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> It isn't that anymore, though. Searches are geospecific and social network-dependent. All of which is fine and useful, but that's not what made us love Google's search engine.

What makes you love Google is Google giving you the right answer.

If you live in the US, do a google search for dmv.

Did it pull the one from your state?

Do you really want an averaged across all searchers answer? California is probably the state the generates the most Google searches for dmv, but the California DMV is likely relevant iff you are in California.

This idea of one best search page for one query, independent of any other factors based on the user or users geography is really overly romantic and simplicistic.

On the other hand, the filter bubble stuff is a nice narrative, but it mostly makes for an interesting story rather than real problem. Having worked on search personalization at Google about 5 years ago, it's just hard to make that big impact on search results with personalization. "dmv" is a nice example where it's works brilliantly, but those ambiguous queries are pretty rare, and hence the more bread and butter stuff is still really driving most of the quality.




> If you live in the US, do a google search for dmv.

First of all, no, it doesn't give me the DMV for my state first.

And second, why would I do that when I can easily search for "$statename dmv" and have that search universally do the right thing regardless of location? I don't want hidden inputs to my search based on my location; I want everything that determines the results encapsulated in the query.

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I think this debate hits at an important point; different people want different things. Some people would find it easier to type "dmv" and have the engine know they want "dmv open right now and closest to my location". Some people, like you, want the search engine to handle your input without external influences.

In the end, it might be optimal for the world to have multiple, specialized search engines/apps to please as many wants as possible.

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The reality of it is slightly more meta than that. Some people just want the right answer. Some people want a tool that they can build a consistent mental model of.

Hackers prefer the latter. Everyone else? That's up in the air.

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As I've said before, there are searches for consumption needs, and a completely different kind of search made for research needs. No popular search engine today differentiates between the two, but Goggle is slowly moving towards a search dedicated to consumption needs, which seems logical for an advertizing company.

I might search for pizza in order to find a place to order it from. Or I might become curious, and search for pizza to learn about its origins and history. A personalized search would only answer the first option.

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Personalized searches also render it difficult to gauge how 'pizza' relates to other data in the public (sub)conscious. Google results used to (and still do, to a certain extent) provide a very good picture of the semantic structure of the Internet, if you knew how to read them.

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It's not up in the air. Everyone else just wants the right answer. Even I sometimes just want the right answer, and I love mental models..

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Having a mental model of how the google search ranking works sounds… hard. For me the mental model works out to be "based on various statistics, google's best match for my search terms". I'm not sure that's different from "the best answer". :-)

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Is it even possible to build a search engine without external influences..?

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I could not agree more.

That becomes even more frustrating when you (temporarily) are in another country and suddenly get smacked in your face by incorrect location based search results. If google wants to really retain traction with people who want to search for what they type (don't even get me started on the "showing results for: $bshere, if you want to see results for what you searched for, click here"), then they will soon have to provide a switch for it.

I really hope that google goes that way but I think it only crop up when people working at google find themselves using a different search engine to find (esp. programming related) specific topics.

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Apparently I want to get you started on "showing results for: $bshere, if you want to see results for what you searched for, click here", because I'm amazed that anyone complains about it.

For the overwhelming majority of my typos, "$bshere" is exactly what I wanted to search for. I particularly appreciate this when I'm searching from my phone (where typos are more common). There have been times when it has gone the other way (searching for "WiDi" aka Intel Wireless Display is the most notable example I can remember), but those are rare enough (and understandable enough) that they don't bother me.

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Yep the movie times searches on the uk are messed up beyond belife even on Google.co.uk - Google insistes on serving up me the restuls for Bedford Texas and not Bedford in the Uk

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You are not the typical user that Google is aiming for. I find the unasked for word substitutions and stemming and "corrections" and the bubble frustrating, but I recognise that I'm an edge case. Google really should have some kind of "what you type is what you get" mode, with user-definable stemming and word substitution and bubbles and etc.

(http://insidesearch.blogspot.co.uk/2011/11/search-using-your...)

> we found that users typed the “+” operator in less than half a percent of all searches, and two thirds of the time, it was used incorrectly.

Check my arithmetic but that means only 1 in 600 searches used + correctly; 2 in 600 used it wrong, and the other 597 searches didn't use it at all.

0.5% == 3 in 600 2/3 == 66% = 2 in 3 are wrong

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> Google really should have some kind of "what you type is what you get" mode

http://googlesystem.blogspot.co.uk/2011/11/google-verbatim.h...

