Sunday, April 27, 2008

Who Are These People & Why Are They Hot?

Google TrendsThey've got a lot of weird stuff going on over there at the Googleplex. That's the headquarters of Google over yonder in Mountain View, CA. Aside from all of the way cool perks that a Googler receives, they also have the flexibility to spend 20% of their work time working on their own projects. Not a bad deal. And they've come up with some pretty nifty apps. (OK, some of them suck, but overall, they're not bad.) And today I discovered Google Trends.

Google Trends could be subtitled "How F-ing Weird Are We?" I don't know if it is the things that we're searching for that I find odd or if it's the combination keywords that we use for our searches that I find odd. It's something. And it's weird. It's also hil-arious.

You can get a list of the Top 100 Trends for the current day or a prior day that isn't more than a year ago. Obviously you can't get a list of the "Trends for Tomorrow". It's just a Google app. It's not magic. Let's check the Hot Trends for yesterday, shall we?

Christa HelmsFor April 26, 2008, the #1 Hot Trend according to Google is....Christa Helms. Who? Christa Helms. Do I have to do everything around here? Listen... She was an aspiring actress who was murdered over 30 years ago and her killer has never been found. The case was featured on the CBS show "48 Hours Mystery" a couple of nights ago and it detailed how this case has a little bit of everything. You've got your good looking actress, other Hollywood stars, drugs, sex, affairs, lesbians, lesbian affairs, murder, lies, and the list goes on. And now you know.

Sean BellThe day before that, April 25, 2008, the #1 Hot Trend according to Google was.....Sean Bell. Sean was the guy in New York who was shot 50 times by undercover officers as he left a strip club where he celebrated his bachelor party. The 3 cops involved in the shooting were acquitted at trial on the 25th. Once again, that makes sense.

Now if I just stopped here, you'd be under the impression that these Hot Trends lists that Google compiles all make sense and that they're all somehow news related. And that would be wrong; oh, so very wrong. The 100 Top Trends for any given day do not all make sense. They DO make you realize that there are a lot of diverse people out there searching for a lot of diverse topics.

What else on the April 25th? #14: dans bake sale. #44: commodore 64. #46 unit fraction. #67: what mexican leader was shot dead in 1923? #86: Annette Funicello. (OK, I've refrained until now. Annette Funicello?!?! WTF?) #100: mount royal. Well, I am totally confused by this data. It tells me nothing other than we are a country of ADHD Internet users who are (most likely) bored and who have clearly lost our way. Annette Funicello? Go figure.
Annette Funicello

Now, Google's Hot Trends wouldn't let me go back exactly one year from today, so I went with 11 months ago. The #1 Hot Trend for June, 25, 2007 was: fatemeh angela harkness. Who? I have no idea. All of the links that accompanied that item didn't work, though all of the empty sites did have ads with scantily clad, hugely endowed women on them, so that might answer my question right there. But, wow. That's one weird trendy list they had back then . #12 units of conductance. # 18: hogzilla. #33: shoe waitress. #72: what do the intrepid farmers of namaha iowa use to square dance at the farmall promenade. (WTF, WTF, WTF?!) #92: Anne who lost her head. And at #100: wife of zeus.

I'd like to know how the algorithm generates these rankings. I'd also be really curious to know the number of people who were searching for each "trend". It might help put that whole Annette Funicello thing in perspective. (Then again, it might scare the hell out of me, so it's probably best that I don't know any more than I already do.) Also, I was hoping that perhaps this data might show that we, as humans, are evolving or improving over time (I don't know how that would happen through Google searches, but I'm sure that stranger things have occurred, so it can't hurt to have a little hope, can it?). It didn't and, if anything, it probably showed exactly the opposite of "improving" and "evolving".

And by the way, that Mexican leader? Pancho Villa.

Pancho Villa

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