Robb Knight

The Difference Between Fact and Trivia


This morning I took a practice exam for one of the web units I’m studying. Most of the questions were fairly easy but one of them in particular annoyed me. The question was:

“PageRank is so named because it was created by Larry Page, not because it ranks pages”

I incorrectly marked this as false. When I asked how much trivia we would be asked in the exam, my lecturer told me (quite agressively) that the question is not trivia but a fact that is useful to know. I argued the counterpoint, saying a fact is something useful to developing my understanding of a specific topic or technology, in this case, PageRank. She disagreed.

Here is a quote from an archived version of a Google Fun Facts Page:

The basis of Google’s search technology is called PageRank™, and assigns an “importance” value to each page on the web and gives it a rank to determine how useful it is. However, that’s not why it’s called PageRank. It’s actually named after Google co-founder Larry Page.

The first part of that statement is the fact. The last sentence is trivia. It holds no bearing on my understanding of PageRank. Should we really be tested on trivial facts about Google, or any other company for that matter? In my opinion, no.

Rant over.