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Thursday, May 24, 2007

Google Stops "Did You Mean: He Invented"

Google was recently reported to correct the following search queries via their “did you mean?” functionality:

she invented->Did you mean: he invented
she scored->Did you mean: he scored
she instructed->Did you mean: he instructed
she saved->Did you mean: he saved
she discovered->Did you mean: he discovered
she golfed->Did you mean: he golfed
(and more...)

This spellchecking behavior (which is automated, and probably based on the web corpus or searcher behavior) has now been stopped. It might be Google engineers manually corrected this using a blacklist, or they advanced their algorithm to return more relevant spellcheckings for cases like these – it seems clear that a search query like “she invented” is not likely to be a misspelling (it may be, but it likely isn’t in most cases, hence a “did you mean” box is bad usability).

In an earlier case about offensive search results, Google wrote:

Sometimes subtleties of language cause anomalies to appear that cannot be predicted. (...)

The beliefs and preferences of those who work at Google, as well as the opinions of the general public, do not determine or impact our search results. Individual citizens and public interest groups do periodically urge us to remove particular links or otherwise adjust search results. Although Google reserves the right to address such requests individually, Google views the comprehensiveness of our search results as an extremely important priority.

(Note: no matter what Google tells you, algorithms are always influenced by those who design, write & test them – including their preferences)

[Thanks David Hetfield!]


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