Field of Science

I'm on Google's blacklist

I have been very excited about the application of Google to research. When, as a psycholinguist, I am interested in whether a particular phrase is ever seen in normal English, it is very simple to just Google that phrase and find out. Google is a little less useful for looking at the frequency of individual words, since it automatically includes related words (e.g., search for dog and you also get dogs), but some useful information can be found. Both of these types of analyses regularly appear on Language Log.

Unfortunately, my love is not reciprocated. In the course of conducting basic research, I had my ability to use Google temporarily revoked.

What happened? Well, I lately got interested in the use of the word "because." I wanted to see how "because" is used in normal contexts. Unfortunately, types of utterances I am interested in aren't that common, so there weren't enough example available in the typical databases a researcher would use, like CHILDES. So I decided to use Google.

Basically, what I needed to do was search for phrases involving the word "because," then go to the pages in which the phrases appeared in order to copy the full context in which the phrase appears. Then I can analyze those contexts. I need a few thousand of those. I did think about having my summer research assistant do it, but it just seemed cruel. So a friend helped me (thanks Tim!) write a short script in Perl to automate the process.

I had finally gotten it up and running when it suddenly crashed on me. It took a little while to figure out that Google had identified my searches as potentially virus-induced and temporarily blocked my IP address. It appears that one can get special permission from Google in order to conduct these types of searches ... if you can actually contact anyone at Google, which is not easy.

So if you know somebody at Google...

1 comment:

drx said...

This is fascinating. It never occurred to me that Google might ban searches from a specific IP, but it makes perfect sense now that you explain what happened to you.