Can't Find On Google . Com
July 10, 2005 8:46 PM   Subscribe

Can't Find On Google . Com While many people seem to think that Google can find anything (and knows everything), experienced web surfers know the results are often a bit lacking. So this site allows you to post what you are really looking for and what you punched in to the "Big G" to try to find it. The owner claims to know someone who works at Google that is "always interested in what people can't find on Google" - doubtful IMHO if they will really change anything based on this site. But semi-interesting stuff that highlights the inadaquacy of search engine technology.
posted by RonZ (36 comments total)
They won't only find it RonZ, but they'll shut it down for using the word google in the name. It's only a matter of time now.
posted by banished at 8:51 PM on July 10, 2005

"experienced web surfers know the results are often a bit lacking"

Do they? Are they?
posted by tomorama at 8:53 PM on July 10, 2005

This is a cute idea. Sadly, half of the "couldn't find" entries are just spam, and most of the others are so vague or incoherent it's unsurprising that they couldn't find what they were searching for.
posted by tyllwin at 8:59 PM on July 10, 2005

"Bill July 10, 2005 20:00:01

Really looking for: lyrics for the song by a really old british metal band called budgie called flowers in the attic. Metallica covered several of their songs

Queries tried: lyrics for flowers in the attic budgie lyrics flowers in the attic"

Somebody point him here.

What I typed into Google: lyrics budgie flowers attic [No quotes or special characters.]

The link I just posted was the first in about 745 hits.

posted by davy at 9:13 PM on July 10, 2005

I get hot feet at night so I turned to google to find the cause. Unfortunately, "hot feet" + night turned up interesting results that I wasn't expecting. The porn industry sure does fill up a lot of niche markets.
posted by idiotfactory at 9:13 PM on July 10, 2005

Really looking for: The promo for season 5 of 24
Queries tried: 24 season 5 clip, 24 season 5 promo, 24 season 5 trailer
Comments: I really need this clip ASAP

Really looking for: bridge theory
Queries tried: RPC

posted by delmoi at 9:22 PM on July 10, 2005

I searched for "true love" and it said there are 498 results on my computer... *sigh*
posted by socratic at 9:29 PM on July 10, 2005

A lot of these entries seem to have been posted by people who suck at doing web searches... which doesn't really reflect anything about Google.
posted by clevershark at 9:29 PM on July 10, 2005

This site would be quite useful if people actually searched for what you could not find, and if they found it using Google, then post what criteria that they used while searching. It could kinda turn into a Common searching mistakes and their solutions page which would be very helpful for someone trying to master the art of Google-Fu,
posted by TheFeatheredMullet at 9:39 PM on July 10, 2005

Their Google-fu is weak. Try again, grasshopper.
posted by loquacious at 9:53 PM on July 10, 2005

creating a site built around the theory that Google often doesnt work is like putting up a billboard complaining that the town ho doesnt put out

youre the one who looks retarded, not them
posted by tsarfan at 10:08 PM on July 10, 2005

I wonder if some of the stymied users are searching from other countries. I noticed I put my gmail into a foreign language, and google itself started returning results which catered more to that language/culture/country. Which was interesting, until I found that resources I would expect to be readily available were, in that "web-o-sphere" much more difficult to find. . .
posted by nervousfritz at 10:35 PM on July 10, 2005

Classy, tsarfan!
posted by Galvatron at 10:39 PM on July 10, 2005

creating a site built around the theory that Google often doesnt work is like putting up a billboard complaining that the town ho doesnt put out

youre the one who looks retarded, not them

Google has been getting worse and worse over the past few years, mostly due to more and more crap on the web. I've often found the results I was looking for via MSN search when google dosn't give me what I want in the first few results.

Now, I only use MSN search when google fails, but still, it's far from perfict.

