Archive for May 24, 2024

Friday, May 24, 2024

Google’s AI Search and “Web” View

Ernie Smith (Hacker News):

Simply put, Google has started adding “AI overviews” to many of its search results, which essentially throw pre-processed answers that often do not match the original intent of the search. If you’re using Google to actually find websites rather than get answers, it $!@(&!@ sucks. Admittedly though, it’s not the first time Google has adulterated its results like a food manufacturer in the 19th century—knowledge panels have been around for years.

But in the midst of all this, Google quietly added something else to its results—a “Web” filter that presents what Google used to look like a decade ago, no extra junk. While Google made its AI-focused changes known on its biggest stage—during its Google I/O event—the Web filter was curiously announced on Twitter by Search Liaison Danny Sullivan.

[…]

Google does not make it easy, because its URLs seem extra-loaded with cruft these days, but by adding a URL parameter to your search—in this case, “udm=14”—you can get directly to the Web results in a search.

John Gruber:

Safari, uniquely amongst popular web browsers, doesn’t allow users to configure custom search engines. There are ways to get custom search engines in Safari using extensions — Kagi, my default search engine of choice since late 2022, does just this — but it’s kludgy. Why doesn’t Safari support adding custom search engines like every other browser does?

On the Mac, I initiate most web searches from LaunchBar, not Safari’s location field, and LaunchBar makes it trivial to add a custom search using this &udm=14 URL trick. Similar utilities like Alfred and Raycast do too. The downside compared to LaunchBar’s built-in Google search action (and Safari’s location field) is that a simple custom query URL doesn’t provide as-you-type suggested results.

Jeff Johnson:

Can you perform the trick with StopTheMadness Pro? Yes! Use the redirects feature.

John Gruber:

Expert users won’t need this site, but typical users might love it as their home page.

Kylie Robison:

Imagine this: you’ve carved out an evening to unwind and decide to make a homemade pizza. You assemble your pie, throw it in the oven, and are excited to start eating. But once you get ready to take a bite of your oily creation, you run into a problem — the cheese falls right off. Frustrated, you turn to Google for a solution.

“Add some glue,” Google answers. “Mix about 1/8 cup of Elmer’s glue in with the sauce. Non-toxic glue will work.”

So, yeah, don’t do that. As of writing this, though, that’s what Google’s new AI Overviews feature will tell you to do. The feature, while not triggered for every query, scans the web and drums up an AI-generated response. The answer received for the pizza glue query appears to be based on a comment from a user named “fucksmith” in a more than decade-old Reddit thread, and they’re clearly joking.

John Gruber:

We’re all rightly dunking on the Elmer’s Glue suggestion, but it’s just as wrong to suggest mixing cheese into the sauce. No one does that.

crumbler:

I thought AI Overviews would be disastrous but I never imagined they would be this funny

This answer apparently came from The Onion.

Matt Birchler:

What the AI responses have done for me is add more bullshit above the actual search results I want. Now I’m scrolling past the AI vomit at the top of the page, then past the ads, and then to the links that get me what I want. They’re pushing the valuable content lower and lower down the page, which is driving me nuts.

To their credit, sometimes the AI answers are useful, and they do a decent job of linking to the source that gave them the info that appeared in the AI vomit, but the hit rate is too low in my experience. Not to mention those answers take a few seconds to load, so I’m often scrolling down to the web results since they’re available instantly and I don’t have to wait to maybe get the right answer.

Previously:

Update (2024-05-28): Kylie Robison (Hacker News):

The messy rollout means Google is racing to manually disable AI Overviews for specific searches as various memes get posted, which is why users are seeing so many of them disappear shortly after being posted to social networks.

It’s an odd situation, since Google has been testing AI Overviews for a year now — the feature launched in beta in May 2023 as the Search Generative Experience — and CEO Sundar Pichai has said the company served over a billion queries in that time.

Maxwell Zeff (Hacker News):

In my experience, AI overviews are more often right than wrong. However, every wrong answer I get makes me question my entire experience on Google Search even more – I have to asses each answer carefully. Google notes that AI is “experimental” but they’ve opted everyone into this experiment by default.

