Saturday, February 17, 2007

Milli Vanilli - The Movie

It looks like the recent lack of creative movie ideas is set to continue, with the imminent production of the life and times of pop sensations / pop disgraces Milli Vanilli.

Who are we going to blame for this bad movie idea? I blame it on the rain. Maybe this could be the basis for a new reality TV show?

(As a side note, I didn't know one of the fab duo had died of a drug overdose.)

Monday, February 12, 2007

Why Don't We Drive On The Same Side Of The Road Around The World?

This article lists the history of left and right side driving. It confirms the story I heard many years ago about the Romans - the original road builders - drove on the left side because most people are right-handed, so driving on the left allows the driver to pull out his sword and defend against an oncoming carriage. But it still seems a mystery why the US drives on the right; maybe they decided to imitate the French :)

Monday, February 05, 2007

What search terms did they Google to get to this site?

I've seen a few sites on the web that somehow know what you typed into Google to get to them. If you arrived at a page via a Google search the site might display some sort of welcoming text. How do the websites know what you searched for? Did they use the Java Mind Reading Library (JMRL)? Are they working closely with the NSA?

It actually turns out to be pretty simple. If you click on a Google search result link then the Google server will set the HTTP referer header with the terms you searched for (plus more info) and then send an HTTP redirect to your browser. At your website you can parse the referer header and do whatever you want with that data.

For example, if I do a Google search on "robert maldon" the referer header will look something like:


A little javascript can parse the referer and welcome anybody who came from Google. e.g.

<script language="JavaScript" type="text/javascript">
if (document.referrer && document.referrer!="") {
if (\.*/i) != -1) {
var start =;
var searchTerms = document.referrer.substring(start + 2);
var end =;
end = (end == -1) ? searchTerms.length:end;
searchTerms = searchTerms.substring(0, end);
if (searchTerms.length != 0) {
searchTerms = searchTerms.replace(/\+/g, " ");
searchTerms = unescape(searchTerms);
document.write("<h3>Welcome Googler looking for search terms [<i>" + searchTerms + "</i>]</h3>");

A clever use of this referer information would be to automatically run a search using the same terms in your own sites search engine (if it has one).

Sunday, February 04, 2007

Rewriting Newspaper Headlines For Internet Search Engines

An interesting story on how Internet search engines are influencing how newspaper editors write headlines:

Let's say you were interested in the subject but didn't know the Journal had written an article on it. You might type into a search engine some combination of keywords like "Green Beans," "coffee," "U.S. military," "bases" and "soldiers." Various combinations failed to return a link to the article in the first page of results on Google. Using all of the keywords and terms separated like that did find the article, but not on The Wall Street Journal site. Instead, it was on a blog site that had reposted the article word for word...

The example points to the dilemma many newspapers and other print media find themselves in when posting articles online. Pithy, witty and provocative headlines--the pride of many an editor--are often useless and even counterproductive in getting the Web page ranked high in search engines. A low ranking means limited exposure and fewer readers...

News organizations that generate revenue from advertising are keenly aware of the problem and are using coding techniques and training journalists to rewrite the print headlines, thinking about what the story is about and being as clear as possible. The science behind it is called SEO, or search engine optimization, and it has spawned a whole industry of companies dedicated to helping Web sites get noticed by Google's search engine...

I think I experienced this phenemenon last year when I noticed a lot of hits to my blog entry on unsiloing in the workplace. My blog posting used the word unsiloing in its title, whereas the original news article had a much more obscure title.

So is this going to force newspaper editors to write more menaingful, less pithy headlines, or will newspapers simply have a two headlines for an article - a print headline and an internet headline?

Friday, February 02, 2007

Bush Commits One Additional Troop To Afghanistan

"I want the American people to know that I have not forgotten that our battle for freedom began in Afghanistan, rooting out the extremists of al-Qaeda and the Taliban," Bush said. "Today, I am ordering the deployment of the 325th Marine Expeditionary Brigade, Private Tim Ekenberg, to the embattled Kandahar region."

"We will take whatever measures necessary to win," Bush added. "Isn't that right, Tim?"