helped if others looking for in depth information of a specific tech. problem have put the page that is most likely providing the answer in the front of the results.
    For non technical issues there is the threat of personal preference on a subject that will suppress the information needed over the popular info.
    There is great potential and great risk in a system like this..

  • Todd Wade

    One of the great things about Google is its mathematical approach to page ranking without direct user inputs. To remove that would open up credibility issues. Google should always look at ways to improve upon that using formula’s. On the flip side however, it would be interesting to see Google create a second type of search engine that does involve user input. Users would have a choice over which one they would go to. I believe there could be some value in having a search engine involving user inputs.

  • Robert Davies

    There is already a search engine I’ve used which offers this functionality,
    I used it for about 2 weeks before I finally decided it’s results were so unusable no wonder they pay people to use it 🙂
    Google will trial the idea I’m sure, then they’ll weigh up all the associated metrics, if it works, we’ll all get it, if not, we won’t. This is probably something that falls under Marissa Mayer’s remit at google, she did a good presentation on this very topic on google video, I can’t grab it now as I’m in work, but g-video her name.

  • Austin Gaster

    I have to agree with the general consensus I’m seeing. It’s a great notion, until you apply reality. It would get contaminated by folks paying for ranking. mTurk comes to mind in this capacity.
    I also want to respond to comment by Valery Kotlarov. There are browser tools for this. For Firefox anyway. Just search “Google” on Firefox’s site. They have several for commenting and indexing sites. One I use is called Spam Report, and it’s by Google also. Nifty little button in the toolbar, when I hit a spam site from a search, I click it. Hmm, now that I think about it- I wonder if these could be misused to any great capacity? Since they do require an install, perhaps not so much as an anonymous click on a web page would.

  • Marc P Summers

    This would mean competition would sway results in the wrong direction and the results would not be organic – leaving room for someone else to come along with a true organic search engine like Google did 10 years ago.
    Keep it Pure and Organic Google – Please!

  • Eric Vasili Ehrhardt

    Don’t count on it. It’s all about revenue, and bending the Model away from the Business Plan to whims and wants of Search Customers opens the door to a host of distractions. Google cannot afford to waste their time appeasing people mid-stream habituating them dictatorialy.
    Their technology is rock-solid, but it still expresses their ethics. They might, however, consider the usefulness of an industry advisory board or panel of professionals rotated in to provide the element of objectivism that is sorely lacking. That would be one way to temper the beast.
    A noble idea (Giving Clients a “Voice”), but in doing so it obligates a reply, and given the response Google offered to Congress regarding the proposed legislation to keep the internet “free” and un-monopolized, I tend to believe Google to be less inclined to aquiessce than my peers answering previously.

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