Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Google Insights: Wikileaks and Wikipedia

So Julian Assange's rage-against-the-machine website Wikileaks actually, for one brief shining moment, overtook Wikipedia regarding Google searches. Funny that people Google Wikipedia at all - but it's probably because they don't use a dot-com address. Wikipedia surely must be the most-visited website not to use a .com domain name - or at least the most-visited American site not to.

Anyway, it turns out that Wikileaks is most-sought in Mozambique, Albania, Kenya, Lebanon and Ethiopia - a relatively random list of countries, three of which are in Africa (Uganda and Tanzania are also in the top-ten, leaving an unbroken strip of countriesrunning down the Indian Ocean coast of Africa). The fourth- and seventh-most-searched expression regarding Wikileaks is 'wikileaks en español' (with or without the 'en'), indicating that there are plenty of hispanophones hoping Wikileaks will translate those hundreds of thousands of pages into Spanish for them. Er, who live in Western Africa... Well, in all fairness Cuba is number seven on the list (and that just feels so completely appropriate), though it's the only Spanish-speaking country in the top-ten.

Among countries Googling Wikipedia, though, amazingly eight of the top-ten are Spanish-speaking (Cuba, Mexico, Honduras, Spain, Paraguay, Panama, Colombia, Nicaragua - the only exceptions are Italy and Finland). I have no idea why that is, though I could mention that while all foreign-language Wikipedias are hosted at, they don't all call themselves 'Wikipedia'. Some call themselves, for example, ውክፔዲያ, Ƿikipǣdia, Vikipediya, વિકિપીડિયા, 維基百科, Viquipèdia, ᐅᐃᑭᐱᑎᐊ, വിക്കിപീഡിയ, Viqùipédie or Wikkipedija.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Google Insights: Santa's Reindeer

So in honour of the Christmas season... a quick look at Santa's reindeer. The first four, Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, Vixen:

No real surprises here, that 'dancer' is most popular by far, followed by 'vixen' (both oddly enough highest-ranked in the Philippines). Or that nobody really ever searches for 'dasher' or 'prancer' (the last one really only shows up in connection with 'Flavor of Love' in some way I don't care to understand) - oddly enough, those two are most popular in the USA, and they do have peaks each December, though you have to take the other two search terms out to recognise that.

The second one, Comet, Cupid, Donner and Blitzen:

A bit odd here. I certainly wasn't expecting Comet to tower over the competition, entirely due to the UK, and also seasonal. Turns out "Comet" and "Currys" are electrical retailers in the UK that, I guess, are popular around Christmas? I wasn't surprised that 'blitzen' was most searched-for in Germany. I was surprised, though, that Belgium, France and the Côte D'Ivoire led for 'donner'. I've quite honestly gone my entire life without ever once thinking that the French verb for 'to give' and the seventh reindeer are spelt the same. 'Cupid' is (by a large margin) most searched-for in Myanmar, for some reason. But it's noteworthy that 'cupid' also has a seasonal trend - but not revolving around December. Cupid is most searched-for in February. Which makes sense. Poor Cupid has to work overtime on two different special days. Draw back your bow and let your arrow go.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Google Insights: Ron Paul and Rand Paul

I decided to look up search trends for the unpleasant Paul family. I know father Ron was a big internet hype back in the day, but I expected to see son Rand eclipsing his father's star as of late. Well, yeah, 'eclipse' inasmuch as holding an aspirin at arm's length can obscure the moon in the sky. Rand is the aspirin, his father the moon. Check it out:

While Ron's map shows searches across the 50 states (with, oddly, Virginia and Vermont doing the worst and Montana doing the best), Rand's is very much contained in his old Kentucky home. Among the most popular search terms, I was disappointed to see that "Rand Paul hairstyle" does not show up. I mean, that's some bitchin' hair...

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Google Insights: Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday

Badge of Sheffield WednesdayImage via Wikipedia

The days of the week. Or rather the weekdays, since Google Insights only allows five search terms.

Now the graph's dynamic, so what I write today will inevitably change. But it's sure to have that cool sawtooth look to it, and I bet it's sure tho have Friday towering over the rest - which makes sense if you think about it. Though as I write this, Friday and Monday have been neck-and-neck till recently, when Friday's taken off like a rocket. For some reason.

People Googling 'Monday' are most often looking for 'Monday Monday' and are, by a large majority, most often Kenyan (Kenyans don't Google the other four days). People Googling 'Tuesday' are most likely American and, suitably, are most often Googling 'Ruby Tuesday'. Wednesday belongs to New Zealand, but there being no song, it's 'On Wednesday' and 'Sheffield Wednesday' that top the list. Australians lead on Thursday, a day with seemingly a lot to do with football. 'Thursday Night' leads the pack. The Americans lead with Friday, Googling 'Black Friday' most, which I guess explains the recent increase in Friday-Googling. Ah, those Americans...

