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Of Brand Loyalty and Brainwashing

The Librarian in Black wrote a very compelling piece about Ask.com a couple of weeks ago (see, I am working through all the exciting stuff I’ve been meaning to read for weeks and weeks). The comments got to be a little battle-of-the-search-engines-ish, but the original post really got me thinking about my search engine use at home, at the library, and especially at the reference desk..

I’ve played around with Ask.com quite a bit, and for the most part I love it… lots. There are a couple of things I don’t like: the ads, for instance, and the knock-you-out-of-your-shoes red color. (Google has ads, but maybe my eyes have learned to jump down precisely to the first “real” result, and I’d be the first to admit that choosing a search engine based on accent color is less than ideal.) But for the most part I absolutely love Ask. Why? Because of the thought that goes into leading users from a broad search right down to what they actually were looking for via right-hand-margin menus for narrowing and expanding searches, and those nifty drop-down boxes for help clarifying ambiguous searches. Their driving/walking directions are also wonderful, mostly because it’s so easy to add a new point and re-order the points in a trip. But I digress. The point is that I hardly ever use this thing that I like so much, and I don’t think it has anything to do with brand loyalty.

I think it has something to do with being brainwashed by Google, and with using so many of my other Google products all the time. And as we all know, Google generally does a very good job. Not only that, but I feel like I “know” it better because so much has been surmised about its ranking algorithms, particularly PageRank. These things were taught to me in library school. Ask.com’s ranking behavior wasn’t mentioned in library school. Somehow knowing everything I do about all that I don’t know about Google’s ranking rules is somehow more comforting than not knowing what I don’t know about Ask’s ranking (called “ExpertRank” I just found out). I don’t think this is Ask’s fault. I haven’t done a whole lot of sleuthing, and the service is relatively new, but it’s also not as easy to come by information on ExpertRank as it is on PageRank.

And like one of the commenters said in response to the Librarian in Black’s post, Googling is such a convenient word, while “ask-dot-comming” will take a bit of getting used to.

Still, I’m resolved to make more informed and less habit-driven choices when I do my searching. Wish me luck. Battling brainwashing is kind of an up-hill process.

3 thoughts on “Of Brand Loyalty and Brainwashing

  1. Ooh, I just thought of a really good reason to search via Ask. I’m almost always signed in to my Google account for my gmail and my calendar, but I hate the idea of having my search profile analyzed by Google. Searching Ask could help keep me more anonymous.

  2. Nice post. I, too, find that I don’t get the results I expect from Ask, presumably because I’m unconsciously used to Google’s PageRank.

    Of course I may be biased, as a search on my name in Google brings up my blog as result #3. In Ask, I got to *page* 10 before giving up. Maybe if I use Ask more?

    I have been tricking myself into using Ask more by setting the default search in my Firefox toolbar to Ask instead of Google. Since I almost always use that search box instead of going to the search sites, this has been pretty effective.

  3. I just changed my firefox toolbar to Ask last night, and you’re right. That goes a LONG way toward forcing me to experiment.

    I’ll have to test and see what the results of some vanity searching are in both searches… that could be the deciding factor. ;-)

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