EMBUGGERANCE AT GOOGLE SCHOLAR.

Stephen Chrisomalis reports on a Google Scholar screwup that produced the following citation:

Embuggerance, E., and H. Feisty. 2008. The linguistics of laughter. English Today 1, no. 04: 47-47.

It is, of course, hilarious, but the fact that it (along with many other similar, if more prosaic, screwups) exists is not. Not only is the author listing wrong, the review is from 1985, not 2008. Google has a serious metadata problem (see Geoff Nunberg’s discussion), and it needs to work harder on fixing it. I don’t understand Chrisomalis’s “I don’t mean this as an indictment of Google Scholar,” which smacks of forelock-tugging and/or Kool-Aid drinking; of course it’s an indictment of Google Scholar, and Google needs to be slapped around, not coddled, if this sort of thing is to stop. (I got to Chrisomalis’s post via the Log; In case you’re curious, the actual author of “The linguistics of laughter” is Walter Nash.)

Comments

  1. Thanks for the link!
    I suppose what I mean is that I don’t mean it as a damning indictment, or as evidence that we should be using something else other than Google Scholar. I do think Google needs to clean house in its metadata, and to rethink its practices, but the merits of Google Scholar are so great for any serious research that I didn’t want my post to be understood as saying that Google Scholar is garbage.

  2. Oh, sure, and I hope I didn’t come off as too harsh. I’m not blaming you in particular, since it’s a very common reaction (I feel the pull of it in myself as well)—we all love Google and its immensely helpful Books and Scholar offshoots and use them constantly, and there’s a sort of superstitious desire not to offend them lest they withdraw their bounty. But they’re not the capricious Homeric gods, they’re an immensely profitable company that boasts of doing no evil, and they need a kick in the pants now and then to be reminded to spend a few of their well-earned megabucks doing something about these immensely annoying problems. DO YOU HEAR ME, GOOGLE? I’M TALKING TO YOU! YEAH, YOU!

  3. I can never get it to do anything remotely useful. It shows me the first page and then says I’m not allowed to read the rest.

  4. I can never get it to do anything remotely useful. It shows me the first page and then says I’m not allowed to read the rest.

  5. Not Google Scholar’s fault, Dizzy. All it can do is point you to the on-line version. What happens after that is between you and the publisher, who generally wants $$ per article, or else for you to buy it through your company, university, or public library.

  6. I will remember Dr. Emb*ggerance and Dr, Feisty forever. Google Books should be commended.

  7. I just happened to reread Clive James’s “The Book of my Enemy Has Been Remaindered”, in which Barbara Winston’s Book of Boobs appears as an especially embarrassing remaindered book. Note that it is now a rare book selling for $118. A metaphor for the afterlife.
    We will now return to our previously scheduled spam infestation.

  8. That’s Barbara Windsor, John. She’s a giggly cockney TV comedy actress who reputedly knew the Kray twins, the thugs aka Bob and Dynsdale in the Spiney Norman sketch by Monty Python. Barbara Windsor has nothing to do with the Queen, nor with Winston Churchill, although he probably did have quite big boobs too.

  9. That’s Barbara Windsor, John. She’s a giggly cockney TV comedy actress who reputedly knew the Kray twins, the thugs aka Bob and Dynsdale in the Spiney Norman sketch by Monty Python. Barbara Windsor has nothing to do with the Queen, nor with Winston Churchill, although he probably did have quite big boobs too.

  10. Oh, no. Damn.

  11. Oh, no. Damn.

  12. (I have fixed your tag but left your pained outcry as a reminder to be more careful in future. HTML is a jolly friend but a remorseless enemy.)

  13. I can never get it to do anything remotely useful. It shows me the first page and then says I’m not allowed to read the rest.

    That (and el estimado señor Cowan is not saying this either because he doesn’t realise you’re in Norway, or because he’s a fine upstanding employee of his company who doesn’t condone communicating that it might be possible to infringe copyright) is probably because it sees your Norwegian IP address. You, like me, probably don’t see any content for »Ein hebräisch-persisches Wörterbuch aus dem vierzehnten Jahrhundert«, a book published in Germany in 1900 and long out of copyright everywhere. If you use a US proxy, however, it’s possible to download the whole thing as a PDF, or to read it.

  14. marie-lucie says:

    AK, I am in Canada and cannot open the book either, whether in German or Hebrew. But thank you for the link.

  15. Marie-Lucie, right, I wasn’t as clear as I could have been ideal in my instructions, hoping to have been concise enough that people would actually read them to the end. What you need to do to read the book, if you’re not in the US, is:
    1. Go to the page with the list of proxies.
    2. Pick one of the US proxies, in our case, let’s say, http://www.incognitobrowse.info/
    3. Enter the URL of my link above where it say “Enter the URL address”
    4. Click “Surf Now!”
    That gives a version of the Google page where you can read the book or download it as a PDF.

  16. Upps, there’s an “ideal” too many there.

  17. clodhopper says:

    It is very easy for the powerful to forget their Achilles heel, thus they must be on their toes at all times and heal their arrogance of not checking.

  18. Holy crap, Aidan. You are a wonderful, wonderful person. I’m going to file that and experiment with it later. If you ever need anything: money, food & lodging spring to mind, just contact me through my blog and I’ll give you marie-lucie’s address. Thank you sooo much.

  19. marie-lucie says:

    Hey, hold on, AJP, I don’t run a B & B! But AK, thank you, I will try.

  20. No bed and breakfast from me. That page of proxies is blocked in China :(
    I’m sure there are ways around it, but I’m so damned incompetent at getting around the petty annoyances put out by the greatest nest of cyberspies in the world.

  21. O Expurgated Caped One:

    0lmn.info United States
    proxied.info United States
    pillmasters.info United States
    myroxy.info United States
    youcloak.com Germany
    lnln.info United States
    sitesunblock.com Germany
    theproxyfree.com United States
    surf100.com United States
    howtounblock.org Germany
    weew.info Canada
    open22.info United States
    proxypass.us United States
    myunblocker.org United States
    gate2way.com United States
    piingus.info Singapore
    unblock-facebook.net United States
    facebookbypassonline.info United States
    facehide.info United States
    proxysib.com United States
    proxytwitter.com United States
    xinproxy.com United States
    securedsurf.info United States
    218x.info United States
    anonymouswebproxy.info Germany
    earthunblock.info Germany
    opaj.info Canada
    websitesproxy.info Germany

  22. Thanks, Nij. A few of them actually seem to be accessible…. :)

  23. be more careful in future. HTML is a jolly friend but a remorseless enemy.
    Unlike the others, I don’t enjoy a sharp mind. It may well happen again.

  24. be more careful in future. HTML is a jolly friend but a remorseless enemy.
    Unlike the others, I don’t enjoy a sharp mind. It may well happen again.

  25. Uneasy lies the head that wears a crown.

  26. I understood el Crono to be complaining about Google Scholar, a completely different thing from Google Books. I’ve posted a long comment on Google Books on a later message.
    Google Scholar indexes articles but never displays them. It only points you to the web site of the article, which is typically a paywall imposed by JSTOR, MUSE, ACM, or whoever owns the electronic rights to the journal in question. What happens to you after that (almost certainly an abstract, possibly the first page) is absolutely not up to Google, any more than when ordinary Google search sends you to the Wall Street Journal or any other paywall web site.
    Google Scholar does index scholarly books as well as articles, and it generally sends you to Google Books when you click on them, after which Google Books rules apply.
    As for the personal remarks: I do know that many of you are outside the U.S.; Google is a U.S. company; U.S. law applies only to U.S. residents (mostly); I didn’t know anything about U.S. proxies except as used by Chinese people to avoid their firewall; and of course I concede that Google may inadvertently engage in copyright violations, as a consequence of either mistake of fact or mistake of law. So there.

  27. My pleasure, Abrigo de Baño, let me know when the B&B is open for business.

  28. How can you become a google scholar if you can’t read any google books?
    I think it’s jstor that I really hate, with their pretentious bloody graphics. They’ve trapped so much stuff I want to read, particularly in Notes & Queries, and I can’t get hold of it because I’m out of range of a library with access. And it’s not necessarily even behind a paywall Give us the money or you’ll never see Sewage Works Journal again, a lot of stuff is simply inaccessible, period.

  29. because I’m out of range of a library with access
    Did you try the school you graduated from? Some time ago I was shocked to find my password still worked and I could access anything. There are also some universities that try to make things available to the public, I’ve seen one that provides Lexus Nexus online, but I don’t remember now which one.
    it’s jstor that I really hate
    The problem with both jstor and google is that they are monopolies in what they do. Imagine for a minute the two of them in competition, google publishing snippets of journals and jstor getting authors’ names right, and I think you would begin to see more competence.

  30. Language Hat is a sort of charitable institution, can’t it go all the way and apply to someone or other and become a university? Who does that, the Pope?

  31. Language Hat is a sort of charitable institution, can’t it go all the way and apply to someone or other and become a university? Who does that, the Pope?

  32. If he just gets the Pope on board Language can charge a small tuition fee and get us all into jstor, googlescholar, whatever. Petition your local convent or R.C. monastery.

  33. If he just gets the Pope on board Language can charge a small tuition fee and get us all into jstor, googlescholar, whatever. Petition your local convent or R.C. monastery.

