Call off the search


When I was twenty-one I attended a college lecture on I.T. security. The web was in its relative infancy: Lycos and Excite were still search engines of choice, there was no Facebook (there wasn’t even MySpace), live video streaming was, for most, nothing more than a distant possibility, and the dot com boom and bust were looming on the horizon. One of the things the lecturer addressed was the fact that most of what was on the web was (at that time) simply not very good, and that there were – joy of joys! – websites that allowed you to see what people had been searching for. (Yes, they’re commonplace now but back then it was a novelty.) He then proceeded to show us a random selection taken from fifteen minutes on one particular day not long before the turn of the millennium.

I still have that list. Here’s a selection:

How to bild a solar power car
xxx passswords
virtual chocolate
killing murder death pics
clinton bill

I daresay that most of you who keep blogs probably check the search engine terms. It’s always interesting to know how people find you, and how they pick you up. For example, there’s a CBeebies programme called Woolly and Tig, about the experiences of a young girl and her anthropomorphic spider. It’s delivered in a thick Scottish accent, which to the uninitiated makes it sound like they’re saying “Willy”. Thus one of the most popular searches currently is for ‘Willy and Tig’, which may be a genuine mishearing or someone who wants something else entirely.

Closer to home, I got quite a few people tapping in ‘Asylum of the Daleks was rubbish’ back in October. To which I’d nod and say yes, indeed it was, and I was glad to have said so. There are also an awful lot of people searching for information on how to have a Doctor Who party, in which case I’m happy to have provided some sort of online resource. But in terms of hit count, by far the most popular posts I’ve done on here were a little something on Swiss Toni from The Fast Show, and a conversation I had with Josh about the Weeping Angels, which shows you what you can get from a little creative titling.

I keep a list of the more unusual search engine terms. Here they are, presented as is, typographical errors intact.

henry viii penis
fondue accident
helix gareth brown leather
doctors and companions trade outfits
how to use handcuff in bed
a depressed boy sitting on bench
what to say when someone says i’ll eat you
bagpuss nipples
heaving breast
fuking in bathroom in front of kids

The response I get when I post these on Facebook is usually “Never mind that, why have you got that on your blog in the first place?”, a comment which is either purposely (and humorously) inflammatory or just plain naïve. My reply – directed mostly at people who might genuinely wonder – is always the same: individual posts on any blog are typically collected together in chronological order on that blog’s home page, either published in full or in excerpt format. Therefore, if you were searching without quotes for the phrase Latvian goat porn, and a blog had mentioned – in three separate postings – Latvia’s win in the Eurovision song contest, George Clooney’s The Men Who Stare At Goats and a general rant about online adult material, the Google bots would pick it up. It doesn’t matter that the words are unconnected; the connections are made for you based on what you’re looking for. These searches thus (usually) reveal far more about the searcher than any online resource that’s discovered after they hit the button.

Anyway: yesterday was a new one. Yesterday I found that someone had found Brian of Morbius by Googling ‘Morbius and Davros covered in jelly’.

What do you do with this? Should I be appalled, or treat it as fanfiction gold dust? “Or maybe,” as sj pointed out, “a bit of both?”. Is it an obvious references to the Fourth Doctor’s preoccupation with jelly (the gelatine sweets he kept in his pockets and his encounter with the Rutans)? Does it mean the brain jelly of Morbius, stuck in his lab? Is it some kind of veiled reference to the flying spaghetti monster?

I mentioned it to Laura. Here’s her response.

“My first thought was, ‘oh god, Rule 34* in action. Classic example’.

But then I started to wonder…what if it’s not caused by Rule 34? What if they wanted fanfic about a DW character’s children party? Or a comedy accident in an offworld gelatine factory? Is this more or less disturbing as a fanfiction reading whim? Just…what.

…Fandom is odd, but the places that it takes your brain to? Terrifying.”

* Rule 34: if something exists, there will be a porn version.

I racked my brains as to who might have Googled for something like this. Turns out it was Gareth. Several times over the course of a year. He thought it’d be fun.

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3 thoughts on “Call off the search

  1. I can not stop laughing that it was Gareth!

    I still say I’d read that fanfic, but then I’ve already plumbed the depths HP fanfic can sink to, so why not head to the seedy fanfic-y underbelly of the Whoniverse with a criminal Time Lord and the creator of the Daleks?

    …covered in jelly.

    As a slightly tangential aside, I was doing an image search for something not long ago and was slapped in the face with Rule 34 (even though it in NO WAY APPLIED to what I was looking for) because my search term happened to coincide with the user name of someone that posts a lot of that sort of stuff. I may have been scarred for life.

  2. Gareth

    It’s all his fault. When he first made a comment about someone finding his blog by searching for something bizarre, I thought “that’s not bizarre enough” and searched for Morbius-related silly phrases until I found one that gave a link here. I then did that search and followed that link every month or so, just to leave a silly trace in his log. It’s taken him nearly a year to notice!

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