I Wouldn’t Start From Here

I am amused by the furore around the right to be forgotten.  

I am often amused by stressful situations.  Laughter helps me to quell rising panic. It is a trick I was taught by a friend when I was 13.  We had both badly messed up a maths exam.  In part, because we didn’t know enough maths, but greatly exacerbated by total panic at the obviousness of our impending failure as we each skipped from question to question looking for ones we even understood.  We later went on to get pretty good, certainly good enough, at maths, but we both failed that test by a staggering margin. 

One of my failings was percentages.  Even then I knew enough to be sure that 19% was a calamity.  The saving grace was that that still put me in the top 5 in the class of 30, or the top 17% as I later discovered.

My friend told me that he laughed to himself in such circumstances.  

I still routinely laugh at the most awful times.  Stressful meetings, presentations that turn out to contain glaring typos, budgets in US Dollars that you thought were in GB Pounds, the rise of UKIP, the agonising loop of a ball between bat and hands that have enough time to go through the process of trying to remember how to catch on purpose rather than on instinct. In all but the last scenario, it works.

Anyway, the reason I find the furore over the right to be forgotten, privacy, the emergence of several monopsonies (*a real word, see below) so funny, is that otherwise I’d be unable to stem the rising tide of panic these engender.

In the latest outbreak of insanity, it appears, and this really is quite funny, that we have effectively asked Google to decide which links should be retained and which should be removed. Forgive me while I pause for a moment to mop the tears of what is really open terror rather than actual humour from streaming down my face.  That is utterly INSANE!

Thanks to the therapeutic nature of laughter I have once again regained control. Thanks also to my playground friend from 1980 for providing me with a lifelong coping strategy for my daylight terrors. 

Not happy with Google being an unregulated shadow bank (both retail and investment, it’s utterly brilliant isnt it?), it now seems we are close to turning over the legal system to them as well.  They’d better hurry up and beta test Google Legal pretty quickly though. Otherwise we will we have the equivalent of ambulance chasers proliferating pop up adds on online Scrabble and further spoiling my commute.

“Your friends on Facebook are arranging a class action to erease the ‘Riga incident’, would you like to join in?” 
“Are you tired of everyone thinking you are actually a money launderer / drug dealer just because you went to that Breaking Bad fancy dress party?”
“By the way, would you like that photo of you in John Major underpants deleted at source?”

How about we declare Google to be a church as well and have done with it?

Anyway,  as people in Yorkshire tend to say when the hopelessly lost ask for directions, “I wouldn’t start from here”.  By which I mean that we need to retrace our steps, work out how we got here and then take a different path by design. No one from Yorkshire would ever put it quite like that, obviously.

Deleting links is all very well but stopping them from being there in the first place or ensuring that any result posted by Google (or any other search engine once we have redesigned that market so it is no longer dominated by one player. Where do you start, it is all such a mess!!!) are the clear responsibility of the originator(s) so THEY can delete them AT SOURCE.  I generally have little sympathy with Google et al but in this case I share their exasperation.



A post script: Monospony is an epoch defining word,  don’t forget you saw it here first when everyone is using it all the time this Chistmas, and when it then appears in Private Eye’s Great Bores of Today column in the new year.  Ok, you may actaully have seen it on @dougshaw1’s blog first, http://stopdoingdumbthingstocustomers.com/brand/routine-and-the-importance-of-choice/ , but that’s not the point.  Look it up on Wikipedia, it is where a company achieves dominant buying power. Think e-books, just for starters.

A second post script:  In 1980 a teacher called Mr McAuley took on a group of relatively bright kids, myself included, who had all but not been taught maths for the two previous years.  We almost all spectacularly failed a test in our first term at high school.  We then learnt three years of maths in one school year and went on to do well. My thanks go to Mr McAuley.


1 thought on “I Wouldn’t Start From Here

  1. I think this one should be put under the category of “sounded like a good idea at the time” and maybe under sub-category of “things European politicians do because they’re techno-luddites”. As someone who works with technology every day, and also does a considerable amount of work with Google, I totally get where they’re coming from on this one.

    What many people don’t have a real appreciation of is just how vast Google (and Bing and Yahoo too, just in case you think I’m being biased) is, and how much data it deals with in a frighteningly efficient manner.

    Example: I just did a search for “Andrew Jordan” and it returned 25,700,000 possible results in 0.42 seconds. Now, you don’t need to be Bill Gates to realise that that is an extremely large amount of information, delivered in an extremely small amount of time.

    But here’s the thing.

    Nobody, NOBODY, is going to trawl through 25,700,000 results. I think I would be at risk of gnawing my arm of past about page 10 and have had the last rites around about page 15. And that’s only a few hundred results.

    This illustrates two flaws in this whole ludicrous proposal. The first is that people might want certain aspects of their shady past erased but actually identifying what they are and where they are is practically impossible. You might think you have expunged your past dalliances with Derek Mellor (or whatever has was called) but buried in page 37 is a reprint. And on page 77 of the Google results is a photo. Are you seriously expecting Google to methodically go through the results set ? No, me neither.

    The second is more basic than that. What on earth is the point in returning 25,700,000 results ? I mean, really ??? Even a few thousand would be far more than people would ever be able to cope with. So, either the majority of those are nothing to do with the search term – which would mean Google’s search algorithm is a bit crap – or there is SO much information being indexed by Google that, again, it borders on being pointless.

    I had a discussion with Google a couple of years ago about whether it would be possible to provide 2 tiers of search engine. The free version which just serves up a load of crap, and a paid one which is highly targeted, provides a sensible number of results and is actually useful. The answer was Yes.

    But you have to ask yourself whether, with such lunacy emanating from Brussels, do the bigwigs at Google just think “can’t be bothered” ?

    If it makes you feel any better, I was giggling while writing this but mainly from an inordinate sense of having lost all sense of rhyme and reason. But that’s because I’m trying to read all 25,700,000 results just to find the one when I had dinner with Cameron Diaz.

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