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Saturday, November 13, 2010

Google Insights: Poor Chile

Poor, poor Chile. It hasn't been a good year. Or rather it has. I guess. It just depends on what you're looking for.

This isn't the whole world; the whole world includes Chile, and Chileans tend to Google Chile quite often. So it's the United States, where Googling Chile is way more common in Virginia and California than anywhere else. For some reason.

This is just the year 2010. Clearly, people Google Chile only when it's in the news. An earthquake, and some trapped miners. What interests the world (or more technically the USA) about Chile is what's under the ground.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Bungle Jerry

And... back. After a bit of an unscheduled absence. "Did you miss me when I was gone?" asks a meek Bungle Jerry. "Snort," replies the next-to-non-existent audience. Let me prove it:

This is a graph of how many people, since 2004, have Googled 'bungle', 'jerry' and 'bungle jerry'. The third one is a bit silly, admittedly, since I haven't had this particular 'handle' that long, and like companies worldwide do when they introduce new products to the market, I Googled it first (probably the first person to do so - though it doesn't show up on this chart, sigh) and found nothing unsavoury or, well, at all.

Which is still the case, sadly. No surprise that 'jerry' outranks 'bungle'. People searching for the latter are primarily searching for 'bungle bungle' or 'mr bungle' and, oddly, come from Chile and Australia. 'Jerry' searches are most common in Morocco, Vietnam and Tunisia, members of la Francophonie all (because of Jerry Lewis?), and the top searches and rising searches include 'tom', 'tom jerry', 'tom and jerry', 'tom ve jerry', 'tom y jerry', 'tom si jerry', 'tom e jerry', 'tom et jerry', 'tom jerry games' and 'tom jerry video'. So, well, that prety much explains it.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Face cards: jack, queen, king, ace and joker

A quickie this time. There are four face cards - Jack, Queen, King, Ace - and the Joker. I have no idea where the names come from, particulary 'jack' and 'ace'. It's all a bit silly, really. What are people Googling? Well, as it turns out:

Five distinct lines, no overlap. King way out front, then Jack, then Queen, then Ace, then Joker. People searching for 'King' are looking for Martin Luther King and Burger King, and the #1 country is, charmingly, Swaziland. People looking for 'Queen' are looking for 'Queen Elizabeth' and 'Dairy Queen', and Canada tops the list - the top five all Commonwealth countries except the USA. Americans look for 'Jack' most: Jack Johnson, Jack Black, Jack Russell, Jack Daniels. 'Ace' is high in Nepal, and it's about 'Ace Hardware' and 'Ace Ventura'.

More with cards:

Surprised by how low diamonds are, and by how much clubs are dropping. Hm.

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Saturday, July 17, 2010

Springfield, USA and Springfield, Australia

So I've heard that Matt Groening decided to name the fictitious city where the Simpsons live "Springfield" because there's one in almost every state. Turns out that's quite accurate - and, laughably, there are five Springfields in Wisconsin alone. The map of where in the USA people are Googling "Springfield" looks like this:

Certainly an atypical map. What's going on? Well, here's a list of the top ten states, and the population of the community within their borders called "Springfield":

  1. Missouri (157,630. Metro: 430,900)
  2. Massachusetts (154,082. Metro: 680,014)
  3. Illinois (116,909. Metro: 201,437)
  4. Vermont (9,078)
  5. District of Columbia (None)
  6. Oregon (52,864)
  7. Arkansas (No Wikipedia page, but it exists)
  8. Ohio (65,358. Metro: 140,477)
  9. Connecticut (None, but Sprinfield, MA borders it)
  10. Kentucky (2,634)
Okay, that didn't make a lick of sense, did it? Here's the same thing for Australia:

  1. Queensland (5,732)
  2. New South Wales (3,921)
  3. Northern Territory (None)
  4. ACT (None)
  5. Victoria (There are two, but no population listed for either)
  6. South Australia (541)
  7. Tasmania (There is one, but no population listed)
  8. Western Australia (None)
 Okay, that made even less sense. I'll just stop now.

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Saturday, July 10, 2010

American States: second most popular sport

So I tried the Google Insights / Inkscape trick again to make another map. I would have liked to make a map showing which sport is most popular (where 'most popular' means 'most Googled' in which state, but that would have been pretty boring: a single-coloured map in which 'football' is most popular in all fifty states. Without exception.

Of course, this being the USA, 'football' refers not to the sport of the World Cup but the one of the Super Bowl. Or at least in theory it does: who can tell what people are actually looking for when they type 'football' into Google's search engine.

