I have been dining out on the ‘Google thinks cats are lions’ story for several months but decided that its inclusion in my presentation at INFORUM 2011 in Prague should be its last outing. (See my blog postings at http://www.rba.co.uk/wordpress/2011/02/12/google-decides-that-coots-are-really-lions/ and http://www.rba.co.uk/wordpress/2011/02/21/update-on-coots-vs-lions/ for the details on this story). Towards the end of my talk I pointed out that Google has now abandoned coots=lions and carries out what I consider to be a normal search for coots mating behaviour, or as normal as any Google search can be. I had checked in Google.co.uk, Google.com and Google.cz a couple of weeks before the INFORUM conference and coots were definitely black, medium sized water birds and not large furry mammals with huge fangs and claws. As I concluded my presentation, though, I saw a few people in the audience staring at their laptops and shaking their heads. One of them came up to me during the break and pointed out that Google Czech Republic was offering cats instead of coots for the first two results. This prompted a quick review of the Google coots/cats/lions situation.
The search: coots mating behaviour
Google.co.uk gives a reasonable set of results but having blogged and included details of the search in so many presentations and newsletters my own pages are taking over the top positions in the results.
Google.com gives similar results.
Google.cz however has different ideas. It offers me three articles from Google Scholar and then says “Did you mean cats mating behaviour” in Czech and gives me two results on that subject. The rest of the results are all about coots, so at least Google.cz is giving me my original search as an option rather than unilaterally deciding I really meant cats.
Looking at other country versions of Google, Google.no and Google.se came up with similar results. Google Germany, however, thinks coots are cows and even throws in a Youtube video:
I am not going to even begin to try and work out what is going on. Three of us nearly went mad attempting to get to the bottom of the original coots=lions oddity. But it does make one wonder even more whether Google can be trusted to come up with even a handful of useful results.