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Visualizing Searches Over Time

CowboyNeal posted more than 7 years ago | from the half-past-chat dept.

The Internet 56

An anonymous reader writes "Chris Harrison has built a visualization that explores what people are doing online over time. He explains, 'Search engines are the gateway to the internet for most people, and so search queries provide insight into what people are doing and thinking. In order to examine millions of search queries, I built a simple, cyclical, clock-like visualization that displays the top search terms over a 24-hour period.' Interesting to see that the masses online have fairly coherent and consistent search behaviors. He also investigates the notorious AOL dataset."

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Locale? (2, Interesting)

MichaelSmith (789609) | more than 7 years ago | (#18205502)

TFA talks about the time of day that certain terms were searched for but doesn't say what timezone he is assuming the searchers are in. Most people assume you are talking about the USA these days, but even that covers four hours. But what about Europe? Even back in 1997 they must have accounted for a fair chunk of searches.

CONAN NOOOOOO :-( (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18205538)

Fuck, Today show is reporting it like it was just anyone else nd not one of their own. WTF?

EW YORK -- Conan O'Brien, the host of long-running television program "Late Night With Conan O'Brien," died Thursday night after stepping on a manhole cover apparently electrified by a faulty underground cable, witnesses and police sources said. If confirmed to have been caused by stray voltage, the comedian's electrocution would be the third such fatality in New York this winter.

Witnesses said O'Brien, 44, had been crossing Columbus Avenue with his wife and children when he suddenly yelled and fell to the street thrashing. After another pedestrian was shocked trying to assist him, police officers kept everyone else away. O'Brien lay twitching in the intersection for over fifteen minutes before the Fire Department was able to reach him using a ladder, police said.

Re:CONAN NOOOOOO :-( (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18205706)

Conan O'Brien ... died Thursday night

      Thank God. Oh - you mean it's not true? Darn.

Re:Locale? (4, Interesting)

an.echte.trilingue (1063180) | more than 7 years ago | (#18205572)

He uses Eastern time. Read the notes.

What I find amusing is the fact that one of the most popular search terms in the AOL data set was "myspace," which he attributes to AOL targeting home users who desire to use the internet for social activities. To me, this indicates that people who use AOL to search do not know the difference between a search box and a URL bar.

Re:Locale? (4, Interesting)

MichaelSmith (789609) | more than 7 years ago | (#18205610)

To me, this indicates that people who use AOL to search do not know the difference between a search box and a URL bar.

I have set up systems for people who are very non-technical and they are exactly like that. They want one way to find stuff and having an alternate confuses them terribly. So I set their home page to google and tell them to search for what they want.

And yes, if I had read down a bit further I would have seen him discuss timezones. The web started at CERN, of course.

Re:Locale? (1)

an.echte.trilingue (1063180) | more than 7 years ago | (#18205754)

I intended that post to be humorous, but as I re-read it I see that it does come off being pretty, well, trollish. That's why they say to tick the AC for jokes, I guess.

However, as some swiss friends of mine perpetually insist on reminding me, yes CERN did come up with a few of the many technologies behind the WWW, but that is not relevant to the question of locale here. The fact is, at the time of the data sample, the overwhelming majority of users of both of the search engines were in the United States.

Re:Locale? (5, Interesting)

MicktheMech (697533) | more than 7 years ago | (#18205620)

If you scroll down that page to where he talks about google and yahoo you'll find that's exactly the case. Apparently, Google is by far the most common AOL search term.

Re:Locale? (1)

Timothy Brownawell (627747) | more than 7 years ago | (#18206010)

To me, this indicates that people who use AOL to search do not know the difference between a search box and a URL bar.

"Don't know", or "don't care"? About the only time I actually type something into the URL bar (as opposed to using it for copypasta from IRC/email) is when I've already been there so it'll pop up in the drop-down box after a couple characters (of course, if I visit the site *too* often, it'll already be in my bookmarks somewhere, so I can just go to it that way). Otherwise, using the search box a picking one of the top couple results is just easier than trying to remember an exact URL.

/me wonders about having the URL bar autocomplete look at bookmarks (by name and address, or maybe even keywords?) as well as recently visited sites

Re:Locale? (1)

Mister_IQ (517505) | more than 7 years ago | (#18207860)

I wondered about that too, having seen other lists of search terms where actual URLs are near the top.

However, many/most people are head-down hunt and peck typists. When you open a browser to google (and I assume AOL is that same) the cursor defaults to the search box not the URL bar.

Someone opens the browser, types in the url they want and hits enter without even realizing they are typing in the wrong box, because they are watching their fingers not the screen.

