Wednesday, March 22, 2017

SearchResearch Challenge (3/22/2017): There's a fly in my...


Every so often you pause and say "What??"  

This happens to me fairly often, perhaps more often than you'd think.  One of those times was a couple of week ago when I was using the "facilities" and saw this in my field of view: 


"That's odd..." I thought, "why is there a bee in my urinal?"  

Here's the stepped-back view.  


This is the kind of unusual, a bit odd, and definitely strange thing one needs to memorialize in a picture.  A quick glance around, and I got the shot.  

Then just a few days later, I found THIS: 


in the bottom of this: 


As I said in an earlier post, travel is broadening...  

We run across mysteries on a daily basis, and our curiosity drives us to ask questions... Such as this week's set of questions that came up while travelling.  


1.  Why are those little images in the bottom of the urinals?  What were the bowl designers thinking?  (Just contemplate that for a moment:  Somewhere there is a designer who designed this.  What's their motivation?)  

2.  On a different note, I got this two scary looking screens (below) popping up on my Nexus 5 Android phone not long after taking these photos.  Should I be worried?  What (if any) action should I take? (I'm already suspicious because I don't recall visiting any "adult sites.")  



3.  While traveling in Norway, I found the sign below on a tram.  What's this sign all about?  (I don't read enough Norwegian to figure it out.  Can you?)  Remember that you can click on the image to see it at full-resolution.


Be sure to tell us HOW you figured out these answers.  (These should be pretty quick and fun.) 

Enjoy. 

Search on!  



Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Answer: Scandinavia?

Travel is broadening.  That's what they say... 

And I think they're right. Although, as Dave Barry says: 

“The major advantage of domestic travel is that, with a few exceptions such as Miami, most domestic locations are conveniently situated right here in the United States.”  (Dave Barry, The only travel guide you'll ever need.) 



That's not true for international travel, of course, and it's travel outside of your normal scope that gives us our SearchResearch Challenges for this week.  Did you figure these out? 

1.  Okay, which is it?  Was I in Scandinavia or in the Nordic countries?  What's the difference between Scandinavia and the Nordic countries?   
This isn't hard--but there are two approaches here.  (A) Compare the definitions, (B) Ask the question and hope for a QA match.  Here's what I mean.  

(A) Comparing the definitions.  Here they are for easy comparison.  






"Scandinavian" refers to the people that speak one of the Scandinavian languages: Danish, Norwegian, Swedish, Icelandic, Faroese.  While "Nordic" refers to Scandinavia, Finland, Iceland, and the Faroe Islands.

Hmmm... From this definition, it looks like the term "Nordic" is used for Scandinavia + Finland. Also notice that the term "Nordic" seems to have been in use only since about 1900.  That makes it of fairly recent coinage.

(B) The question-asking approach: What happens when we do a simple question like this?   

     [ difference between Scandinavian and Nordic ] 

When you ask a question of this form, you get: 


The not-especially-clear answer here is extracted from the Wikipedia page, Nordic Countries, where it argues that "Scandinavia" is just Denmark, Norway, and Sweden. 

This answer doesn't give a great definition for Nordic, but we can go check the original Wikipedia article to see that the Nordic Countries "...consist of Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, and Sweden, including their associated territories (Greenland, the Faroe Islands, and the Åland Islands).

Notice also that when you ask that question, you'll see the "People Also Ask" feature popup in the SERP.  It looks like this: 


These are questions that are strongly related to the question you asked in the original query.  These are questions that Google has determined are probably the next kind of question you'd want to ask.  

Notice that if you click on one of the questions, the panel opens up, and provides some answers at the bottom.  Here's what happens when you click on the first question "Is Nordic the same as Scandinavian?" 



2.  This is a real puzzle.  I saw these wires coming out of the bottom of drain pipes all over Scandinavia, but I can't figure out why they're there.  It's obviously not just a wiring mistake; basically EVERY drainpipe has this.  They're usually in a loop (as shown), but sometimes it's just a thick wire.  They're firmly attached (I pulled on one to see if it was loose--it wasn't).  What are these drainpipe wires?   
This was a bit tricky, partly because it was a solution to a problem I'd never thought about before.   

