When I first considered writing this five part expose' on energy scams I knew that the final article would be the most difficult to write. Who wants to challenge a company like Google, let alone by a small publisher like Open4Energy who's existence depends on the ubiquity of the internet. Who wants to ask people who care passionately about renewable energy to examine the information they have which is underpinning their beliefs, and to test if it is true?
But, as the author of four articles on energy scams I hope that I have earned the right to at least have an opinion on these broader information issues.
To recap; our first article introduced the subject of energy scams. In the second article we explained the four categories of technology which underpin most of the energy scams. In our third article we identified three Internet groups who are "feeding" on the green energy hype in our community. In the penultimate article, we examined the motivation and behavior of real consumers to find why we are being misled.
Fortunately for me, the Wall Street Journal recently went public on a parallel issue: Feds to Launch Probe of Google while I stewed on what I was going to say.
I have heard it said that how we think is how we act; and that how we act is who we are. For a long period in my life I thought it was acceptable to hold a grudge against the world. Yes, there had been a wrong committed against me. But, it was not until I was correctly educated on forgiveness that I positively changed my life. Now the purpose of explaining this is not to make a statement about me, it is to explain in simple terms how profound an impact new information (in this case forgiveness) had on my personality.
To the main point of our series; Information is power; if you control information you control people; it may be intentional or unintentional; it may result in good or evil; it has been used many times for many generations; it is always a problem.
Google now has a staggering 87.3% share of consumer free form searches related to energy efficiency and energy policy. In all practical senses their search results determine what consumers will read, and as a result will think. The good news for those against energy scams is that open4energy articles are often included in the top page of most search results. But the bad news is that this is not because of the quality of our information. Although I think it is accurate, the likelihood of what we write being included in what consumers think is determined by a complex business algorithm owned by Google.
I am not saying this is all bad, although looking a the evidence does not present a pretty picture. I am however more than a little concerned to think that 87.3% of internet information is dominated by a search engine that know is under federal investigation. Wow!
I have wondered if Google fully recognize the power they now have? I wonder what steps they have taken to make sure that the information we have on nuclear power is factually represented. We already have too many people who's knowledge of nuclear reaction is based on a movie; The China Syndrome. May I assure our readers that "meltdown" is not a nuclear technical term. I do not know what my position is, but I can assure you that the top 3 pages of Google search results are no place to decide an informed opinion. I shudder to think that our energy policy might be decided by popular reading on the internet!
Next time the search you are typing in starts to auto-complete, remember that this is the human equivalent of "someone" thinking for you. I encourage you to think of who it is and what it wants from you? When you look at the first page of search results, remember that there are as many people wanting to mislead you for their political/financial/whatever purposes, as there are offering quality useful information.
There was a time when editors were responsible for the accuracy of the information they published. Many of us came to depend on their skills to decide what information we read. The internet does not have an editor! It only has search algorithms.
Take any subject you really know, like "energy scams", and objectively review the information offered by the search engines. It was once difficult to find good information because it was not available. Now it is almost impossible to find good information because it is lost in the millions of pages you can not trust.
I do hope that our series has equipped you to avoid the plethora of energy scams trying to part you from your hard earned cash. But more, I hope that you will become better finders and readers of quality information. I sincerely hope that we will not allow our energy policies to be set by search engine rankings and auto-keyword assists.
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