Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Predictive Text Predicts Hilarity

Google's predictive text feature is amusing. Look, I'll admit it's been a slow day around here, but I don't think that has much to do with it. (Maybe some, but not a lot.) Here's the thing: People are weird. Here's the other thing: People at Google are freaking weird geniuses.

Here's how predictive text works: It's just like it sounds. You start typing in the magic box of The Google and it will magically come up with a myriad of things that you might be typing next. Granted, you might not type any of those things next. But the point is that either enough people HAVE typed similar things into the magic box or there are enough sites out there which cover the topic in the magic box so that the "algorithm" can make what it assumes to be a rational prediction as to what you want or what direction you're headed. Most of the predictions from things I typed in seemed to indicate that people could really use a bit more direction in their lives. Quite a bit.


Take for instance "I like". Now, there are a lot of things to like. There are as many things to like as there are things. What do people "like" the most, according to The Google? You. Far and away, they like you. There are 499,000,000 results for "I like you". You know what else people like? Pie. "I like pie" generates 10,800,000 results. And it's true, I DO like pie! Who wouldn't like pie? I'd like pie right now. Mmmm...pie. And pie is just one likeness above....? That's right, turtles. What the hell?

"I like turtles." 5,720,000 results for "I like turtles". A little bit more than half as many results for turtles as there are for pie. I'm not surprised that pie surpassed turtles, but I'm a little surprised that it's only a 2:1 pie to turtle ratio. There should be at least three times as many results for pie. What? Pie is good! Have you not had pie?! It's delicious! A turtle? Not so much.

The logical way to go next seemed to be "I hate". I got as far as "I ha" before I had to stop and ponder. The winner by far at that point ended up being "I have no friends" with 806,000,000 results. There are almost eighty times more people with no friends than there are pie likers? That's just sad. Not for those without any friends, but for all of those missing out on the joy of pie. Who needs friends when you have pie? Those of you without friends should really drown your sorrows in some pie. Other biggies for "I ha" were "I has a bucket" and "I has a hotdog". Right after "I have no friends" is "I have nothing" with 94,600,000 results. Again, more than pie. Pie is greatly underappreciated on The Google and on the Internet in general.

Oddly, if I don't space after "I hate" it automatically goes to "I hated". Apparently The Google is in past tense. The big winner? "I hated college" with 17,000,000 results. Running a very close second with 13,400,000 was the precursor to hating college, "I hated high school". Rounding out the top 3 results there is "I hated Bush before it was cool". Well, aren't you just the little trendsetter? (By the way, I did an Image Search for just "college" and my results included a lot of porn, so I'm not sure why people "hate college" because in this instance, I found it rather enjoyable. And yes, you can look forward to a "Google Searches That Seem Innocent But Net a Lot of Porn" post in the future.)


"I said" is weird. It nets us "I said a beef hot links", "I said boom chicka boom" and "I said I loved you but I lied". OK, the last one isn't totally weird. (Unfortunately, it's rather familiar.) "I didn't" shows the most results for "I didn't know I was pregnant" (which was also the most amusing result.)

As I have been reminded often (just today actually), I ask a lot of questions. Therefore, I am well versed in words that tend to start a question and I typed a lot of them into the magic box to see what text would be predicted. I began with "Is" and it was predictively followed by winners such as "Is bronchitis contagious" and "Is pneumonia contagious". Now, before you go getting all excited and thinking about how health conscious those who use The Google are, let me give you more of the "is" trailers. "Is Santa real", "Is Walmart open on Christmas" and "Is Angelina Jolie pregnant again". Good Lord, people! Talk about diverse. But my favorite? "Is Obama the antichrist". Too much, folks. Too diverse.

Predictively texting "How" gives us "How to kiss" which was followed by "How to get pregnant" which was followed shortly there after by "How to lose weight". (I like that things seem to be in order in this case.) It also gives us "How to tie a tie" and "How to cook a turkey".


More specifically, "How does" has the top result getter as "How does a bill become a law". Have these people never heard of Schoolhouse Rock? It's just a bill. And it's sitting there on Capitol Hill. Why The Google for that? (Most of the results were for "How does (blank) work" with the blank being filled in by Skype, Paypal, Facebook and the Internet. Huh. Websites apparently perplex people. (By the way, "How can" is followed by "make my hair grow faster", "keep from singing", "get taller" and "make my computer go faster". I'll say it again, we are a diverse people.)

"Can a..." what? Well, "Can a dog catch a cold" and "Can a felon get a passport". Just in case a dog-loving felon needs to go overseas and Rover seems to be sneezing a lot, those are things you'll need to know! "Did a..." "Did a plane really hit the pentagon" and "Did a dingo eat your baby". (At least we're diverse and funny!)

I just realized this is sort of like the old game show Match Game. Where's Gene Rayburn?


"Why did..." is followed by inquiries such as "Why did Obama win", "Why did Hitler dislike the Jews", "Why did the pilgrims come to America" and of course "Why did the chicken cross the road". (Still funny.)

"You are not...." yields "You are not privileged to mount the volume". (That must be SOME volume if you need privileges in order to do a little mounting.) "You are not the father" and "You are not a beautiful and unique snowflake". Yeah, it's harsh, but it had to be said.

Things that start with "was" seem to indicate that people need to pay more attention either in class to or the news. "Was Bill Clinton impeached", "Was Hitler Jewish", "Was Abraham Lincoln black", "Was Obama born in Kenya", "Was Jesus black" and "Was Jesus a Jew". What the hell? It's Google, not a Magic 8 Ball! (I'm envisioning people shaking their monitors and waiting for that little triangle to float up through the viscous liquid so that you can read "It is decidedly so" in the little window.)

"Would the..." had me thinking "What the...?" "Would the last honest reporter please turn on the lights", "Would these arms be in your way", "Would the world end in 2012", "Would the following errors cause an increase or decrease in absorbance and transmittance".

"How much..." OK, this could be a reason as to why the US is in the dire financial straits that it is. "How much is my house worth", "How much is my car worth", "How much are stamps". If you add "can" to that question and make it "How much can...." the results are similar. "How much can I afford mortgage", "How much can I borrow mortgage" and "How much can I drink". All very relevant.

Fun with Google's predictive text feature. Who knew? Stayed tuned next time for Satanic verses in your thesaurus!


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