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July 28, 2013

For Internet Geeks
Above: Google in 2000, click to enlarge

My Tawdry Affair with Google!

A brief history of "Hal Brown" online 
and a lesson in how search engines work minus the algorithms

In the early days of the Internet the primary search engines included AltaVista, LookSmart, InfoSeek, Excite and YaHoo. Google changed the entire online search landscape. 

Back when I had several websites ( Cranberry Stressline, Police Stressline, Casino Friend - a local pro-casino website - and my own therapy website ), was publishing a weekly column in a political website, Capitol Hill Blue, and was having articles about me published in the online media, I indulged in Googling my name quite regularly to see how my sites stood up in search engine listings.

For awhile I shared space equally in the top 10 with a California politician and  baseball player.


 Hal Brown the pitcher is now 88 years old.
This is from Wikipedia:
Hal Brown, nicknamed "Skinny", is a former pitcher in Major League Baseball who played from 1951 through 1964for the Chicago White SoxBoston Red SoxBaltimore OriolesNew York Yankees, and Houston Colt .45s
In 2012 my politician namesake, a highly regarded Marin County supervisor, died. Now it's mostly the baseball player and I in the first 10. That's surprising considering I have such a common last name and I am hardly a retired major league baseball player.

Longtime Marin supervisor Hal Brown dies of cancer at 66

Understanding the way search engines rank and and trying to get to the top of search results is necessary if you want people to find your website. Police Stressline always came up as number one or two in a search for police stress. To Ocean Spray's dismay, Cranberry Stressline came up on the first page of searches for them. A search for Middleboro casino always brought up Casino Friend and the competing Casino Facts.

With all these websites of mine moribund I still indulge my curiosity, and my vanity, by searching for just my name. In fact if you are reading this it's probably because you were trying to learn more about me. In fact you could have found this by just searching Hal and Middleboro.

There are many Hal Brown's online. If you believe Google, there are 77,800,000 results when you search my name. The reason I rank so highly is precisely because there are so many of my namesakes online. One of the reasons I rank higher than most of them is that I keep some of my posting fresh, and that people are still reading my old websites.

If you ended up here looking to learn more about me you won't discover much. Instead click on the other links among the first 20 results.

July 26, 2013

Seriously Hal

From April to the end of June I was foreman of the county grand jury. Even with what I learned about crime from my work both as a psychotherapist and an auxiliary policy officer, this was an amazing eye-openning experience. I heard testimony from the police, witnesses and victims in just about every major crime you read about in The Enterprise or saw reported on the local news.

This experience gave me a rare view of a culture where crime and violence is taken for granted. 

This was a period when Brockton had a spike in murders and other violent crimes.

 A grand jury decides whether indictments are warranted. It has 23 members selected from the normal jury pool. It meets one day a week for three months. All evidence, from crime scene photos to hospital records, are available for review. Unlike jurors in a jury trail, grand jurors able to ask questions of those who testify before it. Jurors are even able to subpoena evidence.

Sometimes it takes weeks for a grand jury to decide on an indictment. This is because there may be many witnesses and/or because all the forensic evidence isn't in.

Once the grand jury hears all the evidence they deliberate in private and vote either for an indictment or what is called a "no bill". In the later case the charges are dropped.

Every Plymouth County felony which the district attorney's office wants to take to trial must be first indicted by the grand jury.

Our grand jury meets in the basement of the Plymouth County Superior Court House on Belmont Street.

During a break I sat in on double murder and attempted murder trial of Keith Luke. He is the self-decribed white supremacist you all saw photos of.

I happened to be in a  Brockton Enterprise photo of the surviving victim's family which was on the paper's front page:

The United States is the only country that still uses grand juries. They are an important part of our legal system.