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Doesn't work as advertised -- try searching for [["everything wrong" crossfade]] in verbatim mode.

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Oh wow, if that works I'm going to use Google again. I hope there's some easy way to switch on that setting with a GET parameter so I can replace my default Google search.

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..."with user-definable stemming and word substitution".

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I think you have to be pretty technical to dislike hidden inputs. But hidden inputs generally please mere mortals.

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> What makes you love Google is Google giving you the right answer.

No it's not. What I loved about Google is giving me the ability to search the web. If my answer wasn't on the first page (or even the second), I'd refine my query until I would get it. Which was easy because Google was very deterministic, just your basic "AND" keyword search engine. Try a few synonyms maybe, different angle, synecdochical approach[1] and if all that didn't get you your answer, it probably wasn't there[2].

Today, you type in your query, Google tries to guess what you need, and shows you your results. If your answer is not there, you can try different queries, synonyms, whatever, but you'll get mostly the same results again. The web being unimaginably bigger than 10 years ago when I used the approach described above, I refuse to believe my answer's not there. Google is just being dumb.

Anyone know of a proper Search Engine? (I love Duck Duck Go but its index is rather small)

[1]http://www.searchlores.org/synecdoc.htm

[2]actually, you were probably not trying hard enough. Pressing on over the course of a week and getting some expert friends to help you would always show that your answer was in fact there. in some form or another.

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Do you have an example of a search that doesn't currently find good results, but you suspect it would work if Google worked the way it used to?

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That's a rather difficult question to answer. I usually don't remember what I've searched for recently. I'm just relating my general impression, which has gotten much much worse over the past year.

Really it's hard to say because 9 times out of 10 it works fine. Probably even more. Because most of my queries are simple ones. I'd have to go dig through my browsing history, it'd take a lot of effort. I did it once, when Matt Cutts asked a similar question, but right now it's rather late here so I hope you can excuse me :)

One thing I can say, I have tried to diversify my usage of Search Engines in the past, to not just use Google but also Yahoo, Bing, and others. Even changed my default search engine sometimes. But it never stuck. Google just was too good--its speed was a big factor btw, even when the results weren't great, the fact that you could quickly try different queries made up for it. But since a couple of months I find myself more and more going for DDG at the first query--also because if DDG doesn't have my answer it has a convenient link to Google to retry, if Google would have the same I might even still use Google with DDG as a fallback instead :)

Another tweak I did was disable Javascript on the Google result pages. There are a lot of shortcut keys I use in Opera all the time and Google's persistent autofocus was really getting in the way. Especially with the instant-refresh feature, your whole results would change just because you pressed some shortcut key even though the input box wasn't even focused!

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Try the literal search feature on Google.

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You mean this one? http://googlesystem.blogspot.co.uk/2011/11/google-verbatim.h...

Yeah I'll investigate that tomorrow.

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I'd prefer the local DMV be a special result, clearly separate from the universal search. See how "current time" gives you a special result on top - I think they could give similar treatment to a link.

More generally, I think users appreciate when recommendations are transparent. Amazon and netflix are great about this - users get to implicitly choose when they want "recommended for you" or just basic results. I'd like Google search more if it had the same model.

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Logged in, and in Texas, my search for 'dmv' returns the California DMV.

Then New York.

Then Virginia.

The only results for Texas DMV are two ads at the top of the result listing for sketchy drivers-license.org type "businesses".

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hmm that might be because we don't use the DMV here in Texas the same way - TxDOT and TxDPS are the two agencies you're going to interface with to handle the stuff that California's DMV does.

I've been in TX 5 years now (and owned a car that whole time) and never even knew we had a department of motor vehicles.

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I did a Google search for "dmv". The first result, an ad, is for Florida, where I live. The next three non-ad based results are for California, Virginia and New York. The fourth (and on) non-ad results are for Florida.

A Google search for "florida dmv" returned Florida-based results.

What I am tired of seeing are Eames chair ads all over the place. Do one search for Eames chairs, and click on one paid result, and now all I see are Eames chair ads. Sigh.

At least it's a break from the casino school ads I was getting.

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This is called google "remarketing". Basically what happened is when you visited the Eames chair site, you received a remarketing cookie.

Then when you visit other google properties, google automatically gives you ads from that Eames chair site.

http://www.google.com/ads/innovations/remarketing.html

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I did the search from my home computer. The Eames chair ads are showing up not only at home, but on my computer at work as well. Seeing how I've never logged into any Google property at work, I find that interesting.

