Search for Search and Other Tales

Longtime readers may recall my fascination with people who come to the Twelve Mile Circle, click on the search box on the upper-right corner of the page and then search the word "search." I don’t pretend to understand the logic although I’ve come to accept it. There is an odd chink in the human psyche that compels people from all backgrounds, experiences and locations to want to search specifically for appearances of the word "search" on 12MC. I stand by my original theory that they want to see how the feature works and they use the default already suggested by the page. Maybe I should test the theory — change it to banana and see if banana takes off?

Brush all of that aside, though. I was curious to see what search terms other than search (by far the most popular) seemed to resonate with visitors. Here are the Top 15 terms that people actually took the time and effort to type into the 12MC search bar over the last year, in order of popularity:

  1. Exclave
  2. Time Zone
  3. Minnesota
  4. Cornfield
  5. Tombolo
  6. Cartography
  7. Kansas
  8. Oddity
  9. Dakota
  10. Oklahoma
  11. Smallest County
  12. Canada
  13. Distance
  14. Northernmost
  15. Counties

I am favorably impressed by the list, especially with exclave leading the way and tombolo in the top tier. That makes me happy. It does seem to have a U.S. Great Plains flavor to it too with Kansas, Dakota, Oklahoma and cornfield making appearances.

I’ve tried to incorporate multiple ways for people to find topics on the site. It might have been more efficient for a hypothetical visitor to select Canada as a category (89 articles currently with that tag) instead of searching on it, or to use the complete index map to hone in on some or all of those U.S. Great Plains states more efficiently, however not everyone searches the same way so I like to offer options.

Some searches are so broad it’s hard to imagine the results were even remotely effective. This morning, for example, I noticed that someone searched on the term "unusual." Well, 12MC is nothing but one big collection of unusual. The motto — An Appreciation of Unusual Places — appears on every single page. I’m not sure what they expected to find beyond a whole lot of what they were already reading.

I don’t know where I’m going with this other than to note my oddball fascination with other peoples’ interests and habits as they comb through the site’s pages.


Has anyone else ever thought that Wawa was a really strange name for a chain of gas station / convenience stores? Maybe not. It appears to be a U.S. mid-Atlantic plus Florida thing, which I didn’t realize until I went onto their website and noticed their limited geographic reach. I thought they were more national given their carpet-bomb saturation level of advertisements. Alright, so I guess this topic will only interest the 12MC audience from Delaware, Florida, Maryland, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Virginia. The rest of you can skip down to the next section where I have some burning questions for you.

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I had two theories. My initial thought turned to geography. [sarcasm alert] You’re shocked, I know.

I was thinking maybe it was an abbreviation for Walla Walla, Washington? That theory dissipated after I learned that the nearest Wawa was an entire continent away. My second thought was maybe it had a cute kid tie-in (Wawa sounds a lot like a toddler asking for a glass of water). Certainly there’s precedence for an owner’s child influencing the name of a commercial establishment. The Wendy’s fast food chain came to mind.

It’s geography.

My gut instinct was right. However I never considered the possibility of an actual community named Wawa. It’s in Pennsylvania, just a few miles north of the Twelve Mile Circle. Somehow it always comes back to the Twelve Mile Circle. Wawa, the company, is headquartered in Wawa, the place. The company also explains, "’Wawa’ is a Native American word for the Canada Goose that was found in the Delaware Valley, that’s why we use the goose on Wawa’s corporate logo."

To Twitter or Not to Twitter. Is that even a question?

I’ve been hemming and hawing about whether to open a 12MC Twitter account. I’ve received a lot of positive feedback in the comments and in off-line email messages. I’m trying to figure out how to use it best before flipping the switch. For example, several people remarked that they’d like it to send notice of the latest 12MC articles so they don’t have to access the RSS feed or check the site every couple of days. They’d also be able to retweet links easily. I’ve always kind-of thought of that as self-promoting although it does seem to be a common practice on many Twitter feeds. I would also insert various geo-observations and non sequiturs similar to what I do currently with G+ although I wonder if I’m beginning to spread myself too thin. I don’t have all that many germane or pithy things to say.

Is Twitter something readers want, and would a stream of article announcements, offbeat geography news and weird user statistics (probably no more than about one per day on average) be sufficiently interesting?

10 Replies to “Search for Search and Other Tales”

  1. Having grown up in Delaware, I had also had the wrong impression that Wawa was everywhere. I was really surprised when it hit me after moving to Virginia that there weren’t any near me. (Woodbridge wasn’t near enough for someone without a car.)

    At Princeton, the local Wa, as all of us students called it, is *the* go-to convenience store perched right on the edge of campus. Other stores have come and gone, but the Wa has become such a mainstay over the last 36 years that as the university makes plans to redevelop the land it sits on, they also have made plans to provide a new space for it just a little south of its current location, guaranteeing the late-night “Wa run” will continue to be a Princeton tradition for years to come.

  2. The first place that came to mind was Wawa, Ontario, a fairly prominent location along the Trans Canada Highway in northern Ontario not because of its size but because of 1) its funny name; and 2) its location in the ‘middle of nowhere’ making it an almost guaranteed stopping place for vehicles making the long haul.

    1. Yup. Wife and I camped at Rabbit Blanket Lake near Wawa, ON. They had the old time “Ma and Pa” convenience store complete with outhouses, VERY large statutes of some geese, a beautiful lake with great vistas. Would definitively go back.

  3. I heartily vote no for the twitter thing. Yes, some tweets are interesting. The majority, in my view, are very short posts and it is hard to convey.

    90% of the reason that I come back and read 12MC is the maps but even more so is the analysis of the maps.

    Cannot be done with twitter.

  4. I vote yes, on the other hand, for twitter.
    I believe that you could use it like Randall Munroe ( does for his What If series. Just neat little things that don’t rise to the level of an article. It wouldn’t even have to be daily; Munroe uses it in fits and starts.

    As for the actual article, you know, waaaaay up top, why is my beloved home state the first specific place-name? Do you see disproportionate visits from MN? Is it just that all the children are above average and want to read about geography awesom-ities?

    Keep up the good work!

  5. Thumbs up on Twitter (though I am one of the ones who wrote you about it). I’d honestly be happy if all you did was tweet whenever you had a new piece up. Just makes it easier to follow you and share your content. But if not, that’s OK — I finally found a decent feed reader for Chrome 🙂

  6. Not to be too New Jersey specific, but for a long time, the presence of a Wawa in a New Jersey town meant that you were no longer in North Jersey, as Wawas were only found south of the mythical North/South divide in New Jersey. Fortunately for us North Jersey residents, Wawas have been inching their way north. Wawas are now found in Parsippany and Kearny, nobody’s idea of South Jersey, with plans for more on the way.

    Here is a story on the breaching of the North/South Wawa line.

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