Monday, May 16, 2011

Algorithmic Tyranny

I didn't even know it was happening.

Yes, I knew "personalization" is a part of Facebook, Google and the like, but I was quite shocked to learn that algorithms are limiting the type of information I get exposed to, even in a Google search. And I have absolutely no say in the matter.

I assumed the internet opened the world to me. I was no longer limited to what a handful of editors in newspapers and television determined should be published. Not true. Now, lines of code are making those decisions for me.

Take 9 minutes to watch this important TED talk by Eli Pariser. Eli is the founder of but regardless of your political leanings, you will appreciate this eye-opening discussion on a hidden but very important trend.

If you want to learn more, there is also a good Q&A with Eli on the fabulous blog Brainpickings and he also has a new book out on the topic, The Filter Bubble.

Personalization has its upside, but taken too far the unintended consequences are too costly.  What do you think?


  1. Thanks for posting !
    One of my biggest complaints about FaceBook is that they constantly make changes behind the scenes that the average user never knows about. They do a really lousy job of communicating about changes they make and how it affects your feeds.
    Google is shrouded in mystery for the average user; I get that they feel they have to update and change algorithms, so people don't " game " the system.
    However, I don't think Google is the end-all be-all when it comes to relevance. When I'm researching for an article, I use different search engines, as I have found that I get completely different results from each and a much broader offering.
    Lately, I've noticed that if you're not selling something on your site and offer a physical address for Google Maps, you're not relevant in Google search, even if it's a topic you frequently publish about.
    Sometimes we just want information, not where to buy something. Wasn't that the whole idea behind search to begin with ?

  2. Karen - from the publisher side wanting rankings, your observation about the physical location is fascinating and really a disadvantage. Thanks for your comment. I am going to have to start using Bing as a second opinion, though I am sure they do it too.