SMX Live: A Keynote Conversation With Eli Pariser

Sep 14, 2011 - 8:52 am 1 by
Filed Under SMX East 2011

Live Blogging Coverage SMXBelow is live coverage of the A Keynote Conversation With Eli Pariser panel from the SMX East 2011 conference.

Disclaimer: The coverage is brought to you in real time, using a custom live blogging tool. Feel free to ask questions or leave comments for inclusion into the live coverage. During the live event, live notes will auto-scroll with newest entries at top. After the session is complete the archive version will have the oldest entries at the top. We ask you to please excuse any typos, as these are live notes.

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Barry Schwartz: 7:52:47 am
click for full size
Barry Schwartz: 7:54:58 am
We start in about 7 minutes... I am live blogging right next to Matt McGee, who is live blogging at
Barry Schwartz: 7:55:33 am
Eli is a 30 year old who basically says how personalization is actually a form of censorship. So this should be interesting...
Barry Schwartz: 7:55:41 am
Here is the description of the session:
Barry Schwartz: 7:55:43 am
Personalization has long been the holy grail of search, both for people seeking to find a perfect match for their information needs, and for marketers wanting to display the perfect ad or offer at just the right time. But personalization has a dark side, creating what author Eli Pariser calls "the filter bubble" – what the internet is hiding from you. In this keynote conversation, Pariser discusses the problems and issues that arise when algorithms, rather than people, curate the web.
Barry Schwartz: 7:56:48 am
More about it at
Barry Schwartz: 7:57:21 am
We have two blog posts on this:
Barry Schwartz: 7:57:32 am
Barry Schwartz: 7:58:02 am
Sorry, here is one:
Barry Schwartz: 7:58:14 am
Here is Google's response:
Barry Schwartz: 8:00:35 am
Commercial playing now and then we start...
Barry Schwartz: 8:02:46 am
click for full size
Barry Schwartz: 8:02:51 am
Barry Schwartz: 8:02:57 am
Chris introduced him...
Barry Schwartz: 8:03:26 am
He wants to talk about the moral consequences of living a life of algorithms and personalization through those algos.
Barry Schwartz: 8:04:01 am
Here is his very popular TED talk video at
Barry Schwartz: 8:04:21 am
So far, the speech sounds a lot like this...
Barry Schwartz: 8:04:48 am
He went on a trip and noticed different world views, he likes to hear different world views, politicis, etc.
Barry Schwartz: 8:05:06 am
But one morning, he noticed on Facebook, his conservative friends stream disappeared
Barry Schwartz: 8:05:36 am
B/c he was clicking on the links of his liberal friends... so Facebook filtered out the conservative friends.
Barry Schwartz: 8:06:02 am
Google is doing this also, and Google said there are 57 signals Google tracks to do personalization, even if you are logged out of Google. To personalize your results.
Barry Schwartz: 8:06:46 am
He initially thought this isn't such an significant affect, so he asked friends to do some research for a search on [Egypt]
Barry Schwartz: 8:07:07 am
He received 30 screen shots back and the results were very different from each person who sent him a screen shot.
Barry Schwartz: 8:07:39 am
Anyway, this is so far exactly like his TED speech, so if you want, 100% watch that video as a linked to below. I am more interesting in the Q&A after...
Barry Schwartz: 8:07:58 am
So he said, increasingly the web is showing us what we want to see, not what we SHOULD see.
Barry Schwartz: 8:08:21 am
Eric Schmidt said it will be very hard to watch or consume something that is not tailored for them.
Barry Schwartz: 8:08:30 am
He calls this a filter bubble.
Barry Schwartz: 8:08:56 am
click for full size
Barry Schwartz: 8:09:24 am
He compares this to the Netflix queue and how certain movies moved through the queue.
Barry Schwartz: 8:09:59 am
What was happening, there was a tug of war between two inner self, the more immediate compulsive self and the more future self, assertional self that wants to be better.
Barry Schwartz: 8:10:50 am
B/c personalization looks at what you click first, it can lead to show you only "information junk food".
Barry Schwartz: 8:11:03 am
He said the information he is seeing is somewhat wrong...
Barry Schwartz: 8:11:31 am
When the internet came along, it let people go direct to others and we should have been able to get news from all biases.
Barry Schwartz: 8:11:50 am
The old gate keepers, news producers, are out and the new ones are in, the algorithms.
