Google Searching in China- Did I PWN It?

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Before moving to China, everyone told me about how it was impossible to “use the internet”. I heard stories of schools using VPNS and losing 75% of their speed just to access Google search and Google products.

I personally experienced teachers claiming they could not run their classes unless they had a VPN. I heard fairly experienced educators claim that laptops and iPads were useless because Google search just simply was not dependable.

In another post I may explain why it is unacceptable to have students doing Google searches as part of their educational technology curriculum objectives, but for now, I want to focus on how I have potentially PWN’D Google searching in China.

First off, I don’t believe in giving-up. This is an important characteristic for anyone working in a tech field. Technology never actually works, and I would describe the best tech out there as “semi-functional” or “accidentally functional”.  Knowing this allows me to believe, and I mean strongly believe, that maybe the Google search is just mal-functioning or adding some “feature”that is literally breaking itself.

So it began. The experimentation. First I created a control environment. I used a VPN and connected to Google. I did searches in Chrome, Safari, and Firefox. I assumed Internet Explorer had a secret script to put the hurt on Google so I did not use it. Then, I turned off the VPN, and did the testing again.

I moved on. I used Google image search, Google Scholar, and any other service they have that is mostly search oriented. Next, I re-created the experiment with Bing. I used Bing because it is not blocked in China. What I found was that any search conducted in China that has any form of auto-complete, or auto-display feature, simply does not work well most of the time.

For example, if you go to and do a search, while not logged into a Google account, it will often fail. As you type Google starts to rapidly list results. However, if you go to, this does not happen. ignores the country level search features, and does not auto-complete searches.

Because I work in education, I wanted to make sure that searches were as student friendly as possible. This is difficult with the material that can appear in an image search. This time I read through the Google Custom Search documentation. I found a way to create a search that automatically limits certain types of content.

After combining my research lead me to code samples in Google’s documentation I created a custom search. The search can be tested here:

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Basically this search stops any auto-completing functions, and forces a safe search to always be on. Before, using the default Google search, I was getting a blank page about 50% of the time. With this, I get a delayed result, never blank, about 10% of the time. Yes, I did 100 searches, and 10 were delayed. I did that fairly methodically over the course of a week. Now I just start searching here everyday.

I feel like I have PWN’D it :).  Also, the nice Wikipedia search to the right has a cool feature as well. It allows for a search in the English or Mandarin collections. This means native Mandarin speakers can search the Mandarin collection, not just a translated version of the English articles. That was actually easy to do.

If you would like the code, look at the image at the beginning of the post. If you email me, or comment on this post, I will gladly send you the code as well.

This is all public information, all I did was extract it and apply it.

Tony DePrato

Demo This


On a very regular basis, annoying sales people penetrate the switch board protocols and arrive at my extension. I am normally not inclined to entertain cold calls because when I need something, I research it and find suppliers.

A few years ago I dealt with these people by just saying that they needed to contact our main procurement office, and then I would hang-up. One day though I decided to take a different route, maybe because I was bored, or maybe because the person was very annoying. I said, “Ok. I will meet with you but you have to provide me with a full working demo for 2 weeks; or meet me at one of your existing client locations and show me a fully working installation.”

The sales person froze. They said, “We can come show you a demo presenation.”

I said, “No. We require all suppliers to install demos for us to test before we will commit (this is true), so even though you are not yet a supplier you need to play by the same rules.”

The sales person hung-up. A new strategy for managing cold calls was born.

Basically about 75% of the people selling items are just warehouse middlemen. They do not have solutions they just have stuff and they want you to buy it once. In the end you will still need to work with the brand for service, upgrades, and a full integration package. For example, you can buy XEROX from a XEROX reseller, but if they do not have certified XEROX repair people or XEROX software integration people, then you will have to work with XEROX to fill-in the gaps. So why not just work with XEROX and forget the middleman ?

Any company with decent credit, confidence in their services, and skilled with their products will be able to provide a demo or take you to an existing installation. So require this from anyone trying to sell items to your organization.

In general I hate presentations and PowerPoints. If you have something, and it works SHOW ME and let me use it. Remember sales person– you called me -So I pwn u :).

Tony DePrato