Google Blogoscoped

Monday, May 12, 2003

Google limitations compared to AllTheWeb

As good as Google is, there’s certain searches that simply don’t work — but, and this is more interesting, would work with other search engines.

Let’s take this simple task: find all sites containing a link to homepage “x” from within domain “y”. Or to give the more concrete example, find all blog*spot-blogs that link to the blog


This simply won’t work — that is, there’s no results. (Not even if you use the combination in two steps with the help of the “Search within result” option.)

Now, we go over to, and type in the exact same:


Works like a charm, returning over 1000 result pages of any blog*spot sub-domain that points to Zeldman.

The same if we compare the simple search for all pages indexed that are on Google will force you to enter a word along with the domain-restriction — doesn’t care. And why should they? Isn’t the principle to keep it simple and work with as little input as possible? I might just be interested in finding all the pages on that domain, with no artificial restriction whatsoever. The only Google-specific workaround here is to come up with a dummy keyword, a word one suspects appears in most of the pages of that domain.

Google might make many query-limitations as conscious decisions, likely to speed up serving the results to more common queries (which would be pragmatic) — however, it shouldn’t take much (other than some sincerity in admitting limitations) to tell people: “No, this kind of search is not supported”.
But they won’t do that. Not at the moment. They’ll simply ignore whatever was entered. (Serious researchers might be reminded of Monty Python’s cheese shop.) Similar things happen when you use more than 10 keywords (especially useful in exclusions — e.g. cats -musical -broadway -theater and so on).

Google itself once started out becoming popular by the way of word-of-mouth, as secret tip of web geeks. Those that were concerned about getting great results, and those that compare search engines; those that are easily annoyed when something doesn’t work the way it’s supposed to be; those that may delete a bookmark as soon as the site behind it serves pop-under ads. More and more people are using when Google doesn’t deliver what it’s asked for — especially those that absolutely depend (and must rely) on search results (like, for example, Google Answers Researchers, or Search Engine Optimization experts).

Yes, Google Inc. doesn’t sleep. They’re working on many other things, simultaneously. And of course we all like Google, and it’s the first resource, often also the only one, indeed the single best search engine today, and everything.
And naturally, we are all lazy, and if Google would be all we’d ever need to use — we would. Let’s hope Google helps us a bit with that by continuosly competing with others, looking at what they got in that crucial input-output department, being the most requested feature of today’s search engines — the basic give-me-a-text-and-I-give-you-pages. Because in the fast-paced search engine business, paranoia is a good business recipe.

Google opens Times Square office

Google has opened a Times Square engineering office that will work on the same projects as its Silicon Valley headquarters”
– Paul Boutin, Google hiring 100 engineers in Times Square, Sunday, May 11, 2003

Google News, Local

“Today Google launched local versions of its popular Google News service, which aggregates news stories from 4,500 sources worldwide, in Australia, New Zealand, the UK, and Canada. (...)

The Google News Service uses the same search algorithm as the Google search page, with local news sites and local stories prioritised for the individual markets.”
– James Pearce, ZDNet Australia, 12 May 2003

Google Answers Researchers Interview: Larre-ga

Today’s Google Answers Researcher interview is with with Larre (“It was a typo, honest!”).

Note: This interview is approved by Google Answers, but does not in any way represent Google’s views.


What’s your first name?
Larre — spelled correctly, however. It’s pronounced either like the male name “Larry” or as rhyming with star. Take your pick.

Where are you from?
The political Left, via Camelot (closed for repairs), and the southernmost town in California’s Mother Lode, near Yosemite National Park.

What’s your profession?
Mother, programming consultant, web usability specialist, and Researcher. In past incarnations, I’ve been paid to: sling Margaritas, dress up as an 1880’s Madame, underwrite insurance, program an auto-paralegal, monitor seismic activity, guide rafters down the Rogue, UpperK, and Tuolumne rivers, and immobilize broken bones of kids who’ve flown over the handlebars of their bikes, as a paramedic.

