The story of my blogging screw up

pure search results

It finally happened. After more than six years and 2,000 blog entries I finally had the big screw up!

This post was originally titled “How to achieve pure search results.” I was doing some research for a client and needed to find a way to get out of the “filter bubble.”

When you do a search, your results may depend on what you have searched on before, your contact list and subject matter in GMail, your activities on Google+ and your physical location, to name a few factors.

So if I search for something and you search for something, we’re likely to come up with vastly different results based on the profiles Google has created for us.

But what if you want “pure” results? I looked around at different options and stated using a Google option called “Verbatim.” I lightly experimented with it but misunderstood the fundamental nature of this tool and posted an article about how it can help you find “pure search results.”

Quite a few readers tried it, liked it, and made the same incorrect assumptions as me. But reader Phil Bradley caught the error and corrected me:

Verbatim isn’t a search engine ‘version’ it’s a search filter. It does not depersonalise your results as you assume. It tells Google to find the exact words you have asked for and how you have spelled them. Without it Google will make assumptions on your search terms and will give results such as variants of spelling and synonyms.

So now I had a dilemma. I had incorrect information on my post. I knew that many people would simply read my post and skip over Phil’s comment, never knowing I was wrong. So I immediately took the post down.

But this caused a secondary problem. The RSS feed had already been distributed and now many people were promoting a broken link! I could not disappoint these people — I needed to have some content in the place of the link.

So my solution was to “eat humble pie” as they say here in America — take down the original content and admit I made a mistake.

Last year, my fifth anniversary of blogging, I said my greatest achievement was that I had blogged for five years without a major screw up. Well, my record has been broken!!

Here is what I learned from this error.

  1. I was going too fast. Instead of writing the post and letting it sit for a few days for fact checking. I found an idea and published it in a few minutes. That is very rare for me.
  2. The reason I went too fast is that I am too busy. I am in the middle of several major projects while also preparing for a two-week overseas trip. I can never sacrifice quality for expediency and so I need to slow down a bit.
  3. This didn’t have to happen. I have a backlog of posts I could have used instead and spent more time playing with the tool. But by ripping something off quickly instead of spending hours on a post, I was trying something new and it didn’t work.

I sincerely apologize if I mis-led anybody with the original post and have pledged to begin a new six-year streak of no major mistakes beginning tomorrow!

Many thanks for your wonderful support of my blogging efforts and for your understanding. — Mark

Illustration courtesy Flickr CC an Stephen Durham