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Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Personal Google Agent, Job of the Future?

There’s so much information out there on any given person – including, at times, false information – it becomes hard to keep track. Let alone, act on the information when you see it’s wrong. Say, someone posted a comment in a web forum saying, “John Doe is a fraudster who stole my identity.” It takes time to react. You might need to subscribe to a forum, post a counter-view, or write to webmasters alerting them of corrections. You need to dig through Google Web Search, Google Groups, Yahoo et al.

So now, what if there would be a personal “Egogoogle Agent” to help do all that? You would simply provide a profile of your interests and a bio. It would contain several “public” facts, as well as a list of potential misconceptions. The Egogoogle Agent would now get paid a certain sum for discovering and fighting misinformation online. As she is highly specialized, she’d also have the right tools to do this effectively (and cheaper than any single one of us “non-egogoogle Agents”).

It’s important here that the Agent would not be paid for every piece of misinformation that’s found, because that ironically may motivate some agents to start creating misinformation to score a higher removal quantity. (It’s like when programmers get paid per fixed bug, which introduces a certain incentive to create bugs.)

Of course, a same or similar job is a PR agency making sure a company’s online image is presented right. That would actually consist of an additional feedback loop of telling the company what they’re doing wrong – because you can’t set a record straight if the accusation on a blog or similar news source simply is true. Yeah, you can spin it, but blogspace is large, and it’s constantly chewing bits and pieces to then spit out the facts... and if you lie, there’s a good chance you’ll be caught.

And now here’s a question: when was the last time you read about Sony? And where was it? Was it the homepage? Heck, I don’t think I have entered “” in all my life, and I do read a lot about them online! Only that I don’t have incentive to visit their front-door, because that’d be like asking for ads. No, you probably read about Sony in blogs like Boing Boing or mainstream news like CNet. And that’s what shapes your opinion. In all the discussion taking place about a given company its actual homepage seems to be the most irrelevant part. Unless, maybe, it gets things right by spinning off blogs or viral microsites.

A Personal CompanyGoogle Agent could have the job of doing nothing else but track online information, report it back to headquarters, and set the record straight if false accusations are made. To prevent turning this into something akin to comment spam, of course, the company shouldn’t dump press releases or form letters – they should actually personally reply to what’s being said online.

Now there’s the possibility here I’m talking out of a “blog bubble” which limits my vision. I’m sure there are certain people who never read a blog in their life and actually do look for online. Even then, we need to remember one thing; blogs shape more opinions then the ones of their readers, because their readers themselves may be “authority hubs” in Real Life. They may educate others about misbehaving companies (say, those terrible DRM schemes of several bigger ones). Even if someone has never read a blog in her entire life, that someone may well have felt the blog’s shockwave, and a Google agent could make sure the wave isn’t sending false signals.


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