Sunday, April 11, 2021

The Algorithm

An algorithm. Source: Wikipedia. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Algorithm


I don't know who reads these blog posts. Some get only a few hits, others dozens. I assume Google algorithms dictate some of that, like a post shows up in a search based upon certain terms, or is presented to people browsing through seemingly related topics.

We all know that Big Tech manipulates the information we receive on our displays. Some of this is automated and only intended to provide the best experience possible, but it's also apparent that the information is manipulated according to company policy and managerial decisions. It's creepy, and even if you are knowledgeable about such things and try to get around the algorithm, you can never be certain that what you see is true, or that your searches haven't been filtered in some way that prevents you from finding the best results.

I don't know why I wasn't posting here for a while, especially since my last post got a lot of hits and it would have been the perfect time to take advantage of the algorithms and "grow my following," but I haven't tried to build a following anywhere on the internet for a decade or more. I simply don't care, and write almost entirely for myself. I know other writers have said that over the years and I didn't understand it until I reached that point myself. It sounds selfish, but on the other hand I don't like the idea of seeking the approval of strangers. If I'm practicing self-discipline and living according to my personal ethics, I shouldn't need it.

But I have written over the last couple of weeks over on one of my other blogs, where I share my sharper opinions. Interesting that my sharpest take seems to have received no hits in a couple of weeks. It's political-economic, and I can't help but think the algorithm is suppressing it, because people at Google* don't like it.

I'm a computer programmer, and I can tell you that algorithms sometimes produce unexpected results, especially if you are using AI (and if you don't verify and test adequately), but on the other hand it's easy for programmers to produce contrived output. Since the public doesn't see the program code, we have no way to know if our click metrics reflect a truly hands-free, automated outcome, or if the outcome was motivated. Are the results from an algorithm or from the programmer who wrote it?

Now ask me what to do about it. I don't know. Some clamor for regulation, but regulations too sometimes produce unintended outcomes.

* Google owns Blogger.

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