Conquent: Without Limits
Conquent: Without Limits
Michael Bissell's Blog

"Did you mean?" -- Google's chiding nanny of search results

2011-08-15 09:34:28
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I am getting increasingly pissed off at programs that try to help me. I turned off the grammar check in MS Word back in 1997 and haven't turned it back on since. But now the same people who try to get us to all write like 5th grade Future Business People of America are invading every aspect of my life.

Predictive text may work if you write at a fifth grade level about going to the mall, but I'm constantly having to dismiss messages like "did you mean fun?" when I clearly meant gin. It's bad enough when I simply have the suggestions on Google which are slightly distracting while I'm trying to find something esoteric (and, no, I didn't mean the "praise band from Northside Church of Christ"), but often my phone decides that I really did mean something completely different and takes me there without an option to say, "no, no, geeze!!! NO!"

Not only am I burning bandwidth on my limited data plan on my phone, but I'm burning time, and more importantly, I'm burning concentration. When I meant something completely different than "And now for something completely different" I still get sucked into that Monty Python movie (yes, the entire movie) and forget all about the design specification I was working on for a client (sorry, client).

And the auto search results on Google aren't just distracting, and often wrong because I'm using a turn of phrase that sounds a lot like what other people are looking for, but the way they're displaying things so damn dynamically that when I click on a link that isn't quite right, I find that when I hit my "back" button I lose the search results that I had finally gotten Google to give me -- that familiar blank Google search bar is maddening when you have to type a complex boolean phrase to get away from pictures of Justin Bieber.

It reminds me of a movie I saw recently where the hero asked, "Don't I have free will?"

The response was, "No, you just have the appearance of free will. You can choose what brand of toothpaste to buy, but you're going to brush your teeth either way."

The little electronic decision makers piss me off not just because they distract me with glimpses of half naked women and humorous videos about a crazy frog, but because I feel that sense of free will slipping away every time I see Did you mean... on my search results.

It's like an electronic nanny chiding me for going off the path at the park: it doesn't matter if the answers to the universe are over the ridge, it's that everyone else is going down this path, and possibly off that cliff, but if everyone is doing it, then surely I meant...

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