More Searchers Arriving at a Place They Never Imagined

I’ve been traveling and otherwise occupied a lot lately, so I’ve really fallen behind my one post a week goal for this blog. I don’t have anything very substantial to post today, but I would like to share some more of the possibly amusing or interesting Google search strings that have brought visitors here.

As I noted before, the most striking thing revealed by an examination of the search strings (of words) people use in Google is how many people approach Google as some sort of artificially intelligent being one can ask questions of, as though of a person. This seems especially to be the case when they have medical concerns (at least pet medical concerns). My post Last Days of Chestnut, Guinea Pig gets a visit or two almost every day, usually from people with a guinea pig they are worried about.

The search strings are sometimes of the hopeless (but Google-appropriate) “how to euthanize a guinea pig” sort, but an extreme example of one treating Google as an online veterinarian (and a psychic one at that) was “My guinea pig has not eaten today and he has a cold. What is up?” In the same vein was: “my son has squeezed our guinea pig will it be ok”.

I used the first of those mentioned above to do my own Google search, and—low and behold—my post came up fifth from the top. Here’s what Google returned for it (word matches in bold):

On-Screen Scientist » Blog Archive » Last Days of Chestnut, Guinea Pig
May 25, 2008 … Our guinea pig, Chestnut, is dying. He will probably be dead before I …. Hopefully the vet is open today. 11:00 am. He’s not, but the … My wife has been felled by the same cold I have presumably, … I say to the intake woman, who is looking at me quizzically, “He hasn’t eaten anything in days. …

Since Google just looks for word matches and doesn’t try to make sense of it all, it came up with a good match, although, except for the “He hasn’t eaten” part, the matched words (today, my, cold) weren’t relevant.

For the second string Google brings up my post third from the top thusly:

On-Screen Scientist » Blog Archive » Last Days of Chestnut, Guinea Pig
May 25, 2008 … Our guinea pig, Chestnut, is dying. He will probably be dead before I …. OK, it’s now the morning of the next day. … He didn’t drink water that was squeezed into his mouth this time, as though reflexes aren’t even working. … Chestnut has been buried in the back yard. My son arrived back from …

Thus, there was a hit on nine out of eleven words (and Google probably ignored “it” and “be” as too common)! Yet the circumstances are totally different, except for the shared anxiety about a guinea pig.

It seems to me that there is sufficient text in the Google excerpts above to have shown the searchers that my post was not what they were looking for, but they came anyway, either through blind clicking or just because it was obvious my post dealt with a dying guinea pig, which was a subject on their mind.

The search string “guinea pig isplaying dead after popcorning” brought someone here too. I hope the “playing dead” wasn’t wishful thinking, if the searcher was referring to his  or her own animal. I had never heard of guinea pigs playing dead (possums, yes), but Google finds a YouTube video (which I haven’t watched) claiming to show this phenomenon. Another ask-the-vet type string was “do antibiotics make guinea pigs tired”. This was a good match by Google’s standards, since my post contains all the words, though, of course, no answer to the question. I also fear that that animal was suffering from something worse than antibiotic side effects.

So it goes. People with sick animals or sick computers go online to look for help, and some of them end up in this out-of-the-way spot. I see several people arriving here daily with MacBook overheating problems (or worries) of one kind or another, which shows it is a real problem, though I suppose not a sufficiently serious one for Apple to deal with publicly. The computer users with problems typically have a better idea of how Google works than the guinea pig owners; they just put in a string of keywords for their searches.

Many other search matches must be the result of coincidence, though it’s not always obvious how. The string “black bean death lottery cycling club” leads Google to put my post Times I Might Have Died as number one on the candidate list, since it contains all the words except “cycling” and “club” (though it does deal with my early bicycle riding). It’s unlikely my post was what the searcher had in mind, but whatever it was, it must not be on the world-wide web, for nothing shows up containing that very specific collection of words.

It may well have been a job hunter that searched for “physics phd fbi”; but, whoever it was, found the following as number eight on Google’s list:

On-Screen Scientist » Blog Archive » Why Gamble? Hire a Physicist.
I should add that when a physics professor called Ron about hiring me several months … what hourly rate I should get as a new Physics PhD (or near-PhD, whichever it was). …. My Appointment with the FBI and a Long-Delayed Connection …

A somewhat interesting point here is that “Physics PhD” was found in the text of the indicated blog post, while “FBI” appeared in the sidebar listing of the titles of recent posts, so even if the person had been looking for my FBI appointment post he wouldn’t have gotten to it directly. Something to keep in mind when searching.

What was the searcher for “trees shame” after, I wonder? I’d like to think it was someone who’d read my post A Painful Christmas Blessing and wanted to come back to it or to direct someone else to it; and my post does come in at number seven in the Google list, but there’s nothing definitive about the two words and no way to know what the intent was. Still, as in all these cases, the searcher did come here, or I wouldn’t know about it.

My post about exchanges with commenters on an atheist blog, Conversations in the Clubhouse of Truly Smart People, has also brought a few people here via Google searches with other purposes. I feel bad about not having advice for those who seem to be seeking it: for example the one searching on “what smart people say in conversations” and the one searching for “smart things to say in conversations”; young people, I hope. Then, there was the one possibly looking for confirmation of his own observation that it’s best to “never let people know how smart you truly are.” I’m taking that to mean that it’s better to play dumb a little, but it could mean never let them find out how dumb you truly are, which has aways been my concern.

I’ve been at this blogging for almost a year now. Thanks to all who have read and especially to those who have written to me (email address towards upper right) these past months.

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