The fifth round of the StormDriver Caption Contest is now officially over, and that’s why it’s time to tell you what was the original intention behind our fifth picture. It was hitting some high notes with all the flag waving, sun rays, and heaps of broken robots. But what did we want to tell you?
Well, many of you guessed correctly. A good portion of submissions described a triumph over robots. Robots with a looking glass symbol.
Today, most of us have two ways of finding interesting content. We have our tried and tested sites that we like to visit – they can be anything from HuffPost to Digg. And if we’re looking for something not found there, we simply use a search engine.
Here’s what your average search looks like:
1) You type your query into the search engine.
2) Your query travels the internet until it reaches the Search Engine’s Headquarters.
3) At Search Engine’s Headquarters, your query is received by a robot. This nice shiny fellow goes to the library and matches your query against reports left by an army of smaller robots, that constantly walk around the web, looking at all the texts and hyperlinks. The reports are sometimes 24-hours old, and there are some places that the smaller robots are not admitted to (eg. Facebook updates).
4) Our robot makes a list of all the sites he can find in his library, that seem to match the chains of characters in your query. If you wrote “cribs”, he will add all the places relevant to baby cribs, all the places about TV show Cribs, all the places about a band called Cribs. Plus a ton of other things, and a Brazilian guy whose nickname happens to be the same.
5) Our robot takes this list of mixed, ambiguous results, and then ranks them, using his magic ranking wand. We don’t know exactly how this wand works, but a lot of people tried to reverse-engineer it. They learned some shady tricks, and managed to fool the wand into giving them much better rankings.
6) Our robot adds a sprinkle of fairy dust. He’s promoting the sites he is programed to like, and he’s penalizing the ones he shouldn’t like. It is said that his master’s main competitors tend to get the short end of the stick.
7) After the list is finished, our robot adds some promoted results. They are things his masters told him to attach to all queries about certain topics.
8 ) Our robot sends you back the results in a tidy package. The package is quite hefty. It contains 132 000 pages chockfull of links and random page clips. Because no human being could dig through all of them, you read three top pages and then chuck the rest to the bin.
9) The thing you were REALLY looking for was somewhere on page 45 129.
What do we think about this process? It’s complicated, long, it gives ambiguous results, it’s prone to cheats. Most importantly, it involves way too many robots with a brainpower of ADHD afflicted Gebril.
It’s not like we want to get rid of robots completely. We just want to carve our niche for genuine human feedback, and human-based ranking and categorization. Where Google has it’s indexing crawlers, we will have real users – their histories, habits, votes.
And that’s what’s on the picture. Real users, like you, triumphing over a bunch of Google-colored bots.
There’s still one question left. Why does one of the figures closely resemble a certain well-known MD? To be honest, we have no idea. It’s a secret of our cartoonist.
Being an inspired guy, maybe he wanted to emphasize the fact that smart people should come before robots? There might be something in it. Just imagine, if you’re suffering from a strange condition, would you rather accept the diagnosis from the first “I’m feeling lucky” result of Google search? Or would you rather consult someone with a medical degree?
To carry this line of thought further: if you’re looking for a nice site about cars, would you rather ask the search index and get a site that spent most money on online advertisement, positioning and SEO? Or would you rather visit a site that car fans actually recommend?
Isn’t it strange? In life we always consult the real, human specialists – or at least ask our friends. But on the web, we bow before algorithms, bots, crawlers. Why should we settle for less where it matters? That’s why we want to throw down the robot regime, harness the collective knowledge, and use it instead.