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November 19, 2006

Google CSE Experiment #3 – The Wisdom of the Crowd


Google Custom Search Engines (CSEs) can be the product of one person working alone, a defined team, or an open collaboration.  My newest CSE – Fractals of Change Reader Choices – is the latter.  You are welcome to help make this search engine better.

“Better at what?”  is a very good question.  A CSE should have a mission statement.  Most will probably be very specific but this CSE is pretty general: “a selection of blogs chosen by readers of Fractals of Change to be relevant and interesting on the many subjects covered in this blog.”


“Why would you search here rather than search the whole Internet?” Actually, when you search here you do search the whole Internet but preference is given to those websites you readers have added to the list.  So, if you know websites which are quite authoritative but don’t have good search engine rankings, this is an opportunity help those sites gain exposure and to help your fellow readers find good information from sites that might usually be in the nether pages of search engine results.


“How do I volunteer?”  I was hoping you’d ask.  If you’re already on the Fractals of Change site,  just look near the top of the left sidebar and you’ll see the custom search box pictured above.  If you’re reading this post in a feed reader or email, click here and you’ll see the search box.  The link to “Volunteer to Improve FOC Reader Choices” is the one you want to follow.


In order to be a volunteer, you need to sign up for Google Coop; it’s free but sort of a pain.  When you volunteer, you’ll be taken to the Coop signup page if you’re not already a known member.  Please be sure to give yourself a name and a location in the Coop profile – it doesn’t force you to but I’m requiring that.  In fact, I don’t care if it’s your real name and have no way to verify.  But, without this requirement, I’d have no way to remove those who might be using this capability for spamming purposes.


The way this all works is that, once you volunteer, you need to be approved.  That’ll usually happen within a day (unless I’m hopelessly offline) and is automatic so long as you provide a name and a location since I really won’t know anything about you.


As a volunteer you can both add sites and recommend that sites be EXCLUDED from searches.  Interesting to see what you do.  It’s OK to recommend that a site be excluded because it’s dull, pompous, or inaccurate; but please don’t exclude sites just because you don’t agree with them.  Our CSE should be one that has articulate opinions on both sides of an issue.


There’s an obvious temptation to use anything which has open input for spam.  People are going to make pocket change adding worthless sites to CSEs to improve the search engine rankings of those sites and get eyeballs.  Robots will probably be developed for this purpose.  There’ll be a war between the makers of spamming tools and anti-spamming tools.  Frankly, one part of this experiment is to see who wins.  Too much spam will make CSEs worthless.


If the owner of a CSE boots a volunteer off the island, all the volunteer’s recommendations get deleted too.


Please help if you’re so inclined.


[Full disclosure:  Google runs ads on CSEs; CSE owners can’t turn these off unless they’re non-profit organizations which I am not.  CSE owners can share in any revenue from these ads, however, which I do (or at least will if there is any revenue).  The ads are picked by the Google robot presumably based on the search query so no telling what’ll show up.]


Other posts in this series:


Google CSE – Why It May be the NBT


Uses for Google Custom Search Engines – Let Me Count the Ways


Google Custom Search Engine – Framing the Results(how to get search engine results to show up on the pages of your site)


Google Co-op – Experiment #1  (a CSE which searches My Way Network blogs)


Google Co-op – Experiment # 2  (a CSE maintained by the authors of My Way network blogs)

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