I tried a bunch of searches starting with [ drainpipe wires Scandinavia] and variations on that theme. 

Finally I remembered that sometimes it's useful to be more specific and use a specific term to stand in for the whole...  (Remember this SRS post from 2012 about synecdoche? That's what I mean--using a specific term to stand for the whole).  

I changed my query to: 

     [ wires in drainpipe Norway ] 


and when I switched to Images mode, I saw this in the upper right part of the window. 


See that set of wires coming out of the drain pipe?  The title suggested that these are "perhaps heat wires to prevent ice blockage."  That sounds plausible.  (And certainly something I never would have thought about--what do I know about ice and drains?  I grew up in LA, where we never had to deal with these things.)  

If you click on the upper right image (the two rolls of white wire), you'll find that those are "300m Insulated Floor Heating Pipe Cable For Defrost Ice In Downspout PE And Drain Pipe."  

This gives me a big clue.  When I modify my query terms to be

     [ downspout heating cable ice ] 

I start finding interesting and useful results, including this diagram that clearly shows the heating cable running along the eave of the roof, down into the downspout and back up again to the next gutter / eave / downspout.  

Diagram courtesy of HeatersPlus.com


So why have the loop outside of the pipe?  I found the answer to that one in an image just a bit farther down the page.  If the loop is up inside of the pipe, there's a good chance it will clog up with leaves.  (The picture is of someone's downspout that they had to break into as a way to remove the leaves!)   

3.  While wandering around the central streets in the capital of one unnamed country, I saw these odd little plaques with animals.  Why are they there? What's going on here?  



Search for the most distinctive thing in this first image  "yksisarvinen."  When I did that, I found that this is Finnish word for "unicorn."  Makes sense--it looks like a Finnish word. 

Looking at the other two photos (of the hamster and giraffe signs), it seems they're on street corners.  I know enough Swedish to recognize the word "gatan" as the English word for "street."  So "Fabiansgatan" is probably "Fabian's Street"--but why would this Swedish street be in Finland?  That suggests to me that "Fabianinkatu" is probably also a "Fabian's Street" in Finnish.  Let's check.  


A search for: 


     [ Fabianinkatu ] 



Clicking on the map transports me to downtown Helsinki, Finland. Then switching into Streetview, you see the giraffe sign on the street corner (next to the traffic light).  Yup--that's it alright.  




While I was in Streetview mode, I turned around to look down the street to the east, and found THIS on the street corner across the way... Note the TWO camel signs, on each side of the intersection.  



It's pretty clear that this isn't a street sign (or it would be just on one of the buildings, probably the one facing the street).  The street names are different, but the animal sign is the same on both sides of the corner.  What's going on here? 

I thought I'd check Images for a link to something related.  So I did this query (where the intext: operator requires that the term be on the destination page text): 

     [intext:yksisarvinen street sign] 

When you click through to Google Images, you see: 



Clicking through on the first picture takes you a blog by a student in Finland who's writing about textiles.  If you click through to her blog page, you'll see the unicorn sign (and several others).  But more interestingly, she has a link to the Helsinki city council's page about named city blocks.  (Yes, there is such a document!) 

