There are No "Regular Results" in Google Search, and There Never Were

There is merit in seeking out less myopic search results.

There are no “regular results” on Google search anymore, there never were, and there never will be. DuckDuckGo made this nice promotional video that bemoans the many tentacles that Google has dipped into our lives; they know what we like, what we look for, and how we use the internet. Google gives us more of what we want; it mines our data and sets us down the path of webby self-absorption. It inflates Eli Pariser’s filter bubble.

DuckDuckGo proposes we duck out. It promises to give us “clean” search results, bereft of the sticky residue of previous queries. DuckDuck won’t mine our data, won’t share our secrets, and won’t contort the digital landscape into something that better resembles our own personal preferences. Liberals don’t get more HuffPo, conservationists don’t get more NatGeo, Republicans don’t get more Fox, and systems analysts don’t get more TechDirt. Or something like that.

It’s all pretty admirable, but remember this; you may run from your biases, you may seek out leveler codes, but there are no neutral platforms. Someone must always decide what goes where in the information architecture we enter: Search ‘Obama’, and the first result not tied to his campaign, Wikipedia, or government is Politico, the right-leaning DC rag that chronicles Congress’s every fart. The New York Times, a storied newspaper with a record of solid reportage and fact-checking, comes second.

Which, whatever. But the point is that the algorithm can never give equal play to both sides of everything; there will be curatorial inconsistencies by another hand if not our own. And Google gives us more of what we want but we also want more of what we want — Pariser himself pivoted from probing the filter bubble to again helping to blow it up; his new venture Upworthy is an uber-partisan Dem-friendly content-sharer. Think MoveOn but clicky and fun enough to forget you’re playing with MoveOn.

Opting out of Google’s hyperactive data-mining operations may be reason enough to go Duck. And there is merit seeking out less myopic search results. But be weary of bursting your own filter bubble just to enter someone else’s.