Search Engines: biases and problems

I had a recent post disappear from listing on Word Press and shortly after it disappeared almost entirely from search engine results as well.  The post only managed to remain as a shadow in Google results in the form of indirect links and some cached pages of when Word Press had listed it, but it disappeared without a trace in Yahoo results.  The last time I checked it never even showed up at all in other search engines.  This got me wondering how search engines work.  Both Google and Yahoo had originally shown and cached the direct link to the post, and so their web crawlers had already discovered it.  However, when it disappeared from Word Press listing the search engines followed suit.  Were the web crawlers no longer able to see my post even though Google and Yahoo previously had the direct link to it?

Also, I’d noticed in the past that the search engines seem to treat the various blogging sites differently.  For a while, I had several blogs going on several hosting sites because I was testing them out.  I was posting the exact same things to each of them, but I often noticed that the My Opera blog often showed up higher in search results than my other blogs.  Now, I use only Word Press because I like its functionality the best.  This recent event, however, made me wonder how often my posts might not show up at all in search results. 

To test it out, I did a search of a blog title that was posted when I was using all of the blogging sites.  In Yahoo search results, only the My Opera post was given a direct link and the other posts such as from Word Press only were given indirect links through the blogs home link, through tag listings, or through other websites’ hyperlinking.  Google gave very different results which gave direct links to the postings on all of the blogging sites, but put Word Press as the top result.  Did Google put Word Press on top because it’s the only blog of mine that is active right now?  If so, why did Yahoo give preference to My Opera which I haven’t used in recent months?  Also, why didn’t Google show direct links to my recent disappeared post on Word Press? 

I did another comparison search between Google and Yahoo using a different early post of mine.  This time Google showed the direct links to my posts on all of the blogging sites except it left out the direct link to the Word Press post.  Yahoo, for some reason, didn’t show a direct link to my post on any of the blogging sites, but did show several indirect links.  As a further experiment, I did a search of the Word Press web address for that post and it doesn’t show up at all in either Google or Yahoo.

Another question that comes to mind is the matter of the biases of search engines.  Do search engines filter their results to fit my past searches?  I’d be fine if they do this as long as they tell me they’re doing this.  And to what degree does advertising and vested interests influence results?  Furthermore, what about the government?  Covert government sites get erased from Google Earth for example.  It wouldn’t surprise me if they don’t simply erase those sites but even replace them with natural looking terrain so that no one would realize something was missing.  It is without a doubt that the government censors some information on the internet.  The question is what kind of information and how often? 

But not everything is nefarious or intentional.  Quite possibly, my disappeared posting was just a glitch.  So, how typical are such technical failures?  If a search engine doesn’t show something as existing, how does someone know it exists?  Even if someone knows it exists and even know an exact title or phrase, how do they seek it out if search engines aren’t helpful?  Do traces remain of disappeared, removed, and lost information?  How can someone recognize a trace of something once having existed or still existing unseen?  How often can those traces lead someone to finding the information?

The first example that made me aware of problems with search engines had to do with the fairly popular writer Acharya S.  She comes up a lot on the internet.  She was partly involved with the heavily watched Zeitgeist film which created the biggest buzz on the internet than any other web realeased film before.  She runs a website that has tons of useful info about her field of expertise.  There really is no other website that is even close to being comparable if you’re interested in researching the subject of astrotheology.  However, when in the past I did a direct “in quote” Google search for the name of her website, I didn’t find it in the top results.  The direct link to her website only showed up several pages beyond the first page of results.  The first several pages were filled with her detractors and other websites linking her website.  If I do a Google search for an exact title, why doesn’t it give me the most exact result right at the top?  Why does it give pages of indirect links before showing the direct link itself?

Are there search engines that give you more control instead of feeding you the info it thinks you want?  Is there a search engine that is upfront and transparent about its biases?

Arsen Darnay’s Borderzone Blog

I just discovered a new blog.  It’s titled Borderzone and is written by Arsen Darnay.  From his ‘About’ page:

“Borderzone may be of interest to those whose inner sense suggests a reality open at both ends—in the heights and in the depths: angels above and agents below the enzymes, as it were. The posts are exploratory and philosophical; they point to horizons not typically reached by ships or planes.”

I wrote some responses to his posts that I’ll share below.

Henry Corbin

I only know of Henry Corbin’s ideas indirectly through the book Imagination is Reality by Roberts Avens. Have you read it? I’ve also come across these ideas in my reading of paranormal and ufo literature. Patrick Harpur’s Daimonic Reality is a good analysis of all of this.

