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.

Filed Under: , ,
Companies: google

Rate this comment as insightful
Rate this comment as funny
You have rated this comment as insightful
You have rated this comment as funny
Flag this comment as abusive/trolling/spam
You have flagged this comment
The first word has already been claimed
The last word has already been claimed
Insightful Lightbulb icon Funny Laughing icon Abusive/trolling/spam Flag icon Insightful badge Lightbulb icon Funny badge Laughing icon Comments icon

Comments on “You Know What Was Useless In DARPA's Balloon Challenge? Google Search”

Subscribe: RSS Leave a comment
Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 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.

Designerfx (profile) says:

Re: 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.

Cryofdragon says:

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?

Matthew Cruse (profile) says:

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.

moore850 (profile) says:

Re: 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.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: 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.

Michael (profile) says:

Re: 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…

Anonymous Coward says:

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.

Anonymous Coward says:

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.

Jakers (user link) says:

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.

Add Your Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here

Comment Options:

Make this the or (get credits or sign in to see balance) what's this?

What's this?

Techdirt community members with Techdirt Credits can spotlight a comment as either the "First Word" or "Last Word" on a particular comment thread. Credits can be purchased at the Techdirt Insider Shop »

Follow Techdirt

Techdirt Daily Newsletter

Techdirt Deals
Techdirt Insider Discord
The latest chatter on the Techdirt Insider Discord channel...