But yes, some of these people are idiots, and some of people are looking for things that may not even be out there.
posted by delmoi at 10:44 PM on July 10, 2005

Google's inability to handle most punctuation marks constantly irritates the bejeezus out of me.
posted by nightchrome at 10:47 PM on July 10, 2005

I like the concept. This would be more interesting if it involved deliberate efforts to stump Google with searches for topics that seem intuitively like they should have results, sort of a variant on Googlewhack. This is more like a helpdesk for Google novices.
posted by brain_drain at 11:05 PM on July 10, 2005

"[C]reating a site built around the theory that Google often doesnt work is like..." like cold, hard truth smacking you in the teeth? Give me a break, Google's web index is utterly stuffed with spam, places undue relevance on web based "BBS forum" content, is becoming seriously out of date, and oh yeah did I mention completely fucking stuffed with spam? Also, in case you haven't noticed, a good number of Google search results are spam these days. And then there's the spam problem.

Never mind that 7 out of 10 Google Image Search results point to 404s. Never mind that Google's reimplementation of DejaNews misplaces more and more newsgroups. Plain old regular Google is broken. It's still vastly better than what came before, but nowhere near as useful as it was several years ago.

"Do they? Are they?"

Yes. Yes. Next question?
posted by majick at 11:05 PM on July 10, 2005

As I read this thread, the very stern grammar and spelling dominatrix that resides in my forebrain is unnervingly cracking a yardstick against the palm of her hand and impatiently tapping her foot.

I think that the main problems with most failed searches is either:

A) A total lack of a real, usable natural language search engine. (Though, is fun sometimes.)


B) People don't understand search engines, search query language, Boolean operators, the nature of information and metainformation, and more.

I can count on one hand the number of times that Google has failed me, and in all of those instances no other search engine did any better. Usually because the resource I was looking for didn't exist to begin with - most of those failures were searches for arcane device drivers or utilities.

On preview: And those device driver searches are sure mighty spammy. Spam-o-matic. Spam-o-riffic. I might as well just type "boobies!1!!" and hit "I'm feeling lucky!".
posted by loquacious at 11:13 PM on July 10, 2005

Google fails me roughly a hand's worth of searches per day. It's especially weak on searches for product reviews (review-related terminology is especially overloaded with spam), arbitrary Java classes (apparently something about Javadoc's HTML output is Google-unfriendly, and a couple of major application server vendors' sites are only very partially indexed), Perl idiom and regular expression particle semantics (Google's handling of non-alphanumeric characters is abysmal), and many other technical subjects.

Problem B is still very real, however: Many people don't know how to search, and would be successful if they were capable of learning search technique.
posted by majick at 11:33 PM on July 10, 2005

Perhaps there should be courses on searching.
Problem B is huge.
posted by blacklite at 11:40 PM on July 10, 2005

I find that actual information on vey many terms is next to impossible to find because of the commercial sites. Somebody was inquiring about deodorant stones/rocks/crystals on AskMe the other day, and it was next to impossible to get any information that wasn't a sales site. Some way of separating out the commercial pages, like a "Froogle" in reverse would be a godsend.

Also, spam. Yes. I run into it all the time. It shows up in the top results in Google for many, many searches - utterly contentless, useless, garbage spam. And the hoops one must jump through to report a spam site makes it something to attempt only when you have lots of time on your hands.

Finally, as someone mentioned, offering the choice to include punctuation in searches would be very, very useful.
posted by taz at 11:48 PM on July 10, 2005

Searching for my own publications using "my name" + gets me about 10% of the stuff I've published there -- and it's the oldest 10%. Not all failures to find are user errors.
posted by Wolof at 12:08 AM on July 11, 2005

Google should take a page from mathowie's book and put a [!] beside its search results, and automate and weight the results in some clever way. All those propellerheads they've been hiring could come up with something, you'd think. 'course search isn't the business, it's just a driver for the advertising revenue. See also: petard, hoisted.

Remember what happened to Symantec's products when they started letting the marketers overrule the engineers?
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 2:19 AM on July 11, 2005

But then someone would hire cheap offshore labour to click their competitor [!] links and say it's crap, or bad information.
posted by gsb at 3:25 AM on July 11, 2005

I couldn't find a definition of back-rubbing online either. (With Google or any other search engine.) Presumably you don't have that metaphor in the States?
posted by mleonard at 4:54 AM on July 11, 2005

Google's problem is, in part, its very success. The collective mind power of millions of spammers is constantly applied to f**ing with the results. You can go far with a grasp of Boolean searching and the nature of metadata, but the chaff definitely shows up with the wheat.

