Googlewhack Adventure: Actually Frequently Asked Questions

Googlewhack DVD cover

If you landed here from a search engine and you're wondering what the hell this page is about... well, you can go back to the main Googlewhack Adventure information page here.

Most days of my life someone tweets me to tell me they've found a googlewhack. And about once a month someone tells me they've invented something called a Twitter Whack. And they often suggest I use them for a sequel.

It seems amazing to me that something I did can linger in people's minds for that long - as I write this, the show is more than ten years old... I really am incredibly proud that it still resonates with people.

But I haven't found a way of responding to any of those points concisely - certainly not in 140 characters - and so I find myself replying daily with things that take up five or six tweets and I figured, rather than type pretty much the same thing up every day, it would make more sense to type it up once and then point future correspondents at the answer. If you're one of those people, I hope you don't find sending you a link brusque. I hope it means you get the actual answer, rather than a trite tweet that doesn't really cover it.

That's the idea, anyway. To answer the frequently asked questions. Actually frequently asked questions. Y'know, rather than one of those FAQs that answers the questions someone wants to be asked.

I've found a googlewhack!

Well, okay, I know that isn't strictly speaking a question. But it still deserves a response. And here it is: you haven't. You almost certainly haven't.
Here's the thing: the internet must be at least 100 times vaster than it was in 2003... which would already make finding one so much more impossible. But more importantly - Google has changed its algorithm - meaning that the goalposts have moved. So googlewhacking as it existed then, can never really happen now. Everything is different. Which is as it should be - if the internet stood still, it would be a pretty useless resource.
What Google used to do, when you searched for two words, was look for them both. It would come back with every page it could find where Word A and Word B appeared. But at some point in time, Google started returning results for Word A or Word B. Which is different.
But people still find oddities where there is only one result. But I haven't seen one, where they haven't broken one of the other rules of googlewhacking... so even in a world where Google behaved exactly as it always had done, they still wouldn't count. Here are a list of other reasons for a well-then-it's-not-a-googlewhack response:

1: A googlewhack has to use real words. If it used made up words it would be easy to manufacture them by just inventing some unique term and leaving it on your website for long enough for Google to find it. But who decides what's a proper word or not? Well, Google used to. It used to check words against dictionary.com. It would show you whether they were in the dictionary with the results because the words would be underlined. But Google stopped doing that some time ago. You might think something is a proper word. But if it isn't in dictionary.com then it isn't proper enough for googlewhacking purpose. Names don't count.

2:You've put quote marks around the words. That's cheating. No punctuation of any kind is allowed.

3: You've used more than two words.

4: A googlewhack has to lead to a web page that makes sense. If the page is a random collection of garbage words it's not a googlewhack. Pages created for nefarious purposes often steal content from hundreds of other web pages and bury the text in the code in some sort of awful attempt to fool search engines.

5: A word list doesn't count either. There are pages that contain nothing but lists of words with no context. If the words aren't being used in sentences, the page they're on can't provide a googlewhack.

6: But don't get hung up on points 1 to 5. The real answer is simply that, since Google radically changed how it worked, googlewhacking, as such, ceased to be a thing.

What about a twitterwhack?

Normally what people mean by this is that they've found a hashtag that's only used in one tweet. To which, I find myself thinking: well... yes... that's how hashtags work. Google and Twitter are such different beasts.
Google tries to index every page it can on the internet. Twitter, um, doesn't. Twitter is fleeting by its nature. And its search is useless. Even tweets from a few days ago are hard to find and often won't show up if you search.
All of these things mean that unique hashtags are a) easy to find and b) easy to generate. And so there's really no point in looking.

As with all social media, Twitter is whatever you want it to be, but the stated point of a hashtag is to gather tweets on one subject together in one place. So, for example, when Question Time is on TV, people commenting on it append their tweets with the hashtag, #BBCQT. That way, anyone who wants to see what people are saying about it can click on the tag and see all of them. If you want to start such a conversation, you have to try and find a hashtag that is new and unique - otherwise you will be barging in on someone else's, unrelated, conversation. Of course, when a hashtag like that is used, the chances are it won't be unique for long. The idea is that other people will join in and use it.

But hashtags are also commonly used as a sort of ironic commentary on one's own tweet. It's not uncommon to see someone tweet something like, "In my hotel, reading a book. #rocknrolllifestyle" or whatever. The joke - such as it is - being how unwieldly and un-hashtaglike the hashtag is. And as that's what people are trying to do, it is inevitable that many will succeed. Especially as, should someone have come up with the same, quirky hashtag two weeks ago, Twitter is almost certainly not going to find it.

Why don't you do a sequel?

Well, the fact that googlewhacking is no longer really possible and "twitter whacking" reveals nothing means that the question is null and void anyway... but even if those things weren't true, there are so many other reasons for not doing a sequel.

The main one is that the original show/book isn't a story about some-things-I-did-in-order-to-create-a-show/book. It's a true story about something that happened to me. In many ways it's a true story about having a breakdown. It's played for you to laugh at - but it's the reality of the situation that makes an audience/reader laugh. There is real jeopardy in the story because the story is happening to a real person and there are real consequences. If I was to set out to do something similar in order to generate a sequel there would be no real consequences. Nothing that could actually have a real impact on my actual life. So there would be no jeopardy. And what's a true story if it contains no jeopardy?

You can't follow a true story with a faked attempt to do something similar because the one thing that made the true story work - honesty - would be missing.

To see where the show toured to, click here.
To find out what the press think of the show, check out the show reviews page.
To find out what the press think of the book, check out the book reviews page.

googlewhack DVD


When a show has been on at the Sydney Opera House and run for three months off Broadway there's only one city that's fit to host the DVD recording: Swansea.

The DVD company asked about extras. They wanted me to put an interview on there but I thought an interview with me on my own DVD was a bit of a strange thing to do... I mean, it obviously wouldn't be much of challenging interview would it? I suggested that some music from a band I really like would tell you more about me. They said it wouldn't make sense if it wasn't relevant to the show. So I asked one of my favourite bands if they fancied writing a song about the show and I was delighted when they said yes. The song by Helen Love is my favourite of the extras. I also like the egg timer.

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The Book

A Sunday Times Number One Best Selling book about what happened when I failed to write a book.

"...unlike other recent, bestselling and heartless examples of the genre, Gorman's comedy is the result of a rather old-fashioned and grand style of thinking... It's enough to bring a lump to the throat and a tear to the eye. It's like the war in reverse."

The Guardian.

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