September 24, 2003

A self-perpetuating Google-flop

From Debian Weekly News - September 16th, 2003:

No Dueling Banjos from Debian. Some of the most bizarre mails on debian-devel over the years have been repeated requests by various people for the sheet music for dueling banjos. Several list subscribers have been eager to assist the posters in their search. Jim Penny called this the Dueling Banjo Effect and explained that this has become a self-perpetuating Google-flop. People use Google which points them to Debian to get this sheet music, and the act of asking reinforces Google's notion that Debian is a good place to get the music.

Posted by brainsik at September 24, 2003 12:41 AM | TrackBack

By discussing dueling banjos and debian in the same context, we are further confusing google. So is the debian group since they are mentioning it in their news. Vicious paradox. Talk about a self referential orgy.

Posted by: mac4 at September 24, 2003 09:38 AM

Mac4's comment helps me understand the real problem: Google results are being misinterpreted. The contention is people think Google is saying Debian is the best place to get the Dueling Banjo sheet music. This is not what Google asserts.

When one searches Google they receive an answer more like, "Hey, in regard to those terms you entered, these pages are really active and cited!" The Google theory is that this is the right way to give responses to searches.

How hard would it be to create where a search for "dueling banjos sheet music" would return pages oft cited in response to questions with those terms? Or even better, have it parse something like "where" in your search query so it can return pages associated with a location.

Posted by: brainsik at September 24, 2003 11:37 AM

Interpretting a question is no simple task (obviously). When someone asks "where" do they want a map location of sushi restaurants, or a URL?

When I do "Where can I find dueling banjos" the answer is interestingly not a page which contains the text "Where can I find dueling banjos" verbatim. The first page is, then a couple links down is the "official" dueling banjos page, which also does not contiain the quesiton either.

Debian is listed only becasue the exact phrase "Where can I find dueling banjos" is listed. Google's algorythms obviously are not so simple as matching text. I think every one acknowledges that they are smarter than that.

The issue is probably more how smart are the people who are doing the search. I can't image that someone would get all the way through sighning up for the debian mailing list without ever asking "what is debian?"

Posted by: mac4 at September 24, 2003 02:08 PM