Anyway... removing football from the list and replacing it with the other big sports - baseball, basketball, hockey and soccer (yes the other football) - suddenly presents an intriguing map:

It's an odd one. The only one it's easy to say much about is hockey: the sport thrives in northern states, along the Canadian border. None of the states coloured blue here has an NHL franchise, but with the exception of the Green Bay Packers neither do they have a franchise in any of the other main professional team sports. Washington State uniquely prefers soccer, something not easy to explain. You might chalk it up to Washington's large immigrant community, but certainly a good many states here have high immigrant populations.

Now... baseball vs. basketball? It's tough to see what's happening here. The South and the Northeast seem to prefer baseball, but why? And why is the heartland so basketball-happy?

I can only make a stab at an answer. The populous states, containing big cities, seem to prefer baseball: California, Texas, Florida, Illinois, New York. Perhaps states with successful baseball franchises get the interest in baseball, whereas states with no MLB team gravitate to basketball. Why? Well, like American football, basketball is also a college sport, and the NCAA competes for attention with the NBA. Perhaps it's the college level, something baseball doesn't really have, that pushes it ahead.

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Saturday, July 3, 2010

American States: big cities

I've done up two maps of the USA, using Inkspace and Google Insights. The first one, this one, was perhaps better in concept than in execution. But oh well. Anyway, what I did was to take five 'regional hub' cities, New York, Chicago, Atlanta, Houston and Los Angeles, and see in each of the 50 states which of the five was Googled most often. I expected to find obvious results in New York State, Illinois, Georgia, Texas and California, but it was the other 45 states I was curious about. The results:

The principle was right: there are 'regions' in the States where people gravitate towards certain big cities - if for no other reason than because they're following the nearest big sports team. So in particular there's a three-state 'zone' (or 'tristate' as they say there) around Houston and around Atlanta. What surprised me was not the fact that New York appears to be the 'default' (among other things, it is of course also the name of a state) but (1) that outside of California itself there is no state where Los Angeles is Googled more often than the others on this list and (2) Chicago has a huge 'zone' of eleven states, extending as far away as Wyoming. Intriguing, and not something I can entirely explain. What has people in Wyoming more interested in Googling Chicago than any other of these cities?
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Saturday, June 19, 2010


Always be able to find the South African World Cup in an instant or less... This graph is dynamic, and will change with time. But you'll always be able to find June 2010 on it: just look for that massive spike, when the global soccer championship added a new word to the vocabularies of the people of the world: vuvuzela.

For someone like me who doesn't follow sport, it's the stuff around the football that intrigues me about the World Cup. A vuvuzela is a kind of horn that is popular in South Africa and, without exception, reviled in every other country of the planet. I would have guessed that people were Googling it to discover how to avoid being driven mad by it. But it turns out that what people are interested in includes: "vuvuzela mp3", "youtube vuvuzela", "buy vuvuzela", "vuvuzela acheter", "vuvuzela kaufen". But "vuvuzela ban" is also there, so who knows?

In any case, no surprise that it's South Africa Googling it the most. The rest of the top ten is entirely in Europe, though. Maybe they can hear it from there.

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Saturday, June 12, 2010

Siamese Twins #2

More Siamese Twins. You might want to read last week's entry to understand the concept. But here's a handful more two-word phrases that stick together like glue.

Obviously 'hammer' is going to be Googled more often than 'sickle' - now that the USSR is dead, the only time you ever hear 'sickle' is in connection with anaemia. It is the USA where sickle is Googled the most.

Excluding lightning, 'bolts' are only one thing, where 'nuts' are rather more. I doubt that construction equipment is even the prime reason why 'nuts' are Googled, when there's foodstuffs to be had.

And speaking of lightning... it turns out thunder tends to be Googled more often than lightning, and for one stretch there, much more. Interesting that there is a professional NHL team called Lightning, and an NBA team called Thunder (which I'd never heard of before now).

Although 'puff' kills 'huff' everywhere in the world, the difference is (by far) least pronounced in the USA. The legacy of the Huffington Post?

Suppose its the music- and drug-saturated all-night party that puts 'rave' so far ahead of 'rant'? Well, 'rave' is most Googled in the US, where I was expecting a European country. But what do I know?

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Saturday, June 5, 2010

Siamese Twins #1

Siamese twins. No, not Chang and Eng. It's a grammatical concept to describe couplets like 'spic and span'. Together, they mean 'clean', but only together. You can't say, "this floor is spic, but I don't think it's span enough." You can't say 'span and spic' either. They're fixed.

So which is Googled more?

In the case of 'spic and span', no surprise, since 'span' is a useful word by itself, and 'spic' is just a racial slur. Except in Macedonia, where it is hugely Googled, and presumably means something else.

Heaven and hell: fascinating, this one, and probably worth its own column. Heaven beats hell, but not by much. And the odd thing is that the gap is narrowing: recently, hell has surpassed heaven. The countries biggest on heaven are the Philippines, the UK and Australia, but people in New Zealand and the Czech Republic Google hell more than heaven.

