Being able to personally fine tune those results myself, outside of what a robot thought to "personally" customize my experience to, was a great feature. Suggesting I use a third party plugin for a browser I don't use is hardly a compromise or a solution, and does nothing for my Google search results on mobile platforms where that plugin is not now nor will likely ever be available.
Their offered download link doesn't even work for me, it just notifies me of its shutdown.
After you go to that link and read the notification, there is another link to download the blocklist as a plain-text file. Mine contained a number of domains I've added during the years.
It's quite interesting to see all the domains I've blocked so far :)
I love that SO uses a CC license but it does have some unintended consequences.
Probably others too.
It's either that, or a bug... And I can't really know which.
EDIT: Actually, it turns out I've been using the linked Chrome extension (went to install, discovered it was already installed). I just conflated the two services and forgot about the extension. So to make this productive, I recommend this extension. I haven't seen w3schools in months.
"Judging from your comment, you sound like the perfect user for Duck Duck Go!
If you set DDG as the default browser for chrome/ff, you can search mdn with just '!mdn foo'. Also at your fingertips is searching !jquery (and hundreds of other search shortcuts)
DuckDuckGo is great and makes searching super productive!"
/me smiles eagerly
Bang syntax seems such a small feature to change search engines.
DDG's commitment to privacy and not bubbling, etc. I do not believe are going away, it's their biggest selling point.
Besides, as long as RMS is demanding that DDG be the default search engine in the GNU web browser, it's good enough for me.
It could be some sort of personal bias, but I search the same term in both engines and get (in some cases) wildly different results, rarely in favor of DDG.
to the bottom of you search engine list with shortcut letters of your choice (e.g. "m")
Then typing "m query" into the omnibox is even faster than resorting to google first.
Why is Google shutting every secondary project/feature down right now? Reader, labs, blocked sites, code search... Any engineers able to weigh in on how this is affecting innovation or the 80/20 policy?
20% time is alive and well, but you have to be careful when thinking that 20% time is going to magically result in fully-polished new products. How much code can you write in one day a week? How much legacy code can you maintain in one day a week? The fact that programming is hard puts an upper bound on what you can effectively accomplish in your 20% time.
Effective 20% projects, in my opinion, are projects that add something new to an existing product and whose maintenance costs are low enough to be absorbed by the project's primary contributors. I've been working on Android lint checks recently: it's something that's self-contained, can be done without interfering with my 80% project, and won't make extra work for the project's main maintainers. (It's also open source, so it can't be canceled. Hah!)
It's also worth pointing out that not all 20% projects at Google are going to be visible outside of Google. I spent my first couple quarters at Google working on maintaining the internal Emacs extensions and user-base; most of my time was spent answering questions on the mailing list. This isn't going to result in Google Maps or Gmail, but it is still needs to be done.
If you want to do something with more public impact, I think you should work towards making that idea your 80% project. Get buy-in from your peers, write a design doc or description of the product, and talk to people who work on similar projects. Once you have a team ready to work on the project, a good design, and clear criteria for success, it shouldn't be hard to become a "real" project.
(I've succeeded in doing this for an internal utility I wanted to write. I wrote a design doc, got some feedback from my peers, and asked my manager for a quarter to work on it, and did. Now it exists and has users!)
If you think it is hard you are either doing it wrong, or it's the wrong job for your personality.
It can sometimes be a challenge, but that is the fun part, not the hard part.
However this explains why Google seems so abrasive... they think it's hard!
You're replying to jrockway. Perhaps you could curb your arrogance. Programming is indeed an extremely hard topic filled with compromises and tradeoffs that are often unattractive.
Picking the correct solution that fulfills time, effort, complexity constraints is why some people are paid so well.
What do you mean by "private site"?
The other objectionable/EE-like thing about it is how it hides the answers unless you log in. That really sucks.
Looks like Quora gives you the question, and the first answer, but all other answers are Private-Only.
 I think that in the beginning they may have really hidden their answers, but were forced to actually show them by Google.
Jobs' advice was to focus on the most important products and prune the rest. It appears Google is now following this advice.
One way to look at it is that these services are now validated (if small) market needs that smaller entrepreneurs can pursue. In the past, entrepreneurs lived in fear that Google would muscle in on their specialty; now it looks like they not only won't do that, but are in fact disengaging from things that do not have mass market appeal.
Load up a cannon full of ideas, fire and see what sticks.
Microsoft were doing it before Google, but the financial-strategic dynamics of those businesses is very similar.
There's a fountain of cash and a series of spaghetti cannons around it blasting away furiously. Almost nothing sticks. But that's OK, because there's just so much money.
This product shutdown is a little surprising, because it makes Google's core product worse and less useful.
