Thinking Out Loud

January 25, 2021

Google Minus the Minus Sign

Filed under: Christianity — Tags: , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 9:51 am

Do you use “search” regularly?

Do you get the feeling that the results you see when searching aren’t as good as they once were?

You’re not alone.

My wife sums it up succinctly, “Google no longer tells you what you want to see, they tell you what you should see.”

So how did we get here?

It started many years back when Google removed the minus button. Once upon a time, when you wanted to refine results within a search, you could use the minus button to tell the search engine what you did not want to see.

The guy you’re looking for isn’t the football player with the same name? You would just add “-football” or “-NFL” to your search terms. It wasn’t foolproof, but it definitely worked.

To delve into the science a bit more, Google support Boolean operators which in terms of logic commands consisted of NOT, OR, AND, and phrases placed in QUOTATION marks. So typing three words “in this form” was allowed, until Google announced it wasn’t (But WordPress supports it here on the blog. Feel free to use that to research particular phrases here or at our sister blog, Christianity 201.)

And then the minus sign was removed. And Google Blog search was removed. And a host of other options disappeared as Google decided to place its focus more on commercial website, and especially those who were part of a growing number of people paying to be seen at the top of page one results.

This also applies to the Google-owned platform, YouTube. If the title of the song you’re seeking is the same or almost the same as another much more popular, much more covered song, you are completely out of luck. One time, I took about ten minutes adding search criteria and trying to qualify the particular song title. Eventually I had to do other research to determine the original artist and one other keyword which did the trick.

This morning, I learned that in a January 14th announcement, Google had acquired FitBit, a process begun in November. The price was over $2 billion US. At the same time as federal regulators speak of the need to break up the Google empire, it allows acquisitions like this to go forward. The intrusion on every day life that this creates would have been unfathomable just a few years back. Google now knows when you are sleeping; it knows when you’re awake.

Make no mistake, Google does not provide information to users; it provides eyes and ears to advertisers.

This is so unfortunate because what was once upheld as the great promise of online technology — “when you’ve mastered search you’ve mastered the internet” — has been yanked away from users. There is probably no going back. This tech owns us. You’re no longer in the driver’s seat.

Google is the great sociological experiment and we are the rats. “To know, in order to predict, in order to control;” that goal of sociology playing out on both the micro and macro levels.

The further you can get away from all your devices each day, the better off you will be.

Related: From just last month, the story of Google’s conflating the image of a good friend with that of a person who died. Click here.

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