2.25.2011

Algorithms don't think (and people are lazy)

IBM's "Watson" trounced human Jeopardy champions... thanks to total, and near instantaneous, recall of terabytes of data. But sorting data is not thinking -- hardly an insightful observation on my part.

A search for "woodward mountain trail" on Google.

This site receives very little traffic. There are some valid reasons for this -- it's mostly just diffuse, repetitive self-absorbed rambling -- and also "blogging is dead", as described in the New York Times*.

Somehow along the way, however, I have written a few posts that rank reasonably highly in Google's search algorithm. As more people click through on a given search result, it moves up in the search results, and the higher it moves up in the search results, the more people click through. The process feeds on itself.

One of the posts that has achieved a high Google ranking is the record of my first ski on the Woodward Mountain trail back in 2008. When I wrote this post there wasn't much information available online about this trail, research was not productive... just vague rumors and hearsay.

Position number #2 on Google.

The problem is, that this highly ranked post is far from the only post on this site having to do with the Woodward Trail. There are seven posts addressing this topic, plus many more on my various misadventures in Ricker Basin -- a plethora of information (words, images, video, GPS tracks) on a relatively undocumented part of the world.

These shortcomings are a dual failure on my part -- a failure to create compelling, 'sticky' content that would entice readers to delve more deeply and spend more time on the site.

It is also an ontological failure, if the site was better organized and categorized, and more consciously optimized for the search engines, perhaps information would be more accessible -- and accessed.

But it's also a flaw in the algorithm: A post was written, it has become highly ranked, and that is that -- all other content remains hidden.

Finally, it's also a flaw in human nature, especially in this flighty, short-attention-span online world: Users want information fast and obvious. That which requires exploration and time to uncover is resolutely ignored...

I'm not sure what the point of this post is except to point out that Google has come to play a pretty big part of modern life, and yet, like oracles of old, it is quite capricious in its prognostications... and also to vainly implore visitors to this site to poke around a bit and explore because Midnight Modern Conversation is not entirely random or diffuse -- there's probably related information around if one takes a moment to look.

Finally here is a link to my posts having to do with the Woodward Mountain Ski Trail, which runs between Bolton and Little River State Park, Waterbury, Vermont.**
*If the NYT is describing a trend (death of blogging, etc.) there is a good chance that there's more to the story than what appears in the paper.

**A deliberately unsubtle example of SEO copywriting.

No comments: