Here’s a quick test. When searching for ‘Red Dwarf’ on google.co.uk, how useful are the results? Let’s have a look.
- www.reddwarf.co.uk – Well, no argument there, I think. The official site should obviously be top.
- BBC’s Red Dwarf page – Well, let’s face it, the official BBC site is a bit rubbish. But to be fair, with reddwarf.co.uk being so good, I’m glad they don’t make the effort, and spend the time and my licence fee doing other things. So, whilst it’s obvious why it’s second… it doesn’t deserve it. It’s just not a useful site.
- Official Red Dwarf Fan Club – but not the one you’d expect. It’s the American one – and it’s stuck in 1999. (And for all I know from that site, the US fanclub is completely inactive – so if that isn’t the case, they need to realise how a non-updated site reflects on them.) Not a very useful link.
- IMDB entry – Not a bad link, although I’d argue it was too high up.
- Red Dwarf sounds – Oh, joy. A collection of Dwarf WAVs. I DON’T KNOW HOW DWARF FANDOM COULD LIVE WITHOUT THIS. Still, the hit counter (remember when all sites used to have them, because they were under the illusion that it was cool and actually meant something?) gives us the clue as to why it’s so high up – the site’s been online since March 1996…
- Amazon.com Series 1+2 – Hmmm. It’s not that it’s a problem that an Amazon listing comes up here – they’re pretty useful – but it’s more the fact that I’m searching on google.co.uk, about a British series… and the American release comes up.
- Sup’s Smegging Red Dwarf Page – Somehow, I wouldn’t feel safe without knowing this was on the web. NOT THAT THAT MAKES IT ANY GOOD. It’s fucking appalling by 2005 standards, and not that great by any other year’s. Again, it’s only so high because it’s been around so long, not because of any reflection of quality.
- Red Dwarf FAQ – No objection to this being here; and it’s linked to the official place, as well. “Updated 10 April 2000” is really a poor reflection on the state of alt.tv.red-dwarf than anything else.
- Red Dwarf Wikipedia entry – Not a bad link at all. I keep meaning to go through that entry and add/change some stuff – I did a few tweaks the other day. Although there may well be a dedicated Dwarf Wiki launching soon – watch this space.
- Red Dwarf Pile ‘O Smeg – OH FUCK OFF. I fucking hate this site. “These links are tested regularly to ensure the sites are online, no broken links, no wasted time.” Erm, no, they aren’t – Craig Charles Online is not up, and hasn’t been up for ages. More to the point, I’ve tried to add G&T to this list several times – with no response. It’s not that I mind people giving up on sites. But at least put a message at the top to let people know you’re not updating any more.
- TORDFC – The real thing, at last. A decent link.
- IMDB – Erm, again. The same page, too. THAT’S HELPFUL.
- Amazon Series 1 – See above.
- Red Dwarf Pile ‘O Smeg – Or, rather where Pile ‘O Smeg used to be. Kudos to the site owner for keeping this going all this time. Minus several points from Google for giving a completely pointless result.
- British TV Comedy Database Entry – Fair enough.
- Wikipedia Entry – Erm, again. Useless.
- BBC Comedy Guide entry – A great result.
- Red Dwarf Webring – Cor, remember Webrings? I’m tempted to add G&T to it for a joke. No use at all, apart from as a snapshot of the web in the late 90s.
- Red Dwarf Waves – Oh joy, more sounds. Never mind the latest news on all matters Dwarf – can I listen to Kryten saying Smeg again?
I could go on. I was sorely tempted to. But you get the picture. Half those links are completely useless .
Now, I know what you’re thinking – this is an extended rant on why G&T isn’t high in the search results, or something. But it isn’t. I couldn’t really give a buggery where G&T is – if people are interested, they’ll find it eventually. I’m simply pointing out how it’s easy to think Google Is God, and that anything relevant to your search will pop up immediately. But if there’s one thing you’d expect to easily be able to find information on on the net it’s Dwarf – and the above results are pretty shocking, really.
Not that it’s Google’s fault. It makes a fair stab at what it thinks is important, judging on what people link to. But the problem here is that so many people have linked to old, now practically defunct pages since 1998, that the results are badly skewed against newer, more relevant links.
The solution? The Semantic Web. Or: microformats. Or basically anything that will allow things to be properly machine-readable, rather than what Google does: guess. It’s something this site does slightly – but needs to do a lot more of. But I’ll be posting more about how you can make your site more semantic in the following weeks. It’s the future of the web. Along with better pornography.