by Constance Daley
The American Reporter
St. Simons Island, Ga.
February 7, 2006
I'VE BUILT A BETTER MOUSETRAP
ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. -- When Ralph Waldo Emerson said "Build a better mousetrap and the world will beat a path to your door," he didn't know about Google. The world is beating it's own path to me, directly to me, not through my front door but on super highways in cyber space mapped out by Google.
Someone sat at their computer in Korea last night and for reasons unbeknownst to me, entered the words "chemicals and teflon" into a search engine, perhaps Google. Well, he got references that included my Website, www.skylinetoshoreline.com, where my column on ethical treatment of animals happened to use the word chemical. In another, I wrote of Teflon frying pans and the danger the fumes pose to birds in a cage even one flight upstairs. They were certainly not in-depth studies on chemicals or Teflon.
In a spot designated as somewhere between Washington, D.C. and Philadelphia someone typed in the words "presidents day silhouettes" and my article called "February: An Enigma Wrapped ... But Not Too Tight" was what Google listed as a match. In that article I merely mention school children cutting out silhouettes of Lincoln and Washington and decorating the windows of their classroom. I suspect the searcher was looking for a supply house for paper products or a stencil to make their own.
However, I really don't mind what drove the traffic to my site because they stayed to read other columns. I don't know who's knocking at my front door but Welcome! There's no accounting for what people search for and why but someone in El Cajun, California searched for "hedy lamarr mental illness" and was rewarded with my column "Klepto and Other Maniacs" which hardly responded to the search in any definitive way. I merely mentioned Ms. Lamarr in passing when I wrote "I recall only three arrests of star-studded shoplifters: Hedy Lamarr, Bess Myerson, and now Winona Ryder, who is alleged to have taken $5,000 worth of clothes and hair products from Saks Fifth Avenue."
There is no question that Google has revolutionized research beyond the understanding of most of us. And if there is now the question of how it all happened, well, you won't find me poking around for answers. I take it all as mine by divine right; I was simply born in the right place at the right time.
Okay, I'm naïve. I would expect The American Reporter to receive "hits" from all over just because it's The American Reporter and a natural draw to people around the world. But me? Most of my bylines are from St. Simons Island, Georgia, so I know I can't be the draw. It's merely the content of my columns.
Now I've learned that every single word we write and "put out there" is categorized and retrievable by anyone who types that word into a search engine. Plagiarism is rampant in schools today but the savvy instructor (and I would hope they are all savvy) will run a line or two of a suspect essay into Google and if there's a match, that student is busted.
I wrote an article concerning feeding my flock of children who all seemed to have their elbows on the table at once. I would dip a ladle into the crock pot and fill their bowls with a flourish, pretending more often than not that the plain fare steaming before them was an elegant dish fit for French nobility.
"I don't think the King of France eats beans and hamburger in tomato sauce," the smart-alecky older one would say.
"Au contraire," I would answer, defensively, "it is called 'Cassoulet.'"
One of the hits to my Website today was from someone searching "Julia Child's Cassoulet." Surprise, surprise, they got me and not Le Cordon Bleu Culinary International. But, the visitor stayed to read "Today is Now; Life is What's Next" before exiting the Website. They must have liked what they saw in order to linger.
The little Site Meter tells me about a visitor, what they came looking for, what they stayed to read and the length of their visit. I don't know their names, ages, races, or reasons for being in my space but I still feel like a fly on the Internet wall.
There are those more sophisticated than I; many more knowledgeable than I, but when I realize that I'm not sitting in a plush office at, say, The New York Public Library Research Division, but instead in a small room in our house by the edge of the Ocean in Georgia, U.S.A, well, I find it all very gratifying.
At this very moment my site is the answer to someone in Suva, Central Australia, searching these words "luck of an Irishman means…" and instantly being linked to www.skylinetoshoreline.com and my column for The American Reporter called Lucky Enough to Be Irish.
I haven't thought of that column, nor the sentiment, for a couple of years but I see the leprechauns at work to remind me, "if you're lucky enough to be Irish, you're lucky enough." Why, I didn't have to build a mousetrap, nor even get up from my chair. The wee folks also remind me to say "Happy Birthday Editor Joe Shea," a fine Irishman, himself.