Why is Google Displaying False Info About GRRM’s Fire & Blood?

I have not read the latest George R. R. Martin book, but I do know a few things about it.

Here’s what I know:

  • Martin’s Fire & Blood came out on November 20th, 2018, and tells the story of the vintage Targaryens
  • The book was hotly anticipated by many fans, while many others asked “why did you write this instead of The Winds of Winter?”
  • It’s apparently packed with fan treatments and Easter Eggs, some of which involve literal eggs.
  • It’s getting mixed reviews
  • Google is displaying false information about Fire & Blood

No, this is not a book review of Fire & Blood. I haven’t even read it yet. This is about the fifth bullet point above, which I have not seen covered yet: why is Google displaying false information about this book in its search engine results pages?

This is not something I discovered myself, but was sent to me by writer Robin Kaiser-Schatzlein, who knows of my passion for a) George R. R. Martin’s works b) mistakes in Google’s knowledge graph and c) any overlap between SEO and my interests.

Here’s the screenshot he sent me yesterday morning, devoid of any explanation other than a text saying “Fire in the blood?”

screenshot-from-rob

And there went my day.

What facts is Google getting wrong about Fire & Blood?

At this point, let’s clarify what false information Google is displaying about Fire & Blood. Check out the screenshot below and you’ll immediately see it.
fire-&-blood-SERP.png
On the left, we have the Google News feed related to this subject. It includes three news stories, including an excellent article by the podcaster and professional fan-of-all-thing-Westeros Joanna Robinson.

On the right is where the trouble lies. Two major pieces of misinformation about George R. R. Martin’s Fire & Blood populate the Knowledge Graph (if you’re unsure what the Knowledge Graph is, I won’t redefine is here but you can read more about it in this article).

First, the cover itself, and then, the number of pages:

Knowledge-Graph-Fire-&-Blood

According to this Google result, one can read—via Google Books—the first 45 of 217 page of Fire & Blood. However, click that, and here’s what you’ll see:

george-mccartney-fire-in-the-blood

That’s right, Google will send you straight into the ebook for the novel Fire in the Blood, the same novel whose cover it was displaying above.

How did this happen?

Quite simply, there’s a disconnect going on within Google Books, which is then populating false information in Google’s Knowledge Graph, which is extending all the way up into the top of Google’s SERPs.

Such as in this case:

books-by-george-r-r-martin

Now, is this an issue with the book not being in Google Books? No, apparently not, as if one goes into specifically the Google Books section of Google, one will see this:

google-books

So, where does the problem—and the solution—lie? Let’s clarify, of course, that the problem is not intentional on the part of Google and simply the result of a mistake somewhere along the line.

It appears to be the responsibility of one of three entities to correct this at this point:

  1. Google Books, to correct this misinformation within Google Books and eliminate their confusion that Fire in the Blood for Fire & Blood, and
  2. Random House Publishing Group, who can use the “give feedback” or “claim this knowledge graph” options within the SERPs to correct this immediately
  3. Fans of GRRM and his works, who cannot claim this Knowledge Graph entry but can give swift and immediate feedback to Google.  

This isn’t to say that any of the above people are terrible at their jobs or anything of that sort. It’s tempting to say something like “this is the kind of thing that happens when search engines aren’t properly accounted for”, but I’m not certain even that’s fair.

Why this is something Google needs to solve immediately

As to whether or not this matters, the answer is yes: absolutely. This is atrocious customer service on the part of Google, to the extent that people might spend money on a book they do not want, under the impression they’re buying an entirely different book.

Of course, I’d like to point out that Google is doing some stuff right. Within the Knowledge Graph, Google is helping users find ebooks from their local libraries.

knowledge-graph-library

This is great move and something that can genuinely benefit both the users and the libraries. It’s a great thing to see, as it’s something that doesn’t directly benefit Google in any tangible or direct way, which is a rare improvement to see on Google’s end. 

Okay, but who is George McCartney and what is Fire in the Blood?

One last point: who is this other George M. and what is this book we are seeing?

To be clear, none of this is remotely the fault of author George McCartney. However, it is rather unfair to him, as there’s a good chance that people are buying his book via Google Books as I type this and will soon be attempting to get refunds once they realize Google sent them down the wrong rabbit hole.

It appears that McCartney is a writer of tartan noir thrillers and crime novels in the style of Elmore Leonard and Michael Connelly. Considering I kinda enjoy that kind of stuff—and my parents love those kinds of books—I might actually be picking up a copy of Fire in the Blood as a stocking stuffer.

And in case you haven’t seen it yet, this it the cover of George McCartney’s novel, Fire in the Blood:

fire-and-blood-cover

Anyway, that’s what I’ve got on this one. The ball’s in your court, Google. You handled it correctly when I pulled back the curtain on your Hobbit 2 mistakes. Let’s see you repeat it again and get this cleared up.