I'm not sure that 'cranny' means anything at all, separated from 'nook'. And 'nook' isn't the most meaningful word either - at least not till recently. That huge spike is the result of Barnes & Noble launching something I can't be bothered to learn about called 'Nook'.

Now that's a beautiful graph. And I didn't expect to find these two words so closely linked: after all, 'pros' also means 'professionals', and 'cons' also means 'convicts' (and why has no-one ever made a TV show about those two groups of people and called it 'Pros & Cons'?). But they are clearly linked, on a delightfully zigzaggy graph that appears to be diverging ever so slightly.

For reasons that might not be 100% noble, the ladies leave the gentlemen completely in the dust. The nations that have Googled 'ladies' most (Ethiopia leads the pack) haven't Googled 'gentlemen' at all.

With court cases being popular reading material, but the internet being based on infamously buggy computers, I wasn't sure whether 'trial' or 'error' would be Googled more, but in retrospect it's obvious: computer error messages are one of the few truly practical uses for Google. It's in India where those computers screw up most.

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Saturday, May 29, 2010

Warner Bros. Cartoon Characters

So of course in the great cartoon wars that exist only in my mind, the Disney stable would square off against the Warner Bros. team, with Hanna Barbera and whoever else mere bystanders. And, of course, Warner Bros. would win, with pluckier and more individual characters, with a sharper sense of humour and of surreal whimsy.

Just as Mickey Mouse is the jewel in the Disney crown, Bugs Bunny is the sun around which the other characters, like so many planets, orbit. So when I decided to look at five Warner Bros. characters, and how much they've been Googled, I went into it expecting Bugs Bunny would be the most Googled. I don't think I realised by how much, though.

That's a huge difference. What intrigues me, though, is where these characters are most Googled. Here's the top five for each:

  • Bugs Bunny: Turkey, Philippines, Canada, Peru, Greece. A more random list I could not imagine. Apart from Turkey and Greece being neighbours, the countries on this list are nowhere near each other. Perhaps each has a city or a major political personage with this name?
  • Daffy Duck: the USA, Australia, Turkey, the UK, Canada. A much more explicable list: with the exception of cartoon fan Turkey, this is primarily the Anglosphere, which brings up the question of what these characters are called in other languages.
  • Porky Pig: United States, Canada, the UK... that's it. Interesting. The Anglosphere, sure, but Porky, the guy who says "that's all, folks" at the end of every Warner Bros. cartoon, doesn't even register on searches outside of these three countries (the rest of the top ten in just countries in alphabetic order).
  • Elmer Fudd: Canada, the United States, Australia, the UK... that's it. Same as Porky, sadly - except the Australians show up.
  • Speedy Gonzales: Italy, Germany, the Netherlands, the United States, Canada. And now for something completely different. I don't know whether or not I was surprised to find Mexico absent from the top ten, but the sudden preponderence of European countries threw me for a loop.
Here's a few translations, according to Wikipedia:
  • English, German, Spanish, French, Bahasa Indonesia, Itlain, Swahili, Dutch, Portuguese, Romanian, Turkish: Bugs Bunny.
  • Serbian: Duško Dugouško.
  • Danish: Snurre Snup.
  • Croatian: Zekoslava Mrkva.
  • Norwegian: Snurre Sprett.
  • Polish: Królik Bugs.
  • Finnish: Väiski Vemmelsääri, or apparently Pelle Pupu.
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Saturday, May 22, 2010

Regional spelling in Canada

The English language has, of course, two principal, slightly divergent, 'streams' within it: British English and American English. While the differences are way smaller than sometimes made out, and have nothing on the regional variations that exist in, say, German or Arabic, there are certainly things that make it clear that the two have developed along distinct routes over the past few centuries.

Where does Canada lie here? Well, unsurprisingly, somewhere in between. Canadian accents are meant to be more similar to American accents, and where vocabulary differences exist, Canadians tend to use the American word. However, as enforced in Canadian textbooks and some Canadian newspapers, Canadians are supposed to spell words the way the British do.

But is that true? Let's look at a few examples, with the American in blue and the English in red. These results are for Canada only.

"Flavor" vs. "Flavour"

You can see here that, by a large amount, Canadians Google the American spelling more than the British spelling. While it is true that the first two related searches, "Flavor of Love" and "Flavor Flav" are both correctly spelt without the 'u', there does seem to be a tendency, repeated across every province, to prefer the American spelling.

"Color" vs. "Colour"

While I might have thought that the more famous example of 'color' vs. 'colour' might bring back contrasting results, it does not. If anything, the difference is more profound here, mostly in Alberta and in the Atlantic provinces (perhaps surprisingly). Ontario is the province that Googles the u most frequently, but still less than the five-letter version.

