Friday, December 29, 2006

Not Top Searches from the Top Search Corporation?

It is December 29, the last working day of 2006, and I was just browsing the Google blog and found a new entry about their Zeitgeist list for 2006.

The posting is a rather curious study in verbiage. Take, for example, this sentence:
Instead, we looked for those searches that were very popular in 2006 but were not as popular in 2005 -- the explosive queries, the topics that everyone obsessed over.

By "explosive queries," does Google mean those search terms that dealt with explosives, such as bombings? Afterall, there seemed to be daily bombings reported in the news, so much so that we might not give them much more than a cursory glance now.

Or is Google using "explosive queries" to refer to those "topics that everyoner obsessed over"? The sentence construction makes it difficult to decipher exactly what is meant by the last part of that particular sentence.

And then there is this sentence:
Similarly, our "what is" and "who is" lists are not necessarily the absolute most frequent searches, but rather those that best represent the passing year.

What constitutes "those that best represent the passing year"? What does "administracion" mean for those of us who don't know Spanish? And how odd no definitions are found in English. Are there not people who have translated definitions from one language to another on the Internet?

Someone, somewhere, is going to point to this as a perfect example of how Google manipulates data to present its own picture, which is the same argument people have used against the media for years. Top searches are meaningless, then, according to Google, since they don't change year-to-year.

Still befuddled, I consulted the Google Zeitgeist section of its Press Center, a rather curious collection of information that seems to add weight to the argument of "Google Control" or "Google Spin." The result was a generalization that didn't clear up anything for me:
What you see here is a cumulative snapshot of interesting queries people are asking – some over time, some within country domains, and some on – that perhaps reveal a bit of the human condition.

"Cumulative snapshot" sounds like statistical jargon you'd use when then is no real answer. "Interesting queries people are asking" is a subjective answer open to interpretation, almost a political non-answer answer. Oh right. Google is a corporation playing politics. My bad. "Reveal a bit of the human condition." Now that is a scary thought. So how can we tell, from the almighty Google, if the human condition is deteriorating? Or if it is exalting in all its glory?

No doubt people are going to consult the Google Zeitgeist in the future in an effort to determine where things took a dive or a decidedly uncharacteristic spike.

Really. We are that fickle. And Google will provide indisputable evidence, in case anyone has any doubts.

So what will the Google Zeitgeist of 2007 show that aren't the "most frequently searched terms"? Will the terms of 2006 vanish? Or make a stellar comeback?

You, it's also curious to note that not one of the search terms listed relates to politics or the War in Iraq or the War on Terror. They deal with people and technology, for the most part. We really are a country unto our own, aren't we?

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