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Google Culture

August 2003

What does the term "panfish interrogation" mean to you? To the rightfully proud Doug Gray, it means he scored in Googlewhacking.

Are you lost? Haven't heard about the latest Internet sport?

Googlewhacking involves finding two words that result in a single, solitary result in Google. No fair putting your two words in quotation marks, which limits to an exact match. And your terms must be real words. If you're interested, you can find a list of successful whacks on the Googlewhack web site.

If you're not interested, that's OK too. This column isn't really about Googlewhacking. It's about the plethora of uses and features of Google that you've never heard about.

And also about a fascinating story of "gaming Google"--which means manipulating it. Every enterprise in the country wants to manipulate Google, to be at the top of Google results. And most fail.

But an enterprising college student became famous for his game: during the recent gulf war he manipulated Google so that if you entered in "french military victories" as your search term and clicked the "I'm feeling lucky" button, it returned a results page that asks: "Did you mean 'french military defeats?'" You can read how he did it at www.google-watch.org/newsday.htm.

This is from the Google Watch site, which, if you can believe it, is critical of Google, insisting that "Google's monopoly, algorithms, and privacy policies are undermining the Web."

Interesting site, but I'm among the legions of Google fans. And if you are too, you might try one of the Google fan sites. I like the one titled simply Google Fan. It's here that I learned that my beloved Google News won a Webby award, beating out nominees that included MSNBC and BBC News Online. (Check out the Webby Award winners to find other great sites.)

Google Fan also has a great list of links to other Google-related sites. These range from fun sites to sites that teach you advanced Googling. Among the fun sites are random site generators: click the link and it randomly selects any one of three billion web sites.

Or there's Googlefight.com. You type in two opposing terms and let them fight it out--that is, see side-by-side search results and which had the most. Let's try "University of Iowa" and "Iowa State University." And the winner is . . . University of Iowa, 1.9 million to 1.7 million.

Another great directory with a couple hundred links is Google Indicateur. It's here that I found the Elmer Fudd version of Google. How did I ever get along without that?

This site also has a link to Google Labs, which is Google's testing area for new offerings. One that's really cool is Google Viewer. When you do a search, it gives you the results as a sort of slide show. The site info is in a small window at the top, and the site itself appears as a slide. There's a control bar that lets you govern the show, including the speed of presentation.

Another offering is Google Glossary, which lets you find definitions for words, phrases, and acronyms. A search in Google Glossary returns a page of definitions that appear on the web and refers you to related phrases. It also lets you conveniently search the Merriam-Webster Dictionary and Dictionary.com.

To get a sense for the broad range of offerings of Google, go to Google's Tools and Services page. Offerings include Froogle, which is a price comparison search engine, and Google Translate, which lets you translate text or web pages from German, French, Italian, Portuguese, and Spanish. It also lets you do searches within specific languages or countries.

The coolest offering is Google Web APIs. But only if you're a techie. Google actually lets you use its database for free in your own applications. That's one reason why there are so many Google applications out there.

One of the best sites for seeing how this works is Google Hacks. Tara Calishain, a researcher, has programmed a bunch of her own Google implementations. Her Yellow Search provides a simple and clean interface to access Google's phone book search. Her Moogle feature lets you conveniently search for movie reviews. You can even stipulate whether you want it to look for positive or negative reviews.

Whew, is there any doubt that Google is taking over? Let's call it Google Culture. Heck, there's even now a Google Store where you can buy Google logo items.

Now back to my Googlewhacking . . .

© 2003 by Jim Karpen, Ph.D.

E-mail Jim Karpen