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Thursday, March 9, 2017

Cooking - googling everything - algorithms and probable wrong info !!

How often do you cook ?  How good you are at cooking ??  How does one caramelize Onion ?  - Caramelization is the browning of sugar, a process used extensively in cooking for the resulting sweet nutty flavor and brown color.  To put is simple it is cooking onions  with sugar so that it becomes coated with caramel.  Ever tried doing that ?

Most likely that one would google or search on the web in a search engine ~ and when you hit the search button, You want the answer, not trillions of webpages. – and that happens with Algorithms, the computer programs that look for clues to give you back exactly what you want. For a typical query, there are thousands, if not millions, of webpages with helpful information.  A search in google on yours truly ‘sampspeak’ for example yields - about 12,700 results (0.64 seconds) !

Algorithms are the computer processes and formulas that take your questions and turn them into answers. Today Google’s algorithms rely on more than 200 unique signals or “clues” that make it possible to guess what you might really be looking for. These signals include things like the terms on websites, the freshness of content, your region and PageRank.  Each year, Google changes its search algorithm around 500–600 times. While most of these changes are minor, Google occasionally rolls out a "major" algorithmic update (such as Google Panda and Google Penguin) that affects search results in significant ways.

Why is that so difficult ? - finding useful information on the World Wide Web is something many of us take for granted. According to the Internet research firm Netcraft, there are nearly 150,000,000 active Web sites on the Internet today. The task of sifting through all those sites to find helpful information is monumental. That's why search engines use complex algorithms -- mathematical instructions that tell computers how to complete assigned tasks. Google's algorithm does the work for you by searching out Web pages that contain the keywords you used to search, then assigning a rank to each page based several factors, including how many times the keywords appear on the page. Higher ranked pages appear further up in Google's search engine results page (SERP), meaning that the best links relating to your search query are theoretically the first ones Google lists.

Google's keyword search function is similar to other search engines. Automated programs called spiders or crawlers travel the Web, moving from link to link and building up an index page that includes certain keywords. Google references this index when a user enters a search query. The search engine lists the pages that contain the same keywords that were in the user's search terms. Google's spiders may also have some more advanced functions, such as being able to determine the difference between Web pages with actual content and redirect sites -- pages that exist only to redirect traffic to a different Web page.

Complex and interesting ~ yet all that may not be true, is what Tom Scocca has posted in Sydney Morning Herald today.  Here is something excerpted from the article - :  Google's algorithm is lying to you about onions, and blaming me for it
A little under five years ago, I got angry about a piece of fake information, and I decided to do something about it. I was reading a recipe in the New York Times, and the recipe told me, as many, many recipes had told me before, that it would take about 10 minutes of cooking to caramelise onions.
I knew from personal experience that this was a lie. Recipes always said it took five or 10 minutes to caramelise onions, and when you followed the recipes, you either got slightly cooked onions or you ended up 40 minutes behind schedule. So I caramelised some onions and recorded how long it really took — 28 minutes if you cooked them as hot as possible and constantly stirred them, 45 minutes if you were sane about it — and I published those results on Slate, along with a denunciation of the false five-to-10 minute standard.
When asked about onions, Google can't tell the difference between the truth and an obvious falsehood. What else is it wrong about?  It might be the most valuable journalistic work I've ever done. After the piece went up, I heard again and again from readers who had thought they were incompetent cooks, because they'd trusted recipes that deceived them. The New York Times began publishing accurate onion-cooking times and even cited the Slate article. The work made it into the Wikipedia page for caramelisation for a while, until someone dinged it because I am "not a trained chef" (and because some crank had tried to rebut it with a high-powered restaurant stove). Years after the fact, people still tell me that reading the truth made a difference in their lives.
So when I saw the news that Google's search result box has been giving people bogus information in its algorithmic search for the One True Answer to various, I thought about the onions. If Google can't figure out whether Barack Obama is plotting a coup or not, or whether or not MSG is lethal, can it at least recognise that the lie about cooking onions is a lie?  I typed "how long does it take to caramelize onions" into Chrome. The answer was worser than I could have imagined ~ for it said about five minutes, linking to my own article  in – scocca 2012 on how to cook onions – why recipe writers lie :
Not only did Google, the world's preeminent index of information, tell its users that caramelising onions takes "about 5 minutes", it pulled that information from an article whose entire point was to tell people exactly the opposite. A block of text from the Times that I had published as a quote, to illustrate how it was a lie, had been extracted by the algorithm as the authoritative truth on the subject. Five years after I thought I had buried the falsehood about quick onion cooking, Google was dragging it out of its grave to send it shambling into unsuspecting users' kitchens. In fact, it made the lie even worse, because Google's automated text analysis is too dumb to recognise that "about 5 minutes" followed by "about 5 minutes longer" means 10 minutes. Do not try caramelising onions in five minutes. And do not listen to Google – is what the author has to say !

.. .. .. but don’t get carried away – we will continue googling – it could be the author’s experience, need not necessarily be ours !
With regards – S. Sampathkumar

9th Mar 2017.

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