Category Archives: society

break out of the search bubble

This is relevant to my interests

Did you know that when you search on the popular search engines these days you’re actually doing that from inside a “search bubble”? Google, Bing and Yahoo all do it, to give you more tailored and “relevant to your interest” results.

Let’s take Google for example, since most people are using that one anyway. They are tracking your searches and clicks, if you’re logged in or not. They do this to compose a profile on you so that they can give you more specific search results the next time you look for something. They try to determine your sex, age and location (just like on IRC) to feed you the search results your are probably looking for. They are filtering the information based on a profile they’ve created on you.

The damn thing is that this actually works quite well. As a software developer I search a lot for technical, programming related topics. Google knows this and will give me those before any other possible hits. But what are you missing? What links are not included in your personal bubble just because Mr Google finds them irrelevant for you?

So how do you bust out of this bubble? You could use a browser with privacy mode but as long as you’re still using Google to search, or Chrome, you can’t be sure.

Another way is to use a different search engine. I know! A different search engine. It’s been ages since that happened right?

Enter DuckDuckGo. Beside the funny name and the mascot (A duck! Who would have guessed!) this one doesn’t put you in a bubble, doesn’t track your info and uses SSL by default.
Give it a try, and you’ll see that your results are quite different from Google’s. I have to be honest here and say that in some cases, the Google results are “better”. But that’s the bubble at work here.

DuckDuckGo also has a ton of specific search goodies like a built-in calculator and conversion engine, some specific tech goodies (whois queries, md5 hashes etc) and the !bang searches which allow you to search sites and topics directly.

As you can see, there’s plenty of reasons to try this new duck on the block out and burst out of your search bubble. The goodies alone make it worth checking out imo.

watching #egypt

I don’t know if you are following this as much as I am, but I can’t keep from checking out the news rolling in on the #Egypt feed on twitter.
It doesn’t get any more real than that with live pictures and video’s being blogged and tweeted first hand. Paper.li on #Egypt proves great for high-speed streams of tweets and links like this to filter the most interesting bits. The English site of Al Jazeera also turn out to be a great resource for first hand info. This seems to do for them what the first Gulf War did for CNN. I’m seeing a lot of Al Jazeera links fly by everywhere and only little CNN, BBC or other major media channels.

I’m just hoping this’ll turn out alright in the end for the Egyptian people.

refactoring the government

code.close()

The Belgian politicians are having a bit of a problem forming a new government since the last elections. This caused folks to organise a demonstration in Brussels on Sunday to make it clear that it’s time those politicians get back to work and form a government pronto.

While talking about this the whole thing somehow reminds me of refactoring software. Software that’s been having bugs and problems for years which where mended by applying patch after patch after patch, but where the code which is the actual root of the problem is never touched. In the end these patches cause more problems when the problem code has to be refactored, because those patches are fixing symptoms where they occur, causing even more issues at other locations.

So this is what I see happening now with the current formation of the government. To get through this, the patches applied over the years are causing additional difficulties and have to be cleared together with the actual problem. Reforming a country as difficultly organised as Belgium takes time. I’m just hoping that all this time won’t be for nothing in the end by forming a hasty government with (again) a half-assed solution to the problem which has been dragging on for years already.

Let’s just be a bit more patient shall we and let them do their job as they should for once, and clear up this mess created by the maintenance programmers, euhm,.. politicians.

Photo by ruiwen, cc-licensed