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”?
I’ve reached that point in my mid-twenties where I look toward the trailing generation with confused bewilderment. I prefer Grandpa Simpson’s explanation:
“I used to be ‘with it‘. Then they changed what ‘it‘ was.”
Small, unknown bands I used to listen to are suddenly selling out entire stadiums. Other bands that were once popular have retreated to Japan. Meanwhile, the crappy music those urban kids listened to five years ago is still topping the charts for some reason.
The rise and fall of fads seem chaotic at best. I’ve simply come to accept the fact that I won’t understand the popularity of the Jonas Brothers, just as I didn’t understand the popularity of their parents the Hansons. But how and why do trends like these spread?