You Know What Was Useless In DARPA's Balloon Challenge? Google Search

from the can't-find-everything-just-yet dept

We got a great response to our recent article looking through the lessons learned from the MIT team's quick victory in DARPA's "find the red balloons" challenge. JP Werlin pointed out one additional interesting point however: despite this being a task involving searching, finding and aggregating information, Google search was useless for this particular project:
Google didn't matter because Google is a file cabinet of the past. Yes, we know that supposedly this week Google Real Time Search is launching and it will be the next great thing. We also know there are Google Alerts that help us stay current. But there was no real time search or alert that helped us on Saturday, December 5, 2009. Now Google documents were great (we used Spreadsheets) and Google Maps with Street View was indispensable. But Google's main function, it reason for being, was 100% irrelevant. Google is great for looking at yesterday. In its current form, Google is a complete failure for looking at today. And when I mean today I do not mean today's Wall Street Journal or Techcrunch as arguably those are both looking at history as well. I am talking about what is happening right now, this moment. And do you want to know the best place to find out what is happening right now? Twitter Search.
Perhaps that changes (as noted) with Google's real time search offering, but it is notable. Google positions itself as wanting to be the place where you can find any relevant information, but that information is backwards looking.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Dec 17th, 2009 @ 11:17pm

    This sounds like a cheap shot against google. Google doesn't owe you their usefulness in anything.

     

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  2.  
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    Mike Masnick (profile), Dec 17th, 2009 @ 11:23pm

    Re:

    This sounds like a cheap shot against google.

    No, not intended as a cheap shot against Google at all. I just found it to be an interesting point, worthy of discussion...

     

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  3.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Dec 17th, 2009 @ 11:24pm

    Re: Re:

    fair enough.

     

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  4.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Dec 17th, 2009 @ 11:25pm

    Re: Re:

    It's just the way the title was worded, "You Know What Was Useless In DARPA's Balloon Challenge? Google Search" sounds like an insult almost.

     

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  5.  
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    Mike Masnick (profile), Dec 17th, 2009 @ 11:50pm

    Re: Re: Re:

    It's just the way the title was worded, "You Know What Was Useless In DARPA's Balloon Challenge? Google Search" sounds like an insult almost.

    Ah, wasn't meant that way at all. Just more as an expression of surprise...

     

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  6.  
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    Cryofdragon, Dec 18th, 2009 @ 12:18am

    The Real Time Search feature might do a decent job, but frankly, I don't really expect _right now_ information from Google. I see Google's purpose as a collector and reliquary of information, and it preforms that job wonderfully. If you need what's happening _right now_ then yes, Google I don't think is going to be all that helpful, you might turn to Twitter search or something else. But I don't do a twitter search if I want information that's a day old, or even say 5 or 6 hours old, for that I'll go to Google. Maybe other people are different, but that's the sort of information I want almost all the time.

    Are we really at a point where we're surprised if Google isn't the center of any minor task on the internet?

     

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  7.  
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    Matthew Cruse (profile), Dec 18th, 2009 @ 12:19am

    While Mike is correct, that Google is only good at looking at yesterday, that is not to say it is worthless. Google is absolutely great at what it does-search. I don't know how it works but I do know that for approx 18 out of 20 searches, Google comes up with what I want the first time, usually within the first five listings. Nobody does it better. And the two out of twenty are usually because I phrased it badly or used incorrect terminology. Also, Google gives you access to so much information so easily, it's like having the entire reference section of a major municipal library just a click away....HMMM...Nope, even better. IMHO there has never been any other resource that has been such a benefit to human knowledge and learning and helped so many people. It is mind-boggling. I know that there are other search engines, and others that were first or faster or easier or whatever, but come on, Google is a verb now as in "I googled that." we don't say "I Binged that" or "I yahooed that." so, to some up my after midnight rant-Google may not be everything, but for what they do, they are the best.

     

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  8.  
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    LoL, Dec 18th, 2009 @ 1:39am

    If you use TOR google is not your friend

    Google
    Sorry...
    We're sorry...

    ... but your computer or network may be sending automated queries. To protect our users, we can't process your request right now.
    To continue searching, please type the characters you see below:

    Bing and yahoo on the other hand work fine.

     

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  9.  
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    Blatant Coward (profile), Dec 18th, 2009 @ 1:51am

    Matter of perspective

    I think Twitter's yesterday is just smaller than Googles, we still have the lag of someone seeing, texting, and hitting enter. Until we have neural jacks though, that's always going to be the case.

