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Friday, April 18, 2008

Google’s Udi Manber Interviewed

Popular Mechanics interviewed Udi Manber, a Google vice president of engineering responsible for “core search,” as Google says. Udi argues search and ranking results is “about getting lots of signals and putting them all together,” adding that signals from people are the best signals. “Our goal is very simple,” Udi says, “We want to return to the user the answer that they need.” Asked about Google’s separation of organic result and ads on result pages, he answers:

When we decide to launch something, we have a weekly meeting where all those things come together and we look at all the evaluations and we make decisions – revenues and any effects on ads do not come into those meetings. We don’t even know what the effects are. We make the decisions solely based on how good it is for search, how good it is for users. The ads are on a different part of the page, and the ad people, I assume, do the same kind of thing and try to improve the ads.

Udi Manber also says “At Google we do not manually change results.” Google’s Matt Cutts at his blog adds, “That’s the right answer for a general/Popular Mechanics audience. For the nitpicking search junkies that read here, I’ll just add that we are willing to take manual action on a small number of issues like webspam and removals for legal reasons.” Removals for legal reasons include e.g. the removal of human rights watch or news sites in China. It’s also worth noting that even automated algorithms are manually created in the beginning and then evaluated by humans, and as such, the algos may have bias in certain directions.

[Thanks Juha-Matti Laurio! Image source photo by Google.]

Mechanical Turk Service + Experiments

The Dolores Labs offer to help you get Amazon’s Mechanical Turk work for your needs, and they set up a couple of interesting crowd intelligence experiments on their blog. (One of their experiments reminded of the CHI image sorting I discussed here before we had Mechanical Turk; another of their experiments used my Cover Browser as image source, a nice surprise!) Mechanical Turk, as you may know, is Amazon’s structured, programmable and paid approach to apply crowd intelligence to all kinds of tasks.


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