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November 21, 2004

John Dvorak Says "Erase It"

John Dvorak, noted computer industry crankcase, was kind enough to link to my blog and explain that he has issues with my claim that the continued #1 spot for Microsoft on the MSN Search anal sex results was actually a good sign (Dvorak includes an excellent head-in-ass picture, must check out).

MSN's Search site includes a page about site ranking, which explains that it is completely automated (and the ranking is indeed changing, since Rick Santorum's website is no longer in the top ten of the above query).

This actually reminds me of the attempts Microsoft made to run 16-bit Windows code on 32-bit Windows by constructing a perfect simulation of 16-bit Windows. They eventually discovered it was too hard; you had to put in hacks to detect certain misbehaving applications. The situation with search is not quite the same (in particular nobody doubts that making an app run is a good thing, if the alternative is it failing; with search, you are in more murky waters comparing one set of search results to an infinite possibility of others). Still I wonder if MSN Search will be able to keep its purity.

Dvorak claims that it is well-known that Google hand tweaks its results. I don't know if this is true. I am pretty sure they started out wanting to keep the results purely algorithm-driven; they had to change this in response to lawsuits, but I don't know if they had done it in response to "bad" results.

Actually Dvorak brings an interesting perspective because he says Google is hand-tweaking for the benefit of users. Meaning, get the Microsoft page out of the results so that it doesn't interfere with people who are looking for real anal sex pages. I never really thought of it that way. To me the issue was do you remove something that is embarrassing to Microsoft -- in other words hand tweak the results for the benefit of Microsoft itself. Isn't that the kind of thing Microsoft wants to avoid, for the sake of our overall reputation as an honest company? Unfortunately that seems to be conflicting with our reputation as a producer of accurate search engines (I think the issue might be clearer cut if the link were to another company).

I should disclaim the fact that I don't work on MSN Search, and I know nothing about their plans to handle this kind of issue. I expect that the link will disappear soon, and nobody will really know if it was better algorithms or hand fixups.

Posted by AdamBa at November 21, 2004 09:47 PM

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Man, if you keep this up, YOUR SITE will be the top of the rankings for "anal sex" on both MSN and Google!

Perhaps that is your subtle plan....

Posted by: John Vert at November 22, 2004 10:49 AM

Just taking one for the team...

- adam

Posted by: Adam Barr at November 23, 2004 12:17 AM