Jeremy Zawodny makes the observation that I’ve made a couple of times; namely, Google’s PageRank is broken. (OK, he’s said it more than once.)
In the comments, Phil Ringalda defends Google on the grounds that Jeremy’s page is as good a result for the search terms in question as anything. He discusses the issue further on his own blog.
I would just like to note that I am currently the top result for google://population+of+indianapolis.
That’s an interesting part of the problem, that I’m not sure how to solve by anything other than education.
When I try to teach people to STFW, one of the first things I say is “don’t think about what you want to ask, think about what the person writing your answer would say.” Since (almost) nobody is going to write a single page about the population of Indianapolis, then another page about the population of Des Moines, then another about the population of Fargo, chances are what they really want is “population US cities”, or possibly “indianapolis population”, a page about Indianapolis which includes population. That gives vastly better results than “population of indianapolis”.
In all fairness, the second answer to the query gives exactly what’s wanted. So it’s not that bad; when I worked at a search engine, I tended to feel that any time you got the right answer in the first few results you were doing OK.
But I still think Google needs some refinement in order to identify domains of knowledge within groups of web pages. Course, if I knew how to do that, I’d be rich.
Sadly, this page is now the #2 result for population of indianpolis — right after another page of mine.
… and my Live Journal mirror of this entry is third.
Fortunately, the following results contain the population of Indianapolis in the results text, so it’s not as bad as it could be.