Wikipedia, search, and the “Цкщтп” keyboard

Wikipedia, search, and the “Цкщтп” keyboard

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Sometimes, though, people are searching for things that really look like gibberish. It’s hard to see how a query like hjkhjkhjkhjkhjkhjkhjkhjkhjk is supposed to lead to any kind of useful result. Similarly for %%%%%%%-.-**&@@ or mmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmnnm. Did the searcher fall asleep while typing or set a coffee mug down wrong? Should we blame the cat? It’s hard to say, although blaming the cat is generally a good fallback strategy.

On the other hand, there are also queries like fhbcnjntkm and ‘qatktdf ,fiyz and zgjybz. These are all real queries that I encountered, all from Russian Wikipedia, and at first glance they certainly look like gibberish. However, they are actually hiding their secrets from you, me, and Wikipedia’s search engine.

Of keyboards and alphabets

There are lots of people in the world who speak more than one language. For those of us who haven’t ventured very far outside our native alphabet, it’s probably easier to keep “typing” and “using a language” as mostly unentangled skill sets. If I’m typing in French, I’m not going to switch to a French keyboard. I tried it once, and it did not go well—Where is the a? Why is the q there, and who would do such a thing? Do I use z or w for “undo”? Aaaa!

to indicate where the search terms should be put into an API call or URL. It looks like someone forgot to replace the placeholder.

Published at Mon, 28 Aug 2017 18:10:06 +0000