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31 March, 2006

Random queries no.38

One of a series of genuine search engine enquiries which successfully brought visitors to the Ministry.  Can I help?

Mamoru Oshii directed Avalon. What was the primary spoken language for this film?

The Ministry is third at Yahoo! Search, for this enquiry, but that engine is returning the following: disjointed words from the 'Films' archive page, out of context:

Spending some time as a biscuit, for tax purposes. Search. Categories. Films. 2 March, 2006. Quick film quizes ... a film which happens to have been directed by Gilliam ... this anime film because of the connection to Mamoru Oshii (Ghost In The Shell, Avalon ... The language would be a ...
Even if that eventually leads a visitor to the sole (at the time of writing) entry mentioning Oshii's 'Avalon', the reference is one word, in an entry about a different film. The spoken language isn't mentioned.

As I've said before, natural language searches (grammatical questions) are counterproductive in most search engines, which search for individual words.
Try searching for just the keywords: oshii avalon language. The very first word of the excerpt of the top-ranking result of that search at Google gives the answer – it's not even necessary to click through to the page itself. The same applies to seven of the top ten results.

Another tip: for film-related enquiries, it's often better to search for the title, director, etc. at the Internet Movie Database (IMDb) rather than the less specialised Google, Yahoo!, etc. The spoken language of each film is stated on its summary page, and associated pages provide pretty much everything else about the film.

In short (far too late for that...), a properly-phrased keyword-based query will find the desired answer extremely easily in this case. As it happens, 'Avalon' is amongst my favourite films, and the language is relatively familiar to me, so I already knew the answer: Polish.

[Update 14:18: Someone has tried precisely the same grammatical, punctuated search at and AM Browser Search (never heard of it, but it's powered by Yahoo! – why not just use Yahoo!?). Persistent....

Oh; hang on – one's in Sydney, one's in Yarraville, and I didn't notice the source of the original Yahoo! search. It must be a quiz question in Australia, and people are cut-and-pasting the question into search engines. Not the best of techniques!]

[Update 03/04/06: Three more this morning, from Hobart (Tas.), Mosman (NSW) & Hiawatha (Vic.), all Australia, all phrasing the enquiries rather better. Luckily, Google has indexed this entry by now, so people are getting the desired answer, and not only a lecture on search optiimisation!]


Hmm... If one was from Oz, I wonder if it's a question coming through the other company I work for. We get quiz questions all the time.

Posted by Calephetos at March 31, 2006 07:13 PM
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