Barry Schwartz: 8:12:04 am
It might be good at showing us what we like, but not at what we should see.
Barry Schwartz: 8:12:55 am
Relevance should not be just what we click on first, but things like "what is important," "things that challenge us" or "things that are new ideas"
Barry Schwartz: 8:13:15 am
So this wont be able to happen if we are stuck in a personalized bubble of one.
Barry Schwartz: 8:13:31 am
Now the good part... The Q&A with Danny and Chris and Eli.
Barry Schwartz: 8:14:18 am
Danny: Is there still some commonality between the personalized results. Is there enough?
Barry Schwartz: 8:15:19 am
Eli is giving a long answer... He is saying in some queries, it depends on the query, some search results show huge differences, and some do not...
Barry Schwartz: 8:16:11 am
Eli said, Wikipedia is very dominate... As personalization become more dominate, the wikipedia results drop in the ranks...
Barry Schwartz: 8:19:05 am
Chris: Google told him most people won't see personalized results, and it will be more long tailed and it is only based on their web history and that goes against the McFee (spelling) study...
Barry Schwartz: 8:19:57 am
Eli said, he doesn't think Google has malicious motives for doing this. He doesn't feel that way at all.
Barry Schwartz: 8:21:29 am
The most significant case of personalized results is when you search for your own name or brands and clearly, your history is used there.
Barry Schwartz: 8:22:59 am
Danny: Don't you think that the nature of people will be that they may want to look at other views. So they may be a democrat and then go to a republican site. Wouldn't that reduce the algos in that filter?
Barry Schwartz: 8:23:19 am
Eli: On some part yes, but most people do not know and do not even see the other view...
Barry Schwartz: 8:24:25 am
Eli: If it was easier to see how these filters were implied and turn them on or off, then it would be easier for searchers... And Google originally did that but didn't fully do it.
Barry Schwartz: 8:25:19 am
Chris: You said, even Google doesn't know what is going on. Meaning, should Google be the one controlling this? Many of the people in this room are seeking to control it also. Should Google be a utility that should be regulated?
Barry Schwartz: 8:25:59 am
Eli: Well, it comes back to the gate keeper thing. So maybe... Kind of like the NY Times, WSJ, etc, is there accountability.
Barry Schwartz: 8:26:25 am
Eli: It would be good to know what the transaction people are having with Google. So I can decide which data Google can use and what should be on or off.
Barry Schwartz: 8:31:22 am
Chris: Google is well known for providing tools, including Webmaster Tools, on personal side, they have the Google Dashboard, Data Liberation, etc. What is interesting is they show you what info they have, but not how we are using it. Google argues they cannot share how they are using it cause it is their secret sauce. So what do you recommend?
Barry Schwartz: 8:32:39 am
Eli: The Google dashboard is a start. It is not super obvious what Google knows about you. Google thinks about this from an ethical standpoint more than others in the space. The challenge is inferences... Few people realize how powerful that data can be used for ad targeting, sorting people, etc.
Barry Schwartz: 8:35:47 am
Danny: You talked about a way to change the Google Dashboard to update your preferences and what your likes are like. Google, to my understanding, does not classify people like that... It sounds like more like you want Google to show something like what Amazon has, this is not what I like or want to buy.
Barry Schwartz: 8:36:41 am
Eli: He said, he believes, DoubleClick does put people or ads into categories, (I think that is true). But even if he had a slider, to say turn it up or down. Or maybe turn on personalization up for categories (he said domains).
Barry Schwartz: 8:37:55 am
Chris: You are talking to marketers and personalization is the holy grail for reaching the best customer. You are also talking to users...
Barry Schwartz: 8:39:00 am
Eli: From a marketing standpoint, it is a double edge sword... But if you are talking to them about, is not reaching people it should, because of the personalization, then it is bad. We need to be careful on how it is done. To do that, we need to know what it is doing. Google can do a lot more to explain what it is doing, without making it easy to spam.
Barry Schwartz: 8:39:52 am
That is all!

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