Thursday, September 22, 2005

My Iconic Family

Again, today, a complete stranger contacted me asking for permission to use the family portrait I've posted on my website. The first time, it was an email from some (alleged) preacher, wondering if he could use our picture in his church's promotional materials. I didn't even respond. It sort of creeped me out that he'd try to lure parishioners with our smiling faces? What if he commits doctrinal error and his followers go to Hell. I don't need that on my record.

Today's call came (allegedly) from Sue, a props manager on the set of a G-rated movie currently under production. She sounded legit, and we had a pleasant chat. Sue was looking for a photo illustrating the family background of one of the movie's characters, an aged doctor, and she thought that ours would work very nicely. I demurred, citing copyright difficulties.

After I hung up, I wondered, "There must be millions of family photos on the Internet. How do these people find ours?" I immediately thought, "It must be Google." Sure enough, if you run a search for "family portrait" on Google Images, our photo pops up almost at the top of the page. Think that's freaky? Hold onto that thought.

I understand that Google's text-based search engine ranks each page, in part, based on how many other pages link to the ranked page. I'm not sure that Google's image-based search engine works the same way, but my tentative research indicated that not very many other pages link to our family photo. In the course of discovering some strange things like this, however, I stumbled across the truly freaky result: Run a search simply for "family" on Google images and our family photo comes out numero uno, head of the pack, top of the heap. First.

My iconic family, paradigmatic example of the institution! I'm so proud. But I'm not quite sure how a pater familias ought properly to celebrate this sort of high-tech achievement.

Here's an idea: I could order a matching set of t-shirts for the whole family, sized "toddler" to "extra large." On the front of each of t-shirt, I'd have a screenshot of the Google results printed. The back of each would say, "Kiss my ass, Ward Cleaver!" in a big font.

We could put our family t-shirts on, link arms, and march down San Clemente's main drag. Maybe we could do that two-step from the Wizard of Oz, too. Wouldn't that be cute?


dgm said...

that link to the thai page and the thai guy's book freaks me out. i have no idea what it's about, but i want royalties!

Alonso said...

I believed in the family unit, until I saw your family portrait. Seriously though, you are rightly proud of all the attention. I agree with dgm that your first question should be, How much are your offering?

I once put an ad in the paper to sell my cherry red Subaru. I got a call from a movie production company, and they quickly arrived at my house with check in hand, no haggling! I asked them what they had in store for my sporty car that was in tip-top shape for an old car. We're going to blow it up came the reply as they were driving off.

Tom W. Bell said...

Hmm. Fitting those two comments together, perhaps I should conclude that somebody wants to blow up my family! In that event, I'll taunt them thusly: "Hah, pal! You and what H-Bomb?"

Z said...

Tom, that's wild! I guess it beats being in the #1 spot for "idiot." (try it)

Michael Gordon said...

There does appear to be a way that you can use your Google ranking for your own financial advantage. If you have another picture taken, one which you own the copyright to, and then upload the file to your site and name it as the exact same file -- "Family_on_Beach_Jan04.jpg", then you might be able to license the photo for commercial use. One wonders whether Google would change its mind and re-rank your file since it would not likely be the same size as the former one.

I also thought about why your photo was ranked # 1. It's probably a combination of the word "family" as a directory, which probably gives you bonus points, the word "family" in the file name, the word "family" in large, bolt print on the web page that links to the file (, which also has the word "family in the URL), the word "family" in the text of the web page, and the word "family" on the link that refers to that particular picture. That probably is enough "family" notices to alert Google that your picture ought to be ranked first.