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Re: Personalization is hard. So what?

Philipp Lenssen [PersonRank 10]

Friday, April 1, 2005
17 years ago

Blogger's comments at Greg's blog have been down for many days for me, so I'll continue the discussion here:

Greg, I went to and they gave me these definitions for "objective": "Uninfluenced by emotions or personal prejudices", "Based on observable phenomena".

Let's not talk about Findory, let's talk about search results (that, as you may know by now, was my target when I discussed personalization problems).
Search results that are fed by my personal prejudices will cease to be objective, and become subjective. Also, they will cease to be observed by others, thus cease to be objective in this sense. Subjective, the oppositve of objective, means "particular to a given person". Personalized search results would be particular to me. I'm not sure I'd like that.

It starts when redirects me to German-language I want to see the English Google for a variety of reasons and simply reject these weak attempts at personalization. And this one's actually based on a very sound assumption – geolocation – which indeed finds out I'm located in Germany.

But I can see your point as well. Any sort of ranking/ show-or-hide-this algorithm needs to be initially programmed by developers who themselves have a subjective world view. But we need to see a precise distinction to most other actual personalization: personalization in SEs as its mostly discussed reacts on preferences of *content* and thus, when you prefer art (or tech, or sports), you'd get a stronger focus on art (or tech, or sports) in search results. This is a content-based distinction. I don't think search engines do this kind of content-bias normally, without personalization. I wouldn't like it in my search results, because Google et al should be pull, not push.

Greg Linden [PersonRank 1]

17 years ago #

Hi, Philipp. Sorry that the comments are down. As I'm sure you know, Blogger has been suffering under scaling problems. Sigh.

On the definition of objective, I don't mean to argue on minor semantic differences, but I think the "prejudices" part of the definition means that the bias has to be preconceived and not based on knowledge. But, regardless, I think your broader point here is that the personalization needs to be based on understandable, observable rules to make people comfortable.

There's a couple ways to deal with that. The first is to always allow people to see the unpersonalized results. The personalization might be the default, but the unpersonalized results would be lower on the page or a click away, not missing entirely. The second is to always explain the personalization. For example, on Amazon and Findory, you can get an explanation for any personalization, so the process is transparent and observable.

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