Cuil is NOT cool

The big tech news of the morning is the new search engine Cuil.  Formed by ex-google employees in an attempt to upstage their former employer, Cuil are claiming to have the largest search index on the web and also superior algorithms for search matching and results presentations.  One of the big selling points they claim is that they return larger portions of text for each search result as well as a relevant image.

I quickly headed over there and typed in my favorite search term: “stuart thompson meaghan brown”.  Yes, I narcicistically type in my own name and that of my fiance.  I have two reasons for doing this:

  1. I like to see where we rank in terms of self-relevancy
  2. I want to get a preview of what others will see if they are searching for us.

Five search results were returned, all of them from websites I own or write to.  However, I was shocked to find that of the five search results returned, four of them had images that were completely irrelevant.  Right there next to my name, my blog address, and content from articles I wrote is a picture of someone I don’t know and have never met.  WTF??

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Three of the articles that linked directly to my blog had pictures of other random people.  The fourth article displayed an image of the word “Proof” that I have never seen before and certainly does not appear anywhere on my site.

I use my blog to keep in touch with friends and family.  On more than one occassion I have ended up getting back in touch with someone I had completely lost contact with purely because they searched for my name and found my blog at the top of the search results.  Here they would take one look at the three images returned and decide that this certainly wasn’t me.  That is not cool!  I’m actually pretty ticked off about it.  This blog is the second review of Cuil that I have done today on this issue.  The first went directly to their administrative staff.  I’ve worked hard to author the posts on this blog and share my life and experiences with friends and I’ll be damned if those posts are going to be attributed to some other random person on the internet by some trumped-up search engine.

Yeah, perhaps Google don’t have the best results, perhaps there is room for improvement.  When I see my posts returned in results with someone else’s picture sitting right there with the text, I know for sure that this is the WRONG answer.  Give me the plain old vanilla text search results any day thank you very much, at least until you figure out how to associate the right image with the right post.

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At least with the Google search results people would have enough suspiscion to click through and read the actual blog articles.  Maybe a bigger summary isn’t the answer?  Perhaps people should actually be given reason to read instead of just summarizing?

Clearly I’m ticked off and not fighting the case for both sides.  I completely agree that search engines need improvement.  They are the key to finding the information you want and need quickly and efficiently.  However, not at the expense of information quality.  What use is a search engine that actively throws you off-track by presenting false information right there in the results.  Worse than that, an image that is incorrect.  In my experience, most people who are surfing the web go by images first and text later.  If they are searching for a person and see an image of someone else next to the search results they are hardly going to click through to the article to “double check”.  There are too many results to double check everything.  We barely have time to scan the first page of a Google results page, let alone check results that visually look bogus to begin with.

So I ask: “Come on Cuil, or cool as you prefer to be known, please do not provide reference to online material until you can provide is accurately.”

I’m sure that I’ll incite all kind of response from this, which is partially the point.  Let’s consider the following:

  • How do you feel about the idea of content you produced being visually attributed to other people?
  • Is it important that search results are inaccurate as long as there are more of them?
  • Are there legal ramifications to this?  (i.e. what if www.pepsi.com showed an image of a Coke can in the search results)
  • Does cool factor outweigh the need for quality?

Stuart Thompson

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One Response to Cuil is NOT cool

  1. Pingback: Stuart & Meaghan: Bing!

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