This post is inspired by something which popped up on my news feed last week.The post in question included an image of the automated results someone got after typing ”Christians are” into Google’s search engine. For the purpose of simplicity throughout this post I will simply refer to Google’s automated search suggestions as G.A.S.S.
Applying some hard learnt academic vigour, I tried it out. As one does to critically certify whether or not this search engines mechanics did actually do what was implied.
Here are the results:
According to G.A.S.S, Bloggers are:
Hmmm…okay, potential food for thought there. Next I figured I’d try G.A.S.S’s thoughts on Google:
“Alrighty then”…moving on. Figuring that I’d be wasting my time trying to psychoanalyse the implications presented here, I decided on a lighter subject, TV Dinners:
Enough said really. Next I entered into that universal debate between who is better: Cats or Dogs:
Mmm.. I can understand evil, but cats are liquid? Jerks? (okay, so cats in the latter sense probably refers to a football team, but liquid?)
“Dogs are the best people“…Huh?. Given that this is a blog about theology, I thought, hey why not investigate Google’s automated search suggestion (G.A.S.S) on what “faith is”:
GREAT! Love it! How theological can Google’s automated suggested search get? … Then I tried a variation of the very thing that inspired this experiment.
So here I’m thinking, hey, maybe this is how the world (according to G.A.S.S) really do see Christians. Then after experiencing a very fleeting moment of condemnation, regret and anger, I composed myself and expanded my search. Finding that:
It seems that no positive things can be said about gamers either…ironic really, since most gamers use the internet, pay big dollars which uphold the industry etc. Still, if we take this assessment seriously the results indicate that Gamers and Schools have, like Christians, a serious image problem in need of repair.
Google is not the only search engine that allows the use of this function. However, it is the most popular and as such it is influential. As consumers we need to pay attention to some of what this represents, but we also need to read it critically for what it is and the context it is set in. The lesson here really is “Caveat Emptor“.
The technology rocks. However it’s use as a census of consensus is fickle (if not trivial). For example: excluding “Faith is”, all the other search results included a large amount of negativity.
Sure such results might reflect current “concerns” which are reflected by the engines indexing/ranking system sourcing data from ”reputation (links) & authority (popularity – relevance)”, but anyone with well-positioned common sense will understand that these ”suggestions” are variable. They change and can be different depending on your location. This suggests that, even though Google do their best to get it right, the results can be tainted and therefore not accurately reflect reality. For me, the truth to be found here is again echoed by Paul & Marguerite Shuster when they write:
‘Test everything, hold fast to what is good. Abstain from every form of evil’ (1. Thess.5:21, ESV)
‘those who Jesus confronted most directly were as likely to want to kill him as to follow him. He seemed to not have the slightest inclination to make hearing and following him pleasant and easy…Truthfulness, in other words, is not determined by customer satisfaction surveys’
(‘The truth and truthfulness’, 2008)
Cutts, M : 2009 Talk on Google, WordPress & Blogging, sourced 28th October 2013 from http://youtu.be/3P-m2cBCJSk
Shuster, M. 2008 Truth and truthfulness in Performance in preaching Childers & Schmidt, Baker Academic
Sullivan, D. 2011 How Google Instant’s Autocomplete Suggestions Work, sourced 28th October 2013 from http://searchengineland.com/how-google-instant-autocomplete-suggestions-work-62592