Tuesday, April 12, 2011

AGoogleADay -- after the first day

The site for AGoogleADay went live yesterday and judging from the number of Tweets and posts we've seen, it's been a pretty good success.  

How did you do on the two presidents problem?  Remember the question was: 

     Two future presidents signed me.  Two didn't because they were abroad.  
     Despite my importance, modern viewers seem to think I have a glaring 
     spelling error.  What is it? 

The answer: 

     Searching [two presidents signed two did not] yields the U.S. Constitution. 
     Searching [constitution misspellings] reveals that "Pennsylvania" was spelled 
     with only one "n."

Several people wrote to ask "how can you know who the future presidents are?"  Excellent question.  Google doesn't have prognostic powers.  But the Constitution was signed on September 17, 1787, but George Washington became the first president in 1789.  Both he and James Madison were, at the time of the signing, presidents-yet-to-be.  

Two other future presidents who were alive in 1789 and could have potentially signed the Constitution were Thomas Jefferson, who was in France, and John Adams, who was in Great Britain in September of 1787.  

And of course you know that John Hancock signed the Constitution twice.  

But the interesting bit, from our SearchResearch perspective is how you solved the problem.  

In general, a long query like [ two presidents signed two did not ] isn't recommended because it tends to exclude parts of the results that you really want to see.  

HOWEVER... a long query is sometimes called for, especially when you're trying to find a combination concept (concept 1: "two presidents signed"  concept 2: "two did not").  In these cases, a longer query is probably required.  You really want results that contain both concepts, and trying to intersect results is just too hard to do.  Thus, longer queries really are called for.. on occasion.  

Advice:  Puzzles like the ones we're running on AGAD sometimes require skills you don't have... or violating the "normal" guidelines of search.  This is one such case.  (Others will appear in future puzzles.)  

Search on!  

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