Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Online Haystacks and Engineer Goose Bumps

The almighty search engine. We use them to search for information online. Without them we'd all be wading through the biggest haystack in the world trying to find our needle. I don't know exactly how many there are but I've found 10 English or multilingual general search engines.

Search engines list search results but don't supply answers themselves. They're like the guy named Vinnie we go to in the neighborhood who doesn't have what we want but says "I know a guy who knows a guy who does." They shy away from providing actual information because they figure if they gave us the answers themselves it would be their fault if it turned out they were wrong so to remain blameless they send you to someone else. So, search engines = pure teflon

We know we're on a real good search site when they send us a ton of results to our search request (sorted by relevance, popularity and oh, let's throw in some who pay-to-play to get on top of the list) in such quantity and so quickly that what they really want from us is for us to throw up our hands in wonder. They really don't expect us to view all the results. They just want to dazzle us with their science.

To prove this point, if we do a search for the word "search" we'd get about 12,030,000,000 results in .26 seconds. Visiting 12,030,000,000 sites at, say, 10 seconds each would take 33,416,667 hours to do. Or approximately 1,113,889 months. Or 92,824 years. If we all live to 70 years old, that's about 1,326 lifetimes. In other words it would take a team of 1,326 people working their whole lives to cover all the sites offered in the search results.

The engineers out there just got goose bumps of delight. Gotta love 'em.