In there they write: 


A new regulation was issued in Stockholm in 1810 stipulating that
plots within each street-lined quarter were to be individually numbered.
Additionally, the owners of corner buildings were to affix signs indicating
the name of the quarter. In the Stockholm of those times, names were
also given to blocks along with the numbers because they were easier
to remember. The names drew on various subjects, for example trades,
person’s names, sea life and birds. In Stockholm’s Old Town, the blocks’
names are still well known. 
{DR: You need to know that at this time, Finland was part of Sweden, which is why Stockholm is so important in this story.}  
In Helsinki the numbering and naming of sites bordering streets was
legalised in 1820 in connection with fire regulations. At the same time the
first street names were also ratified. Blocks in built-up urban areas were
named after domestic and wild animals as well as certain flowers. In the so-called
Uusimaa suburbs, the names of fish and birds were most commonly
used. In 1836, when the names of blocks were harmonised in certain
areas, flowers had to make way for mammals to ensure that entire blocks’
nomenclature in existing city districts remained thematically consistent.
Except for what is now Eira, the blocks in all of the city’s southern districts
were named in this fashion. 
During the following decades blocks continued to be named according to
the same themes, except in Katajanokka, where it was decided to name
blocks after different tree species. The naming of blocks never extended
north of Töölö and Pitkäsilta bridge because this practice was discontinued
since the 1890s..
The golden age of block nomenclature was therefore experienced in the
mid-1800s, particularly during the century’s last decades, when the blocks’
names were often better known than street addresses. Officially, the blocks’
names were in Swedish. A name directory of Finnish-language blocks was
never officially published, but Finnish-language names were however used
when it was necessary to mention the blocks in Finnish-language speeches
or texts. For example the Giraffe was known in Finnish by the name
Kamelipartti, Dromedary by the name Nopsakameeli, Gazelli by the name
Lempikauris, Pelican by the name Kitahanhi and Cuttlefish by the name
Läkkikala. 
The concept of block naming has however enjoyed a resurgence in the
2000s when amusingly archaic-sounding names have inspired new kinds of
marketing and the fostering of neighbourhood identities. 

So now we have the answer directly from the Helsinki city council:  These are blocks--not streets--in the Finnish capital that have been given names, a practice that dates back to the mid-1800's.  If you lived in Helsinki, you might live on the Unicorn (Yksisarvinen) block or the Hamster (Hamsteri) block. 

Search Lessons



There are lots here.  A quick rundown... 

1. Doing a query as a simple question often works well.  As in the Scandinavian vs. Nordic distinction, your question can be pretty simple.  That often just works.  

2. Be sure to check out the "People also ask" questions.  They often will have a refinement of your query that's even better than the one you started with.  Take note that the questions will often change once you click on one of the options.  

3.  Remember synecdoche!  Sometimes, adding in a specific term (that will stand in for the whole) can get you to better results.  In our case today, we used "Norway" as a stand-in for "all Scandinavian countries."  It works because people often prefer to use a specific, rather than general term.  

4.  Learn from your near-misses.  As you see in the change of my queries above, often a near-miss query (like [ wires in drainpipe Norway ]) can lead to a useful reformulation by picking up nearby clues (as I did when I spotted the "heating cable," which changed my query. 

5. Using intext: is a great way to make sure the term you want is actually on the page.  In this case, we used it to find an image!  Incredibly handy.  


I'll be back tomorrow with a fun Challenge for this coming week.  Until then... keep your drainspouts ice-free.  


Search on! 



Wednesday, March 15, 2017

SearchResearch Challenge (3/15/17): Scandinavia?

Travel is a great source of puzzlements. 

Everytime I travel somewhere (and I get to travel fairly often for my job), I come across things that surprise and amaze me.

Recently I had the chance to travel to northwestern Europe on business, but I was confused about where I was geographically.  Yes, I visited Sweden, Norway, and Finland... but is that Scandinavia or the Nordic countries?  I would see both terms used apparently interchangably, and just from everyday usage, I couldn't quite figure out the difference.  



But as I walked along the streets I also saw a few things that I cannot (and have not yet!) figured out.  

This gives us our SearchResearch Challenges for this week.  Can you help me figure out what's going on here?  

1.  Okay, which is it?  Was I in Scandinavia or in the Nordic countries?  What's the difference between Scandinavia and the Nordic countries?   

