Monday, July 28, 2008

New Search Engine "Cuil" Promises Lots More Pages and Logic Than Google, But Fails My Tests

Posted by Alan Childress (if he really exists)

Announced today: New Google-buster from former Google engineers, called Pronounce it as "cool."  It touts three times the pages as Google, and a far better search logic:

Rather than rely on superficial popularity metrics, Cuil searches for and ranks pages based on their content and relevance. When we find a page with your keywords, we stay on that page and analyze the rest of its content, its concepts, their inter-relationships and the page’s coherency.

Then we offer you helpful choices and suggestions until you find the page you want and that you know is out there. We believe that analyzing the Web rather than our users is a more useful approach, so we don’t collect data about you and your habits, lest we are tempted to peek. With Cuil, your search history is always private.

Cuil is an old Irish word for knowledge. For knowledge, ask Cuil.

It does sound cool, and better -- except. Except that my first-day tests fail the only feature I care about:  the personal ego search.  Its logic does not recognize that I exist at all on the internet (oh please let my creditors use only this tool...).  Ever.  On any of its 122 billion pages.  We didn’t find any results for “alan childress”... Possible explanation?  too many search terms. Please try fewer terms.  Less than two?!

It did recognize "legal profession blog" -- despite my using three search terms. But it then showed a picture of some shirtless little blonde boy posing (voguing) next to a blurb on our site.  (I swear I was nowhere near Oakland at the time.)  I worry that one of the ex-google engineers is R. Kelly.  Then there is a blurb about Jeff Lipshaw at bottom right of this page but the picture next to it is some guy with a mustache, not Jeff.  Maybe that guy is the dad of the little shirtless boy, or he's the Dateline producer who will meet you if you try to email the boy.

It found Legal Ethics Forum (see, I did not just search me), but its first reference to it was not to the site itself but an ABA blurb about the site.  So I ran Andrew Perlman and he did not exist either.  Even if you put quotes around him.  I eventually found that "Alan Childress" does exist with quotes but Steven Childress, my legal name, sometimes does not, either with or without quotes.  "Andy Perlman" does exist, with quotes, but the first page shows far more references to him from this blog than it does from Legal Ethics Forum, his blog.  My brother Mark, author of like seven novels published by real publishers and also a movie I have seen, at first did not exist, unless you frame him in quotes.  Then I re-ran some of these searches and they seem to get some results, but odd ones at times.  Andy started to appear alive but it does not seem to be the one who blogs daily on LEF.

For a search engine, I demand more than anything a consistent set of rules, and predictable results.  If I have to use quote marks, then tell me and make that the [lousy] working rule.  Or if I have to use a nickname and not a legal name--well, that is an odd logic but one pleasing to Gordon Sumner I am sure, though he also comes up as Sting.  (The first reference to Gordon is a story mainly about bipolar disorder!--maybe Gordon should strive to do something notable with his life that would interest surfers.) At least make that usage consistent!  So far, at least, it is not.  I cannot figure out how to call up relevant material on this.  And a search that is run one minute gets a very different set a few minutes later.  That makes it hard to go back to a search result that sparked an interest but the offered link was not immediately accessed.

Not cuil to me, yet.

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