What’s your age?
Forty-eight. I think. I ran out of fingers and toes to count a long time ago.

Got a homepage? Where?
I thought the question read “Got a hostage?” If I had, I wouldn’t tell you where. But my homepage is

Larre-ga on Google Answers

When did you become a Researcher?
I answered my first question on May 15, 2002.

How did you find out about Google Answers?
Word of mouth (hey, did you see this Google Answers stuff?) and the Google Friends newsletter. I e-mailed as directed. Begged. Groveled.

What do you like best about answering for Google Answers?
The opportunity to learn something new with nearly every question. It’s like being paid to go to school.

Would you consider taking this up as full-time job, provided the question volume would be high enough (or is it already full-time for you)?
Oh yeah! If the volume was there. I do pretty well already on the time spent vs. earnings ratio, but it’s not enough for a living.

What kind of question subject you usually like to answer?
Geology and earth science, questions involving Denmark or Danish, and sitebuilder questions would be my favorites, but I feel comfortable with many reference and business questions, also.

In one sentence, what’s the trick to a good answer?
Persistence, clarity, and mind reading, of course.

What would be the new Google Answers slogan, if you were responsible to create one?
Google. Answers 24/7

Which Researcher would you take as guide on a dangerous island?
Seedy. He’s an inventor, adventurous, and persistent as all get out. He’d slay dragons, and be able to whip up a concoction of solar-powered Flubber and bailing wire that’d phone or float home.

Larre-ga’s Favorites

What are your favorite research tools and websites (please include browser and text editor you are using)?
I routinely use several browsers, NS 4.61, IE 5.0, and Opera 5. I use WordSpring’s InstantSpell, with preview formatting, thesaurus and spelling dictionary built into a Notepad-like text-editor.

I use Google, of course, and several search engines that categorize and index the deep, or invisible web, like and I like Lexis/Nexis, too. Databases are useful for refining search terms for plain-vanilla Internet searches.

What are your favorite websites and newsgroups?
Typical net-geek, news junkie, I’m afraid. A List Apart, Jyllands Posten and Politiken (Danish newspapers), the International Herald Trib, SlashDot, Salon, and the TerraServer.

I swore off newsgroups 10 years ago, with the 12-step program. And contrary to popular opinion, I’ve never posted to

I will just suppose Google is your favorite search engine (right?). Do you remember which one you were using before, and why you decided to switch to Google?
I switched to Google very early on, however, before that, I used Altavista.

What are some of your favorite questions & answers by others?
I still like Do You Like Girls?, and I adore Leli’s answer to Definition of a Cottage. Any answer by Chromedome is worth a read.

What are some of the questions that were really a lot of fun answering for you?
Why do Veggies Taste So Gross? is high on my list, along with Glaciers in Alaska. My favorite contribution was a Comment, rather than an Answer, to Joel1357’s first question, Internet Researcher. In defining the archetype, I discovered the standard I wanted to be measured against.

What would be a fun $200 question for you to answer?
Explain Janteloven and hygge. Or compare and contrast Carlsberg and Tuborg.

Larre-ga’s Spare-time

Got any weird hobbies?
Alas, probably not weird enough. Photography, the occasional tequila tasting, exploring Yosemite, and listening to the ocean are about as wild as it gets. Oh, and darts. Steeltip. With a picture of Pink’s fabled clown pasted over the usual dartboard.

What was the last book you read, the last movie you saw, and the last album you listened to?

Do you know some other Researchers in Real Life?
I’ve been fortunate to meet two of our European colleagues, PoliticalGuru and Scriptor. It was absolutely fantastic to get a taste of their views, and a glimpse into their worlds, which are very different than small town America. I’ve shared phone time with a few of the statesiders, and hope to meet a bunch at the Gathering in July.

Final words by Larre-ga

If you’d write a book about your life, what would be the first sentence?
“She was the cook’s only daughter.”

Anything else you’d want to add?
I’m so glad we’re out of Beta. But who was Beta, and why was she following us?


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