Removing all trace of appearing in a vox pop … or why using the ‘right to be forgotten’ is an own goal

You can hide in Google …. but you can still be found

What sort of person contacts Google to make the most of the ‘right to be forgotten’ ruling which entitles people to demand the search engine remove any results about themselves which they think are ‘outdated’ or ‘irrelevant.’?

This week, publishers began to find out who was making the most of the opportunity served up by a European court ruling. According to the Guardian, 70,000 such requests have been received so far, and whether they are are true, accurate or fair articles doesn’t enter into the equation thanks to the Google ruling.

Google has notified websites of links it will no longer be able to show ‘for certain searches’ on its European search pages – and the first bunch of links I’ve seen this week make cover a wide range of issues – and where more than one person is involved in a story, we don’t know who has triggered the complaint.

Not surprisingly, there were a whole bunch of links to stories of people who were either on the wrong side of the law, or being exposed as being such by the newspaper.

The most random one, though, was the story of ‘parking rage’ being a regular occurrence in a Buckinghamshire village. No-one’s court appearance was reported, no-one’s embarrassing exploits shared with the world. Just the concerns of people who didn’t like the way people were falling out over parking. It appears to be a

There has been a lot of concern about this ruling, and I saw one comment which likened it to ‘burning the books in the library.’ That’s not quite the case, because there is nothing in the ruling compelling publishers to remove stories people want to disappeared off the internet.

Many of the newsrooms I work with have had calls from people demanding content be removed from online archives ‘because I now have a right to be forgotten.’ That’s wishful thinking on their part … they have a right to be removed from Google in Europe, that’s all.

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So, about picking the X Factor winner from search…

Ok, so I’m not sure where I’m going with this. A week ago, I decided to test out Bill Tancer’s theory that by monitoring search trends, you can determine who will win a talent contest (a televised one, of course) several weeks in advance.

Of course, Bill has the benefit for all the Hitwise data at his disposal. I don’t. So I thought I’d try it using Google Insights for Search on the X Factor. Based on Google’s indicitive popularity, it was clear Kandy Rain were the most popular act.

But given they were a group of ex-strippers, perhaps it wasn’t so surprising that they were so hotly searched, while the face their singing was, well, disappointing, perhaps meant it wasn’t such a surprise that they were the least voted for act in the live finals.

So where does that leave the notion that you can predict a winner via search popularity? Well, I’m going to give it another go, but I think the caution to be taken from last week’s experiment is the value of the “story” on X Factor.

We all know the X Factor contestants often have a back story which makes the headlines, or an event takes place on the show which grabs the headlines. That clearly had a bearing on Kandy Rain’s search results last week.

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Five search engines (other than Google) for journalists

Warning: This isn’t a knocking post about Google. Google is great for the vast amount of searches we do, but it’s always dangerous as a journalist to fall into the trap of only ever using one search.

If Google does have a problem, it’s the fact that with so many different organisations competing to be on the first page of results, it’s quite possible that the search results for a given term won’t change from one month to the next.

There are an abundance of other search engines around – some good, some bad, some just a little different – but there are a number which I’ve found useful for journalistic purposes over the past few months.

Here’s five – and how they could be used.

1. Addictomatic: Best for one glance at your beat


Addictomatic is ideal if you have a set brief in your job – be it as a district reporter or a specialist. Enter a search term – in the screen grab above I’ve used “Sutton Coldfield” and it returns the most recent results from a variety of sources including Youtube, Bing, Google Blog Search,  and Flickr. A bit like Google Reader in a sense – it’s a one-stop place to keep up to date on an issue – but without the hassle of setting it up.

2. Wolfram Alpha: Best for one fact answers quickly

february 1 1972 - Wolfram-Alpha_1255096376933

Launched in a blaze of glory not so long ago, it aims to to make all systematic knowledge immediately computable
by anyone.
While it’s still a way off from achieving that goal, it’s a much handier way of working things out that going through Google (although Google is launching more and more stat-type search tools all the time). It’s great for stocks and shares information, for working out ages, for getting statistics on places and subjects you might be searching for. Oh yes, and it’s great at doing sums for you too!

