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Kurosawa, or something different?

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    Here’s a rather random observation, but if you do a search at Google, the updated interface now gives you a suggestion for “something different”, which I assume is a list of related searches. If I search for akira kurosawa, the list given to me (bottom left) is:

    * ingmar bergman

    * alfred hitchcock

    * sergio leone

    * stanley kubrick

    * fritz lang

    It would be interesting to know what sort of an algorithm picks these recommendations. I assume that they have something to do with what people search, and how different pages link to other pages. It clearly has some semantic idea about your search, since a search for “Toshiro Mifune” doesn’t show up Kurosawa, but only fellow actors.

    Fascinated as I am about these sorts of things, I actually spent a fair amount of time playing with the recommendations. And as far as I can see, it appears to be totally impossible to reach Ozu, Naruse or Mizoguchi by using these “recommendations” links, if you start with Kurosawa. Not quite Six Degrees of Akira Kurosawa, this one. The best I can do is Hayao Miyazaki or Takeshi Kitano, but then I get stuck with either anime names or indie film makers.

    Meanwhile, if you search for Yasujiro Ozu, Kurosawa is right there in the “something different” list, just under Mizoguchi. The same thing if you search for Mizoguchi (in which case Ozu tops the list). Naruse, meanwhile, is not directly linked to Kurosawa.

    (PS. The forum “preview” feature clearly has some problems with certain “special” characters like & or +. I’ll see if I can fix it this weekend.)



    That’s interesting indeed but different from the “related searches” which are:


    seven samurai

    toshiro mifune


    ingmar bergman

    akira kurosawa dreams

    akira kurosawa ran

    akira kurosawa biography

    akira kurosawa quotes

    akira kurosawa filmography

    I wonder if there is some link between the latter and the “similar topics” mechanism in some forum systems (like vBulletin).

    And it’s different again from the wonder wheel. (Javascript and Flash required.)

    This tool gives things like:

    + akira kurosawa quotes

    ++ ikiru quotes

    ++ yojimbo quotes

    ++ ingmar bergman quotes

    ++ bollywood quotes

    ++ peter lorre quotes

    + akira kurosawa filmography

    ++ akira kurosawa encyclopedia

    ++ federico fellini filmography

    ++ peter lorre filmography

    (I tried nested lists in this message, with ULs, but it didn’t render as expected, all lists had the same indentation.)

    Did you try the timeline tool?



    Hmmm. You know who has an interesting algorithm? Pandora.

    If you don’t know the site: plug in music/artists you like and it searches for similar artists. You rate each selection you hear (if you feel like it) and it gets smarter and smarter about choosing similar stuff while subtly expanding your musical horizons.

    Probably the Netflix algorithm will get smarter and cooler as things go on…unless of course the service is wiped out by digital downloads in the future.



    That “related search” feature is just as addictive as is “something different”. I still can’t reach Ozu from Kurosawa though! But with the Wonder Wheel I could, via Toshiro Mifune, Tatsuya Nakadai, a Naruse film, Mizoguchi and Senses of Cinema. Yay, mission accomplished!

    I’m not sure but I think that the vBulletin “similar topics” system either compares information in topics headers, or tags if they are used. It’s similar to what the news side of this website does with the “See also” section for each news article, throwing out wild (and sometimes even quite good) guesses about what news have been posted on the topic earlier. For the latest news item (my review of Tajomaru), the algorithm has provided some links, the first two of which are actually quite relevant.

    Google’s systems, I think, go a bit further than that and analyse page contents, cross-linking and search results for given search terms. I would love to have that power. Some of you may remember that a few years back I launched a website that calculated the amount of discussion that films currently playing in theatres were generating online. The website is no more, but it was a fun exercise while I had the time to maintain it.

    Coco, I liked Pandora until they made it US only back in 2007. I then moved on to last.fm, which I think actually had better results for the type of music I listen to. Then last.fm stopped being free where I live. Now I’m using Spotify, whose radio abilities are far less interesting, but the ability to play most albums on-demand is excellent.

    I’d love to have something like Netflix here. 😐

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