"Center" vs. "Centre"

And yet there are exceptions... Excluding Québec, which generally speaking I will do, as 'centre' is the only acceptable French spelling, nationwide we suddenly see the opposite: the British spelling is preferred in every province (in New Brunswick it's nearly equal). Clearly Canadians cherry-pick their spellings.

"Theater" vs. "Theatre"

The preference for the British form is even more pronounced here, interestingly enough. The -re ending seems to be a Canadian standard, where the -our ending is less of one than generally presumed.

"Realize" vs. "Realise"

Inasmuch as a standard Canadian orthography exists, it's not merely 'copy the British'. The American -ize ending has a lot of poularity throughout the English-speaking world, and is unsurprisingly the only real spelling we'll see in Canada.

"Catalog" vs. "Catalogue"

The tendency to turn -ogue into -og is by no means standard American - the USA is rather divided on that topic. Yet the -og spellings are quite rare outside of the US, so I'm surprised to see that they perform in Canada even half as well as the longer spelling.

"Traveler" vs. "Traveller"

An interesting one here, one that's practically neck-in-neck, and one that I don't imagine many Canadians have even though of. The American spelling prevails in Manitoba, though there are several provinces that Google has no statistics at all about here. Guess Canadians don't Google travellers much.

"Gray" vs. "Grey"

A grain of salt is needed here, I think. Both of these variations are also surnames and geographical names. Still, there's very much a preference for the British spelling here. I was confused about the seasonal spikes until I remembered the CFL, and its cup, the Grey Cup. Searching for "gray" vs. "grey -cup" still shows a two-to-one preference for the e, though

"Yogurt" vs. "Yoghurt" vs. "Yogourt"

One last one. I include this one because ostensibly this word has, in addition to an American and a British spelling, a 'Canadian' spelling, which is identical to one of two French spelling for this cofusing dairy product. Google searching, though, shows this to be largely untrue: the American spelling clearly wins here, with the 'ou' spelling showing up on the charts primarily because of Québec. Outside of there, it's only seen in Ontario and BC.

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Saturday, May 15, 2010


Pile of PotatoesImage by incurable_hippie via Flickr
So this came about a week or two ago while discussing Vitamin D online. I mentioned that Vitamin D is a 'star' vitamin these days, getting a lot of press. I suggested that if you could see how much press each vitamin got, you'd find Vitamin D at the top of the pack.

Turns out I was right.

Quick caveats: I don't think there's any such thing as 'Vitamin B'. But all the B12s and B6s and whatever, I figured if I just looked for 'Vitamin B', they'd all get lumped in. I also know there are more vitamins than these. But this, A to E, seemed like a cute way of going about it.

When you actually look at the whole range from 2004 to today, Vitamins C and D are equal for number of searches. However, it's the trends that matter. Vitamin C has had a slow downward trend over the years, while Vitamin D is indeed shooting for the skies ahead of the competition. And, oddly, Vitamin E had a huge spike in November 2004.

Some random additions: Jamaica leads the pack for searches on both Vitamins A and B, but it's Trinidad and Tobago leading for Vitamins C and E. All-star D finds the Americans on top.

And for fans of cereal boxes, here's another chart for you:

Niacin FTW. The Americans lead the pack in three of these, with India topping the list for pantothenate.

Whatever that is.

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Saturday, May 8, 2010

Billboard #1 Singles

The most recent #1 singles on Billboard's Hot 100 chart are:
  • "OMG" by Usher
  • "Nothin' on You" by B.o.B.
  • "Rude Boy" by Rihanna
  • "Break Your Heart" by Taio Cruz
  • "Imma Be" by the Black Eyed Peas
What got me thinking about this, though, was none of those groups at all but Lady Antebellum, a band who seems to be doing well for themselves with distinctly regional, as opposed to national, support. I got to wondering if these acts also had regional success, as opposed to nation-wide. Since B.o.B and Taio Cruz are one-hit wonders, I used only their names for the search function. For the other three (rather more popular), I included the song title too.

