Are You Searching Within Your Own Personal Bubble?

I am a big fan of the TED’s series of seminars and recently came across a really interest talk called “Beware online “filter bubbles” By Eli Pariser.
The simple premise presented during this seminar is that search personalisation where search engines track you and try to tailor the results based on your past searching and clicking history has gone too far.

The funny things is that not that long ago, “Results tailored to you” was supposed to be a positive, now somehow its a bad thing? I think personalisation still plays a role when it comes to fact based searching. For example, being in IT myself, I am perfectly fine with search engines filtering out things related to Java (the coffee variety!) and focus on the programming language when I do search for the term “Java”. For a coffee lovers on the other hand, the results should focus on the other variety.

It’s only when you you bring in the context of subjectivity that things get a little murky. This is especially true in a political context, since you typically click on things you “AGREE WITH” you tend to get more of them. So it is alleged that the same search for “Barrack Obama” will yield two completely different result sets with one set more focused around contents from “MSNBC” (supposed to be more pro-democrat?) and the other set more focused around contents from Fox news (more pro-republican?). The worst part of it (hence the bubble that you can’t get out!) is that it becomes a vicious cycle.

So how do you get out of the search engine personal bubble? Alternative search engines such as Duck Duck Go presents itself as the solution. In fact, they have dedicated a whole URL to try to explain this key differentiation point of theirs. The whole idea is that they don’t track you, don’t lock you in a bubble and the search result you see is exactly the same as someone on the other side of the planet. The associated benefit being that since they don’t track you, don’t store your search history, they are the web’s angelic angel when it comes to protecting your privacy.

I think the verdict is still out on this one….


  1. ART says

    I believe your previous to last post was from December 2nd, 2009.I hope you just took a long break and had not been sick.Are you back for real this time? I hope you do.

    Well, isn’t this “bubble” thing an analogy of real life?According to Dr. Eric Berne (the creator of the Transactional Analysis) our best friends are those who reinforce our “existential position”.Namely the ones that AGREE with us in the most important issues –where the importance is determined by us–.

    This is a phenomenon that has another face, one that is going to be exploited by Google via its Google+ product.What am I talking about? After being using Facebook for a number of years, people are realizing just now that they had been in touch with people almost by force (social pressure that is) they don’t really want in their lives, and now they want out.

    Perhaps people dont want more sobbing, complaining and crying by people with thin skin that feel deeply offended because their e-mails or tweets or blogs or Facebook posts or whatever it is they produce die unanswered. You may want to read this:

    Now, going back to search engines, if you feel like getting exposure to new things, to different things, if you feel like not falling prey to routine, why dont you buy a cultural magazine, subscribe to a newspaper, retake READING BOOKS, go to museums, enroll in night curses at your local college or use the Ixquick metasearch engine (if privacy is such a main concern for you)?

    There are options all right but maybe we are too cozy living in our comfort zone and want somebody else to take care of this bubble problem.

  2. Felix says

    wow, I wasn’t expecting such a deep and meaningful answer, but great feed back ART !And thanks for the encouragement! I am now back and more passionate about search than ever!

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