I love this thread!
I've been avoiding it for a week because of stressful RL stuff and didn't want to get myself involved in a flamewar on top of everything.
So now it's the weekend, I've quit the ill-advised "part-time" job and came in. Imagine my surprise to find an amazing group of people rationally discussing things near and dear to my heart! I'm almost disappointed...
There is so much great stuff in here I don't know where to start, so I'll go in low key:Theoretical Question:
Lets say there is no such thing as a search engine. Lets say that there are only 2 browsers in the world - umm IEeek, and Nattyscape.
Now IEeek is the most common, and represents the "average" persons web browsing experience. It will happily take you anywhere you want to go, do anything you want to do, and show you anything on the web. It's very forgiving.
Unfortunately, it's damn hard to find anything. Much of the websites are virus loaders and most of the others are totally useless excuses for marketing disguised as spammy, content. Users are relegated to trying to memorize URLS and swapping links between each other.
Along comes Nattyscape. Due to a special magical formula, Nattyscape is able to browse ahead of you on the web and check links before you click on them. It then ranks them based on whether or not it thinks you'll like the link and either removes the "bad" ones or puts a warning label on them.
Lets also say that this seems to work pretty well and people start using Nattyscape in spite of the fact that it won't even load many websites. Lets say also that Nattyscape is a bit clunky and can't load up some perfectly good sites, and uses odd and obscure coding that sometimes requires writing a page 2 different ways just to get the same result on both browsers.Question 1:
If you took your site and added Nattyscape coding to it for the sole purpose of allowing Nattyscape users to view it, are you spamming or manipulating IEeek? How about Nattyscape? After all, shouldn't you just leave their programming to them?Question 2:
If you decide to design for Nattyscape optimised pages first, then count on IEeek to load it with minimal or no checking (it's very forgiving, after all) are you a spammer? A poor coder?Question 3: (getting harder now)
Ok. Let's say that people have discovered how Nattyscape coded it's browser and have figured out how to make some sites that were previously inaccessable to Nattyscapes clunky browser available to it for measurement. Manipulation or good coding?Question 4:
Let's say those same people (we can call them NEO's - Nattyscape Explorer Optimisers) have further figured out how Nattyscape measures and identifies good and bad sites, and also how it measures how it decides whether you are likely to like it or not. Are you helping Nattyscape or it's users by changing your coding to turn a bad site into a good one? How about doing it to increase the chances of your liking the site or not? Would you be going too far by optimising your code for one or both of these things? What if the Nattyscape guildlines mimicked accepted good usability and design guildlines? What if it didn't? Would that make a difference? Why?Final Question:
Would your answer to 4 depend on the decision making process of Nattyscape, or yours? What if you knew the Nattyscape algo was imperfect and was not effectively making decisions. Would that matter? If the algo was "perfect" would you be a spammer for doing manipulation? If it was not "perfect, does the same apply? What about the bits and pieces of the algo that are considered really good, or needing work? If your coding was intended to make up for known deficiences in the algo, is that different from taking commercial advantage of algo holes? Does intent count or only the results?
I found myself thinking about SE's differently when I looked at them as if they were just another (very picky) browser. One of my favorite courses in university was interdisciplinary studies. We would take a subject and then week one a physics prof would come in and lecture, then the next week a sociologist, then a political scientist, etc. Very interesting how our persective changed every week as well. More interesting, every single professor seemed to think that "their" approach explained most clearly about the subject. And, to be quite fair, it seemed to. Until the next week.
IanWow, longer post than I thought, sorry.