Picking through my stats for the search strings that hit my blog continues to amuse and amaze me. Some of my more recent favourites:
“why am I nervous about everything”
I can just picture this person, which I imagine is a woman, crouching over her computer one evening tapping this frustrated question into Google. There’s something very sad about it, and something strangely hopeful in the process; will Google come up with answer? Google as therapist. An interesting take on the technology.
“critique of library collection abuse”
Please don’t abuse the collection. It’s not very nice.
“who is google emulating”
Possibly my favourite search string of all time. I’m sorry to say that I have yet to answer that question, or even pose that question really, but I’m thrilled to have been included in this person’s results page. I have a sinking feeling that this search was performed by a library school student required to write a paper on the subject or something like that, but in my more optimistic moments I imagine it’s just a kindred spirit out there. Who is Google emulating? Interesting question. My gut instinct is to say the reference desk, but the bigger they get and the more services they add, that becomes less and less clear. And I guess it depends also on what they think of all these crazy search strings they get. I think they are as intrigued by them as I am and that they won’t discourage the confessional style Google-as-question-answerer model people are using, which makes them more like reference librarians than online catalogues. But this may be a post for another day.
“make your page searchable on MSN using bots”
This sort of feels like a spam search string to me. It comes from an MSN search. You can make a website searchable by allowing bots to index it, but then again allowing bots to index your site is the default. Now that I’m looking at it….who needs a bot to make a page searchable? On my computer you just need to hit apple-f to get a search box and then type in your terms in order to search a page. Sheesh. Referrer spam needs to get more sophisticated than this.
“Pants of spee”
Not sure what this one is, but I’m sure I need pants of spee too.
“kids can post their thoughts”
This is a strange search. Clearly this has something to do with the read/write web, but beyond that I have no idea. Blogs? Wikis? Bulletin boards? I can’t exactly parse the thinking that would go behind this kind of search. Was this a line from a bit of promotional material, and the user was trying to locate the service? Anyway, kids can indeed post their thoughts, and a lot of them do it via livejournal.
Since entropy is one of my top ten favourite words, I’m very happy to have been included on this user’s list of results. What do you think librarian entropy is about? We break down slowly over time? I mean, I guess that’s true. The slow decline of librarianship, from Deweyesque heights a hundred years ago to confused scrabbling now? That doesn’t seem fair.
“picture of sleeping librarian”
That sounds like a challenge to me. Let me get a phone with a camera in it and I’ll get you your pictures of sleeping librarians. (Having said that, I will never be invited to anyone’s house ever again.)
“luckiest person in the world”
Getting into the list of hits for this web search is like getting a pithy fortune in a fortune cookie. When you search for the luckiest person in the world, you get me. I feel blessed.
“you shouldn’t become a librarian”
Another interesting thing to type into Google, particularly in light of the “who is Google emulating” string. That would look entirely like the user is telling Google not to become a librarian. Who is the “you” in this scenario, if not Google? Presumably the user was searching for any page that recommends that people not become librarians. Perhaps the user is feeling pressure from friends and family to become a librarian, and is looking for resources with which to defend herself. In that case, I probably know this person and have been pressuring her myself. So many interesting stories behind these strings. Of course, those are interesting stories entirely of my own making, but still.
“easy once you know how to do it ipod”
The ipod is easy even when you don’t know how to do it. But man, that phrase is haunting me. Everything is easy once you know how to do it.
“online virtual horse activities”
What is it with some people and their horse fascination? Leaving aside for the moment the strangeness of that query, honestly, what is it with horses? Leaving aside the people who breed them or own them or train them or whisper to them, whatever, all that stuff. The city girls with mad crushes on horses, that’s what I’m talking about. It’s like a phase girls go through, the horse-loving phase. All those Black Beauty books. All those chap books about girls and their horses. Is this some kind of repressed sexuality thing I’m unaware of? At any rate, I’m not a very good source for online virtual horse activities. I think horses are more of a you-have-to-be-there kind of thing, but what would I know. Clearly I’m not a horse person.
