By Herman Chu, Director of Information Technology
How often do you find yourself saying “Let me Google that” in a 24-hour period?
It’s amazing the amount of content we can consume at a moment’s notice. If you’re anything like me, search makes it all too easy to quickly become a quasi-expert on just about anything. (Ok the Dunning-Kruger effect is very real: https://duckduckgo.com/?q=dunning+kruger+effect)
Search is life changing, but … Can I trust the results that I see?
What if I become a self-proclaimed expert citing all of the misinformation out there? That would be a bit embarrassing, right?
Seriously though, to collect huge amounts of data, I’ve dissected the ins and outs of multiple search engines. I’ve compared Google with Bing, Bing with Yahoo, Yahoo with DuckDuckGo, and endless other search engine comparisons. I’ll save you the trouble and get straight to the tldr: not all search engines are created equal.
So, for now, I’d like to share one tip that may help you in your search and subsequent rabbit hole deep dives.
Google does a great job tracking your search habits and showing you results you are probably going to like. This is because:
1. Some results might be related to things you’ve been recently searching for.
2. Some results could be from sources you regularly visit for other topics.
3. Some results might be what others like you have clicked while searching the same thing.
That all sounds normal and innocuous, but that’s exactly where some nitpicky gotchas can creep in.
Most times we find it convenient that Google knows our preferences so we can easily see local news, weather, and location-based results like restaurants. What happens when Google goes beyond localization and into personalization?
Let’s consider confirmation bias – We all like being told we are right about something. We gravitate towards results that support our ideas and reinforces our decision making. But what about information way down on that result list you may not even read because result #2 was the answer you liked?
In the Google world of personalized results, that answer you clicked is the result they predicted you’d be happy with. Often, that’s exactly what you’re after and all’s well that ends well.
But consider this: Is that #2 result really the second “best” result? Or is that the second most popular result? (Ask a buddy to search the same search terms and see if their #2 result is the same.) In a search algorithm that’s driven by herd mentality, the answer is often “we’ll never know.”
So, if you are ever curious about information you might not be seeing, my tip to you is diversification.
Here’s your TIP:
Use an additional search engine like DuckDuckGo: https://duckduckgo.com/ (DDG)
DuckDuckGo is built on a foundation of privacy. They don’t filter any results and they never track you, so your results are never personalized.
That means you’ll likely see different results from DDG than you will from Google. Some results may even shed light on a new perspective or uncover a new source you weren’t aware of.
Is it life changing? Probably not. So if this benefit isn’t all that satisfying, I’ve got one more benefit for you that may be.
All cheerleading aside, if you are sick of seeing the things you google show up as ads on other sites (or worse, impulse buys showing up at your door), you need to start searching with DDG. Your bank account will thank you later.