Today’s post is an odd one. It comes about because I have started to become concerned about my online privacy. Not that I do anything unusual, illegal or immoral. It is just that I do not like that impersonal companies like Google are collecting so much information about me and trying to shape my online life with it. So I was researching things like Virtual Private Networks, The Onion Router browser and duckduckgo.com as an alternative browser (I am going to call it DuckDuck from here on in). I decided to do a side by side test to see what results I got given by Google and DuckDuck so I chose an obscure topic. The free adventure that I released on here in 2015, Tomb of the Ghast Queen. It is one of the more popular posts on here in its many forms and I had never searched it before. This, I thought, would show me how Google shaped my results and what the actual organic results are from DuckDuck. What I found was something I was not altogether prepared for.
Not that this is really the point of this post, I thought I would start with a couple of images of the results side by side. I know if I had started reading a post like this and was never given the results I would feel a little annoyed. So here is an image of the results. Google to the left, DuckDuck to the right.
They are pretty similar results in a way, but Google shows me largely the results that are within zones I was aware of. It keeps out the results that I was unaware of. It is definitely a case of Google shaping the results to the spheres of influence that I move in. DuckDuck was much more confronting for me, and I am not sure why.
What was confronting?
I went through a large amount of material on DuckDuck that was unsolicited advertising of my material on other people’s sites. Some mentioned me as the creator and others did not. They simply laid out the adventure for others. There is even an RPG Geek page on it! I knew that this adventure was popular, especially the 5E version of it. Overall it is the page with the largest number of hits and still draws hits to this day. I have twice attempted a sequel as I get messages from people wanting one. The first one got lost to the death of a hard drive and the second is always eluding me. I get it three quarters written only to despise what I have written and start again.
But as I delved further into the more organic results I found discussions on the content. Haters and defenders both. But the thing is not that people dislike it, or like it – I can live with that. I think it is the life of this creation that before today I had no real idea of.
Largely I do this for the love of it.
I love creating games and modules. If you go to the free page on this site you will find massive amounts of material for people to use. I have been running the site in various forms since around 2011 I think and pay for all the web hosting myself. Up until this year, there has never really been ads on the site and I have only ever had one person use the tip jar. They did so for the Serpents of Skiterborne Swamp DCC module which was nice. But I also am a bit naive I suppose. I put this material out into the world and I expect people to discuss it with me on my blog.
What I have found is that a lot of discussion goes on about this material, just not with me involved. That is the confronting thing to me. If you hate my module because the players start as prisoners – cool! If you like it because it is set up as a trial – great! I respect all of the opinions and love to hear it all. I am just a bit bewildered that all of this discussion goes on out in the wilds of the internet without me able to hear it.
Should I search myself more?
I don’t see myself searching for more information on my material. I find it unsettling to think that I should go looking for the material that I have already put out there. Even if it is to find out what people really think. I just do not think that is a healthy or great idea to pursue. The only thing that I am sure of is that this has convinced me to move from Google to DuckDuck. I see in the results (and I know this probably does not stand out in a brief examination from outsiders) that Google sticks pages in front of me that I may go to directly. DuckDuck seems to have done the legitimate organic search and it is based on the number of links. I for one do not want what I read to be dictated by a company directing me to pages with their ads to purchase stuff. I want relevant news.
Thanks for reading
If you made it this far, congratulations. This has been much more a journey of self-exploration and conscious thought process. Despite sitting and thinking about this while I type I am sure that there is more to this that disturbs me that I have thought about. It certainly irks me that people do not trust me enough to feed this back to me directly. I hope that those of you that have read this far do for anything of mine in the future. Positive or negative, I thrive on feedback. I love the comments that come from the readers of the blog and the users of my creations. I might go and muse on this some more. Until next time, keep rolling!