Thursday, June 02, 2005

Google's Secret Search Lab

There has been a lot of buzz in search related forums about a secret effort at Google to control the quality of search results. The kicker is that they are not doing this via significant changes in the ranking algorithm or spidering technology, but rather production-line-style human quality control! Are you kidding me? This reminds me of a spaghetti horror flick where the monster is running amuck. Has Google lost its marbles? Why is the world's premier technology company resorting to turn-of-last-century production line efforts?

It seems that we are moving backwards in time to more primitive technologies. Google is now doing what Yahoo! was doing while a small start-up at the dawn of the internet age, when it hired people to actually add by hand new sites to its directory. Luckily, Yahoo soon realized that this was a an insurmountable task. I really can't believe that Eric Schmidt is spending money on this rather than investing in new, paradigm-shifting search technologies.

Not only that, but is Google becoming a self-proclaimed internet censor? Well, why not? They are already doing this with AdSense by denying sites with certain content access to the program. ( Check out the AdSense Program Policies .) When will they realize that it's not the web, it's the sucky search algorithms that are so easily fooled by spammers. Stop buying every digital company under the sun and invest in your bread and butter business; you are not yet Microsoft.

Now onto Henk van Ess's blog about this "secret Google lab." He doesn't seem like the most trustworthy guy, especially since at the same time as he's breaking a big search-related story about Google's secret search quality lab, he is showing Google ads on his webpage. However, even though I approached his site with a great deal of skepticism, I could not deny that the flash animation of the internal Google tool for this supposed search quality team seems quite authentic. The screen shot that he has of the "Rater Hub" also seems incredibly Google'esque. There is also that cache on Google's own search of http://eval.google.com . Check out also this query for more remnants of eval.google.com .

(Now I know that Google has a tendency to cover it's tracks, so if it removes this entry from the index, email me; I saved a screen shot. )

Then there is ample evidence that Google is and has been looking for contractors to do QA work:
QUALITY RATER - (SPANISH, DUTCH, ITALIAN, FRENCH) This is a temporary role offered through Kelly Services. Google Inc. is recruiting part-time, temporary, home-based workers to help with work on a search quality evaluation on a project basis. You would work at your own pace, and the time and length of any particular work session would be up to you. Candidates will evaluate search results and rate their relevance. Thus, all candidates must be web-savvy and analytical, have excellent web research skills and a broad range of interests. Specific areas of expertise are highly desirable. We are looking for smart people who read voraciously and have a wide variety of interests. Raters should have all the following qualifications: Native-level fluency in Dutch, Italian, Spanish, or French In-depth, up-to-date familiarity with the web culture of at least one predominantly Dutch, Italian, Spanish, or French-speaking country. Excellent web research skills and analytical abilities. A high-speed internet connection. Legal eligibility to work in the Netherlands, Italy, Spain or France. Moderate ability to read and write in English. Perfect English is not necessary; however, you must be able to read and write English well enough to use software with an English interface, understand fairly complicated instructions written in English, and make yourself understood in informal written communication. The job involves frequent written communication with fellow Quality Raters. For immediate consideration, please send an ENGLISH text (ASCII) or HTML version of your resume to monsterjobs@google.com Important: The subject field of your email must include Quality Rater - TEMPORARY.

I'm not going to recount all of the contents of Henk's blog, but it does seem like this is fact despite my most heart-felt hope that this is a farce. I am praying for innovation and instead we're getting an old-fashioned assembly line. The search services still suck, are getting more tainted with ads, and more spammed. I hope that we start thinking about taking matters into our own hands like we did with Firefox. Grokker, Teoma, Mindset are steps in the right direction, but we really ought to be at least jogging to make up for lost time.

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