Enjoy this? Check out Does Jonathan Franzen Know What SEO Is?

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Why Doesn’t Google Know About The Hobbit 2: The Desolation of Smaug?

An investigation into a major hole in Google’s knowledge

I discovered something strange yesterday. It began when, in an effort to make a stupid joke on Twitter, I tried to figure out the names of the Hobbit movies. What baffled me was that this quickly turned out to be a harder task than anticipated when Google refused to tell me the name of the 2nd Hobbit movie.

Now, to clarify, I’ve never seen a single Hobbit. While I’m a big Game of Thrones fan and I understand that George R. R. Martin’s work would not exist without J. R. R. Tolkien’s, I also think that Peter Jackson doesn’t make movies I enjoy and that three Hobbit movies seemed like nothing more than a money grab.

These are the things I knew—or, at least, thought I knew, before I started using Google to get some answers:

  • There is one Hobbit book (which I’ve read and mostly liked) and three Hobbit movies.
  • Peter Jackson made the three Hobbit movies. By all accounts, he probably should’ve just made one. But he did, certainly, make three.
  • The first is called “The Big Journey” or something. The second is called “The Hobbit Versus the Dragon Smaug.” And the third is The War of the Five Battles or something.
  • Yes, I knew these weren’t exactly what they were called, which is why I had to google this.

My awareness of The Hobbit has remained heightened over the last several years, largely due to the ongoing YouTube series On Cinema, in which Gregg Turkington repeatedly mentions The Hobbit movies as some of his favorite movies.

on-cinema-hobbit
A moment from an early gem by Tim and Gregg

Turkington’s obsession with The Hobbit—and his self-proclaimed status as a #hobbithead—is one of the most compelling running themes in On Cinema, including his running belief that a write-in vote will help The Hobbit sweep the Oscars.

As mentioned before, this went from a simple search of “hobbit movies” to going down a bizarre search engine rabbit hole, in which I realized that the Google Knowledge Graph appears to have no knowledge regarding The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug.

This entire thing is a perfect blend of two major interests of mine: search engines and pop culture. For an example of something else I’ve written in this vein, check out the article I wrote and accompanying research about Game of Thrones and fan theories.

Before we continue this investigation, let’s briefly discuss what the Google Knowledge Graph is. If you are among the initiated with a thorough (or at least competent) understanding of Google’s Knowledge Graph, feel free to skip past this next section and jump back into the Hobbit stuff. Continue reading “Why Doesn’t Google Know About The Hobbit 2: The Desolation of Smaug?”

Why Game of Thrones Fan Should Hop on the Minnesota Vikings Bandwagon

We are nearly two weeks away from the Super Bowl. The Big Game. The Final Battle of the latest NFL season.

And while being a fan of the NFL can be trying (see this article from two years ago for more on the topic), this has been a good year to be a good Vikings fan. But rather than keep my Vikings fandom to myself, I would like to take this moment to try to convince all my fellow Game of Thrones fans that they should be Minnesota Vikings fans as well.

diggs.jpg
I will assume you’re already familiar with this moment.

Let’s consider a few reasons:

They are the Kings of the North.

This isn’t just something I say, although it is something I do say. During the latest season–upon clinching the NFC North title–shirts began circulating declaring the Vikings to be the “kings of the north.”

And it’s not just that they’re kings of the North. Defending the North has become a war cry among Vikings fans, just as the North has become a way to describe Minnesota itself. Continue reading “Why Game of Thrones Fan Should Hop on the Minnesota Vikings Bandwagon”

Why That Game of Thrones Fan Theory Is Not a Game of Thrones Fan Theory

The internet loves a good fan theory. The trouble is, the phrase “fan theory” has started to go the way of words like content or hipster or artisan or any of the other words whose definitions are so vague, so all encompassing, that they have very little meaning at this point.

“Fan theory” is currently used as a descriptor for the following things:

  • A prediction for an upcoming storyline
  • Analysis of a character’s motivations
  • Analysis of a storyline
  • Fan fiction
  • The dissection of a trailer and conclusions drawn from moments in said trailer
  • Explanation of subtext, predicated on the explainer failing to recognize subtext.
  • Recognition of dramatic irony or a plot turn before the reveal

None of the above should be considered fan theories, in the opinion of this blogger.

So then, you may ask, what the heck qualifies as a fan theory?

promise-me-ned
And yes, I’m including “R + L = J” as something that is not, and never was, a fan theory. It’s a storyline, folks, not a theory you invented.

What is a fan theory?

