Why, when scouring search lists, it’s sometimes good to dig deep—why the Law of Large Numbers might come to your rescue—and should you trust the new boy on the block?
What do the People say?
Before committing yourself to a product or service offered by a particular site do a little amateur sleuthing. Go to Google and make a search on the name of the site in question. Now, of course, the same name is often associated with different products and services, so check a random sample of the search hits to see whether most of them refer to the product or service that’s of interest. If a high percentage do that’s fine. If not, then add some additional terms to your search string to disambiguate the products and services, and eliminate those that are not relevant.
To get a fair cross-section of opinion take, say, five hits from the top of the search list, five hits from towards the end of the search list, and five hits from somewhere in the middle of the search list. Have a quick read and see what all these good folks have got to say about the web site in question. Hits at the top of the search list may be the most informative, but they often represent the views of Big Brother and Big Business. On the other hand, hits that are lower down usually represent the views of Joe Bloggs (T: while Flo Slogs).
The Law of Large Numbers
“Yes! I know this site”. Now, if one person says it that's not much to go on. But, if a million people say so...well, then you're getting somewhere. As the number of people who comment on a site gets larger, then a certain consensus often begins to emerge, a consensus that frequently bears some resemblance to the truth. In short, if a large number of people have come to the same conclusion regarding a site, then that common, collective conclusion is probably right.
How well known are the privacy products that are likely to be of interest. Well, let’s take Google and look up the number of hits returned for a range of privacy products (plus some global brands by way of comparison):
Clearly, with the exception of “Torcap”, these are all well-known brands. They are sufficiently widely used to get a representative cross-section of opinion regarding the merits and demerits of the products in question.
A New Boy on the Block?
But how many hits is enough? Well, once they reach the tens of thousands then the world certainly has had enough experience with the product to come to a useful conclusion. If the number of hits is small—in the hundreds or low thousands—then try to determine how long the site has been around. If it’s a “new boy on the block” then the jury is still out.
If the site is not recent, then clearly the world at large has not taken a shine to the product. That means either the product is not worthwhile, or else it’s directed at a very specialised audience. To decide which of these categories it belongs to have a look at the number of hits generated by searches for similar products; if they’re all of the same order, then the product falls into the “very specialised audience” category.