It`s a pretty chart, with lots of criss-crossing. But let`s look at the goods. I'm listing the top ten states for each of these songs, coloured according to their region in the United States. Here's my colour scheme:
  • West
  • Midwest
  • Northeast
  • South
The regional definitions come from the US Census Service, by the way. So here we go:
  • "OMG Usher": Connecticut, New Jersey, New York, California, Pennsylvania, Arizona, Maryland, Massachusetts, Illinois, Indiana
  • "B.o.B.": Michigan, Connecticut, Indiana, Pennsylvania, Georgia, Massachusetts, Maryland, Wisconsin, New York, D.C.
  • "Rude Boy Rihanna": South Carolina, Louisiana, New York, Maryland, Georgia, Pennsylvania, Connecticut, Alabama, North Carolina, Florida
  • "Taio Cruz": Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts, Illinois, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin, D.C., Arizona
  • "Imma Be Black Eyed Peas": Tennessee, Michigan, Florida, North Carolina, Texas, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Georgia, Illinois, New York
Some interesting trends here - noteworthy that the western half of the country contributes essentially nothing - of particular surprise is that California shows up only once here. There is a fair amount of regionalism here: though Usher has states from all four regions (if Maryland is really a southern state), fully half of the states are Northeastern (even though he's Texan). B.o.B. of Atlanta, Georgia has support from throughout the eastern half of the country: four northeastern states, three midwestern, and three by the Census Bureau's dodgy definition of 'southern', including his home state. Barbadian Rihanna, interestingly, finds her support primarily in the South - seven in ten, the remainder being northeastern. English Taio Cruz technically has support from all four regions (inasmuch as D.C. is southern), but half the states are northeastern. Half of the Black Eyed Peas' states are southern, with three midwestern and two northeastern. Even though they themselves are Californian.

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Saturday, May 1, 2010


Ah, the internet... the things you've changed.

I was inspired to do this entry based on an article I'd read in the newspaper, oh, a year ago. You know how some old scrap of forgotten info just suddenly, and randlomly, flutters back into your head? Something like that. It was about a person being given a licence plate that said 'WTF'. You know: WTF-528 or something. The kids giggled, the mom didn't know why. In truth, why not? I'm sure all five of these three-letter acronyms grace licence plates. Before the internet, they meant nothing at all.

The graph shows little: LOL beats all of the others, they're all steadily rising, near each other except for runaway winner LOL, and LOL and OMG are in the middle of current, very new spikes (well, Insights guesses it's a spike, but maybe it's just a massive, permanent upsurge in their fortunes).

Random info from the five:

  • OMG is searched most often in the Philippines and Jamaica. The most popular search item is "OMG Yahoo", which is a cheesy fake TMZ. Incidentally, is just a reroute to
  • WTF is most popular in Canada, and among other things, a popular search item is 'wtf taekwondo', where I presume WTF means 'World Taekwondo Federation'. There is a site at, which describes itself as 'an online community forum with a focus on ranting and debating for those who want to bitch and moan about anything on their mind.'
  • The top two countries searching for LOL are, oddly, Bosnia and France. Perhaps it has a second meaning in Bosnia? Anyway, unsurprisingly 'lol cats' is the most searched term. Again unsurprisingly, is a humour site.
  • BRB is far and away most popular in Brazil, and the top search items are filled with banking terminology. So BRB is clearly some Brazilian bank - where one hopes the tellers stay at their terminals. But is the website for Butler Rogers Baskett Architects.
  • FTW means 'for the win'. Top googling countries Norway and Singapore might know that, but they might not. Amongst the top ten most searched phrases are: 'what does ftw', 'ftw mean', 'ftw meaning', 'ftw means', 'what is ftw', 'ftw stand for' and 'ftw mean?' Poor confused internet. Lastly, is an 'under construction' site for Fort Worth.
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Saturday, April 24, 2010

David Cameron, Gordon Brown, Nick Clegg

I have so little to say about this graph. As the cliché goes, it speaks for itself. Nick Clegg's rise in approval is mirrored by a rise in Google searches - makes sense, since he's the 'dark horse' here, coming from behind. But it's easy to understand his appeal now, based on how much rust has collected on the Labour and Conservative brands. Sometimes shiny and new is attractive.

This is a dynamic chart that changes over time. And as I'm writing this several days before it posts, even I don't know what it'll look like when it publishes. Will Clegg still be sky high? Or will it be a temporary spike?

Oh, and how cool is it that the three colours Google Insight chooses for its first three earch items complements the political scene in the UK so well?
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Saturday, April 17, 2010


It would appear that in the USA, among the other millions of things that oughtn't to be political but for some reason are... we have news channels. You often hear rhetoric that FOX News has a conservative bent, but you less often hear the claim that MSNBC has a liberal bent. Or that CNN is allegedly somewhere in the middle.

Well, it is certainly true that CNN is way more popular than the other two. But let's check which states Google them the most, and let's compare that to voting trends from the last election.

