Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Google Trends: Where in the World...

Google Trends, the free search tracking tool from Google, drew some attention this election cycle for it's 2008 US Election Trends page. It was even observed a few months back that by tracking Google searches for "Obama" and "Clinton" one might as accurately predict the Democratic primary as a bunch of well-paid pollsters.

I was reminded of Google Trends again yesterday after reading an article about how searches are being used to locate flu outbreaks, and with shocking speed and accuracy:

"Tests of the new Web tool from ... suggest that it may be able to detect regional outbreaks of the flu a week to 10 days before they are reported by the CDC."

I'm sure somewhere out there entire dissertations are being written on how simple search queries can mine such accurate data. In the meantime, I was inspired check out a few trends of my own:

What's next: Google EKG?

As it turns out, although historically more people search for "WTF" than "OMG" the tide may be turning; vampires are a greater concern globally than zombies (however, zombies are on more people's minds outside of North America); more Americans want to know about wine than beer; and if you're searching for some skin, you're looking for "nude" pictures twice as often as "naked" ones.

But by far the most shocking result was this:

In the summer of 2005, for reasons entirely unknown to me, more people around the world were looking for Carmen Sandiego than Osama Bin Laden.

Seriously, WTF?!

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