[…]

What is clear is that Google felt pressured to put its money where its mouth is, and that means putting AI into Search. People are increasingly choosing ChatGPT, Perplexity, or other AI offerings as their main way to find information on the internet. Google views this race existentially, but it may have just jeopardized the Search experience by trying to catch up.

Update (2024-05-29): John Gruber:

LLM-powered search results are a bauble. The trust Google has built with users over the last 25 years is the most valuable asset the company owns. Google most certainly does have a choice, and they’ve chosen to erode that trust just so they can avoid accusations that they’re “behind”.

Redesigned Apple Developer Forums

Apple:

The Apple Developer Forums have been redesigned for WWDC24 to help developers connect with Apple experts, engineers, and each other to find answers and get advice.

Apple Developer Relations and Apple engineering are joining forces to field your questions and work to solve your technical issues. You’ll have access to an expanded knowledge base and enjoy quick response times — so you can get back to creating and enhancing your app or game. Plus, Apple Developer Program members now have priority access to expert advice on the forums.

I don’t understand what “priority access” means. Is this another way of saying that some sections (e.g. related to new stuff announced at WWDC) will be hidden if you aren’t logged in?

It seems like Apple keeps reskinning the forums, but the core problems remain. They’re really slow, the interface doesn’t work as well as Stack Overflow or Discourse, and most questions never get good answers, if any at all. With a few notable exceptions, Apple doesn’t seem to pay its engineers to hang out there and answer questions. Sometimes that happens for a little while during WWDC but then stops.

Craig Hockenberry:

So where is the switch to disable the help in the new Apple Developer Forums?

It’s a nice idea, but in a world where I use multiple browsers on multiple devices, it’s repetitive and intrusive.

It never remembers that I’m logged in, so I keep seeing the annoying, Apple ID–specific login sheet. It always suggests entering the password for my non-developer Apple ID and has no keyboard control to select the Use a different Apple ID button that doesn’t look like a button.

Previously:

Author:

Dave Verwer:

But what about my only request? Four years seems like a good amount of time to see if Apple employees are being encouraged and given time to participate. The good news is that plenty of Apple folks are active, made obvious by the little Apple badge added to any thread where they are talking. Taking a couple of popular categories, I found that ~30% of recent threads had Apple involvement. That’s much better than I expected, and those categories all had threads spanning more than two weeks, so it’s not just a flurry of activity related to the launch of this refresh.

Looking at reply and view counts on threads in those same categories, it appears they are not particularly well visited, and most threads only had two-digit view counts.

Fatbobman:

Historically, as an official platform of Apple, this forum has not achieved the desired levels of activity. Despite recent efforts by Apple to boost engagement through the introduction of a points system, the impact has been limited. For many developers, this forum is not the preferred choice for technical exchanges. Insufficient popularity, overly detailed categorization, a lack of a unique community atmosphere, and unappealing incentive mechanisms have all hindered the development of the forum. More importantly, the expected advantage of active participation by Apple engineers, a hallmark of an official forum, has not been fully realized.

In the new version of the forum, Apple engineers are now identified by a uniform symbol (an Apple logo on their avatar), replacing the previous method of signing their posts. However, this approach of answering under departmental identities has inadvertently increased the distance between engineers and developers, making the interactions less personal and lacking in emotional engagement, which is not conducive to fostering a welcoming forum atmosphere.

See also: Antonio Strijdom.

Update (2024-05-29): Craig Hockenberry:

I saw this half a dozen times yesterday and a few times today.

If you work on Developer Forums, or know someone who does, please make it stop.

(Also of note: developers have a pretty good understanding of how forum software works - we’ve used everything from phpBB to Stack Overflow. A single page summary of what’s different would be much more effective.)

Update (2024-06-12): Marcin Krzyzanowski:

🪄 magical 2 weeks of the year when Apple employees allowed to answer technical questions on Apple Developer Forum for whole 2 weeks