Sunday, 26 April 2009

Footballing Algorithms

Last night I attended the PFA Awards Dinner at the Grosvenor House Hotel in London. I have been lucky enough to go to other awards ceremonies at this venue and really recommend the venue as a great evening out. Despite being 30 now, I still feel like James Bond whenever I put on a tuxedo. Even if it was a bit of a squeeze.

The awards this year were won by Ashley Young of Aston Villa who won Young Player of the Year (Cue Jeff Stelling pun) and Ryan Giggs of Manchester United who was voted as PFA player of the year.

In the football calendar, there are two main accolades that an individual player can win.

1. The Football Writers Association (FWA) Player of the Year,
This award is given based on the combined scores of approximately 400 football journalists & pundits throughout England. Every writer The first winner was Stanley Matthews, who took home the trophy whilst playing for Blackpool in the 1947/8.

2. The Professional Footballers Association (PFA) Player of the Year,
This award is given based on the votes tallied from all the members of the Professional Footballers Association. A footballer who wins this award has been voted by their colleagues and peers. This award came into place after the FWA award and was first won by Norman Hunter of Leeds United in the
1973/4 season.

I think these two different voting systems provide a good analogy into the evolving nature of Google's search algorithm. When the algorithm was first constructed, it was based on a fairly simple(!) voting principle, the most inbound links won. The players decided who won the award.

As the algorithm has developed, other influences started to take effect. The search engines became more involved in judging the criteria necessary to rank in the top positions. The football writers became involved.

One of the most significant is the increasing influence a user can have on the results. In 2008, Google launched SearchWiki a tool that allows users to change their view of particular search results. This information is of course gathered by Google and whilst not impacting search results at the moment, it is my view that it is only a matter of time before this information is integrated into the algorithm.

Imagine if there was a football award that was voted for by the fans. It would be expected that the team with the most fans would naturally win the vote. Man Utd are the most popular team in the UK, this is partly due to success on the pitch, heritage and history but mostly due to the way in which they are marketed. Investment in building the Manchester United brand will enable them to win the vote.

The same can be said for the influence SearchWiki has on the search results. The most popular sites that invest in integrated marketing campaigns will get the votes, not the ones that have invested purely in SEO by buying the votes of the football writers.

Monday, 20 April 2009

Growing up in the 90's

Courtesy of XKCD.