2.  This is a real puzzle.  I saw these wires coming out of the bottom of drain pipes all over Scandinavia, but I can't figure out why they're there.  It's obviously not just a wiring mistake; basically EVERY drainpipe has this.  They're usually in a loop (as shown), but sometimes it's just a thick wire.  They're firmly attached (I pulled on one to see if it was loose--it wasn't).  What are these drainpipe wires?   


3.  While wandering around the central streets in the capital of one unnamed country, I saw these odd little plaques with animals.  Why are they there? What's going on here?  




Can you figure these northern mysteries?  

If you can, please leave a comment in the discussion below.  And tell us HOW you found the answer. We all want to learn from your research and be able to do it ourselves next time!  

Skål!  

(I mean, Search on!)  

Monday, March 13, 2017

Answer: Looking up quotes

Face it: Tracking down quotes was never easy... 
As I said last week, it used to be that when you heard a quote you liked, you looked for it in one of those big books of quotations (such as Bartlett's Familiar Quotations or the Yale Book of Quotations).  

But, if it wasn't in there, then most people just up because the searching got to be a LOT harder.  In the days B.G. (that is, "Before Google") finding the correct attribution for quotations required lots of contacts, a lot of reading, and dedicated time.  

Searching is very different now.  But still tricky, especially when you find things like this in the search results (try searching for ["quotes on the internet"] and you'll see what I mean).   

  

So... what DO we do now to track down quotes?  Let's look at the quotes for this week.   


1.  Did Tom Peters, the guru of excellence, really say "The best search one can do today is the search for excellence"?
The obvious first query is this: 

     [  "The best search one can do today is the search for excellence" ] 

The problem with long phrase searches like this is that you often there will be a typo or variation on the quote that wormed its way in over time.  This will mean you'll NOT find the quote because the search is too precise. 

If you (or your source) got the quote slightly wrong, e.g., you misspelled "excellence" with only 1 L--"excelence"--then you'll get a "no results found," and then something that looks like this: 



Naturally, if you click on the second link ("search instead for.."), you'll get zero results.  Not a surprise.  

Generally speaking, the best approach is to NOT trying to do a quote search of a long phrase.  A much better approach is to search for a nugget--that is, some small fragment of the text that is memorable, and unlikely to be be changed over the different variations.  

So instead of a full phrase search, I searched for the nugget, which in this case I chose: 
    
     [ "today is the search for excellence" ] 

Why did I choose this funny sub-quote?  Because the other options, "the search for excellence" has too many off-topic hits, and the other option, "the best search one can do today," has the same problem.  In this case, I choose the phrase from the words "today" through "excellence" to capture the central searchable nugget.  

When you do this search, the first hit is to the Quote Investigator, a well-known website that's well known for its high quality and accurate research into the origins of quotations.  

In the Quote Investigator's page about "today is the search for excellence," we find the attribution to Lyndon Johnson, and his article in a Sunday newspaper insert (specifically, The Des Moines Sunday Register, 1964 April 26, Sunday supplement).  

But the quote isn't exactly the same as what we're searching for; LBJ's original phrase was: 

     The noblest search of today is the search for excellence.

vs. what we said we were looking for: 

     The best search one can do today is the search for excellence.
     
But since we didn't get ANY hits for the exact version ("noblest search"), I suspect that somehow something got changed along the way.  

This kind of thing happens all the time to quotations (they get slightly altered over time to be slimmer or punchier).  This, and many other observations about how quotations transform over time, are beautifully written up in The Quote Investigator's forthcoming book, Hemingway Didn't Say That: The truth behind familiar quotations, Garson O'Toole.  

While I have high regard for the Quote Investigator, I couldn't stop myself from fact-checking his attribution.  I found the Des Moines Sunday Register on Newspapers.com (a paid-subscription site, which I use often enough to be worth it).  Here's the original image scan:  



The Des Moines Sunday Register, 1964 April 26, Sunday supplement:
This Week. Words To Live By. The Challenge We Face by Lyndon B. Johnson,
Page 2 of the supplement. Des Moines, Iowa.
Although LBJ was a controversial president, his hope for "the noblest search of today is the search for excellence..." is something deeply to be desired in our current political climate.  

