Friday, November 20, 2009

Asking the Great Oracle

Google appears to be the internet oracle of recent years, completely dominating all other search engines on the web. I've been keeping an eye on the statistics for this blog since early October and search engine hits show a steadily rising line. Over 90% of these hits are from Google. Perhaps not all that surprising given the fact that both Blogger and my statistics watchamacallit are Google products.

What strikes me most about these search engine results is the fact that some people actually pose a question directly to Google. Now I won't claim to understand how Google actually finds stuff but I am pretty sure that unless you tell it to look for a particular phrase it ignores things like "the", "to" and "of". Some examples:

what does perdido mean in english
This person at least omitted the question mark. Google provided a link to the Perdido Street Station review which does not actually state the answer. I wonder if that book prompted the question.

what ship first picked up prendick at the beginning of the story?
This one is my favourite. Its a hit on The Island of Dr. Moreau, a book that can't be much more than 40,000 words. The answer is in the first chapters. Actually doing your homework and reading it would have been faster. Again the review did not contain the answer.

did galileo's work advance their society
A hit on Galileo's Dream. Poorly phrased question, who do you mean by "their"?

is the gathering storm disappointment
Should be obvious what this person was looking for. Given the reactions I have seen so far I would say the answer is no.

when is dust of dreams out in paperback?
I have no idea. Probably summer/fall 2010. Personally I thought not waiting for the paperback was worth it.

where can i find the book "the songs of distant earth"
One of Arthur C. Clarke's later books. As far as I know it is no longer in print so I would suggest a second-hand bookshop.

I looks like Google has some work to do before it can accurately answer questions such as these. Then again, it is designed to find webpages, not answers. People may want to remember that.

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