     

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  10.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Dec 18th, 2009 @ 3:30am

    Yes, Google is completely useless at knowing what is happening right this second. It is also useless at predicting where the balloons for the next challenge will be. Shame on you, Google!

     

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  11.  
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    moore850, Dec 18th, 2009 @ 3:48am

    Re:

    Google indexes content. If a balloon is on Google, someone has found it. In the best case scenario, where all the balloons had been found and indexed by Google, but none of the finders had found each other, someone could've hooked it all up with Google. Just because it didn't happen doesn't mean it couldn't have happened.

     

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  12.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Dec 18th, 2009 @ 4:47am

    Re: Re:

    Coming soon from 20% time- Google future. Google engineers have built a time machine in the basement and they are capturing the future.

    The application has been in Beta for over 200 years celebrating it's anniversary in 2195. One of the first users has been Conan O'Brien whose amazing predictions for the Year 2000 and In the Future have shown a stunning level of inaccuracy.

     

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  13.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Dec 18th, 2009 @ 5:14am

    Most of you are missing the point. It IS relevant for business uses...tracking customer comments about your brand in real time. Hearing the present perceptions about whatever topic you need can be quite important. The ability to shorten the time to "seize" an opportunity is the advantage of Twitter over Goog. Instead of waiting for a blog to be indexed, a twitter search tells you in real time. That's a plus.

     

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  14.  
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    Michael, Dec 18th, 2009 @ 5:21am

    Re: Re:

    But it is not really designed to support this type of facility. There is not really a proactive way of forcing information into Google's index to keep it constantly up-to-date on a topic.

    Interestingly, their real-time searching, "Google News Timeline", and possibly "Google Social Search" look like they are heading in this direction. It looks like they may end up with a way to pick a topic (News Timeline) and have it updated through social networks real-time - allowing for someone to track a topic over time as it happens.

    If enough people take pictures with Google Goggles pertaining to the topic, I will not have to leave my house at all...

     

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  15.  
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    Michael, Dec 18th, 2009 @ 5:24am

    I wonder...

    I wonder how many Google searches they did to get all of the tools they needed to track the balloons.

    It did not give them the entire solution, but it may have made finding the necessary pieces possible (or at least a lot easier).

     

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  16.  
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    Designerfx (profile), Dec 18th, 2009 @ 6:12am

    Re: Re:

    I think the point is not solely focused at google, but would be clearer if it said "all search engines", really. Since search engines update when they scan versus when twitter updates via when users provide the data to them, it's obvious which direction the information needs to be able to flow for real time purposes.

    twitter search, on the other hand, is near useless for their search engine simply due to the direction the data flows.

     

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  17.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Dec 18th, 2009 @ 6:48am

    Google's realtime search is not working out very well.

    I searched for a term used on techdirt the other day, and in their "breaking news" section was techdirt itself. Yet, Techdirt isn't a news site, it's an opinion blog, a discussion.

    Mike, perhaps you might want to mention to Matt Cutts that they need to improve their definition of news, because Techdirt sure ain't news.

     

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  18.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Dec 18th, 2009 @ 8:52am

    Re: Re: Re: Re:

    Perhaps less of an accusatory wording then?
    "You know what ended up not being used in DARPA's Balloon Challenge? Google Search"
    Thus, you're not calling it useless...then again, I'm not your editor and I don't see any real reason to amend your headline, though I did mostly click it to throw in my Anon brothers argument.

     

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  19.  
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    Jakers, Dec 18th, 2009 @ 9:16am

    Umm "file cabinet"

    I believe not matter what database or site you look at is a "file cabinet" of the past. Even your glorious Twitter is just a listing of historical tweets. Granted they may be newer or fresher than the day old stuff, it still is not real time.

    Everyone talks about real time like we can ever achieve it. In reality even being somewhere as something is unfolding in real time, your brain is processing what has already happened so anything that is reported is already the past... How far down this rabbit hole do we want to venture.

    All of this is a non point. Google has seen that people want the most recent data so they will continue to march towards fresher content until we are getting news and updates as they happen just like wave does, see it as it is typed.

     

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  20.  
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    file_cabinet_key, Mar 19th, 2010 @ 7:09am

    file_cabinet_key

    Great! Thank for information, I'm looking for it for a long time,

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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