tecznotes

Michal Migurski's notebook, listening post, and soapbox. Subscribe to this blog. Check out the rest of my site as well.

Oct 11, 2004 8:13pm

to game, or to optimize?

So sayeth the Online Journalism Review:

"I think what you're seeing is an odd little linguistic artifact," said Zuckerman, former vice president of Tripod.com and now a fellow at Harvard's Berkman Center for Internet and Society who studies search engines. The chief culprit, he theorized, is that mainstream news publications refer to the senator on second reference as Kerry, while alternative news sites often use the phrase "John Kerry" multiple times, for effect or derision. To Google News' eye, that's a more exact search result.

A second possible factor, Zuckerman said, is that small, alternative news sites have no hesitancy about using "John Kerry" in a headline, while most mainstream news sites eschew first names in headlines. The inadvertent result is that the smaller sites score better results with the search engines.

...

What Zuckerman calls gaming the system, others call optimizing your site.

Oh man.

I don't think it's an odd linguistic artifact, I think it's a technological broadside against The Rockridge Institute's Strategic Framing Initiative, a linguistic project aiming to shift the terms of contemporary political debate. Word choice is everything. The Rockridge Institute hopes to frame the terms of debate about economics and politics by developing a common language (e.g. "moral economy") with embedded assumptions about the metrics that ought to matter.

If link text is to language as URL is to meaning, then Googlebombing is a strategic framing initiative of its own, and what what J.D. Lasica is seeing with Google News is a new kind of "discourse optimization," with all the beauty and nastiness that entails.

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