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May 10, 2009

Allegheny Alzheimers and Post Gazette Search Results

I don't know anything about Politics, but I do know about Search Algorithms.

When I write a blog entry, I like to embed links when I use an obscure term, refer to an event, or mention something that I might assume the reader knows about - because I hate it when I read something and the context isn't evident.

I have a bad habit of considering my blog posts a work in progress for the first few days after I've posted them - I re-read them, edit them, try to fix the flow, and add links when necessary.

So I was reviewing my previous post about Pittsburgh bicycle politics, looking at the line where I mentioned that Hizzoner Luke Ravenstahl used a Dept. of Homeland Security SUV to go to Star Lake Amphitheatre for a country music concert, and I thought to myself - Hey, that's an obscure reference, you should put an explanatory link in there!

I went to the local paper, The Pittsburgh Post Gazette — whoa, did I say I went to the local paper? Sorry, I went to their website, which I suppose is part of the problem newspapers face nowadays — people go to the website for free instead of the newstand. But I digress.

I went to, which is a nice website - sometimes slow to load, but that's okay - and I searched for "Ravenstahl Star Lake". No results. I searched for "Luke Ravenstahl SUV". Nothing.

I went to the Tribune Review and got good search results.
I went to Google. Lots of results.
I went to the Burgh Blogosphere. Lots of results: MacYapper , I Love Luke, Tube City Online, Pgh Comet, Pist Gazette, Daily Kos.

I went back to's search page and searched for:
Ravenstahl concert : nothing
Ravenstahl SUV : nothing
Ravenstahl scandal : nothing
Ravenstahl ethics : 1 return-- "Ravenstahl, DeSantis stick to the script as ethics issue isn't raised"

I used the P-G's search function to search on "Mona Wallace", which is a name from the Star Lake scandal that came up in the Google results. Shazzam! — lots of stories about the Mayor and his SUV in the Post Gazette. You just can't find them when you search for them directly.

I tried parsing the Mona Wallace headlines into phrases, and searched for them on the PG site:
Mayor SUV : letters to the editor, no news
Ravenstahl personal use SUV : nothing

I thought, maybe I'm spelling it wrong, so I searched on: "Ravenstahl" : this produced all sorts of results. For a while there, I thought that when Luke changed his last name to Steelerstahl, maybe the Post Gazette did a search/replace in the archives. There's still a lot of Ravenstahl responses in the Search function, just none about the SUV brouhaha.

I tried the above search queries in Google and got lots of results. I found a Wikipedia page on Hizzoner the Mayor, and it contained some other stories I tried to search for in the Post Gazette.

Institutional Infonesia *

* Infonesia: the condition of having read some
info, but cannot find or recall the source.

Based on the Wikipedia entry, I used the P-G search page for the following terms--
ravenstahl Lemieux : nothing
Ravenstahl stadium : nothing
Ravenstahl New York : nothing
Ravenstahl Burkle : one letter to the editor about the Penguins
ravenstahl oakmont : nothing
ravenstahl tiger woods : nothing
ravenstahl KDKA poll : nothing
Ravenstahl US Open UPMC : nothing

And yet, when you search those terms in Google, all sorts of results show up.

Having said all that, I don't often use the Search function; maybe this is par for the course.

I'd like to repeat (sorry) a quote from Milan Kundera in another post:
The struggle of man against power is the struggle of memory against forgetting.
How do people struggle against power when the Search function forgets? What's the Post-Gazette's value proposition when they don't contribute to public discourse?

What was it George Santayana said? Those who cannot <something something> are condemned to <something>? It was a bit like that. Hey, how about those Steelers Penguins?

This is a puzzle for me, and if anybody has any comments about what's up I'd love to hear them. Also, if you find other PostGazette search terms that should produce local news about Hizzoner but don't, please kick in a comment. If any P-G folks would like to weigh in, I'm open to feedback and correction.


Anonymous said...

I think the PG's search function uses a different syntax ( ) than Google does.

With the PG's search, you'll get nothing if you enter this.

Mario Lemieux Stanley Cup

You'll get 500 results if you enter the following.

"Mario Lemieux" AND "Stanley Cup"

Vannevar said...

Thank you, kind Anonymous.

Kilwer said...

May I suggest changing your search paramenters

Mayor Bikestahl

Mayor Jordanstaal

Mayor Panderstahl

Mayor TCBstahl

Mark said...

I have often been frustrated and bemused by lack of results in searching P-G, especially when searching for an article that I had read only recently. I'm still not clear on how to take advantage of the above insight into the difference in syntax.

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