Google Search Results – A Place for Alternative Voices?

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I read this post at the OnlineJournalismBlog that covers a post from the It raises a few very interesting questions, but the primary one is whether Google Search Results Pages are really the right place for alternative voices? However do alternative voices have another good outlet is the second question you have to ask yourself?

First of all Google’s business is primarily designed to get revenue from SEM (Search Engine Marketing), and the nature of PageRank is specifically designed to make the most reputable voices (i.e. websites) heard first. Diversity will disappear though per definition. It is kind of intended (somewhat simplified). Originally to make informative, on-point search results. However you get the trust, but will effectively filter out the diversity and weaker voices.

The second issue is that a search result page (and Google’s in particular) is designed to show clear, on-point single entries. It shows you The Answer. Nothing wrong with that but diversity comes from several answers. :-)

Now over the the more interesting question: Is a search engine the “right” place for a diverse media outlet? I would say no. The irony however is that the technology behind a search engine can be used for it, but the purpose of a search engine is not inline with the presentation of alternative, diverse voices. It is a complex topic indeed, but once again brings up the issues we have seen presented in the movie EPIC 2014. I know, I know. It is a very common link in all my blogs, but it is so on-point and highlights the challenges we have right now pretty well.

I guess we have to start asking ourselves what type of media outlet we would like to see in the future and who that actors on this new media arena will be. My bet is not a Google Search Result Page is the right place for it, and probably never will be in the traditional sense. Can Google be an actor? Sure, but I doubt that too. It would be sidestepping their core business.

The Myth and Mystery of Social Media

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“Pfff! Social Media. Hah! I tell you what. It amazes me how people are always trying to reinvent the wheel… Social media is nothing else but a bunch of hot air. It is a creation of a whole lot of nothing.”

I guess as usual there are some truth to it, but mostly I would say it is a rather pessimistic way of looking at it. To me it seems as if many have the attitude to social sciences in general, that it is gibberish, hot air just talk. Nothing can be more than wrong. In all innovation processes you have different stages. Conceptualization is one of the more crucial one. Breakthroughs in history comes wen people start to think outside the box, and not get caught up in a set of preset rules or old mindsets. I refer to think the glass is half-full rather than the half-empty glass mindset that the comment above breaths together with an unnecessary conservatism. In general what this world need is more people, who believe things can be done and that change is good. We have enough pessimists and road blockers already. :-)

Nevertheless, if I would get a nickel for every time I hear that comment, I could retire young. :-) The argument is actually pretty easy to face without much trouble. Social media is a bit funny in a way. Everyone has their opinion on it. The truth in the statement is but only that the intention of the web very much resonates with what what the father of the web’s Tim Berners-Lee intended with the creation of the web.

The original thought of the web really is connecting people and information. The creator of the World Wide Web Tim Berners-Lee writes in the second paragraph of his book ”Weaving the web” where he explains his thoughts around the creation: ”The vision I have for the Web is about anything being potentially connected to anything. It is a vision that provides us with new freedom, and allows us to grow faster than we ever could when we were fettered by the hierarchical classification systems into which we bound ourselves. It leaves the entirety of our previous ways of working as just one tool among many. And it brings the workings society closer to the workings of our minds.”

Interesting enough but a bit off topic, he continues one paragraph afterwards: ”The irony is that in all its guises – commerce, research and surfing – the Web is already so much a part of our lives that familiarity has clouded our perception of the Web itself. To understand the Web in the broadest and deepest sense, to fully partake the vision that I and my colleagues share, one must understand how the Web came to be.”

Let us for a moment also remember why this process has taken time. As in all businesses the market and business forces are strong and sometimes cloud the vision and intention of the product. This is very much the case for the web, but do remember that for the web we have had a lot of technology constraints. The growth of multimedia component (Flash, Final Cut Pro, Premiere Pro, iMovie, MovieMaker), client side frameworks for JS, HTML/CSS, faster server side prototype languages such as PHP, Ruby on Rails, information retrieval (especially contextual analysis) to mention some have made it possible to create the social sites we now see coming.

The shift from normal, traditional software or media to the very lively, organic and interactive social software or media. More people inside the tech sphere start to realize that in order to build social software (and working inside open-source projects) you need to understand that the word ’social’ is there for a reason. Duh? Yes it is there for a reason. Yeah, the pain. I have to admit that developing social media application is notoriously hard. You have to constantly think of the social part of the application, which is hard when you are dealing with ones and zeros. You forget that the most important part of the application is to foster the human element. I guess it is as simple as I put it in a tribute to the 15 year anniversary blog of the World Wide Web: “…that successful and sustainable technology solutions all fulfill true needs of real people.”

Before we come in to the real address the quote in specific, let us look at some basics of social media. I covered this in more details in the blog The Social Web also known as Web 2.0.

Most people are a bit reckless when they discuss the social web and forget to really define what they mean by it. A bit simplified the new version of the web or the social web. Dear child have many names ya know. Yet I usually summarize this new “beast” in these bullets:

  • Connected (one-to-many, many-to-one, many-to-many)
  • Stupid yet smart technology
  • Inexpensive
  • Human
  • Immediate
  • Ubiquitous

Now that is not that difficult. Right? It is frickin’ awesome too.

