By Mark O’Neill
Google has an excellent search engine (in fact the best on the web) but I still find myself struggling to separate the cream from the crud. Even the world’s best search engine sometimes has a hard time returning relevant results for your query. But the latest upgrade to the StumbleUpon toolbar could give the much needed “human touch” to your Google searching.
It may look a little cluttered but what you’re actually seeing is web democracy in action.
The whole principle behind StumbleUpon is that users can give a webpage a thumbs up or a thumbs down, and also write reviews (both positive and negative for that site). So by entering a search term into Google, you can immediately see if there are user reviews and if the site you’re looking at generally gets thumbed up or down. This enables you to see where the quality content is as no-one is going to give a thumbs up to a page full of spam or adverts. You can also see the rating you gave to the site if you have visited it before using the StumbleUpon toolbar.
This kind of web democracy, where the cream rises to the top, is the kind of thing that the search engines need. Spammers, marketers and link baiters are finding all kinds of ways to cheat the Google bots and so we need this kind of user interaction to give a more “human face” to Google. By writing reviews and thumbing up the best sites, users are virtually drawing other users a detailed road map to the best resources and the most reliable information. These online referrals are priceless to website owners as they are not determined by search bots but by real people with real interests. These same people will probably buy things online and click on adverts – an advertiser’s dream.
StumbleUpon not your thing? Perhaps you’re more of a Digger? Using Google’s Subscribed Links, you can now have the latest Digg entries matching your query at the top of your Google page, along with the number of Diggs it has received. OK, if you go to Digg, you’ll have to tolerate all the “Google is evil” comments but it is still an excellent web resource to find all the latest Google news and features, again being voted up and down by a very active web democracy.
Is StumbleUpon and Digg the key to the future of the search engines? Are the Google Bots slowly being replaced by real flesh-and-blood internet users with strong opinions? Will this improve the quality and usefulness of the internet as a whole? We can only wait and see.