What happened when I Googled For You

1,800 queries, 400 responses, boogers, naked photos of Bea Arthur, and lost car keys. I give up!


Farhad Manjoo
April 3, 2008 11:02PM (UTC)

Of course it was an April Fools' joke.

On Monday night I launched my new start-up, I Google For You, whose function is pretty much as it sounds: People submit what they're looking for. I search the Web and mail back the single perfect result.

From the minute my post went live, the queries streamed in -- in fact, people are still submitting keywords right now.

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But I've stopped answering. I quit at around dinnertime on Tuesday; before that, I'd been Googling nearly constantly.

Let's do the numbers: So far, I've received more than 1,800 requests for Googling. I've managed to answer about 400. If you submit a query now, you'll find almost 1,500 people in line ahead of you -- and the likelihood that I'll ever get to your query is pretty much nil.

There was great diversity to the queries I saw, but I did notice a few popular keywords. At least a dozen people looked up "April Fool's." I couldn't tell if they were genuinely interested in more information or were merely trying to signal that they got the joke.

Another popular query: "The Meaning of Life." I responded with the Wikipedia entry on Richard Dawkins' "The Selfish Gene."

Many people also searched for "fun," "hope" and "my car keys." My responses: Fun -- the product page for Slip n' Slide. Hope -- Mandy Moore's "Only Hope" video. Lost car keys -- KeyRinger, a device that purports to eliminate the problem.

Several customers said they were extremely satisfied with the links I found. I steered a fellow who was looking for "hard drive backup strategies" to this helpful page, which he said was exactly what he'd been looking for. Another person searched for "train a dog to poo on a particular spot," and was happy with the advice I found on that particular subject. The person who searched for "the name of that one song" was bowled over by my response: A video for Boney M's "Brown Girl in the Ring."

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I have to admit some failures, though. One customer thought that the link I found for "site to buy upscale and modern baby gifts" was not upscale enough. And many people who searched for a person's name complained that I sent back a link for the wrong person (with the same name).

There were also lots of queries for which I couldn't quickly find a good result (see a partial list below).

One final note: Lots of people asked me for a job at I Google For You. I'm glad you're interested! Considering the difficulty of searching the Web and the interest many people have in helping others search, I plan to turn I Google For You into a full-fledged help-others-search site.

That description's vague, I know, but the cat will soon be out of the bag. I'm hoping to launch my new company this fall, at Michael Arrington's influential TechCrunch start-up conference.

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I talked about Googling for others on my weekly Current TV spot.

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Here are a few of the hundreds of search requests that I haven't gotten around to answering; if you've got a good link for any of these, please let me know (all sics in the original queries):

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  • is eatting boogers bad for you
  • a simple explanation of quantum decoupling
  • What poor-to-working-class-to-lower-middle-class Americans would wear to a funeral in the eighties (image result)
  • How to build a giant animetronic version of me?
  • The soundtrack of a the climactic moments in most episodes of the cartoon "Dink the Little Dinosaur."
  • kits to make a beautiful handcrafted harpsichord
  • a way to remove cactus spines from my arm
  • A Solution to the Problems of the American Theatre
  • A paper on using either multidimensional vector space modelling or PDE mesh methods to evaluate the link and keyword structure of the web based on the prevalence of the word "ponies". (Must be from a 2nd tier journal or above).
  • how do I find the perfect goldfish
  • Pictures or videos of elk behaving in hilarious ways
  • a quick way to be able to dunk the ball at 5 foot 9
  • clip of a Portland General Electric commercial about the kite-man where he says "what about frogs?" and a girl answers "I like frogs"
  • naked pictures of bea arthur
  • this is the stupidest thing I have ever heard of. You are fucking retarded!
  • a video of former wwf superstar bret the hitman hart in an anti-smoking commercial where he snaps a handful of cigarettes in half
  • How to ask Salon.com to drop the Machinist blog

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Farhad Manjoo

Farhad Manjoo is a Salon staff writer and the author of True Enough: Learning to Live in a Post-Fact Society.

MORE FROM Farhad Manjoo

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