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Thursday, November 27, 2003
 
Search-engine indexing

During the last few weeks, it has been my good fortune to find that, once or twice, I was dealing with a story that greatly interested other net-users. Such are press restrictions on Airstrip One that the newspapers were reluctant to give full details. Unlikely to be the recipient of a writ, I thought it appropriate to give my interpretation of some seemingly unrelated tidbits. The most interesting is the miasma surrounding our sterling Prince of the Realm: ‘Jugs’.

In November 2002, the same story seemed to have engaged public attention in the light of the collapsed Burrell trial. I blogged my interpretation/analysis then. The same ‘story’ (or should that be ‘non-story’?) surfaced again earlier this month. There were gnomic statements from the English press while the Scots were relatively free from the fear of injunctions. As for the Italians, unless it was a Berlusconi trick to divert attention from yet another of his dark doings, it appeared that they had plenty to say about the matter. However, few people have sufficient command of Italian to be able to pick up the gist and besides: I couldn’t find the relevant bits in the Italian papers, either, even though I got to the right paper, and the. right date. There must have been many other ‘searchers after truth’/’scandalmongers’ (call them what you will) in the same position. After a lot of scratching round, I re-posted my contribution from 2002 with a few minor updates and comments.

In looking at my site statistics, I found a very interesting feature of the searches alighting on ‘my’ information: most (but not all) were being referred to my 2002 piece, rather than to my latest offering. When I looked closer, I found that the references to the ‘old’ piece came exclusively from two search engines: ‘Ask (Jeeves)’ and Google. All other search engines referred to my 2003 piece. In other words, in the up-to-date-ness stakes, Ask (Jeeves) and Google came nowhere. This leads me to suggest tentatively that Google and Ask appear not to revise their indices quite as frequently as some other systems. However, largely because they cover such an enormous number of sites, it takes them an age to get round a second time.

This is not necessarily a bad thing: Google is my search engine of choice when looking for established ‘knowledge’. With fast-moving stuff, a smaller engine may be more appropriate. Google may have a massive amount of data on which to call/crawl but it clearly has a logistical problem in updating itself quickly. Its separate news service recognises this deficiency.

My temporary solution, to aid the scandalmongers, was to put a note with my ‘old’ piece, pointing to the new one. This is not a perfect solution but there may be no other alternative. Google’s acquisition of Blogger will allow it to demote (do we want that?) weblogs more easily in its hierarchy. But, if we don’t want to use Google’s ‘News’ service, biased towards established media outlets, what do we do?

There are some good engines out there besides Google. Many have indices that are updated frequently. They may be a bit thin on the data stakes but they will be up-to-date. So, who’s going to tell us how comprehensive and up-to-date Google’s rivals are?


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