So no, it wasn't Tom Peters, but President Lyndon Baines Johnson, writing in 1964.  



2.  Did Mark Twain say that one should "Put All Your Eggs in One Basket, and then watch that basket"
So what's the "nugget" of this quote?  

In this case, the quote is relatively short, so let's just try the whole thing: 

     [ "put all your eggs in one basket and then watch that basket" ] 

 note that I DID NOT include Twain in the search.  Even though this sounds rather Twain-like, including his name in the search builds bias in the result set.  (In my classes I say "It's like a lawyer leading the witness during cross-examination."  Don't do it.)  

You have to be careful with the results here.  There are a LOT of pages that attribute it to Mark Twain, and just about as many attribute it to Andrew Carnegie.  But very, very few of them actually give the source.  

Key lesson here:  If you don't see the quote in the original source, be very, very skeptical and keep searching until you find the original source.  Don't just take anyone's attribution.  (Practice "safe attribution!")  

Once again, the Quote Investigator comes the rescue with his comment on this quote.  The Quote Investigator points out that this quote is from a speech that Andrew Carnegie gave the Curry Commercial College of Pittsburgh, PA on June 23, 1885.  The full paragraph from that speech is: 
The concerns which fail are those which have scattered their capital, which means that they have scattered their brains also. They have investments in this, or that, or the other, here, there and everywhere. “Don’t put all your eggs in one basket” is all wrong. I tell you “put all your eggs in one basket, and then watch that basket.” Look round you and take notice; men who do that do not often fail. It is easy to watch and carry the one basket. It is trying to carry too many baskets that breaks most eggs in this country. He who carries three baskets must put one on his head, which is apt to tumble and trip him up. One fault of the American business man is lack of concentration.
Carnegie wasn't one to let a good line be used only once, however, and variations of it appear in other speeches that he gave.  In the book The ceremonies attending the opening of the Washington, D.C., Public Library building : presented to the city of Washington by Andrew Carnegie : dedicated January 7, 1903.   Carnegie Institution of Washington.  (1902) (Doubleday Publishers), Carnegie  says: 
"In my first public address made to our young men, in Pittsburgh—how many years ago I need not mention—I told them to put all their eggs in one basket and then watch that basket. I have been a concentrator all my life." 
It's pretty clear he, or a clever speechwriter, came up with this quotation.  Notice that he simplified and shortened the key phrase.  It's now just 12 words long, while the original was 26 words long.  This happens to many quotations--they become slimmer and punchier over time.  

3.  Who said that "College contains daily exercises in delayed gratification. 'Discuss early modern European print culture”'will never beat 'Sing karaoke with friends' in a straight fight, but in the long run, having a passable Rhianna impression will be less useful than understanding how media revolutions unfold"?  
This is another really long quote.  So for the nugget, I'd pick "having a passable Rhianna impression" (which seems like a pretty unlikely sequence of words).  

Note that the singer's name is misspelled.  (It's really Rihanna, not Rhianna as it appears in the quote.) 

But searching for that quotation nugget: 

     [ "having a passable Rihanna impression" ] 

quickly gets you to Clay Shirky's post on Medium.com where he writes about being distractable, what it takes to get focus, and why delayed-gratification is an important personality trait to develop in yourself.  His essay is a brilliant comment on why staying-focused is a key skill... and why he asks that his students put away their laptops during his class.  As he writes: "I’ve decided it’s time to admit that I’ve brought whiteboard markers to a gun fight, and act accordingly."  

And in one of the cleverest sayings ever, Shirky's tagline for his post is this: 



Note the missing final "e" on that tagline.  Shirky is too careful a writer for this to be a typo.  I think he's signalling the effects of being distracted.  Someone else might have pointed to the animated movie "Up" and said "Squirrel!" 

But the author is clearly Clay Shirky.

