Search Strings Redux

Search Strings Redux

“how to have a conversation 101”
I like the hopefulness of this query. There’s something very optimistic about the assumption that you’ve tagged the obvious name of a conversational skills website, should such a thing exist, and that this website should of course pop up at the top of your search results list. Are there actually instructions somewhere on how to have a conversation? Is there a formula we should all be following?

“different words for diary”
Google as thesaurus. Possibly this user wasn’t aware of the existence of such things as thesauri. It would actually be interesting if Google took on this kind of question head on and took input like “words for” as a thesaurus search, giving a list of results in place of “did you mean…” People already use Google as a calculator; why not as a dictionary and a thesaurus?

“companies who produce a lot of looseleaf printing in Toronto”
This is a search a la So what is it you’re looking for? variety. I’m becoming attached to these very straight-forward, completely undeconstructed search strings. I feel like I’m getting a glimpse into a person’s unselfconscious brain.

“inspiring one line phrases”
I’d like to be inspired, but could you do it quickly? I’ve got better things to do.

“Chinese is on the takeout list for the staff lunch”
I’m not sure what’s going on with this one. An accidental paste into Google? I mean, I’m glad to hear that the staff like Chinese for lunch (I’m partial to the buffet lunch deal my brother-in-law so cruelly exposed me to in downtown Guelph), but I can’t imagine what this could possibly be a search for. It’s more like a confirmation, a statement of fact.

“am I really a subversive”
Deep thoughts. What does Google have to say about your self-identity issues? Try it sometime. (Am I really a subversive librarian?)

“what does an algorythym look like”
Spelling the thing right helps, but this is another interesting question that avoided any deconstruction before being keyed into the search engine. Since Google is not a question answerer by design, the easiest way to do a search like this would have been to dump the word “algorithm” into a Google image search. But an interesting question nonetheless.

“almost done with my period when I get this external tickling itchy feeling”
I think what I like best about this is the way it mimics speech; how is Google supposed to parse “when I get this” and “almost done with my”? This sounds exactly like someone talking on the phone with a friend. Google as that knowledgeable girlfriend of yours, the one you can confide in and who will reassure you or direct you to some euphemism-covered box at the pharmacy.

“how to use the law to manage the information”
Interesting, but bafflingly imprecise. This question pretty much feels as though the user is looking for an answer without entirely understanding the question. Which information? How exactly can laws manage information? Maybe the rules of LCSH? Again, a case of the user seeing the Google search box as asking So, what’s your question today? rather than a place to punch in some keywords. There are no serious keywords here at all. I feel certain that this user came away pretty empty-handed from his search.

In another search string someone asked who Google is emulating; in many ways it feels as though people see Google as emulating the reference librarian. When a patron comes to the reference desk looking for “a book”, we understand that this imprecise query is actually a test. The patron wants to see how the reference librarian responds, whether they are really nice, whether they are actually too harried and too busy to do a guided search. So the first question isn’t the actual question at all. Is it possible that people do the same thing with Google?

“refworks is crap”
I sort of enjoy the idea that someone has a strong opinion about a product and wants to see if anyone else agrees.

“what was Dr. Faustus main goal”
What I think is really interesting about this one is the way the user obviously got the idea that you don’t type in a query just as you would say it; so he opted not to add an apostrophe on “Faustus”. We still have the “what was” part of the question, which is, as with other queries, answering Google’s unasked question: How can I help you? This is also probably a student trying to avoid reading the book. Good luck with that, friend.

“reasons people get fired”
A shortened phrase, at least. I wonder if anyone has ever complied a list.

“painting parquet floor update”
Dear God, don’t paint a parquet floor! Is this a Debbie Travis-related query?

“question to ask about getting to one person”
Your guess is as good as mine on this one. Interview questions, perhaps?

“what does a hard like mass look like on my skin”
You tell me.

Where before we had undefined questions being asked of Google in a tentative sort of way, now we have some specifics, but the question itself is skewed. The search appears to be for images of some sort of skin condition, but the phrasing of the question is strangely personal. Also, note the intact nature of the grammar. It’s moments like this that I can actually take my search string research with a modicum of seriousness. I really am learning something here. People don’t deconstruct their searches; they just type in the question they have.

“my uncircumcised penis sucks”
This is so sad. Don’t be brainwashed by North American culture, young man! Be proud! I have to wonder if this is some poor boy’s low opinion of himself of just someone looking for a person who said such a thing in public.

“well why not”
Wiser words have never been spoken.

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