07 April 2008

A Tale of Two Vertical Search Engines

The good vertical search engine:

There's a vertical search engine called MissingMoney.com, and basically you type in your name and state and it checks to see if there's any unclaimed money in your name ... like a last paycheck, or an old bank account. I did a little research and the service seems to be legit, despite the impossibly spammy-sounding text in the SearchEngineWatch post where I first read about the service. (I read SearchEngineWatch all the time, so I know it's a legit site, and I think the excessive use of hyperlinks in their post might be to prevent the content from being scraped and reused elsewhere without allocation. And maybe the writer thought he was being funny by imitating the hyperbolic authorial voice common to spam email. But "Find free money" just doesn't do it for me, especially since this is money that's been yours all along. Like treating your tax return as a "bonus" .... no, that money was yours all along, and the government's just been making interest off it in the meantime. Can you tell I sent my taxes off today?) Anyway.

Some of the commenters over at lifehacker said they'd found money. I didn't find anything searching on my name and state, but oh well.
It only takes a few seconds to type in your last name and state, and there's really nothing to lose, you don't have to input an email address or your social security number or much else that could be used to prop up any kind of nefarious identity theft.

The bad vertical search engine:

A government-funded health search engine called Popline, with the tagline of "Your connection to the world's reproductive health literature", has put a stop on all keywords that contain the word "abortion". As in, any search that you do which includes "abortion" in your kewyord string will come up with no results. Your connection to the world's reproductive health information now has no connection with abortion. That is SO FUCKED UP. Wired has a great article on it. An excerpt:

"We recently made all abortion terms stop words," Dickson wrote in a note to Gloria Won, the UCSF medical center librarian making the inquiry. "As a federally funded project, we decided this was best for now."

There was no notice of the change on the site.

Dickson suggested other kinds of more obscure search strategies and alternative words to get around the keyword blocking.

"In addition to the terms you're already using, you could try using 'Fertility Control, Postconception'. This is the broader term to our 'abortion' terms and most records have both in the keyword fields," she wrote.

She also suggested using a euphemistic search strategy of "unwanted w/2 pregnancy." But the workarounds don't satisfy critics of the censorship.

That said ... when I went to the site myself and performed a search on the word "abortion", I got back a zillion article results. So maybe someone somewhere in the goverment is listening. It's still wicked messed up that they tried to block it in the first place, though.

update: Broadsheet has more on the decision to reinstate "abortion" as a search term.

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