4.  (Extra credit)  Who said or wrote that "It is better than 1000 guilty persons should escape than one innocent suffer"?  

Here, I used the nugget "better than 1000 guilty persons should escape" -- but just as I was about to enter the quote into the search box, I noticed that the word "than" probably should be "that"--it would make more sense.  


Still, quotes are sometimes not obvious, so I did that phrase search as is... and got nothing.  

Okay, fixing up the "than" to "that" I redid the search and found that Google couldn't find the exact quote, but something near to it: 



We see that both William Blackstone AND Benjamin Franklin are given credit for this... although with different numbers that what our quote says.  Blackstone: 10.  Franklin: 100.  And the last quote says "men" rather than "persons."  I suspect some quote evolution here. 


So let's check both Franklin and Blackstone.  With the query:  

     [ Franklin "better that * guilty persons should escape" ] 

I was quickly led to Franklin's Autobiography (p. 370), which is most easily text searched in the Hathi Trust's version.   In there I found that in a letter from Franklin to M. le Veillard, April 15, 1787 he writes: 
“You were right in conjecturing that I wrote the remarks on the Thoughts concerning Executive Justice.  I have no copy of those remarks at hand, and forget how the saying was introduced that it was better 1000 guilty persons should escape that one innocent suffer.”  
Okay... so what are Franklin's "remarks on the Thoughts concerning Executive Justice"?  By backtracking in his collected papers, I can discover that the text of Thoughts concerning Executive Justice was first mentioned in his letters as something he had just seen as of March 5, 1785.  (See Franklin's letter to Benjamin Vaughn, of that date.)  

However, a quick search on "The Commentaries on the Laws of England" tells us that they are an influential 18th-century treatise on the common law of England by William Blackstone.  Most importantly, they were originally published by the Clarendon Press at Oxford, 1765–1769. The work is divided into four volumes, on the rights of persons, the rights of things, of private wrongs and of public wrongs.  By doing a search in Google Books for Volume 4 "Of Public Wrongs," and by doing the obvious search within that text I found the quote we seek:



As several Regular Readers pointed out, this 10:1 ratio is known in legal circles as Blackstone's Formulation.  As the Wikipedia article points out, "Other commentators have echoed the principle; Benjamin Franklin stated it as, "it is better 100 guilty Persons should escape than that one innocent Person should suffer." "  He made the number a bit larger than Blackstone, the better to make his case.  

But in this case, Blackstone published first.  He put forth the idea in Volume 4 (the publication date is a little uncertain--but certainly between 1765 and 1969), while Franklin could not have written his "Remarks" until after 1785, around twenty years after we know Blackstone already wrote about this.  


Search Lessons 


1.  When searching for a long quote, search for the shortest "nugget" that contains the essence of a quotation.  Picking this nugget out of a long quote is often a matter of looking for the "least like part to have been changed" (you know, the pithy, interesting part of the quote), and then keeping that searchable phrase as short as possible. 

2. When looking for a quote, don't accept someone's attribution (unless they're really well-known for getting it right).  Generally speaking, you want to see the original text (or a clearly correct transcription of the spoken word). There are relatively few places that I'll believe got the author attribution correct (the Quote Investigator, Snopes, FactCheck... places that have a strong reputation in getting the facts right).  

3.  Bear in mind that quotes often shift in length, spelling, and details. In many cases, the quotation tends to get shorter, pithier, and ascribed to even more famous people.  We saw all of this happening in this week's searchable quotations.  


Search on!


Friday, March 3, 2017

SearchResearch Challenge (3/3/17): Looking up quotes

It used to be that quotations were pretty easy. 

If you heard a quote you liked, you looked for it in one of those big books of quotations (such as Bartlett's Familiar Quotations or the Yale Book of Quotations), and if it wasn't in there, only the brave or intrepid would keep searching. 

Luckily, there are both brave and intrepid souls in the world, and they've made pretty massive collections of quotes... and their attributions.  

