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December 15, 2010 / compassioninpolitics

Three ways to fix Google search results: Google personalized search is broken and how to fix it

Three Features for Google Personalized Search

Modularized Search

Google search is broken. (Duh!?!?!! 🙂 )

It would be great if the type of results could be customized by you. “But, Nathan, Google results are already personalized.” “Oh contrare!!! Your Google results are only personalized in mass–they aren’t really customized. ”

I’m passionate about search. I’ve been a professional researcher since about 1997. I did research for my moms PhD dissertation and my 5 years as a debate coach really honed my ability to search Google results and professional databases.

Here are a couple ways the results could be customized:

1) results from delicious
2) results from scholar
3) results from .org or .gov or .edu sites
4) types of docs: docs, pdfs, or power point presentations
5) a cool list of results from the wonder wheel (a Google search labs app)
6) crowdsourced results (yahoo answers + linked in answers and other similar websites and message boards–although this might change by niche)
7) opt in for professional databases
8] opt in for local databases (ie the local public or university library)
9) opt in for your own repository of information (harddrive, drop box, my RSS feeds, or just your personal delicious)

And I would almost always prefer these 5 types of results than twitter and some of the other random stuff I get. I’m not saying this should be the main result, but I should be able to request them.

Arguable 7 and 8 may be pushing it. I’m not sure you could get adequate results from either source with 5 to 7 results. However, only testing could really confirm my assumptions about academic researchers.

Controversy in Search
In addition, I would like to suggest that “debate” or “controversy” somehow be added to the list. This would (partially) solve the problem of people self-isolating themselves ideologically online.
Currently, news results in search aren’t up to the task.

I haven’t fully thought through how this should work. Ideally it might be based on the algorithm of a site like Tech Meme, PopUrls, or another algorithm based site. As it developed hopefully it would be able to maintain the quality results like the hand editing at Real

This does have some ethical implications that I haven’t fully thought through–for instance should I have to see “KKK type literature” when I search for Martin Luther King. However, thats not a killer to this idea, it just means that hate-style speech would be omitted from the results (or at least you would have the option of customizing your search so that was omitted out–in the same way you have the option for Safe or Moderate search for your Google results now).

How to Personalize Google Search in this Way:
One option would be to create a widgetized interface. Another option would be to create a form which would allow you to add 3 to 5 boxes (not unlike the WordPress blog back-end interface or one of the widgetized dashboards pages from Pageflakes or Netvibes, but with bigger text and a better look–its Google after all)

How would this fit into existing Google search results:
Ideally it wouldn’t trade off with existing search results. Ideally, it would be added either at the top or bottom of existing results (not sure if the user would get to choose this or not). Won’t this trade off with people clicking on pay per click ads? Not really, I think most of these searches will be academic in nature. Also, there is only a minimal trade off, if any. In fact, the location of the existing pay per click ads could be adjusted to reflect user behaviour.

If you enjoyed this article on how Google search is broken and how to fix it, you might enjoy my other article on the same issue of search which focuses on similar themes specifically in Google Scholar.

Why should Google adopt such a vision of personalized search?

1) Help users (ie connect them to the best content)
2) Build user loyalty
3) Mixing personalize & the universal search has some real advantages for users
4) the ability to conquer academia would point to the ability to do the same thing in business, government, and perhaps product searches in the e-commerce space

(One caveat: if delcious isn’t cool because its a yahoo property, clearly Google needs to purchase/acquire/build a social bookmarking application for its users
One other caveat: if the API for the app formerly known as Filtrbox is available–certainly that data would be incredibly helpful.)


Leave a Comment
  1. David Jenyns / Jan 31 2011 7:35 pm

    You can also try this one on your next search.

    At the end of your normal SERPs url, you can type in ‘&pws=0’ and this will depersonalize the results. This will require you to log into your account, and then run a search, finally add that small piece of code at the end of the url and see what changes.

    Hope this simple tip helps.


  2. compassioninpolitics / Feb 1 2011 9:55 pm

    Agreed. Thats helpful for de-personalizing & de-localizing the results.


  1. My Manifestos for Innovation and Social Change « Compassion in Politics: Christian Social Entrepreneurship, Education Innovation, & Base of the Pyramid/BOP Solutions

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