Monday, February 12, 2007

"who wrote dante"?!

Someone visited my blog for zero seconds through an search for the word sequence "who wrote dante."

Because the word sequence was not enclosed with double quotation marks, the one conducting the search must have netted a lot of websites worldwide containing those three separate words, each website useless for answering the query. In fact, as I discovered by checking, the search landed 79,300 sites, my own site being number three on this useless list. I picture the poor soul who did this search going down the list, item by item, seeking an answer to the unanswerable question. A Google search would have gotten even more useless items -- I just did a search and found 1,210,000!

Assuming that this person has vincible ignorance, I'd suggest that a search with the sequence in double quotation marks might have helped. Using Google, I've just done this and found 57 items, one of them implicitly ridiculing the search by calling it "the weirdest question." That might have led the searcher to question the question.

Aside from the weirdness of the question, there's the weirdness of how it was posed to the search engine -- as though were a conscious entity that could understand the word sequence as a question. Does the one who posed this question imagine a human being receiving it and then searching the internet for an answer, like the telephone operators who used to assist with phone calls?

Well, let me be that smooth operator and help out:

"Yes, dear searcher, there is a human being who answers such questions, and you've reached him. The answer to your query 'Who wrote Dante?' is ... you did."

Of course, you're not alone...


At 12:04 AM, Blogger Dave said...

I believe that the question format was the original gimmick at AskJeeves (

I have been plagued by similar bizarre search strings, and like you, I write blog entries mocking the searchers.

The most recent one started because a blog visitor mentioned a certain search string in a comment, because his blog had shown up in searches for it, even though it had nothing to do with him. Then my blog started showing up in the searches, so I wrote something about it.

If you like, I could transfer the meme to you by mentioning it in your comments section!

At 6:48 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Transfer the meme? Good, idea, Dave. Maybe we can help the people behind those odd searches by disabusing them of their illusions. Moreover, we'll increase our number of daily hits and thereby raise our blogworthy status.

Eventually, we'll become famous and make ourselves rich off the advertising on our blogs.

Wait a minute ... I have no advertising on my blog...

Jeffery Hodges

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At 2:52 PM, Blogger Dave said...

I think of it as a variation on the old-fashioned way that people are situated by accidents of geography and culture. Our virtual personae become situated by search terms and links that are somewhat out of our control.

Because of a coincidental relationship to a commenter who happens to use in his blog name part of a certain search term, I got sucked into this association. I added to the lore by satirizing the terms, then I had to add a post explaining the situation.

Now, if I was very concerned with maintaining a particular identity, I would remove such spurious terms from my blog. In fact, I would if I used my full name. To me, the purpose of Internet anonymity is not to hide my identity from any individual, but to control the random associations that would result if my name were more widely disseminated.

At 12:40 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

I've noticed that most of the hits that I get are almost purely random, by way of Google.

Jeffery Hodges

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