Archive for May, 2014

One letter searches

Wednesday, 21 May, 2014

Just noodling around, I started typing something into Wikipedia’s search box, and before I thought of a second letter to type, it popped up a list of suggested auto-completions. I was slightly amused at the top hit, so decided to try every letter in the alphabet to see what I’d get. Here then is the list:

  • Animal
  • Bakhsh
  • Canada
  • Departments of France
  • England
  • France
  • Germany
  • Hispanic (U.S. Census)
  • Iran standard time
  • Japan
  • Keyboard instrument
  • List of sovereign states
  • Mollusca
  • New York City
  • Ontario
  • Poland
  • Quebec
  • Race and ethnicity in the United States Census
  • Spain
  • The New York Times
  • United States
  • Village
  • World War II
  • X
  • YouTube
  • ZIP code

This is a very interesting list. Presumably it is decided by some sort of algorithm running on Wikipedia’s servers that analyses the most popular search terms. Some of the entries are perfectly plausible on this assumption: England, France, Germany, United States, World War II. I can easily imagine they might well be the most popular Wikipedia search terms starting with those letters.

Others are more odd. Mollusca stands out a bit. Okay, I can see a lot of people might search for information on Animals in general, but molluscs? And by their technical name rather than common name? Iran standard time? Who on earth is searching specifically for information about the time zone of Iran? The two US Census entries are also intriguing… is there some reason for lots of people to look for information about race or ethnicity with regards to US Census taking?

The strangest one to me is Bakhsh. Until I tried this experiment, I’d never even heard the term. It’s an extremely specialised subject and the Wikipedia entry is quite short. Why is this showing up as the number one suggested search auto-complete beginning with B? I have no clue.

Trying the experiment further afield, here are the top auto-complete suggestions for typing one letter into Google’s search box (with explanations, since many of them are Australian companies – Google is clearly using my IP address to localise my results):

  • ANZ (ANZ Bank)
  • BoM (Australian Bureau of Meteorology)
  • Centrelink (Australian Government Department of Human Services)
  • dictionary
  • eBay
  • Facebook
  • Google
  • Hotmail
  • Instagram
  • JetStar (Australian airline)
  • Kmart
  • LinkedIn
  • maps
  • Netbank (e-banking service of the Commonwealth Bank of Australia)
  • Optus
  • PayPal
  • Qantas
  • real estate
  • SMH (The Sydney Morning Herald newspaper)
  • TV guide
  • UTS (University of Technology, Sydney)
  • Virgin
  • Westpac (another bank)
  • XBox
  • YouTube
  • Zara

Urban exploration

Sunday, 4 May, 2014

I went for a walk with my wife today. From our front door, it took us about an hour and 15 minutes to return. This was enough to let us explore parts of a neighbouring suburb where we have only walked a handful of times before.

We walked down to Greenwich Point. At one place along the main street, a sign points between two adjacent blocks of flats, indicating “Path to Reserve”. (A reserve being in this context a park.) I knew there was a park further along the road, and thought this path would lead through the bushland along the waterfront behind the houses, emerging at the park. So we ventured down the steps into the bush. The path led a hundred metres or so, then descended a steep set of rough sandstone steps to a tiny beach, on which were beached a couple of rowboats. I could see steps leading up from the far side of the beach, so we crossed the sand and climbed up again.

On this side, however, the steps led nowhere except up the slope to the rear side of a couple of houses. There was no path to follow – the only exit was directly into the back yards of the two houses. We’d stumbled on a semi-private path meant to be accessed only by the residents of these houses. We didn’t fancy going all the way back to where we’d started, and we could see a woman on the back porch of one of the houses. So I called out and said we’d gotten lost in the bush, and could we walk through her yard to the street. She said we could, so we walked through her property to the front gate and back out on to the street.

From there it was still another hundred metres or more to the park. I’m not sure what that sign back at the beginning had been meant to indicate, but there was clearly no path to this park from that sign. Anyway, once at the park there was a proper, well-maintained path along the foreshore bushland, behind the houses, all the way around the point to the ferry wharf. This was a much nicer walk, giving us good views of the harbour, the boats, and the surrounding headlands.

It’s nice to be able to take scenic walks – and get lost on them – within about half an hour’s walk from home!