Archive for the 'Data Candy' Category

27
May
11

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.

08
Dec
10

Gapminder, Or How To Make The Last 200 Years Appear Delicious

Facts do the darndest things when employed for choreography. The above clip is courtesy of Sweden’s Dr. Hans Rosling, head of Gapminder, an awesome project in statistical data visualization.  When I conceived of Data Candy as a category here, it was stuff like this that I had in mind.

21
Dec
08

15 Celebrities Who Have Fewer Fans On Facebook Than Mustafa “Kemal” Ataturk

15 Celebrities Who Have Fewer Fans On Facebook Than Mustafa “Kemal” Ataturk  – 380,484 fans

Dewey  from Malcom In The Middle –  365,629
Nicholas Cage – 302,109
Steve Carell – 286.375
Fonzie – 258,502
Musftafa “Kemal” Ataturk (duplicate account) – 249,254
Roberto Benigni – 228,808
Martin Lawrence – 214,321
Reese Witherspoon – 186,194
Stanley Kubrick – 179,751
Denzel Washington – 178,326
Woody Allen – 168,205
Chris Tucker – 165,553
Will Ferrell – 150,898
The Rock – 125,290
Mustafa “Kemal” Ataturk (duplicte account) – 113,357

16
Aug
07

Sedaris Sibling Thunderdome

Which Sedaris Do We Prefer?

Two Sedarises enter the Google Trends Thunderdome. Only one Sedaris leaves.

Amy: Bent and affable advice columnist for Believer. Primary obsession of David Letterman. Jerri Blank from Strangers With Candy, both the TV show and the surprisingly lackluster movie of the same name.

David: Bent and affable author, NPR radio personality and Francophile. Primary obsession of his husband. Stellar monologist. Has not starred in a lackluster movie.

Google Trends: Tell us which Sedaris we prefer!

click image for closeup of graph

Disney movies.

Well, it looks like 2006 was the terminal year for a prevailing pro-David trend. Note the big spike in Amy’s Google search and news popularity around the middle of that year. What happened? She was cast for Shrek III, and ever since then it’s been David flirting with the bottom.

Ahem.




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