The bias of the machine

Search Google for “MSSQL” and it will ask you:

“Did you mean: MYSQL

See a screenshot.


6 thoughts on “The bias of the machine

  1. While I see how this is somewhat amusing, this very case is one of the only things I’ve really been annoyed by with google. I often do searches including the term MSSQL, and Google constantly insists I mean MYSQL. In extreme cases it even changes my search for me automatically when there are no results.

    In general I like the “intelligent” features of Google, but it does get annoying when it is insistently and persistently wrong.

  2. I think it only does that when a very similar search would return more results. I find it’s useful more often than it’s a problem.

  3. Google has tried to add tools in a transparent manner, comparing themselves to a swiss-army knife. The idea is that a swiss-army knife looks confusing and intimitading as hell when all of the tools are open, but a closed swiss-army knife looks so simple and elegant.

    This is the first time I’ve seen Google be wrong with one of these hints. Such is the danger with any attepts at guessing the needs of the user. Then again, I actually like Microsoft Word.

    I remember reading an interview with a Google-person once where she suggested that the greatest challege Google has is understanding what you actually mean by what you type. For example, if I search for “china”, am I searching for the country, or the tableware? There is an inevitable gap between what we think and what we type.

  4. My original intention was to dispute the claim that Google was making a mistake, however, I’ve convinced myself otherwise. Although it seems perfectly reasonable that Google offered MYSQL (*), it’s just as reasonable that MSSQL would be offered as an alternative to a search for MYSQL. As a quick test on Google reveals, this isn’t the case. Hence, it’s my conclusion that either (a) “Did You Mean” is run by trained monkeys, thereby subject to their biased banana-whoring whims, or (b) this feature works as Steven suggested above. Notice that a search for MYSQL returns over 5 million entries, while a search for MSSQL returns just under two hundred thousand. That’s quite a difference. What’s more, a search for MS SQL returns 1,240,000 results while a search for MY SQL returns a paltry 1,120,000. In this case, the search for MS SQL did not include a “Did You Mean” suggestion. Damn those monkeys. Why must they turture us so?

    * [Granted the Y and S keys are fairly far apart, but let’s overlook user shortcomings]

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