Archive for the ‘Search’ Category

Rockets up, Parachutes down

June 4, 2007

I just read an interesting article that describes the way Google works in their quest for the Holy Grail of Search – Giving you what you want regardless of where it is, how it is or what it is.

Apparently, Google uses some 200 signals to rank a mammoth index of over 8 Billion web pages against the innocuous group of words that make up your search query. Interesting stuff, truly so.

All that’s good, doubtless, but there are those  minor, fundamental irritations. One of Google’s wow features used to be the whole “Did you mean…” as one of the first links on the search result screen. A fantastic idea, since it’s so easy to inadvertently juxtapose keystrokes while doing that quick search. The whole concept of the “did you mean…” link was to help the user evaluate a potential better search query and execute it with a simple, lazy flick of the index finger. Freakin’ smart.

But even great innovations have those ragged edges. I was doing a search for an old Economist article I had read a while ago. The only thing I clearly remember from the article was a phrase that caught my attention “Rockets up, parachutes down” (an allusion to the way gas prices shoot up when OPEC does their nakra, but merely waft back down once the fuss is over)

So, in true Google “Power User” style, I typed my query in between two quote (“) keystrokes (for the just-about-leisurely-Google-user, a search query flanked by quotes will return pages which have that exact phrase). Google returned zero results (Shock!) but I was delighted when our cute little “Did you mean…” link came up very helpfully. “Did you mean Rockets up, parachuted down”? er, no not really wise guy, but let’s give it a shot anyway. So I click the link and get taken to a second page with – hold your breath – zero results! The darling of innovation, the predictive “Did you mean…” algorithm failed miserably.

So there you go. My story of irritations. Seriously, how difficult is it for Google to figure out that the “Did you mean…” link will not turn up results and therefore not display it in such cases? It should be a walk in the park for them. The devil, it is oft said, is in the Google 🙂 .

Any ways, another boring blog post. And I don’t even know a “self deprecating humor” way of ending it.

Ps: Aside, It will be interesting to see if this post comes up during a future query for the title phrase