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Google Yourself! Measuring the Performance of Personalised Information Resources (AoIR 2008)

AoIR 2008

Google Yourself! Measuring the Performance of Personalised Information Resources

Thomas Nicolai, Lars Kirchhoff, Axel Bruns, Jason Wilson, Barry Saunders

  • 18 Oct. 2008 - AoIR 2008 conference, Copenhagen

Full Paper

Narcissism is generally perceived as a growing social phenomenon in our society (Kopelman 1984; Mullins et al. 1984; Nelson 1977), as Lasch puts in his widely cited book "Culture of Narcissism" (1991). Recent technology shifts have yet again started a discussion about the increase of narcistic behaviour in western culture. Among these technology shifts are technologies that enable social interaction in general, and social networking sites in particular (Halavais 2007). In spite of any possible negative connotations of this phenomenon, narcissism can also be seen as a functional and healthy personal strategy for making sense of our increasingly fast and techno-oriented world. According to this argument, narcissism can be considered as a cultural and social entity (Emmons 1987; Mullins et al. 1984). The most specific definition is proposed by Raskin et al. (1981; 1988; 1979) and their development of an empirical method, the Narcissistic Personality Inventory, which measure the level of narcissism. However, most definitions can be summarized as a self-focussed concentration of the attention of an individual.

The practice described as »Self-Googling« can be seen as a form of narcissism, which may help to explain the phenomenon of people searching and browsing the Web for information about themselves. Egosurfing, Egogoogling, Self-Marketing or Vanity Searching are different names for the same "practice of harnessing the Internet's vast data-collection powers to dig up information about oneself," as Glasner (2001) puts it. In addition to using the theory of narcissism to explain the »Self-Googling« phenomenon, however, this practice can also be seen as a social construction of personal reputation in terms of Self-Marketing (Lampel et al. 2007).

To investigate this phenomenon, we have gathered and analysed 1.7 million search engine requests over a time period of 14 months. On the basis of this data we have conducted an in-depth analysis of the search terms used, in combination with the links eventually selected (clicked on) by the user from the search engine result lists. This paper will report on the results of this analysis.

There have been previous attempts to explain and analyse the search behaviour of users, which fall into three distinct categories: (1) those that primarily use transaction-log analysis, (2) those that involve users in a laboratory survey or other experimental setting, and (3) those that examine issues related to or affecting Web searching (Jansen et al. 2006; Spink et al. 2004). Our research methodology and the presented results clearly belong to the first category. However, none of the previous attempts made an explicit differentiation between generic search term keywords and personal names. Only a vague category of "people, places or things" has previously been analysed by Jansen et al. (2006) showing a growth of search terms in that category from 21.5% of all search terms in 2001 to 41.5% in 2002.

This paper addresses this gap in the available research by more specifically comparing search and click-through trends for personalised information resources (Web pages and sites which refer specifically to individual persons, and whose URIs include a version of the person's name) and non-personalised information resources (pages and sites which are not name-specific, and have more generic URIs). In particular, it examines whether generic search terms or personal names as search terms produce a better click-through performance. This throws new light on the »Self-Googling« phenomenon and provides a basis for further research.

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