Thursday, May 16, 2002

What Andrew knows

Tonight at supper, Andrew wanted to read to me about the Horklump. I told him I'd already read 'Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them', so he wanted to quiz me about them. I told him I didn't need to remember all of them because I could look them up.
"With Google?" he said.
"Google doesn't know about Horklumps".
"Try it." I said. So he did.
"How does the computer know so much?" he asked.
"It doesn't - people know things, and write them on web pages. Google looks at the pages and makes a copy to remember which words are on which pages."
"So when you look for the word it knows which ones to show you?"
"How does it find the pages?"
"Well, as well as writing what you know, you can put links on the pages - the underlined words."
"The ones I click to go to other pages?"
"Yes. Google follows the links. Google also decides that pages are more interesting if lots of people link to them,and shows you those first."
"Can I make a web page and write things?"
"Yes you can. I'll help you"
"And can I make some other pages and link to my web page so Google likes it?"
"That would be cheating - people have tried that and Google counts links from people who have lots of links pointing at them more than links from pages that no-one links to".
"Oh. OK. I'll write a page, and you can link to it, and you can tell your friends to link to it, and they can tell their friends to link to it, and then everyone will find my page."
"Well, that would work, but only if you think of something interesting to write."
"Oh. I'll have to think of some funny stories then."

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