Tuesday, June 26, 2007

QWERTY trouble

Another source of spelling errors -- keyboard layouts.

Because "q" is next to "w", shaq.abc.com becomes www.shaw.abc.com.

Why is the misspelled URL popular only with a "www"? My hypothesis is that someone who types the "www" first is significantly more likely -- due to inertia -- to type a "w" instead of a "q" in "shaq."

Another misspelling

It feels trivial to talk about misspelling a name when the person has died. Still, given the focus of my blog, I'll do it for the second time in the past few days. (Here's my previous post on the subject.)

The #1 search yesterday on Google Hot Trends was chris benoit.

There were dozens of related searches. Among them was #26, chris benwah.

This isn't a case of elision. Rather, it's an instance where a foreign-language surname was misheard.

Perfectly reasonable mistakes in both situations. And both of them are worth noting -- for purposes of predicting what people will search for and understanding what people mean when they search for something.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

What happened to Kate Middleton between Februrary 21 and June 24?

To illustrate a gap in coverage on Google Trends, let's focus on a current Hot Trend search: kate middleton. If you click the link, you'll see the search volume for June 24. If you then search for kate middleton on the regular Google Trends, you'll find a "Trend History" that ends on February 21.

What about February 22 to June 23?

Google is able to produce almost-real-time data for hot searches. So, why not data for the past few months?

For many top-rising searches, there won't be much prior data. But for a periodically popular query such as "Kate Middleton," there would be.

Misspelling of Rod Beck as "Rob Beck"

The #1 search on Google Hot Trends is rod beck.

The #11 search is rob beck.

In the grand scheme of things, the misspelling of Rod Beck's name is not nearly as significant as the sad event itself. But still, I think it's worth noting that the misspelling is so common.

I believe that this is an example of elision. I wonder whether there's any other example of this phenomenon on Hot Trends? I recall a misspelled name a couple of weeks ago ... I'll have to check when I have time ....

Friday, June 22, 2007

Murphy Brown

Earlier today, "Murphy Brown" was a Related Search to a Hot Trend concerning Mel B. and Eddie Murphy. I did a double-take ... and then realized that Eddie Murphy + Melanie Brown = Murphy Brown! :-)

Candace Bergen must be laughing ....

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Public service announcement

If you are searching for wreckedexotics.com2 (currently #35 on Hot Trends), you can enter it in your browser's address bar without the "2" at the end, and you'll be all right.

For some reason, an article on Yahoo! Finance included a stray "2", thus causing this confusion.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Looking forward to your ideas

I'm pleased to welcome the hundreds of people who've read this blog recently. (Or it may just be dozens of people, visiting dozens of pages. Unfortunately, I didn't have Google Analytics code on the blog until today.)

I'd be very interested in your ideas about what this blog should cover in the upcoming months. Feel free to post your thoughts as a comment to this post.

Michelleista redux

I should know better than to say "final thoughts," when more thoughts may be on the way.

A reader (thanks, Kerek!) has noted a personal ad on the Orlando Craigslist, in which the user tells people to "search for michelleista on google" in order to find her. If similar posts appeared on several Craigslist pages, it could explain the spike in searches.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Final thoughts on Michelleista

As michelleista fades from Google's Hot Trends, I'll give you my hypothesis as to how this search made it to #2 for June 16.

"Michelleista" is associated with "Michartwurk," the screen name of someone who has posted adult-oriented spam on several websites. Michartwurk's Wikipedia account was apparently created in the past day -- and then blocked as an "attack account."

Without knowing the specifics -- and without knowing much about hacking -- I believe that Google was subject to an "attack" of multiple searches by "Michartwurk." Perhaps the searches were sent through some kind of anonymizer software, which make it seem to Google that the searches were coming from many IP addresses in the U.S. (I presume that hundreds of searches on one day for the same phrase from a single IP address would count as just one search on Hot Trends.)

If I'm right, then we can expect this sort of thing again. Please let me know if you notice an inexplicable top-rising search.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Michelleista = Michellista?

A potential clue to the meaning of "michelleista": President Hugo Chavez of Venezuela called himself a "michellista", in reference to Chile's President Michelle Bachelet.

But this term is a month old -- why would it be popular now? Why the misspelling? And what does it have to do with "Michelle Ellea"? Or with the Wikipedia page for Michartwurk?

If I have time later, I'll check some other "Michartwurk" pages to see whether they shed some light on this enigma.

The mystery of Michelleista / Michelle Ellea

Michelleista is #1 on Hot Trends. Yet this term has almost no presence on the Web.

Google has indexed a grand total of two web pages -- relating to a single user at Wikipedia (Michartwurk) -- which contain the term "michelleista."

The cached version of one page indicates -- as does the Hot Trends page -- that "michelleista" relates to michelle ellea (currently #97 on Hot Trends). This cached page is the only one on Google Web Search that mentions "Michelle Ellea."

