Infernal Ramblings
A Malaysian Perspective on Politics, Society and Economics

"Mahathir rape Siti Nurhaliza"

Written by johnleemk on 1:52:51 pm Sep 22, 2006.

What, did you think Mahathir and/or Siti would end up in such a situation? That's a real joke, my friends. No, it's just another conspiracy theory by our dear friend, Jeff Ooi. Apparently the top keywords for the New Straits Times' search engine are (in this order): Mahathir, rape, Siti Nurhaliza. And best of all, the NST software displays the results like so:

User posted image

Now, this is going to be shorter than the typical rambling, because I'm pressed for time, but just note: Mahathir, rape, and Siti Nurhaliza are all pressing concerns for the average Malaysian with enough time to go online. Nobody cares about the environment, the 2007 budget, or bread (hell, nobody even cares enough about rice for it to show up). People do care very much, however, about the old man, nonconsensual sexual relations, and a young newlywed celebrity.

The results should be obvious. Of course people will search more for stories about a controversial former Prime Minister, their deepest, darkest fantasies, and a young starlet! (They might even search for all three at the same time with the same keywords...) There's no conspiracy involved!

Some smartasses have suggested that the NST software was purposely programmed to produce this result, citing the HTML source code and the lack of something more hi-tech:

It's obviously a handwritten html.. not the so called high tech "search algorithm".. the algo may exist.. i confidence it's not in this case.
Er, yeah. Sure.

Does Google handcraft their results too? Have you ever looked at the source code of their search results? It turns out HTML pretty much like this, once you strip away all the Javascript. The fact is, there is no such "algo" displayed in the source code of any search engine results page, as any decent webmaster worth his salt can tell you. Can you see the algo I used to produce this article, ping to notify it of this article's creation, or to set the design of this site in a uniform structure? No. That doesn't mean it's not there; it's just hidden from you on the backend in the PHP code and MySQL database of the server.

If anything, the structure of the source is so uniform that I would suggest it could not have been created by anything but a computer. First of all, note the precision; the size of the text is set to 12 decimal places. No human webmaster would do such a thing when three decimal places is more than enough for the normal person. There is also no deviation from the 12 decimal places except where it's been reduced to 11 (probably due to rounding up/down to a zero for the 12th place). The code for each line of the search result is so uniform that it could only have been produced either by a machine or a webmaster so determined to cover his trail that he went to the trouble of producing something that looks exactly like the real thing.

To prove it, here's some pseudo-code that resembles what would be in the real "algo" on the backend.

<a class="navi" href="/result?src_term={KEYWORD}" style="font-size:{PROPORTION OF SEARCH RESULTS FOR KEYWORD}em;">{KEYWORD}</a>&nbsp;

Every one of the search results' HTML code matches this pattern. This, combined with Occam's razor, should be enough to convince all but the most determined conspiracy theorists that the NST has not defamed Mahathir and/or Siti Nurhaliza.

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Infernal Ramblings is a Malaysian website focusing on current events and sociopolitical issues. Its articles run the gamut from economics to society to education.

Infernal Ramblings is run by John Lee. For more, see the About section. If you have any questions or comments, do drop him a line.

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