T Nation

Filter Bubbles


I'm not sure if this is a GAL thing or a PWI thing.

I get emails from TED talks, they have interesting lectures. And there was a presentation given about this thing called the "Filter Bubble". Basically it is algorithms used buy Facebook, Google, Netflix, youtube and various internet sites to tailor your online experience. Meaning when I google Egypt and you(any of you) google Egypt we would not get the same results. So we are not all having access to the same online material. It was an interesting presentation.

Internet, not as democratic as we thought?


I think the person in the video, while his intentions are good, is way out of his element and as such really doesn't know what he's talking about.

Ever since people figured out they could make money on the internet, people have been manipulating the hell out of the search engines, in particular google as that is the one everyone uses. You cannot search for anything anymore (then again, you never could) without stumbling upon a page full of manipulated rankings. Some people manipulate within the "rules", some don't, but everyone is after the same thing: ranking at the top, as that traffic can be turned into money.

Algorithms are not humans and as such are prone to said manipulation. Most people have no idea how the game is played (like the guy in the video) and that it occurs on practically every important search you will ever produce. Google has to use some factors to come up with the results, and people have figured out the majority of those factors and then go on to artificially create them.

Google's defense to said manipulation? Rank wikipedia first for everything information related, rank amazon first for everything product related, and rank the aged .com first for everything else (particularly brand names). Try it out - type in any term which gets searched frequently and wikipedia will almost always be #1. Wikipedia even ranked first for Egypt for both people in this guy's example. Hell, they even rank #1 for "weight lifting" and "bench press". Bench Press? Really?

If you didn't know, by the way, various research groups have shown that anywhere from 36-60% (not providing sources, don't feel like looking it up - you can google it if you want) will click on the first result. As such, as long as the first result is something safe, they can rest assured that they will have no problems mixing up results 2-10. They can then safely gather data on who likes what and use it to refine their rankings.

My point is that these recent personalizations have allowed google some freedom to help prevent manipulation of their algorithm and return results that go beyond Wikipedia. If anything, google is trying to open the information gate back up.

Of course, if you want to disable google's manipulation of your results and fight the man, you can head to:


Which scrapes google results and presents unpersonalized results. I will warn you, however, that after using scroogle you will be wanting your personalized results back!


This is a talk about the algorithms filtering our online experience, not just google. Meaning we aren't aware of all that is available on the net, putting us in our own little "bubble". Meaning each individual is in a bubble.

I think he knows what he is talking about and most people know how search engines work, advertisement etc. The tailoring to our own needs is a little newer though.


I am aware what the talk is about. I understand that he thinks algorithms shouldn't be filtering his data, but I simply disagree.

First off, if we're talking about gatekeepers, it should be known google controls nearly all of the information flow, at least in North America. Source:


Facebook may one day in the far future may begin to eclipse google, but in real life google pretty much owns the control of information. As such, if you're going to talk about gatekeepers, the only important one is google. NetFlix movie queues? Not relevant.

Ask any person on the street how google determines its rankings and they will say they don't know or they had never thought about it before. Most people see google as a black box and have never cared to look inside - as long as it works they are happy. 99.99% (probably less) of the world's population has no idea about even the most basic elements of search and rankings.

Color me skeptical, but when a political activist starts spouting off about how search engines should work, even at TED, I have to wonder how much time he has really spent around search engines. If you think google shouldn't be personalizing results, it tells me that you really have not spent enough time around search engines to know what kind of mess google would be right now if they didn't have dozens of signals they could use to personalize results.

As an aside, there are two major reasons Facebook made their changes and it was absolutely out of necessity. It's simple really: the average person has way more friends than they are really friends with. This wasn't a big problem until apps got really popular, and games like FarmVille made Facebook feeds virtually worthless. You can block apps, but why compromise user experience and make people block a ton of apps when you can just filter out weak acquaintances who's daily life does not concern you?

The bottom line is that for the vast majority of the population, any sort of personalized bubble will be a vast improvement to their user experience. It's a simple realization of the answer to the question.. "What would be the consequences of banning personalized data?".

Pros: Algorithms might make a mistake or they will filter out "challenging" data.

Cons: Your search results will be flooded with things you don't want to see.

If my search engine filters out spam results pages or facebook filters spam from zynga games from people I never talk to, or if yahoo news filters out yet another article on kate's wedding dress, I will be perfectly OK with that.


I read the thread title and was reminded of this gem



LMAO. Thanks for that.. must have missed it the first time around


So that's why I get this result on google's autosuggest?


Well....are Mormon chicks easy?

Click and find out!

jk <3


He questioned how the algorithms were doing it.


I thought the exact same thing.