  1. Alabama: McCain 61%, Obama 39%
  2. Missouri: McCain 50%, Obama 49%
  3. Georgia: McCain 52%, Obama 47%
  4. Texas: McCain 55%, Obama 44%
  5. Mississippi: McCain 56%, Obama 43%
  6. Tennessee: McCain 57%, Obama 42%
  7. Ohio: Obama 52%, McCain 47%
  8. North Carolina: Obama 50%, McCain 49%
  9. South Carolina: McCain 54%, Obama 45%
  10. Arkansas: McCain 59%, Obama 39%
  1. Maine: Obama 58%, McCain 40%
  2. Rhode Island: Obama 63%, McCain 35%
  3. New Mexico: Obama 57%, McCain 42%
  4. District of Columbia: Obama 93%, McCain 7%
  5. Pennsylvania: Obama 55%, McCain 44%
  6. New York: Obama 63%, McCain 36%
  7. Maryland: Obama 62%, McCain 37%
  8. Alaska: McCain 60%, Obama 38%
  9. Ohio: Obama 52%, McCain 47%
  10. Missouri: McCain 50%, Obama 49%
  1. Georgia: McCain 52%, Obama 47%
  2. District of Columbia: Obama 93%, McCain 7%
  3. New York: Obama 63%, McCain 36%
  4. North Carolina: Obama 50%, McCain 49%
  5. Maryland: Obama 62%, McCain 37%
  6. Texas: McCain 55%, Obama 44%
  7. Florida: Obama 51%, McCain 48%
  8. Minnesota: Obama 54%, McCain 44%
  9. Illinois: Obama 62%, McCain 37%
  10. Ohio: Obama 52%, McCain 47% 
Well, those are pretty conclusive results. 8 of the top ten FOX News Googling (not watching) states are 'red states', 8 of the top ten MSNBC Googlers are 'blue states'. Interesting that 8 of the 10 are 'blue' for CNN too - note that #1, Georgia, is red, but note also that CNN is centred in Georgia. CNN Googlers are very much concentrated on the Atlantic Coast, and the vast majority of them are on the top ten of one of the other networks too. Ohio, the newshounds, are on the top ten of all three.
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Saturday, March 27, 2010

Google Insights: death spikes

It's a sad reality that people are interested in celebrities dying. So much so, in fact, that the news of a celebrity's death causes a momentary surge of interest in that celebrity. In the case of Michael Jackson, that was enough to more or less swamp the whole internet. You can pick out exactly when these celebrities died by looking at worldwide searches for them from 2004 to present:

All deaths are not equal, however. Obviously Michael Jackson's death is something unprecedented in the history of the internet, but beyond that:

It turns out that, while Michael Jackson dwarfs everyone else so much that events before his death still trump other people's deaths. The aftershock of his death was still greater than the news of Patrick Swayze's death. Corey Haim's is too new to compare, but Heath Ledger's was a pretty high spike. George Carlin's was surprisingly low. Google Insights wouldn't let me compare Farrah Fawcett to other people, for some reason...
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Saturday, March 20, 2010

Google Insights: burger joints

Cheap and easy this time... hamburger restaurants around the world. No surprise McDonald's kicks the competition... odd that their searches are seasonal, though. I can't really guess why. Anyway, McDonald's seems to have a connection with the English language, since the top five is Australia, the USA, Singapore, New Zealand and Canada. Burger King is a bit more multilingual: the USA, Puerto Rico, Turkey, Germany and New Zealand. Similar names show up for Wendy's: the USA, Canada, New Zealand, Puerto Rico, Panama.

Don't the Kiwis love their hamburgers?
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Saturday, March 13, 2010

Google Insights: blue states and red states

Someone somewhere, about a decade or so ago, got the idea to use the colours blue for the Democratic Party and red for the Republican Party (the opposite of conventional wisdom). Someone else got the idea, during election coverage, to use this colour scheme to colour states on maps. Someone else got the idea to refer to the states coloured red as 'red states' and those coloured blue as... well, perhaps you've guessed. As a result, Massachusetts (senatorial elections notwithstanding) is a so-called 'blue state' and Alabama a so-called 'red state'.

So how red and blue are they really? Well, I searched for those terms: 'blue state' and 'red state' to see who was Googling them. Confusion reigns:

The two maps aren't really all that different from each other (which actually makes sense). Maine and Massachusetts Google 'red states' the most, which could be interpreted as espionage, whereas West Virginia and DC Google 'blue states' most. In this case, it's a bit more curious: West Virginia (#3 for 'red states' as well) seems to take its status as a transitional state seriously, Googling both sides. DC, on the other hand, is as blue as they come - even if it's not a state per se.

Here's the trends over time. Notice, logically, how similar the two are. When people are Googling one, they're Googling the other.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Google Insights: social networking sites

Something I wrote last week made me want to consider this topic. Social networking sites are meant to be one of those defining factors of what they were recently calling "Web 2.0" - the more dynamic, interactive, user-controlled web that now exists. By and large I have little interest in social networking sites, but the graph is interesting. Well, to a point:

The ubiquity of Facebook obviously renders this graph a bit useless. I'm surprised, though, that Facebook keeps rising. I would have figured by now that whoever was going to use it already would have, and that many people would have gotten bored of it by now: in short, that it would have begin to resemble that wonderful bow-shaped rise-and-fall that we see for Myspace.

