If it was not already clear, watching the Grammys showed that whoever is famous or the most popular is not necessarily the best or the most creative(*). Thus often it would seem that the only conclusive best metric of “the best” is that they have the best connections, that is, the best network either presently or historically. They are famous because they are famous and often they restrain themselves to their own little circle of famous people and give each other rewards for being the “best”.

Best out of … ?

I get the strong impression that search engines measure quality in the same way, that is, not being smarter than a bunch of algorithms, it is easy to confuse popularity with quality. This may even be intentional when viewed from a consumer perspective as people prefer to consume that which they are familiar with. For instance, I just learned how to make coffee which is better than what is sold in cafes. Read the previous post for details; yet, how many will give up on the familiar right now and pick the better option?

(*) One might begin to doubt that half of these people can even sing or sound good without modern sound engineering; today you mainly need to look attractive and be able to dance to make it as a “singer”.

The traditional option is entrenched.

I see the same thing with blogging. To be honest, I feel more stale than fresh and there are blogs which cover what I do and do it with more spirit than I do; or at least so it seems to me. I also realize that I am actually one of the bigger early retirement blogs, very likely in the top 5. What really worries me is that search engines will take my current popularity and entrench it solidly thus hiding more interesting writing from view. Forsooth, I suspect many of the popular blogs are even counting on this staking out claims in the virtual dataspace of the search engines by not necessairly focusing on increasing the quality of the information but rather optimizing for what search engines reward, namely crosslinking and quantity.

Unlike many, I do not believe that google will rule the world forever. I am old, so I remember what was before google. The great thing about google was that it could find everything (or rather it could find more than anything else). This ability is also its weakness. If you google something you often get a million hits arranged by popularity. However, as we know, popular often means a mediocre product optimized for a profit that isn’t yours. If the mighty google falls and fails to optimize its algorithms, a lot of “ground” could suddenly be lost.

I would see this as a good thing. Conversely, there are many vested interests who would see this as a bad thing. And these are just two examples of the world we live in.

Originally posted 2010-02-01 18:03:52.