Now, of course, we have internet searching--which effectively opens up a LOT of books for access.... as well as a good deal of fake quotes, incorrect attributions, and general nonsense.  

Here's a good one in that vein:  

  

And as we learned in this week's post about 18th century fake news, it's sometimes hard to figure out who said something, especially if they're trying to cover their tracks! 

So this week, we'll tackle this topic head on, and see if we can't run down some famous quotes and figure out who actually said (or wrote) them in the first place.  

1.  Did Tom Peters, the guru of excellence, really say "The best search one can do today is the search for excellence"?
2.  Did Mark Twain say that one should "Put All Your Eggs in One Basket, and then watch that basket"
3.  Who said that "College contains daily exercises in delayed gratification. 'Discuss early modern European print culture”'will never beat 'Sing karaoke with friends' in a straight fight, but in the long run, having a passable Rhianna impression will be a less useful than understanding how media revolutions unfold"?  
4.  (Extra credit)  Who said or wrote that "It is better than 1000 guilty persons should escape than one innocent suffer"?  

As always, we're interested not just in the answer, but HOW you figured these out.  What special machinations of your brain and mind did you suffer to get to the bottom of the barrel of sources?  

What tips and tricks should one know when seeking out the truth about original sayings? 

 Teach us, and we'll all know! 

Search for those quotes.  Or as I always say (although it did not originate with me): 

"Search on!" 

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Benjamin Franklin / the problem of 18th century fake news / ladybugs

In 1782.... 

... the new United States was negotiating for a treaty with Great Britain. But things were moving a bit too slowly for Benjamin Franklin, who took up the fake news strategy writing an entirely made-up, fake letter. 


The letter, (purportedly from Capt. Samuel Gerrish) was printed in such a way as to look like a regular newspaper supplement. Even though he was in France at the time, being a printer, Franklin could get easy access to a print shop, so making it look "real" was simple for him.  Few other people at the time could do this.   

By April 22, Franklin had made up this fake news story, purportedly published as a supplement to a Boston newspaper. Not since he and Lafayette had drawn up a “List of British Cruelties” in 1779 had he written in such detail about the cruelties that were committed by the British and their allies.  He wrote John Adams, “it might make them a little asham’d of themselves.” He was explicitly looking to influence public opinion as the peace negotiations got under way. Sound familiar?  

In Franklin's fake letter, "Captain Gerrish" describes the horrors of Indian atrocities (he reports seeing giant bundles of scalps taken from innocent settlers, men, women, children) in an effort to get Britain to react in sympathy and encourage the peace negotiations that were then underway. 

(It's useful to remember that the Indians were largely British allies. Franklin was hoping to make the Brits feel guilty about the atrocities committed in their name, thereby helping the peace negotiations go more rapidly.) 

I haven't yet found a digital copy of the original supplement, but the text is reprinted in Memoirs and Life of B. Franklin (1818).

The fake news story was apparently believed by a few people including a reprint of the letter (but without any understanding it was written by Franklin) in the 1808 book "Medical Repository, Vol. 5"



A nice analysis of the hoax (and whether or not the hoax succeeded) can be found in the National Archives essay about the affair:  "Founders Online: Supplement to the Boston Independent Chronicle (before 22 April, 1782)"  

Fake news has always been with us.  It's just disseminating far more rapidly these days--you don't need to set up hot type and run each page by hand.  


In other SRS news... 

Remember the "masses of ladybugs" SearchResearch Challenge from a couple of weeks ago? 

This week I'm writing the SearchResearch blogpost from my scholarly residence at Schloss Dagstuhl. Here, in the Saarland of southwestern Germany, it's early spring.  The snow drops are beginning to flower, despite the occasional flurries of light snow with the occasional bit of thunder and lightning.  

I had my window open, and as I was writing, this ladybug flew in and started to read what I was working on at the moment... 



I don't know, perhaps the ladybugs knees were bothering it in the spring storm.   

Later this week there will be another SearchResearch Challenge.  Until then... 

Search on!