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9 Other Things That Harper's Publisher Rick MacArthur Googles

Alexis Madrigal

"Try finding Harper's Magazine when you Google "magazines that publish essays" or "magazines that publish short stories" -- it isn't easy." No, Rick, no it's not.


I don't want to delve too deeply into John "Rick" MacArthur's latest Internet troll, in which he rails against being indexed by search engines. Ain't no troll like a Rick MacArthur troll, non? 

But I do want to point out how he thinks people might find things on the so-called Internet.

Google's bias for search results that list its own products above those of its competitors is now well-known, but equally damaging, and less remarked, is the bias that elevates websites with free content over ones that ask readers to pay at least something for the difficult labor of writing, editing, photographing, drawing, and painting and thinking coherently. Try finding Harper's Magazine when you Google "magazines that publish essays" or "magazines that publish short stories" -- it isn't easy.

Emphasis added.

Well, I thought I'd try out that search strategy for some other common things John MacArthur, or someone with his same sensibility, might go looking for things.

The joke here, of course, is that MacArthur has no idea how people use the Internet, or how to use the Internet himself. While that might seem like a failure to understand The Machine, i.e. Google, it's actually a failure to understand other people

One last thought. Nowadays, most people see several versions of the hand-edited Internet: one is the stream of content their friends share, two is Wikipedia, and three is the way Google recommends search terms in real-time. Your Internet is increasingly shaped by other people's judgment processed through machines' ranking algorithms. With Facebook Graph Search, and Google's Search Plus Your World, this trend is picking up steam. And what's fascinating about that is that someday soon MacArthur's idea of search might start to make sense: for general queries, top search results would become the ones close to you that your friends had liked. That won't help Harper's a bit, but it might help you.

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