Tracking my Google usage

I received in email today an invitation to be in a research study tracking web searches. The teaser for the study says:

“In this study, we’re interested in learning more about how people use search engines to find information on the Web. … The duration of the study is 3 weeks. To participate you will need to … be willing to install a small piece of software on your home computer that will log your web browsing & searches [and] answer a few simple questions related to your searches on a daily basis (for a 3 week period).”

The research group is offering $200 for participation, which seems like a rather paltry total for the privacy invasion it invites. But the question is a good one for the masses: how do we use search engines to find information on the Web? So obvious yet so undefined.

I decided to peek at my own Google queries on my work computer to analyze themes and trends. I consider myself a pretty solid, if shallow web searcher: I can almost always find what I’m looking for, though I tend to rephrase searches to find better results than dig past the first 20 or 30 results.

Some of my own trends, exposed:

  • I use quotes. A lot. Many of my searches force Boolean-style operations on Google, allowing me to pinpoint terms as written. I find a lot of proper nouns this way, such as “dan gingold” “mach five”, which helped me track down my former coworker’s band. (I have Pandora to thank for that one. And Dan is now my Facebook friend. Natch.)
  • I do a lot of iterative searching, as noted above: “fountains of wayne” then “fountains of wayne store” then “fountains of wayne closed” and “fountains of wayne timely demise.”
  • Maybe I shouldn’t admit this, but I have a whole bunch of mp3 searches in my results, for when I want to hear that one song one time at work.
  • I use Google Maps a lot, and I apparently fine-tune my mappings a lot–I’ll do a town-to-town search, then I’ll put in the specific destination, and then tweak my settings somehow. (So restless.)
  • I also use Google for a lot of searches that could take place on the site itself, because it’s easier just to do the google. I have dozens of people’s names with linkedin in the search, and many references to aiaio or Timely Demise from cross-referencing my own archives.

I’m sure there’s more insight to be had, but that’s quite an interesting start. How do you do the google?

This is a cross-post from aiaio.

links for 2009-10-22

  • Today's fun fact: this past quarter, three out of every four new-device activations at AT&T Wireless were iPhones
  • "Can't bloggers and citizen journalists replace [newspapers]?"
    "In my honest opinion, that notion is based on basic ignorance on how news is gathered and verified. The so-called mainstream media has its faults, but how, for example, can the information that you get from a blogger be accepted if you don't know his background; you don't know who might be paying him; you don't know what experience he's had or what his personal prejudices may be. When you have a newspaper, you have at least one person besides the writer who looks at the product critically. The information that you get from online is often not the product of an organisation interested in the enterprise of verification."
    (tags: news)

Curating the ‘thing’

Things Magazine (which, by any measure, has been a fantastic blog for nigh a decade) recently mused on image-curation blogs and the coming demise of the ‘thing’. I’ve read the post several times–Things posts demand as much–and while the concept is compelling, I’m not sure I agree.
Things takes to task the continuous nature of websites that focus on visual presentation. To them, the individual item is losing its individuality: “There is no space for contemplation, just clicking, scrolling and flicking. This leaves the solitary object somewhat adrift, only embodying meaning when it is juxtaposed or collated or slotted into a larger collection.”
Certainly, the web lends itself to curation, and good curators stand out. Witness the collections of news links on Drudge; the photography saturation of The Big Picture or the Ai-designed Air America; and the linklog happiness of old-school blogs like waxy.org. It’s a presentation style that Things acknowledges works well, even for them.
Where Things gets upset is in the loss of isolation. Because unlike, say, an art gallery, a visual blog or tumblr feed lacks the space constraints that force tight curating and clever presentation. Art on a wall gets both its own white space and a finite amount of visual competition. Visitors know the show has n number of items, and that each one is there for a reason, and that they should spend an accordant amount of time on each piece.
Meanwhile, viewers of a visually oriented blog are disinclined to pause, because there’s always more, always another item behind the link, waiting for exploration. And with the invitation to sprawl–and to publish frequently; for frequent posts generate traffic–the curation can be more about inclusion than selection.
Still, I don’t think the synopsis that “the ‘thing’ is in danger of imminent extinction” is accurate. People will always pause to explore and enjoy that which is worth exploring and enjoying. The difficulty lies in quantity and curating. The blogs that get this will continue to thrive, and the items within them will find the audiences they deserve.
This is a cross-post from aiaio.

Heralding a smaller can of soda

Is the Coke mini can the new light cigarette? in Slate.
Despite the ironic tone of this article, I like where Coca-Cola is going with this. Portion control is an important psychological shift for the American consumer.
Go back a few decades and the standard Coke bottle was 6.5 ounces. Profit margins and gluttony and one-upmanship have boosted the default bottle size to 20 oz. 7-Eleven sells 64 ounce soda cups! So if a small can of Coke, like a 100-calorie bag of cookies, can get us to consume less sugar, so be it.
For what it’s worth, Coke nowadays is best imbibed from an 8-ounce glass bottle.

links for 2009-10-19

Relativity

Me, listening to the Yankees-Angels game on Friday night: “Hear that guy’s name?”
Amy, complicit: “Yeah?”
“That’s ‘Shawn’ Figgins. Spelled C-H-O-N-E.”
“Really?”
“Yep.”
“What, is he related to Choire?”