  34. Nijma, I think if JSTOR and Google Scholar were in typical corporate “competition” with each other, they’d: a) copy each other’s inefficiencies and incompetencies; b) use each other’s “competitive” stances to justify ignoring reasonable consumer demand; and c) actually “compete” for higher profits, executive compensation, and share price and not for more or (especially not) more gratified customers.
    Decades of Reaganomic de-regulation and “market-driven consolidation” should teach us that oligopolies multiply, rather than partly dissolve, the distortions of accumulation and concomitant crises of ‘monopoly’.
    -
    What’s the solution to the problems of artificial bottlenecks of ideas and, on the other side of the coin, unjustly undercompensated intellectual labor?
    Probably humanity should and will first solve simpler quandaries, like ethnic claims to real property, and superluminary space travel.

  35. if JSTOR and Google Scholar were in typical corporate “competition” with each other, they’d: a) copy each other’s inefficiencies and incompetencies;…oligopolies multiply, rather than partly dissolve, the distortions of accumulation and concomitant crises of ‘monopoly’
    I don’t see the situation as an oligarchy but more like the Wright brothers in their bicycle shop on the eve of aviation history. Right now there are any number of companies with search engines or with the ability to electronically store words.
    When has there ever been a period in time when a company’s continued incompetencies have not resulted in someone somewhere providing a better service? Even in an extreme example like the telephone company that enjoyed a monopoly for so many years, now we see the cellphone industry taking off in parallel directions and overtaking the landline business. Gone are the days when Bell Labs had the cutting edge necessary to attract the best creative minds that resulted in the discovery of the transistor and semiconductors. Even very innovative telecommunications companies become very root-bound and are continuously spinning off other companies like Net-10 and Tracfone in order to stay competitive.

  36. When has there ever been a period in time when a company’s continued incompetencies have not resulted in someone somewhere providing a better service?
    Well it’s several companies, but Hollywood.

  37. The film industry incompetent…how?

  38. “I see the situation as [being] like the Wright brothers in their bicycle shop on the eve of aviation history.”
    But Nijma, the JSTOR/Google Scholar “situation” now is one in which hundreds of millions of people go into the internet every day, right? The “eve” of this internet saturation far (in the speeded-up-historical terms of the turn of the 3rd millenium) precedes either JSTOR or Google, as I see things.
    -
    “When has there ever been a period in time when a company’s continued incompetencies have not resulted in someone somewhere providing a better service?”
    One of the examples I first thought of was “Hollywood”, too, but the example would only count historically until the government forced the studios to choose between production and theaters, which was about the time when at least a part of the American audience became aware of/excited by ‘foreign’ movies (most of whose makers were substantially inspired by “Hollywood” flicks). This period was also the time when making what we now call ‘indie’ movies started (slowly) becoming one of the various ‘normal’ ways to live a filmmaking life in the US.
    How about Microsoft? Sure there are “alternatives”- maybe you’re reading this post thanks to one right now. But after decades of Mac N being copied by Windows N+5, has the better product now reached “competitive” parity in marketplace of the generic office?
    Anyway, I think the best answer, in short, to your question is oil.

  39. And now oil is also incompetent…again, how?

  40. When has there ever been a period in time when a company’s continued incompetencies have not resulted in someone somewhere providing a better service?
    “How about Microsoft?”
    Actually Bill Gates & co’s fortunes shows that Microsoft is not incompetent as a company, despite having provided an inferior product for thirty years.
    Nij said companies & services and we’re listing industries & goods, but never mind. Oil is being replaced in some parts of the world. A better example would be car manufacturers in the USA.
    The LA film industry is at best an erratic generator of money. Film critics and others who work in the “industry” complain that it makes rubbishy films compared to those it made in the 1980s. It’s incompetent by both standards (artistic and financial). Yet it repeats its mistakes and hasn’t been replaced yet by anyone providing a “better” service or product.

  41. When has there ever been a period in time when a company’s continued incompetencies have not resulted in someone somewhere providing a better service?
    “How about Microsoft?”
    Actually Bill Gates & co’s fortunes shows that Microsoft is not incompetent as a company, despite having provided an inferior product for thirty years.
    Nij said companies & services and we’re listing industries & goods, but never mind. Oil is being replaced in some parts of the world. A better example would be car manufacturers in the USA.
    The LA film industry is at best an erratic generator of money. Film critics and others who work in the “industry” complain that it makes rubbishy films compared to those it made in the 1980s. It’s incompetent by both standards (artistic and financial). Yet it repeats its mistakes and hasn’t been replaced yet by anyone providing a “better” service or product.