I’ve been seeking to answer this question for a while, and previously dedicated an entire blog post to it: What We Talk About When We Talk About Fan Theories. And while I’m happy with that article and its reception, I find that the term “fan theory” is increasingly bandied about, with increasingly little meaning, especially during Game of Thrones season.  Continue reading “Why That Game of Thrones Fan Theory Is Not a Game of Thrones Fan Theory”

Ed Sheeran Didn’t Ruin Anything. Game of Thrones is Rooted in Popular Music

Game of Thrones is Not Sacred. It’s Grateful Dead Fan Fiction

The first episode of the seventh season of HBO’s Game of Thrones sparked a multitude of reactions, but perhaps none more virulent and hysterical than how certain GOT fans responded when Ed Sheeran appeared onscreen. The response was so rabid that some speculated Sheeran had deleted his Twitter account in response to the hatred (Sheeran has since denied it, stating “Why the hell would I worry what people thought about that. It’s clearly fuckin’ awesome.”)

sheeran-game-of-thrones.jpg
This was Sheeran, if you (like me) didn’t recognize him at first.

I made my opinion very clear, via a tweet declaring:

Worth noting that this has been my most popular tweet, aside from one about Burger King one time.

Now, regardless of why Sheeran temporarily deleted his account, it does not change the fact that some Game of Thrones fans really, really hated seeing him on the screen. A top post in the /r/GameofThrones subreddit declared that his cameo had “ruined the Realism (sic).” Others mocked him with YouTube videos, angry tweets, and scornful recaps. Among the responses I received – in response to my “Ed Sheeran isn’t the problem” tweet were people telling me that they “hate him” and that cameos by Beyonce and John Legend would be next.

There are a few good points about why the Ed Sheeran cameo is nothing to be upset about, but I’ve already seen all but one of them already effectively made. These arguments include:

  • Sheeran is recognizable, yes, but aren’t many of the other actors in the show also recognizable? 
  • Sheeran was cast as a singer with a beautiful voice. Doesn’t it make sense to have a singer with a beautiful voice play a singer with a beautiful voice?
  • Why are all of you putting so much energy into hating a complete stranger?

But none of these are the articles I’ve come to write.

Instead, what I’d like you to consider is this: sure, Ed Sheeran is a pop musician playing a bit part in your favorite show. But doesn’t this make perfect sense, when one considers that the entirety of Game of Thrones – and the series of books upon which it is based, A Song of Ice and Fire – is an extended homage to a very popular band? Continue reading “Ed Sheeran Didn’t Ruin Anything. Game of Thrones is Rooted in Popular Music”

Some Thoughts and Observations That Won’t Appear in My Next Blog Post

Sometimes, I don’t want to dedicate a full blog post to an idea, but I still want to share the idea.

Is 2016 the Year of the Feral Child?

First, a fun and simple Jungle Book, which served as both a new adaptation of Kipling and a remake of the classic Disney cartoon. Then, a new Tarzan film. Soon, a remake of Pete’s Dragon, in which apparently Pete is a feral child raised by a dragon. Oh, also, Stranger Things and Eleven, its take on the feral ’80s child.

petes-dragon-movie-disney-2016

Why all these narratives suddenly? And does it mean that we will get even more in the coming years? Perhaps a reboot of George of the Jungle? Perhaps a biopic of Victor of Aveyron? Or will we see feral children shoehorned into other narratives, like the Justice League or the Marvel films?

It was hard to tell the difference between the RNC and The Purge: Election Year

The Purge movies aren’t perfect, but they’re a sloppy and disturbing look at what America could become. Violence across the country, burning effigies, mask-wearing killers. Continue reading “Some Thoughts and Observations That Won’t Appear in My Next Blog Post”

Is There a Connection Between Bran Stark and “Uncle John’s Band”?

In a previous blog post, I investigated the possibility that George R.R. Martin took inspiration for Arya Stark’s storyline from the song “Dire Wolf,” by the Grateful Dead. I’m far from the first person to make connections between Martin’s words and the Dead’s lyrics, as this has been a topic of speculation and deduction for years.

But there is one song that I have never seen discussed, despite it having some very Westerosi imagery: “Uncle John’s Band,” the first track on the 1970 album Workingman’s Dead. 

workingman

Now, unlike my theory that Arya’s story is directly lifted from the song “Dire Wolf,” this theory is slightly more half-baked, but not for lack of trying. “Uncle John’s Band” is a beautiful, lyrical song, simple in sound but complex with metaphor and references. As described by David Dodd in the “Greatest Stories Ever Told” series on dead.net, the song “carries within it enough room to consider the universe and our lives in the universe — it seems to be a universe itself.” Continue reading “Is There a Connection Between Bran Stark and “Uncle John’s Band”?”

