Billboards

There’s some strange text on billboards around New York. I passed these four this weekend:

THE ALGORITHM CONSTANTLY FINDS JESUS
THE ALGORITHM KILLED JEEVES
THE ALGORITHM IS BANNED IN CHINA

THE ALGORITHM IS FROM JERSEY

It’s clearly a viral marketing campaign and seems to be by Ask.com. I like puzzles like this, but at the moment it doesn’t seem to go anywhere — if you Google it, you just get blogs talking about the odd billboards. That’s not really very much fun.

It occurs to me that the sort of people who would be curious enough to go to Google and type them in are probably the sort of people who would like xkcd, so maybe we should create a twist in the puzzle. For those of you who have blogs or other sites, feel free to create links to xkcd.com with those billboard lines as the link text. I put the phrases at the bottom of xkcd.com so it won’t be filtered out as a Googlebomb.

347 replies on “Billboards”

  1. Just out of curiosity, I searched the word “search” just to see which internet search providers are doing well these days.

    Right off the bat I noticed a problem.
    Google.com wasn’t in the top 5. In fact, I didn’t see it anywhere in the list. I spent almost a full minute trying to figure out why google didn’t show up in the list of search engines before I realized,
    I have an addiction.

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  2. It just occured to me that “the algorithm” must be google’s indexing algorithm.

    If it’s indeed from ask.com the “We did not invent the algorithm” is quite clear.

    “The algorithm killed Jeeves” is also clear if you consider that once upon a time ask.com was known as “ask jeeves”.

    Google was indeed banned in china back then (now they offer a censored version).

    The references to “finding jesus” could be ironic, since most people consider google the best search engine.

    Where I am really stumped is the “The algorithm is from Jersey”. I can’t find any connection between google and new jersey. If the mean the little island, property of the english crown (thanks wikipedia) there is a google jersey (google.je) but I don’t think this is what the ad means. Maybe the guys in google wear jerseys….

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  3. I find this really funny, because I was just looking around XKCD, reading the latest update when I noticed the tiny print on the bottom so I opened the source code to find out what it was. What I saw was, of course,

    “We did not invent the algorithm. The algorithm consistently finds Jesus. The algorithm killed Jeeves. The algorithm is banned in China. The algorithm is from Jersey. The algorithm constantly finds Jesus.This is not the algorithm. This is close.”

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  4. “Jersey” might not be a reference to the city. A person’s name, say. You-know-what has a few curious entries.

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  5. “Jersey” might have something to do with this. A type of computer project, if Strat’s google connection is correct, it could work.

    “Jersey, a reference implementation of JAX-RS (JSR 311), intended for building RESTful Web services”

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  6. Somehow I only just noticed this.

    The relation to Google does make sense, but perhaps it means Yahoo! as I hear MSN is partnering with them, using their search algorithm to power Bing. Though Microsoft’s marketing tends to be a bit more upfront and in-your-face.

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  7. has anyone considered possibly translating this into whatever computer language the ask.com algorithm is written in?? or just translating it into python, perl, and the other computer languages?? can you even do that?? idk what i’m talking about, i don’t know any computer languages, i’m proud that i know what an ethernet cable is and how to distinguish it from a usb port and that you do not try to shove the ethernet into the usb. it seems logical to me though that if you translate the phrase into the computer language that wrote the ask.com algorithm and translate it to a language you understand and then translate it to english, you can understand it?? i have absolutely no idea what it is i’m saying. i dont mean to offend people who have a clue what any of this is about. i really dont. it sounded good and made sense in my head i swear it did…. does anyone understand??

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  8. I’m not sure if translating normal english into a computer language is possible O.o (But, of course, there’re a dozen ways to do that in Python. Just-type-it-in-and-it-laughs-while-pretending-not-to-understand… that’s my favourite variety, just means that Python’s gathering data about us measly humans before it takes over)

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  9. The Ask.com algorithm is NOT the Google indexing algorithm. It was developed by a professor at Rutgers University. RU’s Science and Math campuses are in Piscataway New Jersey.

    The algorithm is, thus, from Jersey.

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  10. Hey, really funny. He’s completely right, I found this little tiny text at the bottom of an XKCD comic and immediately copied it and made it larger (to read it) and then copied it into google…. And I found this page!!! It is really, really weird because it seems… this sounds weird… that this algorithm viral thing is referencing itself… It is like if you look for it, you will only find people looking for it! As for what it means… I think everyone is right that it has something to do with killing off the ask.com service Ask Jeevse. I remember using that site when I was very little and wondered why it went away. The Internet is WIERD!!!

