There Is No Cat

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Saturday, May 4, 2002

Boogle-oo

Lou Josephs comments about the new web search engine provide by the BBC:

The BBC decided they wanted a search engine that did what they needed and brought up more information about uk topics. So they have their own customized google.

Google appears to be exactly what you get when you search via the BBC. Compare the search results for BBC World Service via Google and for BBC World Service via BBCi. Damned near identical. Same sites, same order, down to the fact that savebbc.org comes up as the number seven link on both.

One of the designers of the BBC search engine, well-respected blogger Matt Jones, gave a fascinating presentation about it at the ASIS&T Information Architecture Summit in Baltimore in March. You can download the PowerPoint file he used for the presentation from the front page of his site. You don't get the benefit of his dry, mordant wit, but hey, there's got to be a reason why it's better to actually go to the conference. Matt mentions licensing as one possible strategy in the presentation.

Meanwhile, The Independent questions what the heck the BBC is doing in the search engine business anyway in an article entitled "Dyke said the BBC should focus on programmes, so why is he taking on Google? Search me...." They make explicit what we have divined on our own: the WWW part of the BBC's search is licensed from Google. The BBC claims to exclude "derogatory" sites. Interesting that they kept savebbc.org in their results, then. (Well, really, we at savebbc.org love the BBC, that's why we want to save them from themselves. No derogatory intentions.)

The Guardian, meanwhile, plays it a bit straighter and reports about other people being mad at the BBC for usurping a function from the commercial world. Mama BBC is going to take care of the British public, insisting that "[i]t is quite clear that the current search marketplace doesn't have the needs of internet users at its heart." Curious then that they would serve the needs of Internet users by, um, replicating something that already exists.

Okay, that's not fair. Matt's presentation at the Summit made it clear that the BBC is in fact engaging in a value add proposition. The search I linked to above for BBC World Service doesn't demonstrate it, but searching for Zimbabwe on the BBC's search engine brings up an interesting feature: results from BBC News and Sport provided next to the regular engine's results. And then there's a very subtle refinement to Google's results here as well: the first result has a bit of red text next to it that says "BBCi recommended". If you look at Matt's presentation, you'll notice that there's actual human input into the search indexing process. BBC has a dozen people in an office in London beavering away, picking the best sites for given keywords so that when you search on one of those keywords, those hand-picked results show up at the top with the "BBCi recommended" tag added on. Theoretically, it's an important addition. But most of the literature I've seen in the field deals with adding metadata and directing searches for comparatively limited sets of data. I'm not sure this approach scales well to the level of The Entire Internet. Maybe it does; conceptually, this is similar to what Yahoo does, where they search their own lovingly hand-crafted database first, then pass the search off to Google for the wilds of full-text search of the net as a whole (or at least that portion indexed by Google). But hey, if the British license fee payer is willing to foot the bill for the experiment, what the heck. Just don't tell The Independent.

Posted at 11:17 PM

Comments

Note: I’m tired of clearing the spam from my comments, so comments are no longer accepted.

Well, Ralph, I finally got a chance to look in here. Very nice site...you definitely have a talent for these things.

As for the BBCi/Google thing, as a confirmed layman in these things (hey, I have no real idea what a "blog" is, though I can figure out that a "blogger" must be a person who "blogs" or some such thing), I always thought that what you got from a search engine depended somewhat on what you asked for. If you want your search to reflect UK content, just put "UK" somewhere in your subject. But what do I know? Less and less, it seems, as time goes on.

That is not to say that the BBC gentleman of which you speak isn't a talented and intelligent individual. That doesn't mean that I don't grasp the concept of "branding" (no pun intended) and how its importance seems so obvious to some.

As for the BBC, it may about time for them to end the pretense that there is anything "public interest" about what they are about these days and go head to head with the big boys on a level playing field by forgoing the license fee.

Posted by John Figliozzi at 9:48 PM, May 9, 2002 [Link]

I'm sorry to tell you guy's that there really is a boogle kitty she's right around 6month's old and picked out her own name while I was playing torrin's passage verytime Torrin would call his sidekick's name (boogle) she would come a running

Posted by Heather Glaser at 11:47 AM, May 2, 2003 [Link]

I'm sorry to tell you guy's that there really is a boogle kitty she's right around 6month's old and picked out her own name while I was playing torrin's passage everytime Torrin would call his sidekick's name (boogle) she would come a running she's solid blak except for her armpits and pubic region she fetches just like a dog and is oh so sweet

Posted by Heather Glaser at 11:50 AM, May 2, 2003 [Link]

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What do you mean there is no cat?

"You see, wire telegraph is a kind of a very, very long cat. You pull his tail in New York and his head is meowing in Los Angeles. Do you understand this? And radio operates exactly the same way: you send signals here, they receive them there. The only difference is that there is no cat."

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