Back to the quote keeping this single points in mind. It amazes me how people are always trying to reinvent the wheel… It is very true that social media is doing very little to the originality of the vision of the internet. However, are social media advocates really trying to reinvent the wheel? Nope, they are trying to shape it different, make it more accessible, making the vision more clear. Making the vision transparent. If you would say that social media advocates would be trying to reinvent the wheel, you are also saying that any reshaping for instance by a tire manufacturer of their products would be reinventing the tire. SHaped different using different material it is still a tire.

Is it a bunch of hot air? Maybe, maybe not. I am not sure I am a big supporter of fundamentalism n any concept so keeping balance in mind is true of course. However, the statement in itself have raised what needs to be raised. if anything just the pure reaction in the statement to the notion of concept social media means that it is not anything but hot air. All of a sudden a discussion arises whether the web is changing or not. If it has stayed the same. If it is new. If it is evolving. I do agree that over use of terms like social media dilutes the core of the concept as it becomes harder to grasp what it is all about.

On a broader note: It doesn’t really matter what term we use. What matter is that we look upon the products, society or in fact anything we have in critical minds and see if we can improve. If using social media as an example accomplish part of that so be it. If anything, the term does group a set of different applications together and get a term to use to discuss it. Ironically it is an old known methodology to conceptualize new areas.

The concept of editor driven media is outdated!

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“Hey now, we cannot just put up citizen reports. That is just not possible! Let us have a separate page for the people who are interested in this in particular. Oh, and we need to control every entry too.”

The comment above is heard way too often in the traditional media news rooms around the world. I think it is a road blocking mentality for change of the media arena, that is prohibiting the media to move into the next obvious phase – the symbiosis between the social media and the traditional media. I said this very early that it is the right way to take this. Anyhow. It is both hard and extremely easy to understand the reasons. The main reason that explains it all is that it is stepping out of the comfort zone. It is about redefining the space. If you want to use some hotter business development terms, it is the blue ocean strategy. Define the new market. Innovate it. Create it. The ride of your life to be honest! Stepping out of the comfort zone is something most people dread, fear or are uncomfortable doing. It is broadening your views to something else. Something never seen. It is about taking the risk. I guess it is a survival instinct. Never divert from the known path. Boooring!

I got news for you, my friend. The media arena is already redefined. Sorry guys. The unedited, unmediated, unfiltered real community-based media is here. It has been redefined for ages. It is more a matter of having the guts to move into it. Realizing that the change is here. Traditional media will not. Many bloggers will not realize this either. It is my content. Me, me, me… Sorry guys, but the community model is here to stay and it is pretty hard to fight. Remember that the music industry is still pursuing the war against file sharing. Not taking any sides in it, I doubt it is the right tactics. In the forces you learn one thing: Adapt and move on. Evolution says the same thing: The species which adapt to the new environment will survive. It is the survival of the fittest. We live in a market economy where the consumer is getting more and more power so you better adapt as a business. In a highly competitive market as the media business you better be willing to innovate. YouTube did it for video. Flickr did it for pictures. Wikipedia did it for facts. It has now come to bringing all these pieces together and turn this upside down.

Will you take the red or blue pill? I for one prefer the travel down the rabbit hole to Wonderland.

Stepping back a bit again. The bloggers attitude of “walled garden” is maybe the most surprising of them all. They should have realized that the media today is conversational. It is interactive. It is free. I am still waiting for an answer from such a blogger how they believe a conversation is moderated comments. “Wait, I do not approve of this. Let me delete the comment.” How is that an prelongation of freedom of speech in any possible sense? Beats me… Smells censorship to me. Sure it is, but yet not. It is the bloggers page so she or he will have the “right” to control it. But shouldn’t it be another way? It sure is another way…

What?! You cannot be for real Erik. How can you possibly say that you cannot have moderation of content?

Okay, this is almost too easy to answer to. The first reason is the most obvious one. Controlled, edited and mediated forums are a direct opposite of freedom of speech. As long as you provide the community(!) with the power to control oversteps of this right if someone posts abusive or copyright violating material you are and will be fine. Secondly, people in general want to be entertained. They want to have fun. They want to feel that tickling feeling of fulfillment, entertainment and escape from the very often dull everyday life. Oops, I let out the secret that the every day life is not a party. Sorry about that. :-) Seriously, most people do not worry about more things than having food on their table, roof over their heads and being able to hang out with their friends and dear ones. What has that to do with moderation? Simply imagine a party. Which party would you like to go to: the party with all the detailed instructions what to wear, what to do, what to not say, what to say. Or would you prefer the laid back come as you are party. I would choose the rock-n-roll party any day. Why? It is fun. It is free. But… Most importantly I can relate to it. I can relate to it. That is the key.

You have to be able to relate to the media you consume. It has to be human. You realize now that media is not about what you think others think. It is about bringing that human face to the story with all its warts, dirt and shit. But it is real. It is authentic. It is genuine. It is the real story. Not perfect, but relatable.

