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.