Google Rates Website Wonkiness

This post’s headline misrepresents the apparent intent of a new Google filter in its advanced search function. Per the SearchEngineLand report, “Google Lets You Dumb Down Your Search Results With “Reading Level” Filter,” the aim is apparently to allow web surfers to steer clear of pages that might be too taxing.

For fun, I did a site search to see how Naked Capitalism stacked up. We are solidly intermediate, with a slight bias towards being taxing:

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Maybe we should look at a benchmark. Where does the doyenne of the mainstream media, the New York Times, fit in?

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How about the supposedly more demanding Economist?

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I wondered how a site that is finance oriented but deliberately seeks a broad base would stack up. Here’s Clusterstock:

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I wondered how charts get scored. Are charts considered difficult? Mike Konczal and Steve Waldman are both pretty cerebral, but Steve goes about it in very carefully reasoned prose. Here is what Google makes of them:

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So it appears that the finance/econ genre is really not all that hard, which does sound about right.

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  1. psychohistorian

    HA! I am SURE that my web sites’ wonkiness is the reason my invention has not been successful.

    My site was reported at 14, 28 and 57 percentages at basic, intermediate and advanced respectively. I wonder what their criteria are and if they are going to build a truthiness filter that would be much more useful.

  2. spc

    Ok, it’s unadulterated idiocy. Leftovers of my brain can do better job with evaluation than big G’s uber-algos.

  3. Unsympathetic

    It’s kind of ridiculous.. Hey google, if everything is “intermediate,” you’ve accomplished nothing. is the most wonky econ site I’ve ever seen.. and it’s only 4% advanced. (16/80/4) If self-evident isn’t advanced, what is?

  4. Jim Haygood

    ‘… the finance/econ genre is really not all that hard, which does sound about right.’

    How could it be otherwise, when it takes eight economists to change a light bulb (one to screw it in, seven to hold everything else constant)?

    Or to pose a counterfactual: if Ben Bernanke’s so smart, why aren’t we rich?

  5. Dave of Maryland

    Probably simple vocabulary levels: 8th grade, 12th grade, college grad. Bonus wonki points for Latin, French, acronyms, etc.

    1. readerOfTeaLeaves

      I’m thinking it’s wonkier than that.
      Involves unfamiliar words (even if they are easy to recognize and pronounce). Probably includes algos for ‘terms of art’, and probably also includes algos for subject-verb relationship.

      One of my former acquaintance went to MS research and focused on simplifying text for Help screens. The whole topic fell under the rubric ‘readability’. Turns out that passive phrases are not actually harder for most people to understand, what matters is the subject-verb construction.

      How’s that for ‘tea leaf of the day’, eh?

  6. armand g eddon

    It’s actually quite easy to find more ‘Advanced’ sites IF YOU HAVE THE EDUCATION TO KNOW WHAT IS ADVANCED – for instance:

    Results by reading level for site: (Ken Wilber’s ‘integral’ philosophy – adult development, developmental psychology, philosophy, worldcentrism, ecology, and stages of faith)
    Basic 10%
    Intermediate 53%
    Advanced 36%

    Results by reading level for site: (Moby Dick author)
    Basic 11%
    Intermediate 48%
    Advanced 40%

    Results by reading level for (Existentialism, Phenomenology and Existential Psychology)
    Basic 3%
    Intermediate 34%
    Advanced 62%

    Results by reading level for (Artificial intelligence)
    Basic < 1%
    Intermediate 8%
    Advanced 91%

    Results by reading level for (Mathematics)
    Basic < 1%
    Intermediate 3%
    Advanced 96%

    This is really fascinating – Naked Capitalism readers believe they are SO sophisticated that the site MUST be VERY advanced or the Google algorithm is totally meaningless. NOT SO.

    Honestly I love NC, Yves posts great info, but the responses are EXCEEDINGLY supercilious.

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      I never said this blog was advanced, in fact I was going to elaborate that “advanced” is probably properly limited to scholarly work in the sciences, pure math, and philosophy, perhaps the denser lit crit (the latter I view as pretentious rather than necessary wonkiness, however).

      In fact, I strive to make the more technical aspects of finance, which I think practitioners try to make seem more complicated than it really is by the use of specialized vocabulary, accessible to lay readers. So an “advanced” rating would be contrary to my objectives.

      1. ScottS

        I know I come here for the intermediate economic analysis. ; )

        Seriously, this site is invaluable to people like me who don’t have an economics background but want to understand the world of finance.

        As the last few years have shown, economics affects all of us whether we understand it or not. Might as well read up on it so we can vote in good reforms.

        As Robert Cringley says in his article (, the third time’s a charm. We will suffer for at least ten years, and hopefully the school of hard knocks will force us to write decent legislation that will last until the next generation completely screws things up.

  7. Stelios Theoharidis

    It appears armand g eddon has raised your advanced levels by using supercilious in his comment. At the same time he/she probably raised the basic level as well for FORGETTING TO TURN THE CAPSLOCK OFF to make a modestly simple point. Although there isn’t an algorithm for determining snarkiness levels and overinflated sense of intelligence he/she has likely accelerated that towards the cosmos.

    It is poor form to suggest that Philosophy, Mathematics, or Artificial intelligence for that matter are a more advanced form of social inquiry. Although I quite value all of them, they simply specialize in obfuscating relatively simple concepts into increasingly complex language. Therefore the advanced rating. Try not to demean the other commenters here or their concern for what is actually going on in the world in favor of more nebulous forms of inquiry.

  8. James

    I just checked and it came up 95% advanced. I guess Google is listening to you, Unsympathetic.

  9. 60sradical

    Yves and regulars:
    Complex critcallity vectoring in asymptoptic stoachastic variatons anticipating a non-finite threshold wherein emergent phenomena stratifiy themselves into less random topological matrices can be wave-like or particle like; yet, as every schoolboy knows observation qua observation disturbs the observed. And this site or any electron-four dimensional-matrix is wonktified via x# of credit default swaps. Easy to follow….Google knows nothing, even though it posseses presonhood.

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