Archive for May 27th, 2011


Google Correlate: Coming Soon To An Undereducated Blogger Near You

What’s the greatest downside to the blogosphere?  Blogs filled with lousy work, spilling fact-challenged pollution back into the common information supply and thereupon into search results.  Mountains of summary, worthless “research”. Fallacies and nonsense growing like mildew in a million SRO hotel showers.

What is the number one supply source for this tsunami of piffle? From whence comes the raw material that feeds these millions of undercooked posts? To whom does the army of the not-terribly-qualified on politics, science, economics, business or sociology turn to fuel and justify its worldview?

Nowhere more than Google.

At least as much as it has aided us in the hunt for data and information, Google has harmed us in our hunt for knowledge and wisdom. And the bloggers who don’t see this are truly something to behold. Nothing can be gotten more glibly, magnificently wrong than that found in the hackwork of credulous dilettantes who shower themselves indiscriminately with the Big G’s search results.

In fits of intellectual onanism, graduates of the “University of Google” routinely feel qualified to hold forth on poorly- or barely-understood topics at length. They proceed as if their “research” — more fairly called “loosely related compilations from Google’s keyword-obsessed, context-hobbled indexing robots burped up in search results” —  stands in for an education or for depth of experience, or just plain old humble respect for a complex topic.  It of course does not.

A classic fallacy found repeatedly in the spittle-flecked gabble churned out by these folks is the mistaking correlation for causation. For many who are no good at inductive reasoning, or are untrained in logic, inexperienced in business or creative endeavor, this is a very popular mistake. It is to believe that whenever two things take place near in time to one another, one of the things was the cause of the other. Without argument or proof, the correlations pile up to the sky and are treated by the lazy, handicapped blogger as if they were proof of causation.

So guess what’s here to help that fallacy hot rod along by adding nitro fuel and giant drag racing tires?

Enter Google’s newest beta program: Google Correlate. Correlate is  new tool that allows you to upload a time series expressing a trend. Google emits back the best-matching pattern of search terms inside the big G’s historical database.

As with most of Google’s utility as a research tool, serious results are only pointed to by its output, not proved.  But don’t expect the blogosphere (or mainstream media for that matter) to notice, or to be inspired to do the work required to actually add to human knowledge. Running with a tiny shred of dubious information is a lot more fun.

Boy, do I hate fun sometimes.



rob [at] warmowski [dot] com

@warmowski on twitter

Rob’s Bands

Rob Warmowski entry at Chicago Punk Database
1984-89: Defoliants
1991-94: Buzzmuscle
2001-05: San Andreas Fault
2008- : Sirs
2008- : Allende

Rob at Huffington Post

May 2011