Whacking poetic

I thought it would take hours, but I guess I’m just a natural.

I had a whack on the third try: “”pulchritudinous ascot.”” Not a bad whack at 357,120,000 – not on the scale of the “”carmelized contagion”” at 844,400,000, but not bad all the same.

I’ll allow time for a pregnant pause

while you wonder briefly what it is I’ve been smoking, and whether I can get you a pound. What the hell is he talking about?

It’s Googlewhacking, the latest craze to sweep the Net. It works like this: Enter two words in the bar at megalithic search engine Google. The goal is to return a single result – one hit out of the billions of pages on the Web. The Googlewhacker’s Holy Grail is the display line that reads “”Results 1-1 of 1.””

How this began, nobody’s sure. The term Googlewhack – it’s both a noun and a verb – was formalized by Gary Stock, chief innovations officer at Nexcerpt Inc. His Web page is devoted to what he calls The Search for the One.

In my observation of the Googlewhacking thread in the QuickTopic discussion forum, I’ve detected three types of Googlewhacker. (Reminds me of the joke: There are three types of people – those who can count, and those who can’t. But I digress.) The novice whacker – and I number myself amongst them – are pleased simply to slam together oblique concepts, cross their fingers, and hope for the best. Like, “”Ennoble keyring.””

Some never grow beyond this stage. Perhaps it’s a lack of creativity; perhaps a short concentration span; perhaps it’s an ITBusiness.ca editor yelling something about deadlines and stop screwing around with that damn Google crap. There is a point however, when the evolving Googlewhacker must choose to use his skills for good or evil.

Those who go to The Dark Side become competitive Googlewhackers, motivated not by the Zen-like purity of the search but by posting higher scores than others. Take your Googlewhack and search the individual terms. Multiply the number of hits for the first word by the number for the second. This is supposedly a measure of Googlewhack quality – the more common the words, the more obscure the reference (Did I mention that ennoble keyring scores 982,220,000?),

On the other side are the poets: those who seek combinations of words with profound meaning (“”slatternly rectitude,”” which is what a principled prostitute possesses) or rhythmic elegance (“”lugubrious pollywog””). Googlewhacking in pursuit of beauty is a higher calling than competitive hackery. (But YOU try and top 982,220,000! Ha!)

But regardless of the path you take, there is much to be learned from your missteps along the way. Taking the time to examine the links produced by my near (and not-so-near) misses, I discovered, for example, that rabbits cannot vomit; that a lemon yellow chilo porter mayfly is a must-have piece of tackle when fly fishing late in the season in Argentina; and what Lenin’s concept of Social Chauvinism means. This is the killer app of the Net: The World Wide Web as a randomized learning machine.

It’s also an enlightening tutorial in quantum physics. After being posted to the discussion thread, “”pulchritudinous ascot”” will no longer be a Googlewhack – it will appear in two places on the Net. As whacker Ray Dixon explains, it’s like Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle: In observing the Googlewhack, we alter its reality.

Or something like that.

[email protected]

In between Googlewhacks, Webb edits eBusiness Journal.

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Dave Webb
Dave Webb
Dave Webb is a technology journalist with more than 15 years' experience. He has edited numerous technology publications including Network World Canada, ComputerWorld Canada, Computing Canada and eBusiness Journal. He now runs content development shop Dweeb Media.

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