Hey now! Stop it. Halt. Wait a minute! What about credibility? What about quality control? Come on! Are you for real? Yikes, Erik…

Of course you need credibility. To make it credible you need to make it non-biased.

How can you accomplish that? Do you really think you can assure anyone not to be biased? Nooo way!

You cannot assure that, but can assure that the end result is non biased. For that you will need three components: technology, community and a reputation feedback loop of the contributors and content creators. That is all you need. The technology should be used to find related stories such as news articles and blogs. That will give a measurement of how much content on the web is relevant to the report. It bring a sense of validation via aggregation and coordination, and is the Google like validation. The community or readers to which the report is presented should be able to rate it up or down, and/or add content and perspectives to it. This brings in the Wikipedia or Digg like validation. In a way you enable the community as a whole to become an editor. Not the sole editor, but will have the vote. You create the UN Security Counsel for content. :-) The user reputation is easily understood. Take any group of people. You will find a natural sense of credibility of who says what. Some people are more well read in certain areas, some in others, but basically who the person saying (ie reporting) something is matters for its validity. Making all these three cornerstones play together will bring out a new dimension of content validation, and is a very scalable model for user generated sites. The secret is in the dynamics between these there components. As you bring all perspectives together you will provide all biased opinions, but together they will give you a new picture that is non-biased as you show all the perspectives. Now that is frickin’ cool.

Yes, it is that simple. This is also how handles the validation of content. It is new, it is fresh and never seen before. The really cool part is that you then will be able to provide the readers with multiple perspectives, weaving all the angles of a story and present it to the reader.

Now that is sweet.

The news of Bhutto's death reached me…

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I woke up this morning with around 10 missed calls, 15 SMSs and a truck load of emails about the tragic death and assassination of Benazir Bhutto in Pakistan earlier today Pacific Time. I cannot say I know so much about Pakistani politics, but I do believe that violence is not the right way to go and that it never has been. We need to as a global society understand that only through dialogue we will be able to sustainable move forward into the future.

Too many global issues we have at hand – global warming, the war on terror, the global economy – are now being controlled and their solutions are being directed by a smaller number of people trying to obscure the path to the future. I have said this before that it is not a political statement but a human statement for the future. We all need to realize that the only sustainable way to walk into the future is to start to shape a global society and thereafter behave as such. This is truly not an original thought. Does United Nations and European Union ring a bell? The difference however is that we today via technology can build these borderless friendships if we only learn to embrace our differences and realize that we are very similar when it comes to it. When it comes down to it we want to live a peaceful life, work, eat, have kids sleep and most of all be with friends and family without feeling threatened. This is so simple.

Events such as the assassination of Benazir Bhutto makes me sad not only because of the death of a person, with significance whether you liked the political agenda of her or not, but it also makes me angry because we are letting the bad elements of this world to control and to some extent shape our future. Why do we let them? It shouldn’t be that way. It can change. Call me naive, but I will continue to believe this is the right way.

A friend said it so well: “Sitting here catching up in a pine and aspen grove on the slopes of the Jackson Hole ski resort. Bhutto’s death seems so far away, and so discouraging…”

I agree…

Sitting in the comfortable environment in Palo Alto is also a bit strange as you think back on what is happening around the world right now. However we should all try to find our role here and see how we should influence the future. I believe my role is here now.

Personally and all my friends knows this, I am such a profound believer of the open dialogue and the true freedom of speech. The first step is to embrace the differences with your enemy but you should also always, always look into yourself what you can do, what your part of the issue is. We are all part of a global society and we should start to realize that. Call it butter fly effect, the “pass it forward”-effect, but all our actions have some effect and the best way is to start to reflecting on how our behavior influences other people and if we have the right to do so. When it comes to violence I believe this is such an easy answer – violence never work.

In order for us to move forward here we need a global dialogue between all the world’s citizens about every issues – huge, small, big or just the average everyday issue we face. This is how we will progress as a society and this is what I sincerely believe we can do at

Therefore, please help me spread the word as a sincerely believe the only way to move beyond this endless violence is to promote dialogue between citizens across the globe. The future lies in the unedited dialogue between the citizens of the world so let us start this dialogue now.

Very much as I did for the events in Lebanon last summer I thought it would be good to get people around the world and in particular in Pakistan to share their views about what is happening there after the assassination of Bhutto. Please spread the word about the pages below where anyone can contribute their opinions, ask questions or just let the world know how you feel. We will not edit any content at the site so everything is unedited. It is a free, unedited, unmediated forum for everyone to give their side of the story and to tell the rest of the world about events that matter. If you choose to contribute via cellphone (SMS, MMS and email) use the following numbers: +45-609-91-0280; +61-427-22-9537; (for images).

Here is the event page for the tragic death of Benazir where you will find news stories, blogs, first hand accounts, videos and images about the assassination showing you all the angles of the event, please give us yours.

A page with any content related to Benazir Bhutto including other parts she was part of. Let us know what your feelings are about her and her work.

(A more general presentation of allvoices is found here: )