I didn’t know that Corbin wrote about Swedenborg. I’ve never read Swedenborg either, but I’ve read that his ideas influenced New Thought Christianity which I was raised in.

I found it interesting your mention of Paracelsus. I hadn’t heard of his view that visionary experience came from the heart. I like that idea.

The Random Element in Borderline Phenomena

Well, I’m personally a fan of “useless” knowledge. To the degree that knowledge is useful it will be biased towards some specific agenda. Useful knowledge isn’t problematic per se, but if the agenda becomes too overt it can be a major limitation for further scientific research and discovery. Anyways, the Taoists warned against the dangers of usefulness and I think it’s good advice.

As for the issue of science and the paranormal, there are two authors that I’d recommend. Both have worked in the field of science and so have knowledge of it from the inside.

George P. Hansen’s The Trickster and the Paranormal covers a lot of territory. Hansen worked as a parapsychology researcher and so is very familiar with the flaws and limitations of the field (and of science in general).

Jacque Vallee has done lots of scientific work with astronomy and computers, but he has become one of the biggest names in ufo research. He became involved in the latter field because he personally witnessed an astronomer destroy data of a ufo. He is specifically known for proposing the similarity between ufo experiences and religious experiences.

Have you heard of either of them? If so, what do you think of their ideas?

The Song of the Pearl – Part II

This is something that interests me immensely. I’ve been reading Gnostic texts recently. The Song of the Pearl is one of my favorites partly for the dream-like imagery.

I think it’s important your noting Cindarella and Snow White. I mentioned Jacques Vallee in another post of yours. He wrote about the similarity between ufo experiences and fairy/folk-tales. One element is the experience of unconsciousness, forgetting and lost time. Reports of interactions with other paranormal beings (such as fairies) also involve this element. So, there is a continuity between religious experiences in the past and ufo experiences now. It’s just a matter of cultural interpretation.

I’m not sure exactly how all of that fits into the Gnostic viewpoint, but it seems significant. I’m sure Gnostics would’ve taken seriously the actual paranormal experiences people had. Some people just see their weird myths as complex theologizing, but I think that misses the original intent of gnosis itself.

Your last point makes me wonder about one possible connection. The idea of children who end up as queens and kings reminds me of another element of ufo experiences. The “aliens” (or whatever they are) often tell people that they are an elect or special somehow, that they will be saved or will help save the world. These paranormal beings are always proclaiming grand messages and singling out people to receive them.

What is the purpose? Heck if I know. The messages usually don’t have any practical value and the predictions often don’t come true.

For instance, paranormal beings (and the prophets or alien abductees who listen to them) have been predicting the end of the world for quite a while now. Whether its the early Christians waiting for the Second Coming or ufo believers waiting on a hill, it’s all the same.

Maybe the problem is that such people took the message literally instead of allegorically/spiritually as the Gnostics preferred.

Interesting Blogs About Christianity

I came across some interesting blogs about Christianity.

The first is called The New Heretics.  The blogger is remaining anonymous until he finishes bible college.  The blog is about his losing his faith and exploring his sense of the spiritual.  It is the most open-minded, intellectually honest, and heart-felt blog I’ve come across in a long time.  I can tell that the blogger cares deeply and isn’t simply out to bash other people’s religion.  Two posts I enjoyed are The best joke ever?  and  Recovering from Christianity.

The second is called The Forbidden Gospels Blog.  The blogger is April DeConick.  She  is a professor of Biblical Studies and an author.  I like the ideas that she brings up in her blog, and she attracts intelligent commenters.  Here are some of the posts I found: Those exclusive Gnostics?!, Accomodation to society in Gnosticism, Transtheism or Supratheism?, Transtheism/Supratheism follow up, and Transtheism it is.

I came across these two blogs from links in the blog HYPEREKPERISSOU.  Its a Christian blog written by someone going by the name of Phil and he seems fairly orthodox, but he links to many other bloggers including my own (here).

PKD Trumps Harpur and Ligotti

Sometimes I wonder why I write a blog.  When I write in my journal, I never wonder about this… I suppose because there is no potential audience to make me self-conscious.  But a blog is a public spectacle… and so I wonder what purpose it serves.  I sometimes hope someone reads it and at least finds it interesting, and at other times I’d rather be left alone with my rambling thoughts.