3. Keotag: Best for searching across blogs

Keotag - tag search multiple engines, tag generator and social bookmark links generator_1255097427687

Keotag is the best search engine I’ve found when searching for blogs. It searches around 17 search facilities and then lets you search through the results, search engine by search engine. I’ve always found searching blogs infuriating, and often Twingly, Icerocket and Google Blogs get dominated by non-blogs or by spam. I think Keotag get around this by just looking at tags in blog posts. As a result, the searches results tend to be much better. The fact you can clearly search multiple search engines in one place is a big boost.

4. Cuil – Best for research at the start of a project

preston north end1 - Cuil_1255115388647

Cuil had made a big play about the fact it doesn’t doesn’t return results on page rank, it also digs into each page, and then finds content which is related to it. It then serves it up in a way which makes it great for getting to grips with a subject. is also good in this respect. as starting points go for research on a new subject quickly, both beat Google.

5. Omgili – Finding the conversations people are having in forums

English Defence League - Forums & Discussions_1255116772106

Omgili is the sort of search engine I’ve been looking for for ages – one which makes it easy to find places where people are talking about what you might be writing about. Boardreader does this, but not as well, while others have come and gone. If you’re after just monitoring what’s being discussed on Twitter then is the most effective option. But, as a journalist looking for communities who might be able to get involved/might be interested in what you’re writing about, Omgili is superb.

This list isn’t intended to be a definitive list of the search engines journalists should seek to use, so if you’ve got any secret search engines, please tell me about them!

Can the winner of X Factor be predicted on search trends?

I’ve been reading Bill Tancer’s brilliant book Click over the past few weeks. It’s one of those books you won’t pick up if you assume you understand how the web works. If you don’t make that assumption, and you do pick it up, it’s fascinating.

Bill is general manager of global research at Hitwise and the basic premise of the book is that you can learn a heck of a lot about people by analysing what is being searched for. I suppose one way of interpreting the book is that to understand the internet, you need to subscribe to Hitwise.

But for those of us who don’t have instant access to Hitwise purely to satisfy our own curiosity, then there’s always Google Insights for Search. In Click, Bill argues to possible to work out that Mark Ramprakash would win the 2006 run of Strictly Come Dancing several weeks before the final took place. Why? Because the volume of search terms for Ramprakash was off the scale.

So, just for fun, having played with Insight for half an hour or so, is it possible to predict who will win this year’s run of X Factor? The programme is down to the final 12 contestants and the live finals start this weekend.

While a lot will happen between now and the inevitable number one at Christmas for the winner, it’s a safe bet that there are already early favourites out there – so what better way to find out than by using search?

Because Insights only lets you search for up to five at a time,  I’ve run four searches – one for each category (boys, girls, groups, over 25s). I’ve also included the term “x factor” in each search term, to remove any possibility of the search relating to something else.

Each search was based on UK traffic only (as overseas traffic is unlikely to vote, I reckoned) and is based on the last seven days – so back to last week’s final selection.

So first up, the groups:


From which we learn that Kandy Rain are the most popular at the moment.

Over 25s


For this one, I added the search term “Jamie Afro” into Jamie Archer’s as that is what most people seem to know him as – but he still comes behind Danyl Johnson, the music teacher.



I added a fourth search, of just “Rachel X Factor” as “Rachel Adedeji X Factor” appeared to do very little  – but the winner was still clear.



Lloyd, the lad only just old enough to be on show, is a clear winner here.
So, in true talent show style, the winners of these “heats” go into the final:
Given the fact we can’t guarantee people know how to spell the names of the stars correctly, I inserted one alternative spelling into each one. It didn’t change the overall result, but did make it a bit closer.
So, following current search trends as listed by Google in the UK, the winner will be Kandy Rain, a group. But given the description most used to describe the girls on MTV is: “Four ex-strippers who hope to be the UK’s answer to Pussycat Dolls with their similar PVC outfits” maybe that shouldn’t be a surprise at all!