People type the damnest things into the search box on the Yahoo! home page. Every day. There's just a lot of weird shit in the logs. Tons of it.

I have to wonder how much of it can be attributed to (1) the cat walked across the keyboard, or (2) my script to scrape Yahoo messed up, or similarly odd things.

One thing I learned today. A lot of folks used consecutive single quotes ('') as if they're the same as a double-quote ("). I don't get it. But I have to fix it. And lots of other little oddities.

And a lot of people can't spell very well (me included). But at least some search engines can handle spelling correction in a reasonable way.

Posted by jzawodn at March 05, 2003 05:17 PM

Reader Comments
# Derek said:

Hopefully, by "handle spelling correction", you're NOT referring to Google's "I know better than you so watch me 302 you to something other than what you asked for" routine.

Quite often I'm searching for a particular string, it doesn't find it, but then "helpfully suggests something else", meaning that if I really want to search a different portion (like, say, groups instead of web pages), I have to hit back, copy the text, click groups, then paste it into the groups search.

And, of course, there's no way whatsoever to disable this "feature".

on March 5, 2003 06:16 PM
# kasia said:

Oh yah, I hate that google "feature".. drives me nuts.. particularly when I search for something in Polish.

on March 5, 2003 06:45 PM
# jr said:

The double single tick is a legacy thing.
Back in the day folks would often do that instead of the double mark because it was easier to read. The practice continues among some military types, who also tend to use UPPERCASE FOR ALL ITEMS.

Occasionally it also appears in legal documents for pretty much the same reasons.

As for the search result logs, thanks for giving me a fun way to leave you messages.

on March 5, 2003 06:49 PM
# anon said:

I have seen a lot of logs from major search engines and have always been surprised to see the number of people who search for things like:

Eventually I came to the belief that they are searching for those things because they have managed to hide the address bar in their browser so they can't go directly where they want.

on March 6, 2003 02:33 AM
# Andre Restivo said:

> "Eventually I came to the belief that they are searching for those things because they have managed to hide the address bar in their browser so they can't go directly where they want."

That's an explanation, another would be that they use their address bar like me. I use Mozilla and I just have to type something in the address bar and press up to search for something in google. Sometimes I do that when I'm writing an address instead of a search query.

on March 6, 2003 05:30 AM
# Simon Willison said:

I'm pretty sure it's not because they've hidden their URL bar - many casual internet users just don't realise that the search box on their browser's home page is different from the URL bar at the top of their page. I saw this first hand a few months ago when a relative of mine used Yahoo's search box to get to .

on March 6, 2003 05:32 AM
# Paul said:

Another idea for the double ticks. It seems that a reasonable number of online publications format their output with the double ticks instead of the normal quote. [ Maybe a normal quote confuses their old software :-) ] The user may have done a cut&paste on the text to do a search and get more info.

on March 6, 2003 07:41 AM
# Joe Grossberg said:

Regarding spelling, there is an interesting side effect.

For example, I got lots of hits about "Amiri Bakara poem". Wasn't sure why -- he'd gotten a lot of news coverage. Then I realized -- it's B-A-R-A-K-A.

on March 6, 2003 09:38 AM
# jim said:

Hi jzawodn,
U r right.

on September 27, 2004 04:41 AM
# Craig said:

Search logs and Web server logs are definitely quite fascinating.

What lead me to this page was a quest to find the answer to a question that has bothered me for a couple of years now, but only now am I motivated enough to find an answer. Why do I so often see double back ticks used as an opening (and only opening) double quotation mark? For example, Dick said, ``I saw Jane walking with Spot", instead of, "I saw Jane walking with Spot." It offends my sense of symmetry and consistency. First of all, why use double back ticks at all, since you apparently know where the key for a double quotation mark is? But even if you really feel the need to use double back ticks, why not close the quotation with double back ticks too? What am I missing here? Somebody help me; I need it.

But speaking of legacies, another legacy from the typewriter days is typing "l" (a lower-case "L") instead if the number 1 (one). Amazed me when I first saw it in a post on a message board.

on December 8, 2004 10:56 PM
# jajo said:

Well I just searched "amaze me" and this came up.
didn't work then.

I guess people do search for some pretty odd things.

on June 29, 2006 10:39 AM
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