That's what I always figured, anyway.

Mixing up search boxes (2, Interesting)

Kelson (129150) | more than 7 years ago | (#18209012)

To me, this indicates that people who use AOL to search do not know the difference between a search box and a URL bar.

Semi-off-topic, but there do seem to be an awful lot of people who get input fields mixed up. I run a comic book fan site [hyperborea.org] that profiles characters connected to the Flash. The character has been around since 1940, so there are a lot of villains, supporting characters and guest stars to add. I've tried to make finding specific characters as easy as possible for multiple styles of navigation and search.

A bit over a year ago, I added a suggestion box to the home page. One of the odd things I found was that people were seemingly requesting that I add profiles for characters who were already on the site. After a while, I realized that people were seeing the suggestion box and treating it as a search box -- despite the fact that there was a search box in the sidebar on every page.

In response, I made two changes: First, I changed the "Thanks for your suggestion!" page to incorporate any hits from the site search on the terms entered. Eventually, I redesigned the site layout to make the search field more noticeable.

Re:Mixing up search boxes (1)

denidoom (865832) | more than 7 years ago | (#18212480)

Your website on the superhero, Flash, is really awesome. It's cool you learned from an accidental usability study :)

Re:Locale? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18211724)

> What I find amusing is the fact that one of the most popular search terms in the AOL data set was "myspace," which he attributes to AOL targeting home users who desire to use the internet for social activities. To me, this indicates that people who use AOL to search do not know the difference between a search box and a URL bar.

I include "myspace" in a Google search often. The reason is because Google is much better at searching MySpace than MySpace is. Also, you'll find things like "Check out out MySpace page here".

Re:Locale? (4, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18205686)

Even back in 1997 they [Europeans] must have accounted for a fair chunk of searches.

Yeah, I'm searching for "more insulting understatements from isolated Americans", right now.

Re:Locale? (1)

BoredByPolitics (159504) | more than 7 years ago | (#18209080)

Your search - "more insulting understatements from isolated Americans" - did not match any documents.

Suggestions:

    * Make sure all words are spelled correctly.
    * Try different keywords.
    * Try more general keywords.
    * Don't expect sentence comprehension
    * Find something more fulfilling to do than search for random stuff on the internets

Interesting. (2, Funny)

Frosty Piss (770223) | more than 7 years ago | (#18205504)

Well, well. From the graphic, it looks like the main purpose of search is music, games, and porn. Interesting.

Re:Interesting. (2, Funny)

mwvdlee (775178) | more than 7 years ago | (#18205798)

On a completely different subject, does anybody know where I can find soundtrack CD's for adult computer entertainment products?

Re:Interesting. (1)

garcia (6573) | more than 7 years ago | (#18205808)

Well, well. From the graphic, it looks like 7+ years ago the main purpose of search was music, games, and porn. What would be interesting is to see if it's changed at all to bittorrents of music, games, and porn or if it changed to Myspace music, Myspace is lame, and Myspace porn in the last 3 years.

BTW, I had a 5150x5150 image of a Google Map printed [skholla.com] on a 42" printer and it's fucking huge. While that was pretty cool to see all the detail (it's centered around the Twin Cities Metro and stretches into Western WI and south well below Faribault and north near Duluth) I don't know why you would want this map that large. It really wasn't that interesting or cool to look at. It's certainly not worth it to hang music, games, and porn searches on your wall at work :)

Re:Interesting. (1)

blootooth (653423) | more than 7 years ago | (#18206046)

What is hard for me to grasp is with his smarts he output various sized jpegs! Why? Ludicrous!

Re:Interesting. (1)

winnabago (949419) | more than 7 years ago | (#18206236)

Not to mention the graphical quality is, well, a little sparse. It took me longer than it should have to get a sense of this 'rhythm' that he refers to. I know, I know - searches are text, but come on, Edward Tufte [edwardtufte.com] would be all over this one.

I want color, dammit!

Re:Interesting. (1)

msobkow (48369) | more than 7 years ago | (#18206364)

It looked like people take a break on porn from 05h00-06h00. Even porn purveyors need a couple hours of sleep, I guess.

Google, check this! (1)

pipatron (966506) | more than 7 years ago | (#18205508)

Would be nice if Google (or even better, a co-op between google, yahoo and msn) would start putting out a lot more of these. Or are they already doing this, just that I don't know where they are?

Re:Google, check this! (1, Offtopic)

liteyear (738262) | more than 7 years ago | (#18205738)

Google do do a lot of nice things like this. Their Zeitgeist [google.com] is one of the more interesting.