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The first result, an ad, is for Florida, where I live. The next three non-ad based results are for California, Virginia and New York. The fourth (and on) non-ad results are for Florida.

So you click on the relevant link ("happened" to be an ad,) as the Stanford MBAs high five each other at Googleplex. I remember reading a very interesting comment about the incentives of providing the best results and ad revenue. It's clear to me that ad revenue has been winning at Google.

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No.

I work on Search Quality at Google. We have a firewall between Search Quality and Ads. We don't answer to Ads. Revenue is just not my team's problem. We come into work every day and look at our search results and try to get the most relevant answers ranked as #1, #2, etc. I never think about the impact of my ranking improvements on ads. I've been personally involved in dozens of changes, and I've never once heard anyone argue for or against releasing a change because of ads.

I can understand why someone might be mistrustful because of the apparent incentive to sandbag the algorithmic results. But Google has the long-term view: if we can keep satisfying our users' needs, the revenue will follow.

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You can only speak about yourself, you do not know what goes behind the scenes. Firewall, like the investment banks have? Don't take personally, enjoy your paycheck and stock grants, you work for a corporation that answers to Wall Street. Listen to the earnings call once and analyze what the ad people say about "innovation."

But Google has the long-term view: if we can keep satisfying our users' needs, the revenue will follow.

Personally I no longer buy that. The revenue is now #1 and now Google is spending like crazy to keep the users. It started last year full speed

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A little off-topic, but...

Why is this getting down-voted? Is it because you disagree with what this person is saying? I thought down-votes were only for things that didn't contribute to the conversation.

It feels like this is getting down-voted because people don't like that Google is doing these things. So, this person is getting down-voted 'cuz of Google? Huh?

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Sadly, Paul Graham has endorsed the idea of using the downvote to express disagreement. I personally dislike this use of the downvote, but it does have official sanction. Read this:

http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=117171

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Just because something CAN be done doesn't mean it SHOULD be done. I think the community benefits from people expressing counter-arguments far more than grey-ing out minority opinion.

I'd hope a majority of users here feel the same way and act accordingly - pg's comments not withstanding.

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> I think it's ok to use the up and down arrows to express agreement.

There's a dangerous consequence to saying this. Here's how: 1. Voting is easy.

2. Voting is valueable: it literally changes HN for everyone else.

3. Agreement/disagreement is easy: we're taught how to do it as children.

4. Agreement/disagreement is value-less. Saying that you agree with pg on 'Hackers and Painters' is valueless. Saying "prior to reading H&P, I was in mindset A-B-C supported by points of view D-E-F, and here's how they were modified, and here's the new mindset H-I-J" conveys the same agreement, but it provides value.

We shouldn't incite people to use up/down votes to express something value-less. Agreement and lack thereof (alone) is valueless.

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Some people might have downvoted based on the DMV example apparently being wrong. Factual inaccuracy can be a good reason to downvote.

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> I thought down-votes were only for things that didn't contribute to the conversation.

yeah, well.. you need to see my posts on Apple threads.

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>Do you really want an averaged across all searchers answer? California is probably the state the generates the most Google searches for dmv, but the California DMV is likely relevant iff you are in California."

My state has a Motor Vehicle Division.

"DMV" gives me California's.

This page which does not appear on Google's first page: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/DMV - though perhaps it should.

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Two points.

> it's just hard to make that big impact on search results with personalization

Trying to make a big impact on something that was more or less working might be the problem. A "don't fix what's not (too) broken" could be a good idea.

For your dmv example, actually, I din't know what dmv is, and my fisrt page (french localized) is about a medicament dictionnary for doctors (DMV, didn't know it either).

"dmv usa" doesn't get me the dmvusa.org result firt either (it's the one I get on the US google)

This seems to be the best example of why geospecific data can be widly irrelevant, and using the default setting, I get this kind of unusable results for half of what I search.

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I was expecting that DMV is shown as special result on top - something like "are you searching for DMV office next to your location?" ...

But you explained the core of the problem. There are two kinds of searches:

1) discovery of information

2) finding information I probably know but I'm just too lazy to go that site directly (or something in that sense)

The first kind of search is what made Google the most popular search engine. The second kind of search is something new for Google and it seems it is implemented as a unsophisticated simplification of the complex problem. It is like AOL search all over again.

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That's ok until Google infects a current search with a previous search as it seemed to do for me the other day. In some cases that might help, and although they were in the same domain I was actually looking for something else. Maybe it was an accident, but the result (at position 3 or 4) looked very much like it'd been boosted from my search a minute earlier. Anyone else experience this?

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