Ignorant search engines do not understand your life

June 10, 2015 § Leave a comment

Imagine buying a car, being really serious and excited about it, intending to get one as soon as possible. Or – imagine that you are just dreaming of buying one. We all know how stimulating it is to get started and to be engaged with the planning and eventual buying process. It is a personal and often a family adventure.

Then make a quick test and see how well the search engines understand you and your excited mental mode – your willingness to buy something wonderful and now! Try telling it to the best search engines.

Try putting “Intend to buy a car” to Google or Yahoo search. I was inspired to do this quick experiment when reading the exciting story about Yahoo: “Marissa Mayer and the fight to save Yahoo!” by Nicholas Carlson (2015). The book tells how the search engine competition is a continuous challenge to Yahoo and I though that my ideas might help them. I even tried to send a note to them but no luck in making this contact. So, I explain my motivations here.

Visiting Stanford I had some extra time to run a miniature experiment. In Figure 1 you can see the screen capture from the Google search and wonder – what are these algorithms thinking about my motivations and intentions, why don’t they care? (well, they have no interest whatsoever in my or your internal world, they just want to record your ‘clicks’). It is the mantra of today to claim that with Big Data they predict your behavior. But this is just nonsense. Most of the time they cannot do that and Big Data systems are impotent.

Intend_to_buy_a_car copy


Future 1.

In the search outcomes shown you can immediately see that they indeed are very sensitive to “buying” in any of its forms and they also get hooked to direct quotations like “intend to buy” etc. But these quotation matches can occur for any context and it does not help us in any way, the search gets totally lost and irrelevant to your present intentions and life in general. The list of search results (mistakes in buying, leasing vs. buying, bargaining etc) looks like the search engine was searching data for another robot, not a passionate, intentional and dynamic human being. Big mistake. The search engines are non-human creatures that hate dynamic human life. They have no interest in what you as a thinking, feeling and intentional individual might have on your mind.

Contrary to what the masterminds behind the search engines and especially their marketing people claim – the algorithms do not know you or your real dynamic life at all. They only have their precious models of it as my colleague Hannu Tuomisaari so eloquently describes.

Then I repeated the minitest with Yahoo! and the results were quite the same, even more straightforward, but at least it found a site interested in my intentions, Toluna, but even that was not interested in my personal case in order to help and support me.

Intend_to_buy_a_car_Yahoo copy

Figure 2.

In short – the search engines seem to think that you are interested in finding shops (it is true, quite often), reading other buyers comments (perhaps, perhaps not), getting guidance for buying (maybe, maybe not), or learn about statistics (surely not).

It is by no means surprising that this happens because the engines are guessing what you might be looking for and they do not want to ask about your acute motivation or mental state, they think it is not informative or that it is not very practical to ask for such knowledge. Many seem to think that it is not wise to trust people when they tell about their intentions. What a mistake!

Last, imagine another very human case: you are in a pressing need to buy car, for one reason or another. Next, tell this to Yahoo! or Google. In Figure 3. you can see the results of Google. No surprise that it has no understanding whatsoever of your current state of mind and instead it teases you with information about cost vs. value, what every sucker (!) should know, a flowchart even. We all have our own “musts” and when such a situation exists we have our own constraints – for some it can be time, for other costs. If I were a car dealer paying for these adverts in Google I would be worried: why do they miss a motivated customer. Perhaps we could have a service that could be just for them? There is no way to tell that to the passionately searching customer.

I_must_buy_a_car_Google copy

Figure 3.

Well, we all know what are our own personal motivations. In case of “must buy” we might have a time limitation, for example (I’m too busy, cannot go to a shop) and we can start looking for “buying service”, perhaps even find a sales rep coming to out home with a candidate car or two. How do I express this need in the search field? “Buy car visit home” does not understand me. “Buy car xx”? Well, surely after some text work we get what we want but is this the best a search engine could do?

Of course these are complicated situation for the mechanical search engines to decipher. But as a teasing end to this, of course I do have human-centric ideas and concepts to solve these problems, but that is another story. The background thinking to this can be found from my earlier blogs on the Internet of Behaviors: https://gotepoem.wordpress.com/2012/03/16/internet-of-behaviors-ib/,
and especially on the value of intention knowledge: https://gotepoem.wordpress.com/2012/10/04/the-psychology-behind-internet-of-behaviors-ib/

I sent an inspiring note already half a year ago to Yahoo, but maybe I had the wrong email address that I found with my search engine?







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