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Most of the stuff discussed in this post didn't bug me, but then I got to this part:

As the Wall Street Journal confirmed in its own study, Google has been significantly altering its search results to highlight Obama-related results, but not Romney-related results (more on that later).

These Obama-related results are being inserted because obama is a magic keyword on Google. A magic keyword is a search that can transform the Google results of later searches.

Incredibly shady. Changing the results of later searches based on things I searched for in the past is the complete opposite of what I want a search engine to do.




Changing the results of later searches based on things I searched for in the past is the complete opposite of what I want a search engine to do.

Really? If I search for Python stuff, I want it to learn that I mean the language and not the animal. I want it to learn that when I type "Socrates", I mean the Greek philosopher and not my ex-Prime Minister.

Learning from the the user is all about changing the results based on past searches, and I think it can be very useful. Just not always.

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I completely disagree, and I suspect a lot of Google users do too. Anyway you can turn off those features from here: https://support.google.com/accounts/bin/answer.py?hl=en&...

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I wonder if the effect times out? If so, it could be reasonably construed as an attempt to present more relevant results across a session.

If, on the other hand, Google accumulates history until you sink into a morass of similar results, it's clearly harmful.

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In the original WSJ article (yc: http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=4741394), it's confirmed that this effect has a limited duration.

  > A Google spokesman said: "We aim to get users the best
  > answers as fast as possible" using techniques such as
  > examining "related searches." He said the goal for the
  > feature is to provide better results in a situation
  > where, for instance, a person who searches for "Harry
  > Potter," and then for "Amazon," actually wants "Harry
  > Potter" results from Amazon.com Inc. He said that the
  > technique saves Google users time and provides better
  > answers, but affects only about 0.3% of the searches the
  > company conducts.

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That's not confirmation, that's a public relations response. Confirmation of limited duration would be actually running the experiment until the effect actually disappears.

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    for instance, a person who searches for "Harry
    Potter," and then for "Amazon," actually wants "Harry
    Potter" results from Amazon.com Inc.
I wonder, is this really the case? It seems strange. Is there any research available about the frequency of such strange searches?

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Here's a nice infographic for this: http://dontbubble.us/

Google has been serving personalized results for a while now, but this is probably first time it attracted such widespread attention from media.

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