“bob rae current address”
This one sort of scares me. Do you think this user wants to send Bob a gift?
“reading at risk” and “NEA” and “digital libraries”
I’m including this search because of it’s well-articulated search strategy and use of Boolean. Not everyone thinks Google is their therapist.
gorman metadata young males
This one made me laugh. At first it looks like someone looking for items about Michael Gorman, president-elect of the ALA, and the second search term, metadata, just strengthens that assumption, since Michael Gorman is a cataloguer at heart. But then we get “young males”. It’s like this user’s search for library science sources got highjacked by their deep urge for twink smut. (You know that just using the word “twink” means I’m going to have a whole new set of wacky search strings after this.) I’m tempted to add some boolean to this search to highlight how I first saw it: what am I looking for today, oh right: “Gorman metadata OR young males”. Two birds with one stone, why not.
“times span in a library school”
When we were little my sister and I sang this song that she learned somewhere. The last line of it, as I learned it from my sister, was: ” Koliada, Koliada / will walk by on Christmas eve / From my window I’ll be watching / waiting for the kay-cee-a-lee.” We wondered what a kay-cee-a-lee was. Our mother is foreign, so we figured she would know, but no. There were no answers to be had. Until I went to school one day and learned the same song through a songbook. The lyrics are actually: “Koliada, Koliada / will walk by on Christmas eve / From my window I’ll be watching / waiting for the cakes he will leave.” Sometimes a thing sound roughly right, and when you say it no one would ever notice that you’d got it wrong, but when you type it out it becomes so very clear. This story brought to you by the term “times span”.
First we had a user considering that search box on their favourite search engine as a kind of therapist; now it’s a shoulder to cry on. There there. It will be okay. Can I get you some Kleenex? Do you want a snuggle?
“woman break up lines”
Patron: “Hi there, I was wondering if you could help meâ€¦”
Reference librarian: “Certainly!”
Patron: “I’m trying to break up with my boyfriend. What exactly should I say?”
Reference librarian: “….Pardon?”
Patron: “I need some lines I can use, you know, to dump him gently but firmly. Can you help me?”
One day, when I’m visiting a foreign country (probably the US), I will simply have to enter as many public libraries as possible and ask some of the fantastic questions I have gleaned from my search string analysis. Actually, since my friend Emily so loathes going into libraries with me because I embarrass her by talking to all the staff, I will have to do this when I’m in the UK visiting her.
“how can I get superglue off something”
This query construction is indicative of that pre-calculated state I have discussed before; this user has not really considered how to get the best results from Google. He just has a question, and he’s going to type it on in to that blank box and see what happens. In a reference interview, the obvious response to this question would be “off what?”
“black face people dishes”
And on the other end of the spectrum….a query so parsed down to its minimal components that I’m not sure I understand it. Dishes that are the faces of black people? I mean, whatever turns your crank, I guess.
And here we have, I suspect, someone trying to parse a Harvard diploma much like my own, which is entirely in Latin. Yes, I know, friend. It looks fake because it doesn’t say “Harvard”. It says “Harvardiana”, like some mock Harvard located in rural Indiana. But it’s real, I swear.
I have a cyst on my back how do I get rid of it”
Beautiful non-boolean, non-keyword construction. I get lots of hits about cysts because I once very wisely posted an entry entitled “How to get rid of a ganglion cyst”, so now I get every Tom, Dick and Harriet comes looking to me for advice. But check out that query construction. This is so verbal it jumps off the screen. Can’t you just hear the user saying it? There’s no boundary here between the user’s question and the internet. Much like Google-as-therapist, here we have Google-as-next-door-neighbour. I know there’s lots of research underway about the social networks people turn to for health information; apparently Google is like that knowledgeable lady at work with six kids who’s seen it all. Just turn to her and ask.
“fear of fish, icthyophobia”
And on the other side of the tracks, the careful library user, who knows that the comma is a significant part of a subject heading.
I’m not entirely sure where my study of search strings is going, but I feel that I’m making progress toward some goal or other. Don’t you feel more enlightened?