Google Suggest is quickly becoming my favorite Google tool.
Start typing a string into the Google search box and a cool list of AJAX-powered predicted finished queries are presented to you. “4 9 e” – ah, here it is “49ers schedule”. Very helpful. It seems simple and innocent enough.
But try typing “Christianity is ” or “Judaism is ” and you’ll see a potential problem. Offended much?
So why would Google suggest that “Christianity is bullshit” or that “Chinese people eat babies”? Well, technically they aren’t. YOU are.
Google keeps its Suggest algorithm under strict lock and key, however hints from Google insiders reveal that the suggestions are naturally what you’d expect – they are largely dependent on a search string’s popularity. Those offensive and juvenile suggestions exist because normal people like you and me have actually typed those exact words into Google. And it’s not just one person – tons of people are using that search phrase!
It’s hard to believe though, isn’t it? Are there really that many people searching for “jon stewart is a douchebag”?
The indisputable evidence box was a conceptual mind-exercise I came up with a while back to test one’s ability to maintain justifiable skepticism. It’s like a pregnancy test for logic, except you don’t have to pee on anything.
In a nutshell, the test is to imagine a set of hypothetical evidence that is so overwhelmingly AGAINST your own belief system that you’d have no choice but to accept that you are undeniably wrong. The question is then: presented with this indisputable evidence box, would you abandon your beliefs?
I like this exercise because it’s naturally polarizing. For those with a strong scientific background, it’s a layup; the scientific method flourishes in this sort of situation where new evidence presents itself against a commonly accepted theory. But when the user’s response is fuddled, ambiguous, or even hostile toward the test, it’s quite clear that skepticism and rationality are not frequently-used tools in their personal bag of tricks.
It’s time for the 2009 year-end review. And to make this a little easier to digest, I’m giving out fictitious awards to celebrate the best and worst in the world of technology, science and entertainment.
We had some highlights. Twitter somehow became popular, giving rise to yet another way to procrastinate via the Internet. The LHC appears to be moving closer to destroying the universe or giving some scientists new physics to play with. And Saturday Night Live, after almost a decade under the radar, has finally figured out how to be funny again.
Also we have our first black president or something.
We’re also closing out the decade — a decade of nostalgia. Unsure what to actually call the years 2000 to 2009 (the “naughts”? the “zeros”?), we instead looked backwards to reminisce about decades we could actually pronounce. While this will make for some awkward future nostalgia (“Remember how we used to remember about Ninja Turtles?”), we surely welcome 2010. At last we have the “teens”. And yes, I am officially declaring 2010 – 2012 the “teens” as well. I’m not dealing with this crap for another 3 years.
Anyway, without further post padding, the 2009 Sprocket Awards.
I don’t understand people sometimes.
Google recently unveiled a new minor design change to its famously conservative and minimalist homepage. In fact, it is so minor, many people fail to catch it the first time. Go to www.google.com to see what I’m talking about.
Did you blink? The logo and search bar appear on the page load, but the menus and links fade in once the mouse moves.
Okay, fine. Kinda gimmicky, but I applaud any excuse to flex some HTML5 (check out the source!). But god all mighty are some people pissed.
The forums over at the Google Web Search Forum are crawling with pitch-fork armies.
Like this monster. With over 600 replies, this thread is full of “annoyed” peeps, most of whom are demanding an option to disable the fade. And then there’s this poor fellow, who reformatted his computer TWICE, thinking he had a virus.