Lost Searchers


WordPress gives me a very convenient view of what people have been searching for when they reach my blog. I think most readers are regulars; some come from sporadic programming.reddit.com spikes, but some come via search.

I feel sorry for some of these people, coming across my blog in the middle of their search must be like stepping on a rake whilst looking for the lost ball in the garden.

«Element Not Good For Monks» – ok, so the search is a bit wacky, but I’m sure I’m not the blog they’re looking for. There’s a Kryptonite for monks?

«quilting pattern flower uk» – Search engines have obviously decided on the basis of this post about purple things, and this one about multiplication in rings that I have something to do with flower quilting patterns. Sorry, no.

«multiplication table» – this is a relatively popular search term, it crops up a few times a week. Sufficiently popular that I’m thinking of creating a blog post for it.

«c++ matrix multiplication code» – close, but no cigar. Anyway, using Google to do your homework assignments is cheating.

«how to find sex of foetus in ultrasound» – it’s clear what they’re looking for and my blog doesn’t help them at all. If I had to guess I’d say you look for the willy.

«emacs python color» – there are quite a few variations on this theme, obviously looking for emacs modes that do colour syntax highlighting for various languages (not just python, I see fortran, javascript, and so on). Sorry, no idea.

«metroid 2 map» – Well, I suppose I do have a Metroid II map, but really it’s a celebration of how not to do mapping. Sorry, not very useful. Anyway, regardless of what I think about maps in video games, using somebody else’s map is clearly cheating.

«where is the colon» – umm… somewhere behind your belly button?

«most fragile part of the brain» – I have no idea, and I’m not just about to experiment to find out.

9 Responses to “Lost Searchers”

  1. Thomas Guest Says:

    I know what you mean — I get hit by searches for “Ideal Working Environment”, “Fixed Wheels” and even “The Price of Coffee”. An elliptical title gives a false lead.

    What’s more alarming is when I get real hits for an article which may be out of date. Lots of people find my subversion tips, which come from the time I was a local SVN expert. That’s no longer the case. I’m reluctant to take the articles down but I don’t have the energy to update them.

  2. Nick Barnes Says:

    using Google to do your homework assignments is cheating

  3. drj11 Says:

    Because that’s not what the teacher expected when she set the homework?

    Really I mean that using Google expecting to find ready-canned answers to your homework assignment is cheating. Yes, using Google is a useful skill, but there are other skills to learn too, and they’re not all masked by knowing how to use Google. I hope.

  4. Nick Barnes Says:

    Teachers need to wake up and smell the coffee. Mmmm coffffeeeeee

  5. LOL, Stepping on a rake.
    Your blogs isn’t that bad :)

  6. neilbowers Says:

    I’ve had the same experience with our blog for Felix (now taken private, alas). It was funny seeing some of the search terms that ended up on some of our pages. I tried the terms in various engines, and could never get to us.

    I did add a couple of new pages as the result of frequent search terms, and added some useful links to pages that regularly got hit. Most of these were related to medical, developmental or random parental worries.

    It also made me a little more careful about tags, as well.

    With a specific enough niche, eg Lua, you could use this to guide the generation of content. I’d like to think that companies offering online help, FAQs etc do this sort of analysis to see what information people are really after, but I’d be surprised if even 1% did.

  7. Gareth Rees Says:

    The answer to the Emacs question is “upgrade to version 22, it’s built in”.

  8. Francis Davey Says:

    I am in two minds about the use of google for homework. I do see your point – one learns very little by the downloading of a canned example (its stage I in Seymour Pappert’s hierarchy as I recall – something that very small children begin with).

    On the other hand, Nick has a point. If homework setting was vulnerable in that way, something is wrong with the context in which the homework is set.

    That context may of course include the recipient. If the purpose of the homework is for practice or points of discussion, one learns nothing by it without trying it for oneself. Sure, having tried for days and failed, seeing an example answer is probably useful since you will hopefully appreciate the problem. The kind of stupidity that thinks you can learn by copying other people’s work has its own reward.

    If the homework has any role in assessment, then its already broken.


  9. mjb67 Says:

    The «Element Not Good For Monks» person was probably thinking about creating a new Guild Wars character, and didn’t want to nerf it by choosing the wrong element, you see?

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