Nothing on Google News. Nothing on Google Blog Search (other than the post you're reading, once I finish it).

What is going on here??

Early summer solstice?

I count eight festivals, three fairs, and two parades on Google Hot Trends now. (The Fremont festivities are in all three categories.)

Must be the start of summer!

Friday, June 15, 2007

Trendy ... but why?

I've noticed some confusion about why certain Google Hot Trends phrases are trendy. The link provided by Hot Trends for each phrase -- to a page with recent news and blog posts, and relevant websites -- should clear up this confusion for some queries. But often, the reason for the trendiness is not revealed.

Perhaps Google will improve its Trends pages over time so that the meaning of each search is immediately apparent. But in the meantime, I wonder whether it would be a public service for someone to explain the meaning of non-obvious queries?

A blog called the answer to your query does this for many of the crossword clues. But I think that something broader -- covering all types of queries -- is in order.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Custom Search Engine for Hot Trends?

I'm experimenting with a Custom Search Engine for Google Hot Trends. But before I finish it, I'll have to confirm whether the Terms of Service for Google Labs and Google in general permit a CSE for Hot Trends. And I'll also have to see whether the CSE works well. It's more complicated that you might think ....

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

"... but I want to know what's trendy now!"

Message for the past several hours on Hot Trends:

"We're sorry.

The server encountered a temporary error and could not complete your request.

Please try again in a few seconds."

And more recently on Google Trends:

"We're sorry.

Google Trends is currently undergoing network maintenence and should be available again in a few hours.

We appreciate your patience."

[Note the misspelling of "maintenance." Very un-Google-like!]

Where do Google Hot Trends come from?

Some preliminary thoughts on where Google Hot Trends come from:

  • News (celebrities, scandals, politics, etc.)
  • Popular blogs and blog posts
  • Announcements (such as availability of tickets for concerts)
  • Upcoming events (holidays, sports events, etc.)
  • What's on TV (especially cable movies and sports events)
  • Game show questions (especially from "Are You Smarter Than a Fifth Grader?")
  • Contest questions (especially on radio)
  • Crossword clues (especially from the New York Times and Los Angeles Times)
These categories are in no particular order. They also may overlap. Indeed, a potential search term in one category (such as news) will likely filter over to other categories (such as blogs), increasing the buzz.

Am I missing any categories?

Sunday, June 10, 2007


I find it very poignant that Ruffian is the top-rising search now. (Three of the June 9 Google Hot Trends, including #3, concerned Ruffian as well.)

One of my earliest memories -- perhaps the earliest in my life -- was watching TV with my dad as Ruffian raced Foolish Pleasure. And now, one of my newest memories is seeing Rags to Riches win the Belmont Stakes.

I don't have a personal memory of how Ruffian's race ended. This is probably for the best, since I was a young child then.

But I still think of Ruffian when any other horse breaks down -- Go for Wand, Pine Island, and of course, Barbaro. Go for Wand's breakdown is one of the saddest events I've ever witnessed; what a brave horse, and what a horrible injury.

After thinking about the deaths of these animals, I've come to the point where I can't support horse racing anymore.

Still, I'm glad that Rags to Riches won her race. It's inspiring that a female horse can defeat the best male horses. While people and horses differ, it still feels like a victory in the "battle of the sexes" -- a battle that has persisted from Ruffian's day to our own.

Friday, June 8, 2007

That's So Hot

Too much Paris Hilton!

I was hoping to revise my first Paris Hilton post to include every relevant search. But I don't think I can find them all (until they're indexed on Google, anyway)!

It's probably for the best. A page filled with every Paris search would look like keyword spam.

* * *

The top Paris search now: paris hilton crying. Are we reveling in a celebrity's misfortune; curious whether her sadness was real; or something else?

Meanwhile, we have the unfortunate return of paris hilton sextape clips and a night in paris. Wasn't this "hot," like, three years ago?

* * *

Update: I'm starting to worry that we're collectively ogling and making fun of a person who needs help -- much like we've done with Lindsay Lohan and Britney Spears.

Maybe it's time for our society to take an interest in something other than young female celebrities in trouble. We only make things worse by feeding the frenzy around them.

That's Hot

What better way to follow the epic saga of Paris Hilton than with Google Hot Trends?

May 15 (when prison was a distant concern): paris hilton sculpture
June 4: sarah silverman paris hilton
paris hilton mug shot
June 7: sheriff lee baca
paris hilton out of jail
June 8 (the queen of all Paris Hilton news days):
associated press
fox news
paris hilton breaking news
paris hilton home address
paris hilton kings road
how old is paris hilton
paris crying
e news
paris hilton medical condition
rick hilton
superior court judge michael t. sauer
lee baca
twin towers correctional facility
paris hilton back to jail

Predictions from Friday's New York Times crossword

So many searchable clues from the Friday puzzle ... I hardly know where to begin!