I’m wondering about this specifically in relation to my recent blogs about Christianity.  I partly write just to give my thoughts form and to make notes about the subjects I study.  However, I’m also trying to communicate… afterall, that is what writing is about.  I’m sure like everyone my motives are mixed.  There are various aspects to my personality, various hopes and fears.  Plus, blogging is simply a good distraction from other more responsible activities such as washing my dishes.

In writing about Christianity, part of me wants to persuade.  I believe in truth and I want others to believe in truth.  I have this lingering faith that truth can somehow win out against all the BS in the world.  Along with this, I’d like to believe that religion can be something more than history too often demonstrates it to be.  Tom Harpur writes about the horrific side of Christian history, but he also writes about hope… about the possibility that spiritual truth (whatever it may be) can rise above the politics and superficialities that mainstream Christianity has consisted of for centuries.  I was raised a New Age Christian and so this message resonates with a part of me that is still innocent and earnest in my sense of faith.  Who knows, maybe society can change.  Maybe religion can become something more than a means of social control. Tom Harpur believes that if Christianity was willing to face up to its own dark past that a bright future is possible.  What a happy thought that is.

But then my inner Thomas Ligotti speaks up.  Going by Zappfe, Ligotti the pessimist dismisses such New Agey hopes as just another attempt to avoid suffering.  Life is suffering and everything we do is an attempt to avoid the awareness of suffering.  Sadly or fortunately, we’re simply incapable of even comprehending the horror of our existence.  It doesn’t matter what cruelties any particular religion was built upon because our whole society is built upon misery.  We’re just f*cked!  Then again, if I have to waste my life in some manner or another, maybe that is all the more reason to sit around contemplating spiritual truths… even if they are nothing more than pretty lies.

I do on occasion think of myself as a Christian, in spite my constant criticisms.  My friend tells me I’m a Christian… and, heck, why not?  I’m a Christian and many other things besides.  It’s all good.  To be serious, I actually do feel drawn to Christianity, specifically certain Gnostic ideas.  Plus, I’m just fascinated by these great myths that percolated down through the millennia to finally take form in the figure of Jesus and the rest of the cast.  When I contemplate these stories and symbols, I do sense a deeper truth, something that feels real.

In the end, neither Harpur nor Ligotti wins out.  Their voices fade away, and I see Philip K. Dick sitting with one of his cats and he is bantering about something or another.  It is true that he was crazy, but crazy in an entertaining and mostly harmless way.  He had a playful imagination and an overactive one at that.  Harpur and Ligotti, on the other hand, seem like such serious fellows.  I can often be quite serious myself.  Still, I’d rather be  a fool like PKD.  He took various random ideas (including ancient mythology and Gnosticism) and he made it his own.  He wasn’t a good person, he wasn’t a bad person.  He was just a guy who liked to tell stories and who had an insatiable curiosity.  Who needs hope or pessimism if they have curiosity?

Too many people in the world have answers.  Even though I have many opinions, I know I don’t have any answer myself.  But part of me wants an answer.  And that is fine to an extent.  Maybe we can’t live without some answer or another to hold onto.  Even so, I don’t want to ever stop questioning.  If life ever becomes so depressing or boring to me that I lose my sense of curiosity, then what would be the point?

So, I can get annoyed at fundies who present apologetic self-deception as truth.  That is their answer and it seems a fairly stupid answer to me.  Then again, I get annoyed at lots of things in life.  I pretty much get annoyed at anyone who claims any final conclusion about anything.  And I get annoyed  at life for its lack of a conclusion, its lack of a clear point to it all.  I must admit I get too easily annoyed.  It must be nice being a fundie, or a fanatic of any variety for that matter, who possesses unquestioning certainty.  There is no doubt that fundies get annoyed as well, but at least they have conviction in their annoyance.  As for me, I just end up turning my annoyance back on myself.  I get annoyed even at my own attempts at finding answers.

Its just with every answer comes a role to play.  The fundie is playing their role of righteous believer and some of them can really embrace that role, but there are many other roles besides.  I get tired of roles.  I go to work and play various roles… for my supervisor, for my fellow employees, for the customers.  And then there are all the family roles I’m stuck in… son, brother, brother-in-law, uncle, etc.  It almost makes me feel envious of the people playing the role of homeless… a much simpler role to play in many ways even with its drawbacks.  There is this one homeless schizophrenic guy that I often suspect has life figured out.  That is almost the perfect role because then everyone leaves you alone.

It makes me wonder what conclusion I’ve come to in my own life order to play the roles I  play.  I guess any story has to have its roles to be played.  Maybe I just don’t like the story I’m in.  When I’m blogging, I’m usually playing the role of the intellectual.  It’s a role I’m good at to an extent, but intellectuality can bring out the cynic in me.  I suppose I could play the role of the person who has no opinion at all… except I’m too opinionated to attempt that role.  I’ve tried many roles in my life.  I’ve even tried to play the optimist a number of times, and I really suck at it.  I’m almost attracted to the role of the Christian miserable sinner except that role doesn’t seem like very much fun, and the dogma of the role of the  righteous Christian would give me brain cramps.

I somewhat admire Ligotti in his adamant pessimism which almost feels like a stoic fatalism.  His view seems so simple and straightforward.  Ultimately, I don’t understand such a view.  I’m a spiritual person.  One of the best roles I’ve found for myself is the spiritual seeker who never finds.  It isn’t always a perfectly satisfying part to play, but it keeps me occupied.  As an endlessly questioning seeker, I feel some connection to Philip K. Dick.  He definitely had restless mind syndrome.

Another aspect to PKD was that he had great interest in social roles.  One of my favorite stories by him is his novel A Scanner Darkly.  That story has a strong Gnostic theme.  It’s a bit dark in it’s portrayal of society and relationships, but I oddly find it gives me a sense of hope or else something related to hope.  The main character Arctor never gives up.  He is confused and split, but he continually questions and in some ways sees more clearly than the other characters.  Partly, he tries to step outside of the roles he finds himself in… even though he ends up stepping into other roles.  No perspective gives him absolute clarity, but more significant is his nagging sense of doubt.  In Arctor, I see something akin to my own seeking nature, my own seeking without knowing what I’m seeking.  The seeker is just another role I suppose, but at least it isn’t a mindless role.  There is a sense in this that there is something more than the masks we wear.  In Arctor’s shifting perspectives, he at times nearly forgets all roles and a deeper aspect seems to emerge.

Arctor is very much a Christ-like figure.  There is the dual nature, the sacrifice and suffering, the descent, the emergence of something new.  The dual nature aspect is particularly compelling.  Saviors tend to be dual natured in several ways.  There is the well-known duality of God and man combined.  However, saviors are unifiers of duality in general.  Many savior figures combine human and animal features for instance.  Another duality is that between good and evil personified as Jesus and Satan or Horus and Set.  The relationship of the latter two is a really good example because they were even at times represented as a singular dual-natured god, Horus-Set. 

What is interesting about Arctor is that he has a split personality such that one half of him is both spying on and looking out for his other half.  Meanwhile, sweet little Donna is playing the role of Judas, but in a sense Arctor willingly plays into this betrayal by his past choices.  Arctor is both outside and within the oppressive system, pretending to be a narc.  Still, he holds something back from the drama of it all.  Donna may think she knows the game, but she doesn’t really know Arctor.  Despite her larger perspective, she is more identified with the role she is playing than Arctor is.  Most of the characters seem to be stuck in roles.  Even though outwardly the story is about drug addiction, the story is really about social roles and social control, about how people get stuck in patterns of mind.

And beyond all of that, there is another message.  Those who think they’re in the know may not know as much as they think.  Instead, at the bottom of loss of all certainty, one might discover something unexpected.  It isn’t nihilism for there is a different kind of certainty within the faith that allows one to survive the descent.  There is some kind of balance in it however precarious it may be. 

In real life, however, many people don’t survive the descent.  Staying within the confines of conviction is much safer.  Although, how I see it is that such descents are part of a story, and I suspect we ultimately don’t choose the stories we are in.  I happen to be sympathetic to the story of Arctor, but I’m biased.  Maybe ideally I should try to feel compassion for everyone in their respective stories.  And maybe I should do many things.  Compassion for fundies?  I’ll have to work on that.

I started some blogs elsewhere, but I’ve been mostly blogging at Gaia.com. The Gaia blog is fairly basic and I don’t always feel like I fit in with all the New Agers that are members there. Nice people and all, and its good for general blogging. I just want to have a more serious blog on a more major site. I’ve written two blogs there where I was considering my blogging options.

Marmalade’s New Blogs

Word Press is definitely a good blogging site, but I’m considering what will be best for my purposes.  I do like many of the functions that Word Press has such as multiple pages.

I’m going to blog here along with some other sites, and see what I think of them.