The popcorn lung news has been water-cooler talk around here recently. In case you haven't heard, it can be unsafe to consume vast quantities of microwaved, buttered popcorn. Of course, I wanted to learn more and entered “popcorn” as my search term. The results were not particularly interesting or relevant to me.
All the engines returned similar things about the edible treat from sites like Wikipedia, the Popcorn Board, Factmonster, and retailers of all stripes. A product called Roxio Popcorn also made the grade, which helps you copy DVDs.
Google did produce two relevant results in positions 7/8, from The Pump Handle and Scientific American. There were none returned from Yahoo, Ask or MSN. Yahoo suggested “popcorn lung” for searching, while none of the others made relevant suggestions. In the paid column, Revolution Health bought ads which linked to its Reuters story about popcorn lung.
Why can't a popcorn search reflect our collective interests better? We know this specific interest may be short-lived, but there's been a lot of news coverage. Thus it's disappointing that nothing much is shown -- unless you consciously think about adding keywords to popcorn.
The next time someone says that search and semantic approaches work perfectly well? Just offer this example to them. Fortunately, there are technologies that either personalize or share community interests, so we won't be disappointed forever.