Nevertheless, I'll select five clues that I believe will appear on Google Hot Trends. [Update: The strikethroughs indicate predictions that didn't come true.]

1971 hit with the lyric he danced for those at minstrel shows (or just he danced for those at minstrel shows?)
1998 tony winner for best play
grammy winner blige
constellation near norma
girl group with the 1986 1 hit venus [I'm guessing that the # symbol in "#1 hit" won't show up on Hot Trends.][Aha, 1986 hit venus ... that is easier to type!]

By the way ... the clue for 1-down is "Google heading." For the answer ... check the Google homepage! :-)

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

From NYT to GHT

Every day, Will Shortz and colleagues have a large impact on Google's search trends.

Based on the New York Times crossword clues for June 7, here are some predictions for the upcoming Google Hot Trends:

If you're looking for answers to these and other clues, you can click the links and see what the news, blogs, and web results say. (For any searches that don't appear on Hot Trends, I'll remove the broken links on June 8.)

You can also check out Rex Parker's answers to some of the clues.

Sometimes Google reflects our sadness

The current top eight searches on Hot Trends all relate to a heartbreaking story: Police have found the body of Kelsey Smith, who was abducted at a Target in Overland Park, Kansas, on Saturday. The searches are for Kelsey Smith, for findkelsey.com (currently offline -- the Google cache is here), and for Kansas City area news stations:

  1. kshb tv
  2. kelsey smith
  3. kansas city news
  4. find kelsey
  5. findkelsey.com
  6. kmbc
  7. kctv5
  8. www.findkelsey.com
(For those of you new to this blog or unfamiliar with Hot Trends -- if you click on these links, you'll find relevant news, blog, and web results, collected by Google for these searches.)

I started this blog for fun -- and often it is. On a less happy note, I've previously commented on arguably sexist or repugnant searches. But on occasions like this, I realize again that Google is used to find everything in the world ... even the saddest things.

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

"Man and Wife"

On this blog, "hot wives" does not mean what you think it means.

What it means is that several wives have been "hot" on Google Trends.

Not including puzzle clue wives, TV wives, and ex-wives -- as well as wives listed by their given name, such as cynthia rodriguez -- there's been:

For all of the dozen or so hot "wife" searches, there's hasn't been one hot "husband" search.

Sunday, June 3, 2007

Hot Trends and "QDF"

A New York Times article (Google Keeps Tweaking Its Search Engine) includes a discussion of Google's "QDF" -- "query deserves freshness" -- initiative:

"The QDF solution revolves around determining whether a topic is 'hot.' If news sites or blog posts are actively writing about a topic, the model figures that it is one for which users are more likely to want current information. The model also examines Google’s own stream of billions of search queries, which [Google engineer Amit] Singhal believes is an even better monitor of global enthusiasm about a particular subject."

Was Hot Trends a spin-off from the QDF initiative? Was it a tool that Google's engineers developed for their internal work, and now have released to the public?

Google Blogoscoped, which alerted me to this article in the first place, notes the similarity to Hot Trends. But I see more than similarity -- I suspect causation.

No Feed, No Mashup, No Mapplet?

John Herren's Blog quotes the Terms of Service for Google Labs and concludes that scraping and mashups are prohibited. Hmm ... maybe. If a Google Trends Mapplet is allowed, then why not a Mapplet or mashup for Hot Trends?

Perhaps the problem is not making a mashup, but making one on a site that isn't hosted by Google. On this view, making a feed with a non-Google service could be a problem. Accordingly, I've deleted the Hot Trends feed.

In any event, I won't proceed with a Mapplet or mashup unless and until I figure out what's permitted by the TOS.


There's already a Google Trends Mapplet, called Geotrends.

If my technical skills are sufficient, I hope to create a Hot Trends Mapplet or mashup.

If my skills aren't sufficient -- and if yours are -- then I hope that you'll create one.

Either way, I'd like to see it. Seeing where the top-rising searches are coming from would be useful ... and fun!

* Update * I'm not certain that a Mapplet or mashup is permitted for Hot Trends.

Saturday, June 2, 2007

Deltiologist? Rex Parker knows the answer ...

Question of the morning: Are people suddenly interested in collecting postcards -- or is deltiologist a puzzle clue?

Update: If I had looked more carefully at Google Trends' list of blog posts on "deltiologist," I would have learned that "Deltiologist's purchase" is in today's New York Times crossword. (By the way, Rex Parker is "the 166th Greatest Crossword Puzzle Solver In The Universe!")

Friday, June 1, 2007

Feed for Hot Trends

Hot Trends lacks syndication. So, with the magic of FeedYes, I've created my own Hot Trends RSS feed.

This feed is limited to the top 20 results on Hot Trends. Does anyone know how to create a feed for all 100 results?

* Update 6/3/07 * I've deleted the feed.