They expand on their results on significant dates, such as the end of the year. It's particularly interesting to see seemingly unusual searches peaking for brief periods. They might relate to big news in another country, or even the million dollar question on some game show!

Re:Google, check this! (1)

Leith Jones (968546) | more than 7 years ago | (#18205850)

Speaking of Google, does anyone else find it kind of funny that the number 1 AOL search term for the timeframe is google? I got a chuckle out of it.

My new hobby... (4, Interesting)

omgamibig (977963) | more than 7 years ago | (#18205702)

...is to find explanations for the jumps in google trend graphs. This one really got me: http://www.google.com/trends?q=death [google.com] Explain the sudden rise in 2006. Reason: http://www.google.com/trends?q=death%2C+steve+irwi n%2C+sting+ray&ctab=0&geo=all&date=all [google.com] Another interesting thing is that searches including 'fuck' increase during weekends: http://www.google.com/trends?q=fuck&ctab=0&geo=all &date=2006-10 [google.com]

Re:My new hobby... (2, Interesting)

Dr. Eggman (932300) | more than 7 years ago | (#18205750)

Here's a real weird one: what killed searching for Soviet Russia [google.com] in 2004?

Re:My new hobby... (3, Funny)

spazmolytic666 (549909) | more than 7 years ago | (#18205896)

Here's a real weird one: what killed searching for Soviet Russia in 2004?

In Soviet Russia the searching kills you?

just some data (1)

Tharkban (877186) | more than 7 years ago | (#18206144)

From the bottom of the page.

Google Trends aims to provide insights into broad search patterns. As a Google Labs product, it is still in the early stages of development. Also, it is based upon just a portion of our searches, and several approximations are used when computing your results. Please keep this in mind when using it.

My guess is it's part of the "it is based upon just a portion of our searches"

Re:My new hobby... (2, Informative)

styryx (952942) | more than 7 years ago | (#18205818)

You should set up a site or a wiki that looks in to these kinds of anomalies. It seems like good fun; nicely done with the Steve Irwin catch.

I'd like to know what could completely kill off searches for Soviet Russia; that's an anomaly in the negative sense, so unlikely to be spurred by a specific event, it would be interesting to know. Do you know if there are any good forums related to this kind of activity?

Re:My new hobby... (1)

soloport (312487) | more than 7 years ago | (#18206086)

Add "you" to that last one and it becomes very US-centric, with FL (Florida) garnering 3 of the top ten spots. Never would have guessed that "Providence, RI, USA" would take the cake, though.

Re:My new hobby... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18206266)

Well, look at this [google.com] and this [google.com] then...

Re:My new hobby... (4, Interesting)

Eudial (590661) | more than 7 years ago | (#18206284)

...is to find explanations for the jumps in google trend graphs. This one really got me: http://www.google.com/trends?q=death [google.com] Explain the sudden rise in 2006. Reason: http://www.google.com/trends?q=death%2C+steve+irwi [google.com] n%2C+sting+ray&ctab=0&geo=all&date=all Another interesting thing is that searches including 'fuck' increase during weekends: http://www.google.com/trends?q=fuck&ctab=0&geo=all [google.com] &date=2006-10


Well then, I challenge you to explain this: http://www.google.com/trends?q=salmon+rice&ctab=2& geo=all&date=all [google.com]

Re:My new hobby... (1)

danpsmith (922127) | more than 7 years ago | (#18206866)

Here's one I found interesting [google.com]

Especially when you look at the cities: Elmhurst, IL is obviously the place with the most wankers which comes as a surprise to well....nobody really.

Re:My new hobby... (1)

argStyopa (232550) | more than 7 years ago | (#18209824)

Another interesting thing is that searches including 'fuck' increase during weekends: http://www.google.com/trends?q=fuck&ctab=0&geo=all [google.com] &date=2006-10 [google.com]

Not surprising at all, IMO.
Considering the number of people that waste their time at work on the internet, it's a reasonable precaution that they avoid words which would, if the sysadmin is paying some attention to what they're doing, JUMP out as "non work related" for everyone besides Ron Jeremy.

AOL set? (5, Insightful)

tomstdenis (446163) | more than 7 years ago | (#18205952)

As much as I hate AOL, I hate misleading summaries too. Search queries ARE NOT PRIVATE. AOL leaking it [or just giving it out] shouldn't be viewed as negative. There is no https://www.google.com/ [google.com] (it redirects to the http version). No security, no privacy.

Tom

Re:AOL set? (1)

Raenex (947668) | more than 7 years ago | (#18215718)

The vast majority of email is sent cleartext too. So you would have no problems with your ISP publishing that? How about every web site you visit? Every form you fill out in cleartext? Your phone traffic isn't encrypted either. Should the phone companies publish that as well?

