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GOOGLE FOOL

- Jim Bumgardner

This script, for the Firefox Greasemonkey extension, sets up Google (and other search engines) to do an amusing magic trick or April Fool.

NOTE: August 2011, I usually perform this effect using a Chrome extension, which I keep up to date. It requires that you use Google Chrome for your web browser. Here is the chrome extension.

Note: March 2013, Google recently made it harder to install extensions which aren't in the chrome store. You'll find instructions for installing the above Chrome extension here.

THE EFFECT:

It is a slow morning in the office on April 1st.

You:Hey Beatrice, check this out! Google added this new feature!

Beatrice:I already saw that video/map thing. Booooring!

You:No, this is new! They added this ESP thing! It's uncanny and a little scary!

Beatrice:Yeah right.

You:No, seriously! What's your favorite animal?

Beatrice:A lady bug.

You:Okay. Think really hard about a lady bug. Look at the computer and try to transmit your thoughts into it.

Beatrice:Okay...

You:You google the following search phrase:

What is it Beatrice is thinking?

You press the search button and voila! A bunch of search results matching "lady bug!".

Beatrice:Wow! That's totally awesome! Will you father my child?

You:Why certainly!

Beatrice:Just Kidding - April Fool!


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HOW IT WORKS:

Google Fool illustrates a kind of misdirection I call covert input that I've been messing around with in various forms since the mid-90s. Like Google itself, Covert Input can be used for good or evil. Do not go to the dark side!

The script will enable you to (appear to) type in a harmless looking question like "What is Beatrice thinking of?" but have Google (or Yahoo or Flickr) return any search result you like.

This effect only works with the Firefox browser with the Greasemonkey extension installed.

Note: If you are using Chrome, you can use this chrome extension, which works the same way.

Go to this page and install the script into Greasemonkey by selecting Install User Script... on the tools menu. If you've used Greasemonkey before, you know the drill...

Note: Turn off instant search in your Google search preferences. Google Fool doesn't play well with it.

Begin the trick as described above. Let's say Beatrice says she is thinking of lady bugs. Go to the Google home page (using a bookmark or by typing "www.google.com" or simply "google" into the browser address bar.

Look at the keyboard. Type a slash, followed by "lady bug", followed by a slash.

/lady bug/

Then look at the screen. It will appear as if you typed this:

What is it

Now finish the question. For example, you can complete it by typing

/lady bug/ Beatrice is thinking?

Which comes out looking like this.

What is it Beatrice is thinking?

When you press return, or the search button, Google will search for "lady bug".

That's it. Pretty simple, huh?

The text that appears while you are typing between the slashes is a fake/decoy question - you can modify the text of this question by editing the script. Ideally the question should be somewhat long and vague. You can make it more specific by adding to the end of it after the second slash.

If you are working with a playing cards, there is an abbreviated 2-letter notation you can use, in which /2c/ is the two of clubs, /ah/ is the ace of hearts, etc. This makes it easier to keep the questions short and to the point, such as 'What's the card?'

This trick is particularly nice if you use an image-based search, such as Google Images or Flickr. I use it to do a kind of spirit-drawing effect in which the volunteer draws a quick sketch, and then the computer matches the drawing.

Happy April Fools!

- Jim Bumgardner

Creative Commons License This work is licensed under a Creative Commons License.


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NOTES:

Google Fool will not necessarily play well with the myriad other Google, Yahoo & Flickr-related Greasemonkey extensions. If you have problems, try disabling them temporarily.

Google Fool is a simplified version of my original effect Bondoogle, which I first implemented in Flash. Thanks to Seth Raphael, who wrote the first javascript port of Bondoogle.


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