Did a Grateful Dead Song Inspire Arya Stark and Her Story?

Exploring the connections between the Grateful Dead and A Song of Ice and Fire

It’s no secret that the Grateful Dead’s music has influenced George R. R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire books. He first acknowledged it during a 2014 interview with 927 Plus, including indirectly admitting that the spiritual Weirwoods in the world of Westeros are named after Bobby Weir. (update: it’s worth noting that he didn’t confirm it quite as much as the conversation goes – there will be more about this in the future.)

A number of listicles, various reddit threads, and blog posts have been written about connections between Martin’s books and the Dead’s songs, including the Weirwoods, The Mountains of the Moon, and Gerold “Darkstar” Dayne.

martin
It’s not hard to believe this guy is a Grateful Dead fan.

And of course, the wolf. Yes, the Grateful Dead has a song called “Dire Wolf,” the same beast that serves as the Stark sigil. We know that connection. But is this where the connection ends? Or is there something more linking the Grateful Dead song and the Starks of Winterfell?

“Please Don’t Murder Me”

Listening to the song “Dire Wolf” while contemplating the Stark family, the lyrics initially don’t seem very relevant to Ned Stark and his offspring. While the setting seems Winterfell-esque—the winter was so hard and cold, froze ten feet neath the ground—it’s hard to view the Starks as resembling the wolves of the song, as the song consists of the narrator repeatedly pleading “don’t murder me” to the dire wolf.

dead
“Dire Wolf” is the third song on this album.

Murder is not a crime committed by the honorable Starks. They execute. They kill in war. But they do not murder. Ned, Robb, and Jon Snow each execute criminals and kill enemies in battle.  Rickon, Bran, and Sansa never kill at all (at least, not yet).

And then there is Arya.

arya-stark
Arya Stark, as portrayed by Maisie Williams in HBO’s Game of Thrones.

Continue reading “Did a Grateful Dead Song Inspire Arya Stark and Her Story?”

Is Bernie Sanders the Ned Stark of the 2016 Election?

In a post published on this blog earlier today, I discussed why I “stopped feeling the Bern,” i.e. why Bernie Sanders is a troubling, disappointed candidate, in my opinion. This is a follow-up, companion to that article.

As I pondered Senator Bernard “Bernie” Sanders, he began to remind me of another disappointing character: Lord Eddard “Ned” Stark of Game of Thrones. Let’s look at how these two resemble one another.

This guy
This guy

Idealism

It’s what draws you to Sanders. This idea that he is speaking for noble truths that others will not. The idea that he’s above the politicking, the games, the money. That he cannot be bought. That he has honor.

Ned and his sword, Ice.
Ned and his sword, Ice.

Ned Stark has that same sense of honor. But what one has to ask is, is this honor or is this delusion? Is he a good example, or is he an example of misplaced self-importance, of smug piety?

Irrelevance

When one looks closely at Bernie Sanders, some of his arguments that seem so persuasive out of his mouth begin to weaken. He’s an isolationist, and has some bizarre history with guns, including odd, questionable statements very recently. Bernie believes that violent television is to blame for mass shootings; Ned believes that children should watch beheadings, and that all beheadings should be performed by the lord who passed the sentence.

He won’t win.

Cersei Lannister is one of the many people who try to get real with Ned Stark, telling him “when you play the Game of Thrones, you either win or you die.” In Ned’s case, he dies.

"I've made a huge mistake."
“I’ve made a huge mistake.”

This isn’t to say that Bernie’s run will have a fatal end. But he certainly won’t win. It’s a winless war, being waged by a naive man living to his own sense of honor, fighting for ideals from ages past.

He’s a hero…

It’s worth noting that Ned Stark is a man worth admiring. Bernie Sanders is too. But neither belongs on the throne.

This guy.
This guy.

The question is whether Bernie can inspire a generation of politicians and citizens and leaders with more honor, through his gestures and efforts. In his failure, Ned inspired people to do better. Perhaps Bernie will do the same.

Is Jeb Bush Becoming the Stannis Baratheon of the 2016 Election?

You should avoid reading this unless you’ve seen seasons one through five of Game of Thrones

It’s obvious. I know. It’s cheap and easy. It’s the cheapest joke this blog has ever made. It’s so obvious that when you google “Jeb Bush Stannis Baratheon,” the first thing you see are articles like this and this and this and each of them even apologize for how cheap and obvious this joke is.

Jeb definitely has a better hair line.
Jeb definitely has a better hair line.

But here’s the thing: Jeb Bush is becoming Stannis Baratheon, and it’s looking to be painfully accurate. In two distinct ways.

Continue reading “Is Jeb Bush Becoming the Stannis Baratheon of the 2016 Election?”