Tue, 08 Dec 2009

Keep it stupid, stupid!

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How hard is it to build a good search engine? Very hard. So far I thought that only one company has managed to build a search engine that's not only decent, but good.

Sadly, they seem to have overdone it. Today I searched for tagged dfa. I was looking for a technique used in regex engines. On the front page three out of ten results actually dealt with the subjects, the other uses of dfa meant dog friendly area, department of foreign affairs or other unrelated things.

That's neither bad nor unexpected. But I wanted more specific results, so I decided against using the abbreviation, and searched for the full form: tagged deterministic finite automaton. You'd think that would give better results, no?

No. It gave worse. On the first result page only one of the hits actually dealt with the DFAs I was looking for. Actually the first hit contained none of my search terms. None. It just contained a phrase, which is also sometimes abbreviated dfa.

WTF? Google seemed to have internally converted my query into an ambiguous, abbreviated form, and then used that to find matches, without filtering. So it attempted to be very smart, and came out very stupid.

I doubt that any Google engineer is ever going to read this rant. But if one is: Please, Google, keep it stupid, stupid.

I'm fine with getting automatic suggestions on how to improve my search query; but please don't automatically "improve" it for me. I want to find what I search for. I'm not interested in dog friendly areas.

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