This is my usual Christmas/New Year reminder to never trust Google’s answers (or Bing’s) on opening times of shops over the holiday season, especially if you are thinking of visiting small, local, independent shops.
I was contemplating going to our True Food Co-operative but suspected that it might still be shut. A search on my laptop for True Food Emmer Green opening times gave me a link to their website at the top of the results list. On the right hand side was a knowledge graph with information on the shop, it’s opening times and reviews that had been compiled from a variety of sources . For most of it the source of the information is not given. On my mobile and tablet it is the knowledge graph that appears at the top of the results list and takes up the first couple of screens.
It claims that the shop is “Open today 10am-6pm” [today is Thursday, 29th December].
When I go to True Food’s website it clearly states near the top of the home page that they are currently closed and re-opening on 4th January 2017.
Google gets it wrong again in the knowledge graph but so does Bing. So, always check the shop’s own website, and if you are searching on your mobile or tablet please make the effort to scroll down a couple of screens to get to links to more reliable information.
Many thanks to Emily Scott who alerted me on Twitter to a priceless example of Google Knowledge Graph getting it totally wrong.
For those of you who don’t know what the Knowledge Graph is, it is the box that sometimes appears on the right hand side of your results, which pulls together information on your topic from a variety of sources. To quote Search Engine Land it is “a system that Google launched in May 2012 that understands facts about people, places and things and how these entities are all connected“. The problem is that Google quite often gets it wrong, although usually it is just one fact that is incorrect. One of the more well know examples is when Google decided that the American author Robert Greene was born in 1959 but died in 1592. It had confused him with the the 16th century English writer of the same name. As I always say in my Google workshops, never trust the information that appears in the Knowledge Graph. The data comes from different sources that may be referring to entities that are not related at all.
The example that Emily encountered, though, is in a league of its own. She was searching for frugivores (fruit eaters) and this is what Google’s Knowledge Graph suggested:
As far as I am aware fruit is not the preferred food of wolves, cats or lions. Clicking on the “View 45+more” option for representative species we see that Google is under the impression that cheetahs, killer whales, polar bears and leopards are also frugivores.
I’ll allow raccoons although I wouldn’t say that fruit is their preferred food. But, hey, what do I know about raccoons other than that my US friends tell me the little s***s raid trash cans and will eat anything they can get their paws on.
No doubt someone has already reported the error via the feedback link and someone at Google is busy correcting it. Enjoy and take screenshots while it is still there.
Yesterday, on New Year’s Day, I came across yet another example of Google getting its Knowledge Graph wrong. I wanted to double check which local shops were open and the first one on the list was Waitrose. I vaguely recalled seeing somewhere that the supermarket would be closed on January 1st but a Google search on waitrose opening hours caversham suggested otherwise. Google told me in its Knowledge Graph to the right of the search results that Waitrose was in fact open.
Knowing that Google often gets things wrong in its Quick Answers and Knowledge Graph I checked the Waitrose website. Sure enough, it said “Thursday 01 Jan: CLOSED”.
If you look at the above screenshot of the opening times you will see that there are two tabs: Standard and Seasonal. Google obviously used the Standard tab for its Knowledge Graph.
I was at home working from my laptop but had I been out and about I would have used my mobile, so I checked what that would have shown me. Taking up nearly all of the screen was a map showing the supermarket’s location and the times 8:00 am – 9:00 pm. I had to scroll down to see the link to the Waitrose site so I might have been tempted to rely on what Google told me on the first screen. But I know better. Never trust Google’s Quick Answers or Knowledge Graph.
In November of last year Google announced that it was going to start showing a knowledge graph for searches on medicines. (Look up medications more quickly and easily on Google, http://insidesearch.blogspot.co.uk/2012/11/look-up-medications-more-quickly-and.html). I am now seeing it in my search results but only on Google.com.
When I search on ibuprofen Google now gives me some key facts on the drug in a box to the right of the standard web results. The information includes indications for use, side effects, brand names, contraindications and other drugs that people also searched for. The sources it uses are the National Library of Medicine, US FDA, DailyMed and and Micromedex.
Ibuprofen is the generic name for this painkiller and is one of the names under which it is sold in the UK and many other countries. Searching on the brand name Nurofen, which is not available in the US, brings up web search results with shopping options at the top. There is no knowledge graph this time.
I played around with a few other brand names and found that if it is on sale in the US, for example Motrin, Google is able to identify the active ingredient.
So Google’s new medicine search is US-centric: US brand names and US sources of information. It will be interesting to see if and how they roll it out to other countries. Meanwhile, for those of in the UK NHS Choices provides better and more detailed information on medicines at http://www.nhs.uk/medicine-guides/, and if you are interested in a drug’s physical or chemical properties Chemspider (http://www.chemspider.com/) is a good starting point.
Already appearing in UK Google results is the related medical conditions feature. Type in a symptom and Google lists possible related conditions at the top of the page.
If you are using Google.co.uk or are based in the UK clicking on any of the conditions in the list brings up content that is UK focused. It will be interesting to see if they do the same with the medicines knowledge graph.