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Feedback — Funny Search Engines

the original article

Ray from South Carolina, USA, explains some of the apparently weird searching behaviour:

Hi David,

I enjoyed your article on the seemingly foolish behavior of search engines and the people who use them. However, some of the users may not be as foolish as you think.

Like others, I found your page looking for info on ‘table manners’ — Korean table manners, to be exact. And like others, I saw the titles of many hundreds of pages before I requested yours.

You were puzzled at one ‘seriously determined’ searcher who disliked, or merely bypassed, 340 matches before finding you, but I’d say that I’ve seen at least 500 over a week or so. Want to know why? Go to google and search for, as an example, the exact phrase "Traditionally, Korean food is not served".

Then you’ll see that the bulk of the pages returned have the exact same plagiarized, useless, and ill-informed passage on Korean table manners.

There are a dozen other oft-plagiarized passages, too. This means that 10 of 500 pages have any truly useful information.

And yes, because I want the real stuff, I have to sift through all of this garbage. Many of these bogus pages even have the title ‘Korean Table Manners’!

Advance search at altavista.com — depending on its mood and whether it’s recently been reindexed — has given me up to 2000 exact phrase matches to the string above. Searching is harder than it looks.

No search engine gives you the option of excluding a page that contains a specific exact phrase. Without that option, I am doomed, because I dare not exclude ‘korean’, or ‘tradition’ or ‘served’ or ‘courses’ or any other individual word in the offending passage.

Anyway, just thought you’d like to know that we ‘seriously determined’ searchers are just as frustrated as you.

(I’m not sure why I found so much plagiarism. I’ve never seen this on Japanese pages about dining etiquette. Every Japanese seems to have their own strong opinions on the topic. I don’t know anything about Korean food or manners, however (thus my seriously determined search to learn more), and so can’t comment beyond my recent experience.)

You have nice web pages, keep up the good work,


Cheers Ray — personally, while I have Google set to show 100 results, I rarely go past the first page. If what I want isn’t on that first page, I tend to try a different search or try an entirely different method altogether. The ironic thing is that the article here basically doubles the chances people will come to my site mistakenly!

(Note that since Ray wrote in, many search engines do now allow you to eliminate phrases as well as individual words by placing a minus sign in front of them, and have filters to remove excessive numbers of near identical results. Sometimes, this backfires, when the original site gets dumped, and the copy-cat sites survive.)

End of Feedback Item

Here’s the list of the feedback items available here:
How I Killed a Fanzine (or, What’s an EFG?)
The Doctor and I (a fan’s biography)
Doctor Who in America
Funny Search Engines
→ Or just head back to the Feedback Index

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This page last updated by David J Richardson on Tue, 20 Jun 2006.