Dave Gorman's Googlewhack


Dave Gorman is a comedian who goes to great lengths to get material for his show and books – in fact, he would probably go to any length to get material. And that includes traveling around the world meeting complete strangers because of a truly wacky (and fun) idea. But let's start at the beginning, with a seemingly innocent email Dave received.

Dave, 31, and possibly in an early mid-life crisis, wanted to write a novel. I guess it wasn't real writer's block that kept him from doing so: it was his computer. Dave in his show tells of a truly life-changing incident:

"Jake [the publisher] lied to me. Jake said it's just you, your imagination, and your computer. That's not strictly speaking true! My computer is attached to the internet. The internet contains everything in the whole wide world ever. I don't know about you, but I find everything in the whole wide world ever to be a bit distracting! I would sit there at the computer thinking… Right, here we go, Chapter one! Aahhhh.... just as soon as I've checked my email!"

Dave continues to tell that he receives more emails than he could ever read – not just from friends, family and colleagues, but complete strangers as well. One of these emails in particular captured his attention. The email contained very little, and even less that Dave understood. All it read was:

G'day Dave,
Did you know you're a Googlewhack?
Steve

No, as a matter of fact, Dave didn't know! But a little explanation is necessary in case you never heard of the word "googlewhack." In a nut-shell, a Googlewhack happens whenever you enter two words into Google and you receive exactly one result. A Google result containing not two, nor a thousand, and not zero, but exactly a single web page. Now there are some more rules to it – your words must be contained in a dictionary, and the result pages themselves may not be dictionaries – but that's about it. And in case you never tried, scoring a Googlewhack is not as simple as it sounds (there are websites dedicated to nothing else but googlewhacking, and listing those who found a Googlewhack first [www.googlewhack.com]).

So when Dave was informed that he himself in fact was a "Googlewhack," he was stunned. The explanation, as he later got to understand, was that one of Dave's own web pages contained those two words someone else had entered to score a Googlewhack. Of all the pages in the whole wide world! What might be even more improbable: when Dave met with googlewhacking stranger Steve a while later in London, Steve ended up trying to find a new googlewhack on Dave's computer, and found one on a page owned by a friend of Dave who lived in France. Dave says this struck him as an incredibly fascinating coincidence, "since there are three billion sites on Google, and I don't have three billion friends."1

And then, Dave caught the Googlewhack fever. Several googlewhacks and a crazy bet with his friend from France later, Dave went on a mission around the world to hunt googlewhack page owner after page owner. How that works? Simple: Dave considered himself to be a person who was found by a perfect stranger via a Googlewhack. Now he wanted to know if he could continue finding others via a Googlewhack all the same, and he aimed to do so in 10 successions before his next birthday. He would look up the contact address contained on a web page at which he found a Googlewhack, and would then travel trying to meet this person (via airplane, taxi, train or whatever mode of transportation it would take). He would then ask this person to try out to score a Googlewhack herself, and if that would be successful, he would continue traveling to the person found on that new Googlewhack page.

While the concept of Dave's Googlewhack adventure may sound simple, executing it wasn't. First of all, not every page Dave found contained a contact address. Also, not everyone wanted to meet him, or googlewhack for him. And there was a good chance that person, even though willing to help out, wasn't able to find another Googlewhack. All in all, as Dave puts it, "Googlewhacking has taken me around the world. Three times. I've played table tennis with a nine year old boy in Boston, and I've been way too familiar with some snakes in LA. I've met mini-drivers in North Wales and hippies in Memphis."2 Now I won't spoil the ending, so if you want to find out if Dave was successful or if he lost this bet with his French friend, take a look at the book or fun DVD of the live show (www.55fun.com/15.1). In the meantime, you might want to try finding a Googlewhack yourself... or send Dave another email. Who knows what might happen?

End Notes

1. Barratt, A. World wide whack. (2004). (www.55fun.com/15.3)

2. Googlewhack Adventure homepage. (davegorman.com/googlewhack.htm)