Posts tagged ‘knowledge’


Even the web is forgetting our history

26.04.2020


Hernán Piñera/Creative Commons/CC BY-SA 2.0

My friend Richard MacManus wrote a great blog post in February on the passing of Clive James, and made this poignant observation: ‘Because far from preserving our culture, the Web is at best forgetting it and at worst erasing it. As it turns out, a website is much more vulnerable than an Egyptian pyramid.’
   The problem: search engines are biased to show us the latest stuff, so older items are being forgotten.
   There are dead domains, of course—each time I pop by to our links’ pages, I find I’m deleting more than I’m adding. I mean, who maintains links’ pages these days, anyway? (Ours look mega-dated.) But the items we added in the 1990s and 2000s are vanishing and other than the Internet Archive, Richard notes its Wayback Machine is ‘increasingly the only method of accessing past websites that have otherwise disappeared into the ether. Many old websites are now either 404 errors, or the domains have been snapped up by spammers searching for Google juice.’
   His fear is that sites like Clive James’s will be forgotten rather than preserved, and he has a point. As a collective, humanity seems to desire novelty: the newest car, the newest cellphone, and the newest news. Searching for a topic tends to bring up the newest references, since the modern web operates on the basis that history is bunk.
   That’s a real shame as it means we don’t get to understand our history as well as we should. Take this pandemic, for instance: are there lessons we could learn from MERS and SARS, or even the Great Plague of London in the 1660s? But a search is more likely to reveal stuff we already know or have recently come across in the media, like a sort of comfort blanket to assure us of our smartness. It’s not just political views and personal biases that are getting bubbled, it seems human knowledge is, too.
   Even Duck Duck Go, my preferred search engine, can be guilty of this, though a search I just made of the word pandemic shows it is better in providing relevance over novelty.
   Showing results founded on their novelty actually makes the web less interesting because search engines fail to make it a place of discovery. If page after page reveals the latest, and the latest is often commodified news, then there is no point going to the second or third pages to find out more. Google takes great pride in detailing the date in the description, or ‘2 days ago’ or ‘1 day ago’. But if search engines remained focused on relevance, then we may stumble on something we didn’t know, and be better educated in the process.
   Therefore, it’s possibly another area that Big Tech is getting wrong: it’s not just endangering democracy, but human intelligence. The biases I accused Google News and Facebook of—viz. their preference for corporate media—build on the dumbing-down of the masses.
   I may well be wrong: maybe people don’t want to get smarter: Facebook tells us that folks just want a dopamine hit from approval, and maybe confirmation of our own limited knowledge gives us the same. ‘Look at how smart I am!’ Or how about this collection?
   Any expert will tell you that the best way to keep your traffic up is to generate more and more new content, and it’s easy to understand why: like a physical library, the old stuff is getting forgotten, buried, or even—if they can’t sell or give it away—pulped.
   Again, there’s a massive opportunity here. A hypothetical new news aggregator can outdo Google News by spidering and rewarding independent media that break news, by giving them the best placement—as Google News used to do. That encourages independent media to do their job and opens the public up to new voices and viewpoints. And now a hypothetical new search engine could outdo Google by providing relevance over novelty, or at least getting the balance of the two right.

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Posted in culture, interests, internet, media, New Zealand, publishing, technology, Wellington | No Comments »


Stefan Engeseth hits 1,000 posts on Detective Marketing blog

21.04.2011

Stefan Engeseth and Jack Yan
Martin Lindeskog

Congratulations to my good friend Stefan Engeseth on reaching 1,000 posts on his blog today!
   It’s even more of a milestone when you realize Stefan is not blogging in his native tongue. Add to that the fact that he suffers from dyslexia.
   But we follow his blog because we admire several qualities about him: his willingness to examine new ideas; his open-mindedness; and his love of learning, and sharing that knowledge with us all.
   You can add one more in my case: because he’s one of my closest friends and one of the most decent and generous human beings I have ever met.

Happy Easter, everyone!

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Posted in branding, business, internet, leadership, marketing, publishing, Sweden | 4 Comments »


Autocade grows to 1,100 models: slowly but surely

22.06.2010

Some weeks ago, as we neared this milestone, I planned to write a small blog post on reaching 1,100 cars at the Autocade site. And to show that these milestones are not rigged, we wound up with a fairly ghastly motor at that 1,100 mark.

Image:Nissan_Cherry_GL.jpg

Nissan Cherry (E10/KPE10). 1970–4 (prod. unknown). 2- and 4-door sedan, 3-door coupé, 3-door wagon. F/F, 988, 1171 cm³ (4 cyl. OHV). Small, front-wheel-drive range from Nissan, slotting beneath Sunny. First Nissan-designed car with front drive. Short front doors on all variants. Sporting model X-1 featured twin carburettors and 80 bhp. Unusually styled coupé (KPE10) from 1971, wagon from 1972. Mid-cycle update 1973. Exported usually as Datsun 100A and 120A. Usual Japanese virtues of quality, hitting Europe and American markets when they faced crises, and establishing Datsun as a leading player.

Yes, the old Cherry. Remember the horrible coupé model that looked like a mix of a regular Nissan Cherry, a SHADO Mobile from UFO, and a potato? It even looked bigger than the sedan—not what you’d usually expect when you consider the etymology of the word coupé.
   Although Autocade hasn’t become a car reference site that slips off the tongue of most enthusiasts, 1,100-plus entries are nothing to be sneezed at. I have even noticed that Wikipedia sometimes references it—supporting my theory that if it exists online, Wikipedia will believe it. Never mind that something might be totally legitimate and be covered in the international print press: if it can’t be found by the editors on Google, it doesn’t exist. So much for meritocratic coverage—because even Google will refuse to list certain things. (On this note, the current Yahoo! Search is more comprehensive.)
   But even then Wikipedia will get the occasional thing wrong. I noticed that its reference to the Camina, produced by Saehan of Korea, comes from Autocade. Yet it’s cited in Wikipedia as the Saehan Camina. Sorry, chaps: the vehicle was the Camina, with no reference to the company, although its successor was the Saehan Gemini.
   I’m not saying Autocade is perfect—I found a few errors myself today—but I spot so many errors on Wikipedia that could be avoided if all netizens—and I include myself—were more responsible. Like email, blogs and YouTube comments, many things on the ’net go into a form of decline once the original purpose is lost. Of course Wikipedia editors need to rely on search engines, because there are probably too many people abusing the site, creating a culture of suspicion. The initial wave of contributors who came on board, hoping to beat the encyclopædias, has gone. Senior editors need to find a final arbiter that is impartial, and a search engine’s robot is freer from bias than a human being.
   Perhaps I am being protective and even slightly hypocritical when I say I prefer the slow growth of Autocade, and its limited number of sysops, to the rapid development of Wikipedia. Of course information should be free, but the limited scope of Autocade helps ensure just a little more accuracy. The main problems I have with Wikipedia reflect less how many of its editors work (though I have cited at least one exception), and more how many of us choose to interact online, especially with the cloak of anonymity.
   You can’t change that without changing the way people work online and take pride in what they do—and that’s just not going to happen when certain governments are quite content to divide us into the information-rich and the information-poor. But that is a point for another discussion.

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Posted in cars, culture, internet, publishing, technology | 1 Comment »