This morning, James Joyner wanted to check up on Mitt Romney's claim that he's always forthrightly repudiated birther claims:
Alas, with Google, Bing, and Yahoo all having switched their algorithms to prioritize recent pages, all my searches for “Romney: Obama born in America” turned up page after pages of stories about the present controversy. That frankly makes no sense; if I wanted that, I’d search Google News rather than the main search engine.
I suppose that complaining about this does no good. The algorithms are tweaked to maximize advertising revenue, and returning lots of recent hits is what does that. But it sure does make Google nearly worthless for non-news searches.
Programmers almost unanimously seem to hate "switches," the ability to turn features on and off. That goes double for complicated features, like the age weighting in a search algorithm. The reason for this dislike, generally speaking, is that switches are ugly and prone to proliferation. Marketing yahoos like me are always begging for them because some customer or another is bending our ear about it, and if you give in, then before long you have a UI that's a mile-long collection of checkboxes and radio buttons. Designers prefer more elegant UI solutions, and I don't blame them.
And yet....can someone please beg Google for a switch to turn off the preference for recent results? Hell, the Advanced Search page lets me choose things like reading level and file type. Why not add some kind of slider similar to the Safe Search option that allows me to weight results by how recent they are? Or maybe tweak the "Last Update" so you can exclude new results as well as old ones. As things stand now, Google becomes close to useless whenever a new event swamps their results.
As for Romney, who cares? Sure, he's not a birther himself. He's just willing to pander to them. Is anyone surprised?