March 30, 2003
Weird Search Results

Every weblogger gets weird and disturbing search requests from time to time, but today I made some perfectly respectable searches on Amazon and got some very strange results. I wasn't actually planning to buy anything today. A friend and I have quite a few spare books, and I plan to sell them over the web in a sort of electronic yard sale. The idea is to cut out the middleman and get a lot more for them than a used bookstore would give. The quickest way to find out whether a book is in print, and at what price, is to look it up on Amazon.

Of course, when the search software can't find an exact match, it offers some possible 'near miss' substitutes. When I searched for 'Lexicon Spinozanum', I was offered DVDs of Legion of the Dead, Abbot and Costello in the Foreign Legion, and several other titles with 'legion' in them. Though surprising, and stupid, that was easy to figure out: the software was going by brute spelling and thought 'legion' was the next best thing for 'lexicon'.

The next search was much worse. I was searching 'Spinoza + Ethica + Concordance', and the very first result was "Magazine Subscription: Penthouse Letters". Any algorithm that can get from Spinoza's Ethics to Penthouse in a single leap obviously needs some serious tweaking.

Posted by Dr. Weevil at March 30, 2003 11:59 PM