On the other hand, that's the web. Google doesn't claim to be Metafilter. Might as well call it "the rest of the web."
posted by realcountrymusic at 6:02 AM on July 11, 2005

realcountrymusic: Absolutely.

Does anyone else remember when Yahoo! stopped being a real directory and started being a searchable database?

Instead of searching for, say, "natural deoderant rocks" directly on google, it's helpful to search for a data store, like epinions, a topically related news magazine's website, or wikipedia, or even (Yeah, E2's search function and data organization is funky, at best, but highly gameable from the user-end. Though often NSFW.)
posted by loquacious at 6:50 AM on July 11, 2005

This site could use a way to respond to some of the problems people have had in a more structure way ("here's the search string I used, here's the best site -- Google had it within their first ten results") and a link to some search string tutorials. There are a bunch of these that are fairly easily found if you use the right search string.

How many of these queries were for copyrighted works? Usually sites don't want to advertise or gain much search engine recognition if they're providing such things.
posted by mikeh at 7:30 AM on July 11, 2005

google is not the answer to all questions. loquacious hints at this -- there are horses for courses. But people reading this website are generally pretty websavvy anyways.
posted by peacay at 7:54 AM on July 11, 2005

Isn't this basically what Google Answers is for?
posted by bertrandom at 8:35 AM on July 11, 2005

google is not the answer to all questions.

Some of these are really searches for .mp3s that could be conducted using Gnutella, etc. (Whether they should is another matter entirely.) Some might be answered by looking in USENET (via Google Groups, which used to be DejaNews). At least one that I saw could be researched by a competent librarian.
posted by alumshubby at 9:02 AM on July 11, 2005

To follow the consensus started by loquacious: problem B is the problem. Which is a good start, however the solution isn't really pretty.

Natural Language search engines, will succeed where other current methods fail, but, due to the contextual nature of 'natural language' probably fail more frequently with more banal queries than the current way does.

Most of the googling on the link most MeFites will recognise are due to badly formed queries. This is in part due to foolish use of terms, weighting on a words connotive rather than denotive meaning, and part due to not understanding boolean operators and all the other elements that allow those with finely honed google-fu use to extract good information.

The discrepancy is that natural languages want to deal in contextualised information, which is closer to knowledge than information - its probably closest to common sense (in the original Kantian use of the term) - and google doesn't do that right now, and yahoo gave up its Herculean C19th encyclopaedia effort. It deals with information, which is, sans context (or rather commensurable with the basic context of our predominant culture).

Bridging this divide is however difficult. Its a simple step that many will find arduous to take i.e. from natural thinking to abstracting the informational component from what the bad-Googler wants to know and then translating that in the Googlese of computer friendly speak. As a university professor, I assure that this problem is not going to go away short of a serious change in both education and the desire and recognition in the student of the need of learning something this esoteric to uninitiated.
posted by blindsam at 9:57 AM on July 11, 2005

mleonard - I gotta know - what does backrubbing mean? I have never heard this expression before. I live in the US and read a lot of British stuff, so I'm guessing its not used in the US or UK?

The example given was from a book: "She's the back-rubber." It sounds either nonsensical or skanky to me, depending on my mood.
posted by selfmedicating at 10:19 AM on July 11, 2005

I'm with banished. The "Google Trademark Enforcement Team" is putting its auto-lawyer-bot nastygram taser on them right now. Warning > self-link > it happened to me.
posted by juggernautco at 10:32 AM on July 11, 2005

I wonder what they would say about the domain name ?
posted by spock at 10:59 AM on July 11, 2005

selfmedicating - You're quite right. The example given was gibberish. However, I've always understood (non-literal) back-rubbing to mean ego-massaging. Therefore I was surprised that the term doesn't appear in the standard dictionaries.
posted by mleonard at 2:01 PM on July 11, 2005

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