Monthly Archives: November 2006

Remembrance Day

Remembrance Day, a solemn day to remember the men and women who gave their lives in war over the last century. It is customary for all Allied countries to serve at least one minutes silence starting at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month each year.

On this day, I’d like to leave you with a famous poem which is synonymous with Remembrance Day around the world. The poem “In Flanders fields” was written by Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae on May 3rd 1915.

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved, and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

Please remember to show your respects to the men and women who gave their lives to provide you the luxuries and freedom which you enjoy every day of yours. For those people who find this site and don’t know or understand what this special day is about, please feel free to read about Remembrance Day online.

What Is A Search Engine?

A search engine is typically a software application which is capable of receiving requests and returning results based on a simple human readable text phrase or query. The query is received and the search engine then evaluates the request and attempts to find the most relevant results from its database. The relevancy of the results returned is based on complex rules and algorithms which rank each unique resource in its database. The results of a search request are typically sorted in descending order based on relevance to the search query.

Search Engine Types

There are three main types of search engines:

  1. human generated
  2. automated or algorithm based
  3. a hybrid of the two previous options

A human generated search engine is what is now generally considered a directory. Users submit their sites and the administrators of the directory review and include sites on their discretion. If a particular web site is included into the directory, it is evaluated, categorised and subsequently placed within the directory. The most widely known human generated search engine in existence today is the Open Directory (

An automated or algorithm based search engine does not rely on humans to provide information for searches to take place on. Instead, an algorithm based search engine relies on other computer programs, known as web crawlers or spiders to provide the data. Once the web crawlers or spiders have provided the data, separate computer programs evaluate and categorise the web sites into the directory.

The hybrid search engines combine both human generated and an algorithm based approach to increase the quality of the search data. In these systems, the internet is crawled and indexed like an automated approach; however the information is reviewed and updated as this process takes place.

Search Engine Strengths & Weaknesses

Each technique described above has its own strength and weaknesses. In a directory style search engine, the quality of the results is often very high due to a physical person reviewing the content on the web site and subsequently taking the appropriate actions. Unfortunately, due to the ever increasing number of web sites and content on the internet, requiring human intervention to rank and categorise a web site doesn’t scale.

In a purely automated approach, the search engines rely on the speed of software applications to index the internet. While the human based approach might allow for tens or possibly hundreds of pages to be categorised simultaneously; a search engine spider or crawler is capable of doing thousands or millions of pages simultaneously. The obvious problem with this approach is that since the search engines rely on algorithms, the algorithms can be exploited. In years gone past, “webmasters” cottoned onto how these type of search engines worked and started abusing the system by including keywords into their site which had nothing to do with the primary focus of the page or domain. The search engine would spider the site and suddenly an online shoe shop is coming up in searches for porn, drugs, gambling and more.

The hybrid based approach attempts to resolve the two aforementioned issues by crawling the internet using software applications and reviewing the results. The algorithms which rate and categorise a particular web site are tuned appropriately over time and the results they produce are monitored very closely to ensure accuracy of the search results. Companies which implement a hybrid based approach have teams of people whose soul purpose is to review the validity of various search results. If they find results which they would consider to be out of place, they are marked for investigation. If the results they expect do not come up, that is also noted down and sites can be manually included into the search index.

Now that you know what a search engine is, keep your eyes peeled for a follow up on how search engines work.

Ricky Muscat, You’re Not The Australian Idol

Ricky Muscat is out of Australian Idol 2006 and it couldn’t have come a moment too soon. In fact, I’d go as far to say that it was a mistake from everyone involved that he managed to make it into the final 12 contestants.

As I’ve pointed out previously, I don’t like Ricky Muscat as a performer. I didn’t like him at the start, I didn’t like him in the middle and I sure didn’t like him towards the end. Each time Ricky performed, all I heard was the same stuff each week. It didn’t seem to matter what genre he sang, I never connected with it – which is a shame as I’d consider that a pretty big part of a lot of music.

It would seem to me that the judges are putting contestants through to a certain stage based on merit; which is fair. Unfortunately, as soon as the voting begins – Australian Idol becomes a popularity contest rather than a singing contest. Now don’t get me wrong, being popular is part of being a successful musician as without the popularity, you won’t sell anywhere near enough records. The problem is, often a contestants popularity isn’t based on their singing ability – its based on them being hot, sexy or cute.

I don’t have the silver bullet solution for the Australian Idol voting issues, however if the Australian Idol producers were serious about finding talented musicians and not fixated on making money; they would limit the number of votes a unique phone number can produce per voting session.

A vote is a vote, you shouldn’t be allowed to vote more than once as it just allows people to skew the statistics. Maybe it hasn’t occurred to them that you aren’t actually allowed to vote more than once in a federal election and that there is a reason for it?