I just read in the Wall Street Journal about the personalized search results from Google. (Sorry, no link as I read the good ol’ paper edition.) I have heard about them and seen them before. This is probably one of the things I have a very, very hard time to accept. For me, the main characteristic of any search engine is objectivity and unbiasedness of the search results. The objectivity and unbiasedness that you get the “actual facts”. I do understand the philosophical issue with that statement – “actual facts” – in itself as an actual fact indeed “was” the sun orbiting around the earth and not the other way around. Yet we all really do know what it means. Getting the results that is not necessarily what we want to see, read or realize but what the “real” answer is.
There are many occasions where personalization makes makes perfect sense. Or let us put this as filtering as the true meaning. It puts an enormous “pressure” on the user to be critical and aware of their choices during the process. I doubt the common searcher will think in these terms. I would say it is rather foolish to believe the common searcher (regardless of educational level, experience or any other adequate characteristic of the searcher) to make this decision. We are lazy by nature. Yep, we are. Nooo, Erik! Sorry, but we are… At least the predominant part. :-)
I think this is a dangerous development even tough I see all the business reasons behind it. You satisfy the “customer”. They get what they want, you get what you want. But do we as a society get what we need? Not at all. I guess that is the core issue. Who should win here? The individual or the community?
That’s a tough one.
I do not have an answer, but I do believe it is not a healthy, sustainable path… But then again that is my opinion. Right or wrong. I guess I should ask Google for it. At least now I can prove that I am right. :-)