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  11. From searching “the algorithm” on ask.com:
    The Algorithm
    “The Algorithm” refers to the search technology that powers Ask.com. This technology was developed by Rutgers University Professor Apostolos Gerasoulis and provides more relevant search results by identifying experts in specific subjects rather than relying simply on link popularity.

    [Rutgers is in New Jersey]

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  12. I have to say you’re an absolute genius. This whole “algorithm” viral marketing campaign now has a stronger link to xkcd than it does to ask.com. You’ve effectively repurposed their entire campaign as an ad for the world’s greatest webcomic. Bravo sir, for that is exactly the sort of deviant genius I expect from you. I tip my hat in humble respect.

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  13. The number googol was also named by one of Edward Kasner’s nephews as they took a walk in New Jersey. The name of the search engine comes from a common misspelling of the number, so in addition to the algorithm being developed in there, the name also comes from NJ.

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  14. After months (over a year!) of reading XKCD, I have only now noticed this! I thought it hilarious how most pages lead to xkcd, or discussions about xkcd- I haven’t seen any links to ask.com! And of course, I used Google to search for it!

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  15. I just can’t stop reading this. It’s so cool, so full of information that I just didn’t know. I am glad to see that people are actually writing about this issue in such a smart way, showing us all different sides to it. You are a great blogger. Please keep it up. I can’t wait to read what’s next.

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  16. I just tested searching the text on ask.com.
    It comes as no surprise that all of the top searches link to xkcd. Looks like ask’s marketing campaign has inadvertently promoted your site far more than they promoted themselves. You sir, are a genius.

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  17. the algorith constatnly finds jesus, the algorithm constantly finds xkcd. Therefore, Xkcd is the meaning of life, 42 is also an acceptable answer.

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  18. noticed the text on xkcd after only few days ago, after following it all the while! Quite interesting. Case of a campaign gone wrong? Only reference to ask.com seems to be from this blog! 🙂

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  19. I believe that the meme itself is a script/code of some kind.
    – As indicated by the seemingly self-referential loop it creates.
    – That it ends in “Close”

    The Algorithm begins with x and ends with d.

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  20. leeching off of a viral marketing campaign to market your own site using the pretext of it being in the interest of the consumer, pretty smart bro.

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  21. ALSO, to the part with jesus, could that be the fact that there are 140,000,000 results, perhaps the amount of results found just never changes, i’m going to google “jesus” for the next few days and see if the amount of results change.

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  22. I like the analysis of Stratsoukos! Yet I am still trying to find out the meaning of “THE ALGORITHM IS FROM JERSEY”. It could be that Grimm´s comment is correct that Jersey is “a reference implementation of JAX-RS (JSR 311)”

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  23. Apostolos Gerasoulis – Apostles? There were 13 apostles, 12 constantly found Jesus (Judas not included). Not trying to push an agenda here, just made a connection when I saw the name and Jesus repeated x2.

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  24. Apostolos Gerasoulis – Apostles? There were 13 apostles, 12 constantly found Jesus (Judas not included). Not trying to push an agenda here, just made a connection when I saw the name and Jesus repeated x2.

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  25. It could be referring to the PageRank algorithm used by Google, initially drafted by Robin Li, working for IDD Information Systems in New Jersey at the time of its development. His version was called RankDex and later the idea was used to pioneer Baidu in China.

    Why has the text at the bottom of the xkcd comics changed to:
    “We did not invent the algorithm. The algorithm consistently finds Jesus. The algorithm killed Jeeves.
    the algorithm is banned in China. The algorithm is from Jersey. The algorithm constantly finds Jesus.
    This is not the algorithm. This is close.”?

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  26. Teoma (wiki link above) is the algorithm that “killed” Jeeves when Ask.com discountinued the butler shortly before being acquired by IACI. The Teoma search algorithm was developed in NJ (Rutgers) by Apostolos Gerasoulis.

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  27. All of this about google & a self serving search that finds it searching for itself seems plausible. Probably either both or neither of them are correct given the nature of this algorithm.
    To me it screams “Chaos Theory!”
    The ultimate algorithm/equation! Which is equal to 42 and features zero points of articulation!

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  28. What I like most about this whole thread is that the first thing interested people have done is go to Google to try and find the explanation. I like the idea of an advertising campaign that encourages the consumer to go to the competitor to figure out what the advertising campaign means.

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