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postcards from planet google


A New York Times article on how Google's search logs provide a glimpse of what's on people's minds:

[...] the most trivial events may also register on Google's sensitive cultural seismic meter.
The logs team came to work one morning to find that "carol brady maiden name" had surged to the top of the charts.
Curious, they mapped the searches by time of day and found that they were neatly grouped in five spikes: biggest, small, small, big and finally, after a long wait, another small blip. Each spike started at 48 minutes after the hour.
As the logs were passed through the office, employees were perplexed. Why would there be a surge in interest in a character from the 1970's sitcom "The Brady Bunch"? But the data could only reflect patterns, not explain them.
That is a paradox of a Google log: it does not capture social phenomena per se, but merely the shadows they cast across the Internet.
"The most interesting part is why," said Amit Patel, who has been a member of the logs team. "You can't interpret it unless you know what else is going on in the world."
So what had gone on on April 22, 2001?
That night the million-dollar question on the game show "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire" had been, "What was Carol Brady's maiden name?" Seconds after the show's host, Regis Philbin, posed the question, thousands flocked to Google to search for the answer (Tyler), producing four spikes as the show was broadcast successively in each time zone.
And that last little blip?
"Hawaii," Mr. Patel said.

Categories: technology
Posted by diego on December 2 2002 at 5:26 PM

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