Friday, October 19, 2007


Reuters goes on a data-mining safari

Reuters went to the "Google Trends" website and matched certain emotionally charged ideas, products and personal names with the countries that most often searched for them. The statistics cover a period from 2004 to the present.

The results are interesting in a voyeuristic sort of way. But more to the point, even if we assume (foolishly, of course) that internet users aren't individually spied upon, these statistics give just a hint of the cultural data available to any organization that monitors the internet night and day. If anyone were trying to sway global opinion on an irrational basis—perish the thought!—and have an instant measure of the results, I believe they would be useful.

Of course the people who use the search engines don't represent the populations as a whole. In most countries we're seeing the activity of only the more educated up-and-comers.

I thought I'd arrange the Reuters results in a table—

Search term Top 3 countries searching
Botox Australia, US, UK
Britney Spears Mexico, Venezuela, Canada
burrito US, Argentina, Canada
car bomb Australia, US, Canada
David Beckham Venezuela, UK, Mexico
Dolly Buster Czech Republic, Austria, Slovakia
gay Chile, Mexico, Colombia
hangover Ireland, UK, US
Hitler Germany, Mexico, Austria
homosexual Philippines, Chile, Venezuela
IAEA Austria, Pakistan, Iran
Iraq US, Australia, Canada
Jihad Morocco, Indonesia, Pakistan
Kate Moss Ireland, UK, Sweden
love Philippines, Australia, US
marijuana Canada, US, Australia
Nazi Chile, Australia, UK
sex Egypt, India, Turkey
Taliban Pakistan, Australia, Canada
terrorism Pakistan, Philippines, Australia
Tom Cruise Canada, US, Australia
Viagra Italy, UK, Germany

Some of the findings seem obvious, at least after the fact:

"Sex" would naturally be most sought after in those countries getting the least.

The Filipinos are all about "love," though the word may have different meanings in different countries.

"Gay" is big in countries where they're trying to figure out how, while "homosexual" is big in countries where they're just trying to find out what it is. Chile seems to have a lot of both types.

Mexicans either already know—or don't care—about burritos.

But who'd have thought Australia would come first in "car bomb"? In addition to "car bomb," the Axis of English—the US, UK, Australia and now Canada—reveal a fascination for Botox, Iraq, marijuana and Tom Cruise. This may bear further thought.

Finally, I'm ashamed to admit that I do not know what a "Dolly Buster" is. Is it a sex toy?

Related post
Totalitarian Plan of the Day (10/18/07)

Related websites
Google Trends


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