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November 23, 2008

Google SeachWiki’s surprising missteps

If you log into your Google account when searching (you can tell if you’re logged in by seeing if it puts your login name at the top of the page), Google has enhanced its results page with new features. The features are slightly useful (and largely mirror Wikia Search), but they also commit two rookie mistakes. Surprising, coming from Google.

The enhancements let you move a particular result to the top of the rankings, so that next time you search for that term, you’ll get that result first; doing so does not affect the results for anyone else (although Google isn’t ruling out that possibility). You can also demote, add or remove a result from the list the next time you do that search, or write a public comment. These are features some of us may find sometimes useful.

So, what’s my beef? (What are my beeeves?)

First, opting us in is obnoxious enough, but not giving us a way to opt out is unsupportable. Where’s the big “No thanks” button? (If you put your “I heart hackers” t-shirt on, you can use GreaseMonkey to turn SearchWiki off.)

Second, the results page shows you the nicknames of other users who have voted the page up. So, now the whole world will see that “dweinberger” not only searched for “Angelina Jolie” but thumbs-upped the page of closeups of her tattoos? Guess who just changed his nickname to something less identifiable! This is a feature without value — the list of names isn’t clickable or complete or tell you how many people voted it up — unless you recognize someone’s nickname, in which case it has negative value.

So, here’s a new question for Jeff Jarvis: Not “What would Google do?” but “What was Google thinking?” [Tags: ]