  42. The LA film industry
    Oil is being replaced
    Neither of those examples should give much solace to Google Scholar. They’re industries, not companies. Try to imagine the creativity and attentiveness of just one of the companies in those industries without all the others competing with it for market share. Right now google is in the position of a monopoly, since they are pioneering the field, but what if others try for a piece of the pie? Does anyone today remember the Duryea Motor Wagon company?
    As far as Hattians getting access to various databases, here is more about JSTOR. “The dissemination of published literature for which there is currently little economic return is something that we are doing, and something that no publisher would do. That is because it doesn’t make sense to take this risk, except that we have all these resources, and we don’t have to get a return on our investment.”

  43. “Microsoft” is a “company”, and I took “provide a service” to mean ‘provide the “service” of access to any “product”‘ (and not “service” as opposed to ‘object’), but never mind.
    -
    “Microsoft is not incompetent as a company, despite having provided an inferior product for thirty years.”
    But that’s exactly the point of my paragraph; in spite of there having been, for most of the ride, a superior alternative, Microsoft has been more “competent” than its major competitor as a company.
    Nijma made the point, as I understood it, that competitive forces (that is, consumers rationally choosing better products) in some particular marketplace would result in the better producer dissolving any ‘monopolistic’ domination by an inferior producer. That has not happened in the market for computer-operating systems, has it?
    -
    What’s “incompetent” about “oil”- inefficient is the more accurate here of the two words I offered- is that, when the major oil companies are all (or, in any particular quarter, most) making great profits, they’re not really competing with each other for consumers, but rather for maximized profits. Consumers for many decades have simply had to buy the product at the group price (give or take pennies)- hence, “oligopoly” from the perspective of the consumer, if not the ‘conspirators’.
    -
    “Car manufacturers in the USA” is a good example, but Nijma’s point obtains when that ‘closed system’ (that is, a strictly national market) is opened (as it emphatically was in the ’70s, and has continued to be) to foreign cars.

  44. in spite of there having been, for most of the ride, a superior alternative, Microsoft has been more “competent” than its major competitor as a company.
    My mac-user alarm is going off.
    when the major oil companies are all (or, in any particular quarter, most) making great profits, they’re not really competing with each other for consumers,
    Well, what you imply here is against the law, but when I see the price of gas at the pump skyrocketing without any corresponding change in the price of crude oil, I make the same leap of logic. At least we don’t have the OPEC countries in league like they were back in the 60′s….hmmm…makes you wonder about all those Arab conspiracy theories about the CIA funding terrorists…
    Back to google…it looks like JSTOR found a lot of ways to be effective by collaboration and tapping into other institutions, mainly universities that had useful applications or were doing the same kind of information storage.
    Hat’s approach here is to try to reform google from within by giving them “a kick in the pants”, my, my, such violent language, but I’m more of a market forces type of person and am looking for a systems approach, perhaps more violent and dog-eat-dog in the final analysis, but in a strictly impersonal way of course. I don’t agree with your cynicism, deadgod, that there is no effective economic approach. If the users want access to the material and can create pressure, or even just make their wishes known, someone somewhere just may listen.

  45. Apple’s not a major competitor of Microsoft; that’s all just advertising, and it’s like comparing the Yankies with Man.U.

  46. Apple’s not a major competitor of Microsoft; that’s all just advertising, and it’s like comparing the Yankies with Man.U.

  47. Nijma, I hope it was clear, by how I punctuated the expression, that what I meant by “‘competent’ [...] as a company” was that Microsoft has been unusually successful in achieving market share, not in making the more intrinsically useful (that is, the higher quality) product. Pat your Mac and give it a new app to play with . . .
    -
    Actually, the oil co. price-fixing conspiracy need never have been illegal (though Carter’s Justice Dept. believed that they could prove that there was such an illegal agreement during the Iranian-revolution price shock in ’79).
    I don’t think the biggest oil refiners, shippers, and distributors (and their various partners) need to meet and make explicit prices that guarantee their market-irrational profit margins (that you agree are, um, suspicious, if not incriminatory). They know how to follow each other to the highest price they (believe they) can get away with (as opposed to undercutting each others’ prices to win customers). That big oil producers convene in some physical format might happen, but doesn’t need to, in order for there to be a ‘conspiracy’ not to compete with each other.
    -
    Let me say without fear of causing offense, Nijma, that I don’t think it’s “cynical” to doubt that the invisibly-manipulative conspiracy of “market forces” actually produces the most efficient or rational of possible political-economic worlds.
    Rather, it would be “cynical” to persist in swallowing neo-liberal economic arguments for the ‘freedom’ delivered and protected by “free market” policies- as “cynical” as neo-con political ‘theory’ nakedly is.

  48. mollymooly says:

    It is cynical to pretend to swallow bogus arguments. To swallow them sincerely would be naive.
    I note how “neo-” has become a pejorative, akin to “goddam-”.

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