Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Other cultures, other languages--you have to search where the information lives

In today's AGoogleADay.com puzzle the correct answer is NOT in English.  That's not terribly surprising since the question is about Pachacuti's sacred city in Peru.  What has been surprising is that several people have written in to comment that the answer is wrong.  Their complaint?  That the answer isn't in English!  

One of the tenets of search is that you've got to go where the data lives.  If you're searching for information about another culture, it often makes sense to search in that language.  Example:  searching for information about dolphin-related Greek temples is pretty straightforward in Greek (using "Translated Foreign Pages" feature), but difficult and slow in English.  

On the other hand, the multiple language problem is a persistent bugaboo.  We call the capital of Italy "Rome," not "Roma" even though the locals refer to it in the second form.  (And in English we have multiply-named entities:  The Battle of Bull Run vs. The Battle of Manassas.)  

It's a basic thing to remember as you search for more difficult things:  There are often many ways to refer to something.  While Google's synonym-system is pretty good, you often know a LOT more about what might be acceptable alternate ways of expressing the key idea.   

Especially in other languages.  Keep this in mind when searching!  

Search on!

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