Cloud Street

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Searching low and high

Update 14th June: it's fixed. The search I describe below now returns 91 results on both Google and Yahoo!. (And one on MJ12 (thanks Paulie), but it's early days.)

Help - Google's broken.

Google's 'exact phrase' search, to be precise. Earlier today I was looking for an English counterpart to the French phrase 'basse police' (elsewhere I've rendered it as 'low policing', following J-P. Brodeur, but the idiomatic content of the phrase gets lost that way). If in doubt, Google - so I googled

"basse police" definition

secure in the knowledge that Google would find the French 'définition' as well as the unaccented English word. And it's true, I didn't need to worry about that; the word 'definition' was present and correct, with and without accent. The only trouble was, only 19 of the pages Google brought back (1-87 of about 67,000) also included the phrase 'basse police'; in particular, none of the first 66 results displayed included the phrase, although some included the word 'basse' and others the word 'police'.

It gets worse (for Google). I tried the same query on Yahoo and got results 1-64 of about 114 (about 114?). Here are the first few, minus a couple of duplicates:

qu'elle participe de la définition de ses fins et qu'elle n'est pas dénuée ... l'ordre semble d'abord relever de la basse police

entre " haute " police et " basse " police, entre surveillance d'un territoire et surveillance ... des services secrets sont, par définition, opaques

Ces méthodes de basse police ont déjà eu lieu à Genève avec les persécutions du Parti Communiste ... Ta définition de "stalinien" est fausse

utiliser (pertinemment) les expressions "haute police " et " basse police ... je veux voir le mot et sa définition

And so it goes on. You see what they've done there? Yahoo has brought back pages containing both the word 'definition' and the phrase 'basse police', and only those pages. Fiendish.

To be fair to Google, this is a problem I've only noticed in the last couple of days. To revert to being hard on Google, it's a major, major, service-vitiating-if-not-actually-disabling problem, and I would like to know what on earth they were thinking of to allow it to happen. (And I'd like it fixed, obviously.)

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