Maybe they're confident their current ranking algorithms get rid of all the crap content farm sites now, and as someone else mentioned, this appears to be the case. But I suspect they'll enjoy a resurgence someday. Ugh.
The blocked sites list hasn't worked for like a year now, so if you haven't been seeing experts exchange links, you aren't going to now, either.
I noticed when w3schools starting showing back up last spring or so, but I haven't seen experts exchange in results for a long time (or at least, I've seen them at a low enough volume that I can't recall any now). Now the only somewhat equivalent experience is quora results, as others have said.
besides google reader, most of the cuts have been good or just not important. I always felt like this feature was a reaction to blekko search engine, and not very interesting. curiously i found myself not wanting to block crappy sites like ehow just cuz they might have a good page and would rather just trust google.
Try typing a phone number into google.
Go ahead, try it.
Google has improved in some regards. I recall having to look through 3-4 pages to find a decent result in some queries a few years ago. They're usually on the first or second page now, but there are still these worthless results that end up in the 1-3 spot. That's enough evidence for me that they need expert intervention, not algorithmic guessing.
Because, you know, everyone using Google also uses Chrome and only uses it on one device.
EDIT: just found this Greasemonkey script https://userscripts.org/scripts/show/33156
And then it showed up as a feature in Google's results which I found interesting because having worked at Google and had the 'deeper than non-Googlers, not as deep as someone in the search group' classes on how the two services that made up Google search at the time, I had a feel for how much lubricant it would take to squeeze that feature into the existing pipeline. It made me wonder if Google was following us :-)
The death of it is also interesting, because having it in the browser as a plug-in vs the results means two things; You can't offer it as a service to your partners, and you can't know apriori if you're sending junk. If Blekko's partners say "We'd like to use your index but we don't want any results that include x,y or z" we can do that but that is at the API level with results coming right out of the index filtered by a 'negative' slashtag, but its unclear if anyone can (or does) use Google's index in that way (unlike BOSS for example). On the browser side, since you don't know what the plug-in is going to kill, how do you select the 10 documents to send? It makes me wonder that if you're doing a search in a highly contested search (like 'weight loss') and Google can't know that the 10 blue links it is about to send you are all spam (and on really contested keywords this is not uncommon) are you left with just sponsored links and no organic results?
'Panda' update all you want, even Google now admits they are adding staff to curate results (Microsoft/Bing had already gone public with their 'editor's choice' announcement). This is a good thing, but it only covers half the situation. At Blekko we got flamed by a user for not having any 'alternative' medicine sites in our 'health' slashtag, which started a conversation with that user about creating their own slashtag with all of those web sites that were unfairly penalized by the medical establishment just because their methods and claims weren't the product of some 'big pharma' company. But they could (and I believe they did) create a slashtag of all those 'hidden' sites and they got great search results for them. Reinforcing to me and others that 'spam' can be relative, and really it has two sides, user and index.
So pondering this move on Google's part makes for interesting reading.
I suggest reading "I'm Feeling Lucky" by Douglass Edwards - the early chapters describe a lot of Google's anxiety of being killed by other search engines for one reason or another. It helps to explain why they'd be quick to adopt new strategies to keep results fresh.
It's as if something flipped 180 degrees - they went from being the company that wanted to help you find out about everything to being the company that wanted to find everything about you.
Any of them since the introduction of adwords and adsense. It doesn't matter which. They all basically read the same.
The problem is that for so long, they built their public facing brand on a completely different premise and image. Therefore, as they've re-aligned, they're facing a bit of cognitive dissonance in the minds of their products (err, the public).
Human curation is a stop-gap solution, computers can generate spam faster than humans can filter it. You could argue that the humans will only have to look at the good stuff but unfortunately they'll have to look at all of it to make a decision in any practical setup.
Google has stepped up the arms race against spam and for a while their algorithms gave them an edge, now we have reached the level where the spammers have the edge again and it will take another quantum leap before the good guys can regain the edge.
It would be funny if we end up with AI mostly because of the spammers :)
One of the interesting things I have experienced in my time at Blekko has been that "growth" on the Web isn't really growing all that much. Sure there are trillions of pages being created but there are only so many things the few billion people in and around the Internet care about. There are 'hard information' places, which are things like libraries where reference searches are common, there are 'entity' places, be thay shops or service providers or SOMA startups, and there are "transient" places where information is current and then stale, to be stored and later reconstructed like coral into a 'dead' (in terms of change) but 'useful' base. Seeing the web from the point of view of a web scale crawler and indexer it starts to be clear that the mantra "Organize all the world's information" is getting tantalizingly close to a dynamically stable froth.
I have to believe that Google has figured this out, some of the smartest engineers I've worked with are at Blekko but Google has its share as well. When you trawl through the fishery and all you get are trash fish you start to wonder, "hmm did we actually catch all the fish there are?" So to it goes with "the Web".
