Multiple Uses for Search

isabella-stewart-gardner-museum stolen artThe Isabella Stewart Gardner museum is probably my favorite small museum. If you are ever in Boston, and have a spare half day, you should find time to visit. It’s quite enchanting. Twenty-three years ago today, it suffered the worst private property theft in the form of a brazen raid which netted $500 million in stolen art…mostly old masters. Having given up on finding the perpetrators (and the statute of limitation is now up in any case), the FBI has launched a site which gives detailed info on the art in the hope that it will show up for relevant searches prompting someone out there to do a double take when they spot an old master at a flea market. It’s not exactly a new idea, the FBI has had a searchable stolen art site… a horrible stolen art site… but a site nevertheless. The problem with the site is you have to know what you are looking for before you can check… which is almost exactly the definition of how to design a useless search product…  which is pretty much exactly what we’d expect from a search designed by a government body. It would be a lot more interesting if the FBI worked with Google to extend their very interesting Google Goggles product to match and index against the FBI database. That way, at the flea market you could snap a pic and have Google check it for you.

From the sublime to the ridiculous, an adult interest site has just released data of the most popular porn queries worldwide. Lord knows how they came up with their data… an exhaustive search process no doubt. The results are hardly surprising, except for the popularity of gay search terms in countries where all things gay are either frowned upon or flat out banned. I can offer no insight into why searches, for activities that you can get stoned or hanged for, are so popular (aside from the obvious). But, it’s another interesting insight provided by search.

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