Very Bad Typos in Google Suggestions.
Google suggests horribly misspelled query through the “Did you mean” feature on their results pages. Apparently this happens when misspelling and common keyboard typos co-occur. Is this good practice? What do you think?
I don’t want to upset anyone at Google. They do a great job. As we often say at Exorbyte, they have developed a fantastic search engine for the web and large document repositories, but it’s far from perfect. It needs to cater for so many use cases, user behaviors, expectations, content formats, etc. etc. that it seems sometimes to stumble on itself in its eternal quest for search results quality refinements without performance costs. The following is a good example.
I ran into an interesting bug in the Google “did you mean” functionality which suggests better queries to users when queries seem obviously misspelled, typos, or erroneous entries. The code that generates these suggestions is all but a mystery. However, it’s pretty obvious that it is generated by a matching process between the user’s search query and a dataset containing popular search keywords, search phrases, and double-checks that there is indeed results in the Google index, or something of the sort.
Now, take a look at this: I did a search in French language for a the query “dictuionnqire frqncqis qnglqis” which if spelled correctly would read “dictionnaire francais anglais”. The source of my errors were twofolds:
- I use some French keyboards (AZERTY) and US-English keyboards (QWERTY) interchangeably but forgot to set my input language to English and therefore replaced all [A]s with [Q]s.
- I made one spelling mistake by introducing a [U] in the word “dictuionnaire” which is not supposed to be there (“dictionnaire”).
The query can be seen at:
What’s bad about this is clearly that the query suggestion is quite clearly misspelled too (“Did you mean: dictionnqire frqncqis qnglqis Top 2 results shown“). What is more interesting is that it has one of the two errors above corrected though:
- the spelling mistake by introducing a [U] in the word “dictuionnaire” which is not supposed to be there (“dictionnaire”).
I would venture to say that what probably happens is that Google uses (among other methods):
- spell checking,
- and a common keyboard errors corresponding table (such as [A] and [Q] permutation between AZERTY and QWERTY keyboards).
The first error actually gets corrected in the suggestion but the second doesn’t. The little geniuses at Google just never thought or tested for the co-occurrence of both issues. Result is: the suggestion can be returned with a horrible set of typos.
The proof of this is that if the query is made with just typos and no misspelling, the “Did you mean” feature doesn’t kick in:
So what do you think about this? Tell us what your interpretation is.
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