So what's interesting, then, is how regional these sites are. The real action is in the 'regional interest' lists. Myspace, it turns out, is most popular in Puerto Rico, the USA, Australia, Malaysia and the UK - anglophone countries or countries influenced by anglophone countries. Oddly enough, Facebook's global reach has succeeded to the point where its hometown of the USA isn't even in the top ten anymore and only one English-speaking country, the UK, makes the top ten at all. Tunisia, bizarrely, is at #1, followed by Turkey, Italy, Croatia and Venezuela: a motley crew of countries if I've ever seen one.

Google's Orkut is meant to be 'popular in Brazil and India', but Brazil's neighbout Paraguay actually tops the list, with Brazil, India, Pakistan and Haiti rounding out the list. Facebook appears to be all but unheard of in Brazil, though Twitter is popular enough there to give Brazil its #1 ranking, ahead of an otherwise anglophonic top five: Ireland, the UK, the USA, Canada. Hi5, about which I know nothing, seems to be a Spanish-speaking phenomenon, with eight of the top ten being hispanophonic countries. Spain is not one of them, though its neighbout Portugal, unique in Europe, seems to enjoy hi5. The hi5 top5 is Peru, Portugal, Dominican Republic, Ecuador and Costa Rica.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Google Insights: the USA, year by year

So it turns out that if you don't put any terms at all in the search box on Google Insights, you can still get insightful info. It can tell you the most searched items under certain circumstances, like at a certain point in time, in a certain area, or of a certain category. I'd love to go year by year and see what the whole world was searching for in 2004, 2005, 2006 and so on, but it won't let me. So I'll choose that entity that often confuses itself with 'the whole world', the USA.

Back in 2004, it turns out that Americans used Google exactly as Google would hope: using keywords to find things that interest them. Thus, #1 on the list is 'lyrics', and cute little generic words like 'music', 'map', 'news' and 'games' pepper the top ten. Only two 'brand names', 'yahoo' and 'ebay' make the list. Rather charmingly, 'love' comes in at #10. Ah, the innocent youth of the internet. (The 'rising searches' section is more interesting, really, as it contains 'janet jackson', 'usher' and 'john kerry' alongside words such as 'blog', 'ipod' and 'athens 2004'.)

By 2005, not much has changed, really. 'Google' joins 'yahoo' and 'ebay' in the corporate-name category, 'love' has sadly been lost, and 'lyrics' still tops the list. (The 'rising searches' have lost a lot of quirkiness. 'Myspace' tops the list, 'cingular' and 'bank of america' are on it, and cutely so is 'failure'.)

Come 2006, 'myspace' has flown all the way to the #2 spot, and oddly 'my' comes in at #4. A tribute to changing technology, 'video' now ties with 'music', though 'lyrics' is still the proud #1. (The 'rising searches' confirms this, with 'youtube' at #1 and 'you tube' at #2, four of the top ten referring to Myspace and two of them referring to Wikipedia.)

Not much has changed by 2007. 'Lyrics' is still #1 and 'myspace' still #2, with 'my' now below 'you', bizarrely. I suppose it has something to do with Youtube, but 'youtube' itself is not on the list. Apart from that, there's still 'games', 'music', 'weather' and 'map'. People still know how to use Google. (By a huse margin, 'webkinz' leads the 'rising searches', which I find terribly cute. For reasons I cannot fathom '300' comes in at #9.)

Things are really settling in by 2008 (making me think this was a rather boring topic to consider): 'lyrics' at #1, 'myspace' at #2 (was it still so popular as late at 2008?) and 'you', 'my', 'yahoo', 'google', 'games', 'weather' and 'news' on the list. The only real thing to note is that 'youtube' is now properly on the list. 'Music' has fallen off, and it makes me wonder about the veracity of this information. After all, shouldn't 'mp3' rank higher than these items? Or, for example, 'sex'? Are these the words a squeaky-clean Google wishes were most-searched-for? ('Obama' tops the rising searches, with 'facebook' and 'craigslist' in evidence, and 'free movies' suggestive of just a tiny little bit of illicit behaviour.)

2009, and a king is dethroned. 'Facebook' was, according to Google Insights, searched for more often than 'lyrics', which for me raises a question: why do so many people Google Facebook? Certainly it's not that taxing to remember that Facebook is '', is it? Do these people Google Facebook every time they log onto it? By 2009, the top ten list includes 'facebook', 'youtube', 'yahoo', 'google', 'myspace' and 'craigslist': six of the top ten, and if these stats are to be believed, people no longer use Google to search for things as to link them to certain sites their too lazy to remember the urls for. Come to think of it, most mystifying of all is why people are Googling 'google'. I mean, you're alread there. What are you looking for? ('Twitter' is the number one rising search, with 'michael jackson' at #2. Four of the remainder reference Facebook, and 'juegos' comes in at #7.)