If a company collects vast amounts of sensitive data I would hope for some discretion in releasing that data.

Re:AOL set? (1)

tomstdenis (446163) | more than 7 years ago | (#18216734)

There is a legal precedent for the expectation of privacy over the phone. Your net traffic bounces off of a dozen routers before hitting the target host.

There is no legal precedent that says cleartext net traffic has an expectation of privacy. Especially, since, unlike phones, publicly available encryption software/tools can enable you to have privacy. That people *choose* not to use them is their fault, which is a good reason why people should really understand the basics of computing/networking before getting on the net.

For me, if an email is private I use TLS (when sending within the company) and GPG externally. I don't send private emails as cleartext. As for the links, aside from a lot of porn, I don't view anything that isn't work safe. I have nothing to hide.

If you don't want to be part of a query database, don't use the service, or use the service through a proxy.

Tom

Filter out "MySpace" (1)

xdancergirlx (872890) | more than 7 years ago | (#18205974)

I would have found the AOL data more interesting if he would have filtered out "MySpace". He makes a good point that lots of people just type in a site's base name (like "Google" or "MySpace") rather than the whole URL ("www.google.com" or "www.myspace.com") but he filters out Google and Yahoo but not MySpace. MySpace dominates the AOL results to the point that it makes the other, interesting, data impossible to read (literally and figuratively) and much less useful. Ie. I would have like to see what people were actually "searching for" using search engines, not just how they accessed sites they commonly used and had already, in a sense, "found".

Ran tool for searches by /.ers (1, Funny)

fishthegeek (943099) | more than 7 years ago | (#18206002)

and here is how it looks.

24HR Results Top 3 searches:
1. Pr0n
2. Porn
3. Beowulf Clusters of Porn

1 Week Top 3 searches:
1. Porn
2. P0rn
3.Soviet Russian Porn

1 Month Top 3 searches:
1. Pornography
2. Goatse
3. BDSM overlord porn

Kinda makes you think....

Re:Ran tool for searches by /.ers (-1 Redudant) (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18206120)

Had I not been an anonymous coward and had I had mod points, I would have modded you -1 Redundant.

mod 3own (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18206194)

OF AMERICA\ irc

Information about.... (4, Insightful)

humungusfungus (81155) | more than 7 years ago | (#18206228)

I found it interesting that it seems most people type in things like "information about -something- '" into a search engine.

It seems to me to be a somewhat naive way of searching given that many sites don't necessarily spell out that they are giving information about a given subject. It is an oblique reminder of how many people might view the Internet as a formal collection of officially produced, authoritative "Information" instead of the jumble of stuff that it is. Perhaps search engine logic commonly treats the string word "information about" in a special way given people's apparent proclivity to do this. ....and if they don't, perhaps they should.

Regardless, I would drop those words from the data as they don't really help in showing what people are searching for. It's similar to including the word "and"; it conveys little about what people are searching for and more about *how* they are searching.
   

So, in the midnight hour (2400 hrs) (1)

monkeyboythom (796957) | more than 7 years ago | (#18206788)

they cried, "porn, porn, porn!"

So that's what the Billy Idol song was trying to say. Damn Brits and their silly abuse of our English language.

Most of you read the chart wrong.... (1)

TomRC (231027) | more than 7 years ago | (#18207142)

Obviously what people want to use the internet for is "information" and "about"...

Civic terms popular (1)

msbmsb (871828) | more than 7 years ago | (#18207186)

FT(AOL)A: Civic terms, such as state, county, gov and Florida are surprisingly ubiquitous, although mostly popular during the workday. Is AOL's average user a retired Floridian?

I find it interesting that "county" appears so often in AOL searches, it seems like an odd civic term to be popular. Though, when looking at the Google trends [google.com] for "county, city, town, state, gov", county is right up there with state in the US, but below city. Why would AOL users be more concerned with county rather than city?

Re:Civic terms popular (1)

lessthanjakejohn (766177) | more than 7 years ago | (#18207448)

Well most counties have "County" in the name yet very few cities have "City"

Re:Civic terms popular (1)

msbmsb (871828) | more than 7 years ago | (#18207486)

But how often are people searching for information about their county? How much of a need is there for AOL users to do that?

Re:Civic terms popular (1)

rsadelle (719824) | more than 7 years ago | (#18208840)

In my job, I often need to know what county a given city is in. I haven't memorized what county every city in California is in. There's a website [naco.org] I can use that will tell me, but it's a lot faster to just put [city name] CA county into Google. (Especially since I can do it all in a new tab using only the keyboard.)
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