This is the rant thread, right?
When Google came out with their patent search, it really bothered me.
They had two choices to make when designing it. They could make it a useful research tool, or they could make it a toy.
They made it a toy.
I'll explain why I write that. When I conduct a search at the USPTO database, I want to find all of the documents that contain my query terms. Not what some algorithm thinks are the most relevant of the documents using some unknown methodology. Not something based upon my previous searches, limiting and possibly removing documents that I may really want to find, but rather all of the results.
If they wanted to provide me with a list of other query terms that an analysis of the corpus of patents deemed somehow relevant to my search, and I could see query refinement suggestions, that would be fine, and it might be something that they are capable of doing. But I want to make my own decision as to how relevant a result might be when conducting legal research. Failure to find one document that might be important in my research could be a serious omission. I don't want to leave that determination to a non-transparent algorithm.
My concern with this experimental search comes if and when they decide to start influencing search results while using a aggregation of data. Or they decide that my future results should be based upon my past decisions.
As individuals, our interests don't reflect those of other people who may sometimes happen to like or dislike some of the same search results that we do. And, as Emerson once said:
A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds, adored by little statesmen and philosophers and divines.
My past interests and searches and browsing activities don't necessarily reflect my interests at this moment, and there's a likelihood that they won't reflect tomorrows' either. The site I took out of search results today might have been the site that I adored tomorrow. I reserve the right to start each day anew, with the self reliant interest of determining my own interests.
That may mean that I don't move, remove, or add sites to a search like this one, or vote some sites up and others down. But, if the choices of others to change and alter what they see influences what I see, so that search becomes a dumbed down average of the lowest common denominator, then all search becomes a toy.