you can’t be neutral on a moving search – skepticism about search neutrality

My inbox is full of little library links and it’s a snow day so I’m settling down to read some longer pieces that I’ve felt that I haven’t had time for. James Grimmelmann is a friend and one of the more readable writers talking about technology and law and the muddy areas where they overlap. He’s written a nice essay on search engine neutrality. What it is, why you might care, who is working on it and how attainable a goal it may or may not be. Specifically, what does it really mean to be neutral, and who decides and who legislates? Quite relevant to all information seeking and finding professionals.

Good reading for a snowy weekday: Some Skepticism About Search Neutrality.

Search neutrality gets one thing very right: Search is about user autonomy. A good search engine is more exquisitely sensitive to a user’s interests than any other communications technology. Search helps her find whatever she wants, whatever she needs to live a self-directed life. It turns passive media recipients into active seekers and participants. If search did not exist, then for the sake of human freedom it would be necessary to invent it. Search neutrality properly seeks to make sure that search is living up to its liberating potential.

Having asked the right question—are structural forces thwarting search’s ability to promote user autonomy?—search neutrality advocates give answers concerned with protecting websites rather than users. With disturbing frequency, though, websites are not users’ friends. Sometimes they are, but often, the websites want visitors, and will be willing to do what it takes to grab them.

A few things going on, googley and otherwise

I’ve been reading more, typing less. My super-bloggy friends told me lat year sometime that a lot of their friends were blogging less and Twittering more. I was surprised to hear that since it hadn’t really trickled down to my neck of the woods yet, but lately it has. While I still stay on top of my RSS feeds, I suspect that I can only do that because people are blogging less. I don’t know if they’re twittering more, having babies, buying houses or doing something else. I know what I’ve been doing: reading.

I’ve also been travelling which is probably not a totally fun thing to read about [if I could delete everyone's tweets from airports, I would -- unless they're me looking for someone to hang out with when my flight has been delayed] but I go through periods of educating, followed by periods of learning, etc. I also made a resolution to myself for this year to write new talks (some similar slides okay, all similar slides against the rules) so when I give talks, they’re more work but also better, I think. I’ll be doing a 2.0 talk in upstate New York for NCLS and then a few talks at NJLA next week. Lots of writing, good stuff to pass on.

What’s been really on my mind lately is the Google Books settlement. I happen to be lucky that an old time friend of mine from the blogger days, James Grimmelmann, is one of the major players in the “explain this to everyone” field day that is going on. He’s also a keen legal mind and a great writer so it’s been a joy to read what he and others have been writing. Here are some links to essays that may help you understand things.

What is up with the Google Books settlement?

I’m as confused as you are about the Google Books settlement. I’ve found a few analyses helpful.

It’s a more “okay now walk the talk” look at what the settlement says explicitly, what it allows for, and how it should be handled.