Tonight is 'Robbie Burns' night in England and Scotland, a night when friends and family gather to honor the famous 18th century scottish poet by reading poetry and eating the obscure scottish dish, haggis. Robert Burns wrote his poems in Scots and his writing was famous for being saucy and lewd playing on sexual imagery. Even if you thought you didn't have a poetic bone in your body, there is a strong chance you would have come into contact with his work on New Year's Eve, when many people sing in the new year with the song Auld Lang Syne. Furthermore, the famous Scottish hat, the Tam O' Shanter is named after one of his stories.
Google UK has commemorated the birthday of Robert Burns with a special logo which illustrates the poem, My Love is Like a Red Red Rose. Today's Google Doodle has a red rose as the 'G' and a line from the music.
If you want to virtually join the celebration you could sing-a-long to this modern version Eva Cassidy available on YouTube.
Doodles Instrumental in Positioning Google at Heart of Social Web
Google's Doodles command incredible influence on the web and have become more frequent occurrences since the launch of Google Instant.
TheNextWeb recently reported that the top result for the recent Cezanne 'doodle' drove nearly a quarter of a million unique visitors in one day. The recent doodle honoring John F. Kennedy's Inaugural Address drove so much traffic to the website in the number one position that the webmaster inserted an interstitial page covered in ads before users could get to the main content.
In some cases the subjects that Google chooses to commemorate go against the grain of mainstream culture, tending towards idealism and notions of citizenship rather than throwing it's great weight around a particular cause. In all cases, they choose a niche topics that often require further exploration. Recently Rosa Parks was honored over World Aids Day, much to the chagrin of some charities. However, in most cases it seems that Google is opting for topics that resonate with schools, arguably because the success of this strategy originated from running a logo design content for young art students, which is now in it's fourth year.
What is a Haggis?
What is interesting about Google Doodles is that in spite of their ability to reach so many people, Google rarely uses them to show off the more unusual features of the search engine, such as 'related searches' or 'something different'.
Which is a perhaps a shame as a search to find out what the UK will be eating tonight, using the keywords "what is a haggis?" would have shown that Google truly is 'the social network' that it is often, unfairly, criticized for failing to be.
The top results for that search says that a haggis is a:
"A haggis is a small animal native to Scotland. Well when I say animal, actually it's a bird with vestigial wings - like the ostrich. Because the habitat of the haggis in exclusively mountainous, and because it is always found on the sides of Scottish mountains, it has evolved a rather strange gait. The poor thing has only three legs, and each leg is a different length - the result of this is that when hunting haggis, you must get them on to a flat plain - then they are very easy to catch - they can only run round in circles."
When in actual fact it's a "very old Scottish dish, which combines meats, spices and oatmeal."
However, ask any native of the British Isles and they are more likely to tell you that it is a three-legged "small animal native to Scotland... [with] each leg is a different length", because the mystery of a haggis is steeped in tradition and this humorous explanation has been passed down through many generations.
Which just goes to show that Google's 'links-as-votes' based algorithm still represents the real social network of the internet, regardless of how many 'friends' or 'followers' you might have.
Rather than representing you at the center of society, I would argue that Google Doodles are increasingly starting to represent society at the center of you. Robert Burns, lover of the highlands and all things Scottish, would be proud.
"Ye Pow'rs wha mak mankind your care, And dish them out their bill o' fare, Auld Scotland wants nae skinking ware That jaups in luggies; But, if ye wish her gratefu' prayer, Gie her a haggis!"
- Address To A Haggis, Robert Burns