Working the Google spider

I had a shock on Google Scholar when I put in one of my usual search terms, young antipolitics, found an unread article, and found that it was mine. My name in lights! Well, Google lights, anyway. The paper is a literature review I wrote for a master’s course and I had placed it on my University website to point interested folk at a conference towards it. I guess the Google scholar robots stumbled on it and figured with a bath.ac.uk address it must be legit.

noone reads alt text these days

It’s automatic (source: capnskull.com)

The paper has been graded now – it was alright – but for a good month or so the top result for young antipolitics on Google scholar was some old junk I had parcelled onto a uni website without any reading or review. I reckon the Google robots must check references with some accuracy – you can surf through articles that cite each other – but in the end, it turns out like Wikipedia. Can you really be sure who writes what you find on the internet?

Of course, we’re all good students and take web papers with a pinch of salt. You check the name of the journal, you recognize the major citations… and so on. What’s interesting to me here isn’t the potential to fall foul of Google’s robots but ways we as students can play the robots at their own game: juice up our papers to look good to robots, get the top spot on Google scholar, cross-reference our research blogs, and so on. Coming up with a cracking neologism – antipolitics is an accidental one – and stamping your name on it as a search term might be one way to do it.

And wouldn’t that be great, if some day, some stranger typed your name into Google and got a wonderful academic treatise, rather than the Facebook account of a dude in Iowa by the same name…

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