Recently, a student in one of my classes gave a presentation on Google, and proceeded to explain how Google ranks search results using an algorithm called…..PigeonRank: ….PigeonRank’s success relies primarily on the superior trainability of the domestic pigeon (Columba livia) and its unique capacity to recognize objects regardless of spatial orientation. The common gray pigeon can easily distinguish among items displaying only the minutest differences, an ability that enables it to select relevant web sites from among thousands of similar pages.
By collecting flocks of pigeons in dense clusters, Google is able to process search queries at speeds superior to traditional search engines, which typically rely on birds of prey, brooding hens or slow-moving waterfowl to do their relevance rankings.
When a search query is submitted to Google, it is routed to a data coop where monitors flash result pages at blazing speeds. [HF – Didn’t Greg Bear write a novel about this once? ] When a relevant result is observed by one of the pigeons in the cluster, it strikes a rubber-coated steel bar with its beak, which assigns the page a PigeonRank value of one. For each peck, the PigeonRank increases. Those pages receiving the most pecks, are returned at the top of the user’s results page with the other results displayed in pecking order.
PigeonRank, of course, is a hoax, part of Google’s 2002 April Fool’s Day joke. But how did my student fall for it in 2009? Simple. He trusted Google. The first result when you search Google for “How does Google work?” is a link and a blurb purported to describe precisely that: