Saturday, September 30, 2017

Google Search Frustration

Is it pointless to hope that Google Search, and perhaps all Internet search, won't come to be an exercise in futility? Search technology seems to have become the indexing of the lowest common denominator of all human achievement. Of course, we all want search results to be relevant, which means, we want to see the result closest to what we are probably searching for. The problem is, pop culture has now hijacked so many of the common phrases, and even individual words, that we use to make our searches. Look at "Scream," the movie, a one-word title. Quite often, the first fifty results on a page are pages for games or animated cartoons or movies. Media titles so often make use of common phrases, proverbs, and cliches. So do we, in our searches, but heaven help us if we are searching, say "mystic," or "skeleton key" or "kidnapped" or "scream," in hopes of finding something other than a film of the same title....

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Am I the only one...?

Am I the only one who is always searching for answers to technical questions, and then being disappointed because the answers are too... ahem... technical? The science of computing really is over my head. I just want to have a little website, with no hassles about it. I'm not at all comfortable with tech talk. They might as well be speaking Greek. Just call me "the fearful geek."

Friday, July 7, 2017

Fake News? Nonsensical Mashup in Google Search of Bonnie and Clyde

Fake news? Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow, better known as simply "Bonnie and Clyde," a female and male, were a couple of American outlaws who died in a gory showdown with the police in 1934. A Google Search turned up a false bit of American history in the featured snippets block at the top of the search-results page. The snippet is a nonsensical mashup. A logical reading of the following result would lead one to believe that Bonnie and Clyde (a) were both men; and (b) both lived through their "final" showdown. Neither statement is true.

Nonsense in Google Search result clip about Bonnie and Clyde
As it turns out, the error is in the mashup, not in the source site for the statements. It is just an accidental bit of nonsense. At the time of the search, the clip had no link directly under it, but a little further down in the block, a link was provided for its introductory sentence, "How many bullets were fired at Bonnie and Clyde in their final showdown?" That link pointed to a Tripod user's personal page, "The Last Day for Bonnie and Clyde," or "Gibsland Ambush." A quick perusal of the page showed a correctly written history, which had been clipped into the nonsensical mashup. The first two sentences of the above answer were clipped from a paragraph about Barrow and Parker (Bonnie and Clyde). The third sentence, which makes the result seem humorously incorrect, is from a separate photo caption about two witnesses, both men, who only heard two shots. The result seems slightly humorous, in a morbid way, but is not as frustrating as the frequently misleading mashup results from Ancestry.com that are produced by genealogy searches.

Suggested Reading: Nuclear Physics Prank: A Bit of iOS AutoComplete Nonsense


Monday, June 26, 2017

Google Domain - The Easy Button!

After scary domain purchases and redirecting nightmares of the past, I have to say, Google made this easy for me. They offered a domain name through a free blog I already had. Fearful geek that I am, I silently debated the horrors that might occur if I pushed the button. Would they immediately start to charge me a hosting fee as well? Would there be 100 extra little fees attached? Would they point my domain name to some place in Outer Mongolia? Does Outer Mongolia still exist? Well, I clicked the button and made the purchase. There wasn't anyplace, right then, to change the number of years of the registration, so I thought, "Aha! That's where they'll get me!" (Shades of Go-Daddy). Once I was registered, I went to settings, found the drop-down for renewals, and, to my surprise, found I could renew for--well as many years as I could afford, for the same price! How 'bout that? Then I verified my email address, as required, and went to my blog. What do you know? They'd already accomplished the redirect. It was instantaneous. My God. No wonder Google is taking over the world...

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Spent some time rereading Wikipedia's rules...

I worked a bit on a Wikipedia article (stub class, of low importance--so I couldn't mess up much). I think I pared down some of the speculation and made the content more objective. I added references to the historian who (apparently) got the whole moon-eyed mess started. I truly hope I'm not the one who propagated moon eyes by putting them in the Wikipedia article in the first place. But if so, it would have gotten there anyway. The "fact" of an old myth has been picked up and repeated in state-park brochures. I think the stuff was already in the article when I first edited it a few years ago. I just tried to cite the facts and remove the speculation, or qualify it by adding historical references (to show how the "fact" came to be repeated). Even in doing that, I guess I broke several Wikipedia rules, which are pretty complicated. They don't want "original research," which is hard to avoid, since they also don't want plagiarism. (It's hard to rewrite a thing or summarize it without accidentally putting an original thought or statement in there). Cite a newspaper, but not if the newspaper cited Wikipedia (circular citation--and I'm supposed to track down the newspaper's sources)? Cite a website, but only if it has been archived. (And I know that... how?) They beg for citations, but then scold if citations are: primary (better to use secondary); not authoritative (but--isn't primary more authoritative than secondary?); too old; too new; too in-between. Yesterday, I dug up a citation from Official Records to cite something on a Civil War event, thinking, "Wow, O.R., best citation you can get on anything Civil War." Now, I have to wonder--did my reference to O.R. (Official Records) break Wiki's rule on "O.R." (original research)? Isn't my very quest to look up a citation for Wiki "O.R."? Is a published letter from U.S. Grant too "primary" for something on the Civil War? But... the very fact that it was collected by the War Department, edited by a bunch of guys (don't even get me started on how to cite five authors), and published in O.R. makes a source secondary, doesn't it? Or does it? Sigh... I'm so confused. No one has complained yet about the use of Official Records to cite the article, and no one has reverted my citation. I really am trying to do things right. The only time I ever log in to W in the first place is to fix some obvious grammatical error, such as "The man went the the store." I go in and fix it. Then I get drawn into some old article I edited five years ago. I did (I hope) manage to set up the auto-archive thingy on my "Wikipedia Talk" page, so maybe I won't see those old articles when next I log in. It's difficult to know what to edit in the first place. The editors seem to want people to lend a hand, and say they can use a person's special knowledge; but really, can they? My knowledge is only useful for O.R., I think--or maybe that's just what I enjoy.

Here's what Wikipedia says: "Don't be afraid to editanyone can edit almost every page, and we are encouraged to be bold!"* Saying it and meaning it are two different things. Big controversies get started over picky little things! How anyone ever manages to deliver 5,000 words on J-Lo's new lipstick color (with citations, no less), I'll never know.