I started doing some speculation  on how you could value information that was discoverable on the Internet. And one of the schemes I came up with is how many people would find that information "useful", where useful really means they would have some reason of seeking it out. And then scaling that value by the value to them of having it. So for example if my genome was online, there is maybe a dozen people who would find it "useful", and of that dozen probably on the insurance actuaries and perhaps the occasional researcher who would find it "valuable".
Now one takes that unit of applicability/value and scales it again by the "cost" to acquire it (find it, index it, etc). And from that you can compute the total size of the Web. Well estimate it at least. So far my upper bound (based primarily on the fact that world population is stabilizing) is about 72 trillion documents at any given time.
When you look at it that way you can see that ultimately the spammers lose. They lose because over time the actual information that rises to the useful vs cost threshold is identified and classified, or the legitimate channels that provide dynamic information, or the legitimate archival sources that provide distilled information are all, for the most part known and 99.99% of all your users can find everything they want. And as a spammer you are no longer given the free reign of "appear and be indexed" you have to ask for admittance though some form or another. And the level of new credible sources that are created is inherently a function of the number of people that exist, and the number of people that exist is stabilizing.
When Yahoo started with its human curation it was vastly better than anything anyone else could do, and then it was overwhelmed by a combination of growth and algorithms that could much more rapidly infer curation from the social signals of bookmark pages and article reference. Curation has come back into favor, and it combined with machine learning algorithms will create what is essentially a stable corpus of documents known as "the web".
Wikipedia is a great analog for what is happening world wide. All the reference articles they want to put in are nearly done, the number of editors required has gone down not up, and the future of web search is, in my opinion of course, similar. The only new ground on the web is social networking and Google understands that it seems. Its fortunate for them that only deep pocketed entity that is possibly a near time threat there is Microsoft, and since to date Microsoft is trying to do exactly what they did, they benefit from having already been through that part and know exactly what Microsoft will have to do next.
 My side hobby is attempting to discern the economics of information.
 Documents are just that, pieces of information, I hardly count every page rendered by Angry Birds in a browser as a separate document, in fact applications are them selves a single "document" in the since that some number of people will seek them out, and connect/consume them over what we think of as the "web" interface.
I actually have found the plugin to be mostly adequate. There aren't a ton of sites that I feel deserve to be blocked from my search results, so syncing isn't a gigantic problem. I do find it annoying that there is a link added to each and every search result to block the site, but it might be useful if I decided to be really picky about my results.
What faith I once had in Google being a company that puts users first is long gone.
Providing an extension for power users to tweak the bells and whistles sounds like a fine gap-filler while perfection is achieved, however.
¹ not original, but works better than Tineye, in my opinion
² granted, only for a limited number of people
I look forward to the day I can say I do have one though.
Plus it looks like they aren't going to adhere to the implications of having a number of users blocking a site. cough w3schools.
And here's the blog post we did about the Chrome extension: http://googleblog.blogspot.com/2011/02/new-chrome-extension-...
Client-side spam blocking has been available for years. The primary advantage of having spam-blocking integrated into the search engine is that the user sees a full page of results for their query, even if some results were filtered out.
If the Chrome extension supports server-side filtering, then it must be sending some sort of "exclude results from these sites" message to google.com. It would be very nice if the message format was documented and official, even if it's something as simple as a JSON list. That would allow extension developers to add support to other major browsers, especially Firefox.
You do realize spammers are extremely good generating large amounts of things, right?
> By getting a significant amount though and looking at each persons block list to normalize there blocks I think it would be useful.
Spammers are also very good (though not great) at adding innocuous data alongside their spam to look like real users.
You don't realize it, but your solution has just exploded in complexity.
I also don't believe that the blocked sites was linked to my Google account, because I had blocked sooo many different pages on W3Schools that I just abandoned using the blocked sites feature altogether.
I guess not. I'm curious how they're determining quality in that case. Hey Bing, maybe you could pick this up and deliver quality results over faster results?
Maybe if it was as simple as clicking a "never see results from this website again" it would've seen orders of magnitude more use and been far more useful. Perhaps an upvote/downvote system? Seems like these are relatively tiny time investments by a couple of engineers and would serve to massively increase the quality of results. Not sure why throwing useful features away is a better decision.
If had invested my work into one of the major cut projects, I'd be fuming as an employee right now.
Also, it's interesting how many of the cut services seem to be around working, but slowly decaying and abandoned projects. It says something about google's ability to keep working on and developing products...especially since most of their products are essentially public betas.
it is not on the browser marktplaces right now, so you kind of got to install it manually.
I'd rather have my browser know what results I don't want, than Google.
However it is Google that provides me a browser (for free) bundled with a sync feature.
Anyway, goodbye W3Schools! :)