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January 17, 2005

When PageRank Goes Bad!

I was idly curious about what people thought of Jo Walton's (excellent) novel Tooth and Claw, so I googled "Jo Walton" "Tooth and Claw" and found that the first item returned was:

Google Search: "jo walton" "tooth and claw" : Brad DeLong's Semi-Daily Journal: A Weblog: On Reading Jo Walton's ...
... On Reading Jo Walton's "Tooth and Claw"... Jo Walton (2003), Tooth and Claw (New York: Tor: 0765349094) really is as delightful as I was told it would be. ...
www.j-bradford-delong.net/ movable_type/2005-3_archives/000053.html - 15k - Cached - Similar pages

This is a little too self-referential. I'm very happy to have a high PageRank--and thus to appear at the top of google search results--when people are searching for things about economics, or public policy, or history (especially economic history). When someone is searching for criticisms and assessments of science-fiction and fantasy works, however, my PageRank should be low.

Are you listening google? I want a finer-grained semantically-oriented PageRank, please. If not, things may get ugly...

Posted by DeLong at January 17, 2005 01:37 PM


You were 148th on a Yahoo! web search. Do you have friends at Google? Enemies at Yahoo!? Perhaps the two search engines have a different weighting for blogs.

Posted by: modus potus at January 17, 2005 02:24 PM

Nonsense. It is working just fine.

I'd rather have your review of a science fiction novel than most other people's, precisely because you write knowledgeably and intelligently about economics and public policy and the history of same.

Posted by: Robert Ullmann at January 17, 2005 02:53 PM

For what it's worth, I finished it the other day and it is indeed excellent...

Posted by: Andrew Gray at January 17, 2005 03:05 PM

You realize, of course, that you have just increased the page rank rank of your review..

Posted by: Dan Ryan at January 17, 2005 03:06 PM

Don't diss yourself. We all read Abu Aardvark for your science fiction movie reviews.

Posted by: No Preference at January 17, 2005 03:25 PM

Well, you could always search for:

tooth-and-claw "jo walton" -site:www.j-bradford-delong.net.

Posted by: fling93 at January 17, 2005 04:55 PM

But maybe its that only you and six other people who read the blog ever read the book.

Posted by: pragmatic_realist at January 17, 2005 05:33 PM

People wanting to undestand why google gives silly results sometimes and favors bloggers should see the articles at Google Watch.

They have some other interesting things to say about google's cookies and gmail too.

Posted by: Shayne Weyker at January 17, 2005 06:46 PM

Uh..I'm sorry. This request for Reduced PageRank is completely silly. I think it is time that you had a Gibletsian moment and said what you really feel:

"Bow down to me, Jo Walton! Bow down to Brad DeLong noooow!"

Bloggers wishing they were less influential in fields they don't know much about...sheesh. What *is* the world coming to...

[Well, yes. But I managed to suppress it. And I have sworn to use my PageRank never for evil.

Besides, it's "Booowwww dooowwwwn to Giblets! Booowwww dooowwwnnn nnnooowww!"]

Posted by: Jonathan.W.King at January 17, 2005 09:03 PM

I want a finer-grained semantically-oriented PageRank, please. If not, things may get ugly...

These waters are getting deeper. I just googled for "ugly" and this very same item came up.

I beg you all: don't, for the love of god, google for "these waters are getting deeper" or self-referentiality may go into an endless loop... loop... loop... loop

Posted by: Ralph at January 17, 2005 10:05 PM

When page ranks go bad is something I was dealing with a few weeks ago. Maybe 5 people read my blog on an average day. I throw in a rant at the end of some unrelated post about how halftime at the Orange Bowl was a travesty, accidentally including Ashley Simpson, video, audio, clip, etc all in the same post. I was getting hundreds of hits a day from people. Tomorrow, American Idol begins and I'm gonna test out the idea that citing crap pop culture in blog posts can fool search engines and bring idiots with bad taste a running. Call it an experiment.

Posted by: wunderdog at January 18, 2005 12:31 AM

Oops, that looks bad, I'm not implying that the book you're talking about is crap pop culture, only Ashley Simpson and American Idol. Arghh. Shoot. Me. Now.

Posted by: wunderdog at January 18, 2005 12:35 AM

Back in the day when people actually had to use books (pages sewn in 'signatures' and then bound between cardboard covers) those of us with more time than brains would play a little game to see how complex our dictionaries might be.

Pick a word, any word, then find its definition. Pick a key word from the definition and find a definition for THAT word, and so on.

See how long the loop is that leads back to the original word. The longer the loop, the better the dictionary.

Posted by: Jon Koppenhoefer at January 18, 2005 02:38 AM

I bow down to the Google Fu of Brad DeLong. It's actually the fourth hit on just my name, though Google does put my web page and my livejournal above it. Lo, you are mighty.

If you actually want Tooth and Claw reviews, Strange Horizons, SF Site and Green Man were all good discussions, and Kirkus (available on Amazon) really thoroughly failed to understand it. Locus and F&SF also had interesting reviews, but they're google-impaired -- as Jens Kilian once said, you can't grep dead goats.

Posted by: Jo Walton at January 18, 2005 06:36 AM

Better than being known as a source for Bharats secret party....tag you're it? They're smart guys at Google, they'll figure out a way to let people *decide* themselves whether they'd like to see reviews of scienc fiction by people generally thought of as giving such, whether people would like to include thougths on the book by univerity proffesors higher than book sellers etc....a few dozen navigation buttons would help for people who cared to hone things in themselves.

"fixing" the problem by not allowing people who'd want to know to see you review wouldn't be much a fix as robert u points out.

Andrew G's point is something I've found pretty hilarious personally. Talks about such a mistake on a blog and you wear the track to your "house" all the deeper...sort of like accidently putting one of those marks in front of your house that the hobos used during the depression and then feeding more because more came by (even if your feed ratio were low) and reinforcing a mistake.

Posted by: Tom Norian at January 18, 2005 07:15 AM

Better news is that DeLong is the #1 Google result for the phrase "shrill unholy madness". Aii!!!

[not shrillblog? :-(]

Posted by: Junior Horror at January 18, 2005 04:37 PM

For awhile, a blog entry of mine about a young woman badly disfigured in a drunk-driving related crash was the #1 Google result for a search on her name. There was later some national media about her, she appeared on Orpah, I think. A result of this was that my blog entry got dozens of comments from people thinking they were writing to this young woman. It was disturbing to me that my little blog entry got ranked as highly as it did relative to, for example, the woman's official site. It was worse in some ways that all this misdirected communication came my way. I just repeatedly posted an address where people could write directly to the young woman. That's about all I could do.

After I took a page offline that had been quite famous for almost ten years, my page rank on everything else slowly began to fall. That solved the problem. :)

Posted by: Keith M Ellis at January 18, 2005 11:33 PM

How does it feel to be so powerful?

Ask and you shall receive within 48 hours, from not just sixapart and Google, but Yahoo, MSN, Blogger, WordPress et al.

The whole thing got started with trying to remove the incentives from the comment-spanners. So a change in the software and a focus on semantics and, voila!

Via Joi Ito's web -- here's the sixapart explanation for how they're working with Google on semantics elements in page ranking process, with the first focus on enriching link information that differentiates author content and comments and trackbacks.

You could see how that would be a useful part of searching blogs for author and searchers alike. The world of semantic search logic beckons!



Posted by: nadezhda at January 19, 2005 10:02 AM