What Are People Looking For?

Amy Winehouse in London. I think this might be from AP.I was poking through Google’s toolset and stumbled on Google Trends. Google says that their Trends (in beta) can let you “see what the world is searching for.” Among the cool features, you can compare trends on different search terms over time and by region.

So, you can see that U.S. users had a spike in searches for Amy Winehouse, and that Amy tracks higher than Britney. Across the pond, Brits were generally less interested in learning about Amy, and more in Britney.

You can also track the relative popularity of Kanye West and 50 Cent. Fitty famously promised to retire from music if Kanye’s CD outsold his on the day they were both released. 50 had more searches than Kanye through most of 2007–until the release of the CDs. Kanye queries killed him on that day, and has been a bit ahead ever since.

So, what about the Democratic contenders?

Google search trend data shows Clinton queries ahead of Obama queries for much of 2007Well, Hillary Clinton (red line above) was ahead of Barack Obama (blue line) during the long pre-primary season. Interest in both candidates picked up at the end of December, going into the Iowa caucuses. Since then, people have been looking for information about Obama more than info about Clinton–and on some days by much more.

Even more interesting (at least to me) is the regional trending.

Line graphs showing Obama ahead in Iowa, Clinton up in N.H. and tie in S.C.By December 2007, Obama (blue) was ahead of Clinton in Iowa, which he won. Clinton (red) was more interesting to people in New Hampshire, and she won there. And South Carolina queries at the end of the year were pretty even for our intrepid candidates. [Obama ended up winning S.C. handily at the end of January.]

Anybody picking up a trend here? It looks like people might be looking for stuff that they are interested in. This can be troubling for the Clinton campaign if you take a look at what people are looking for now in Texas and Ohio.

It's crazy--Obama queries are way up from Clinton in both Texas and Ohio.The Google Trend for the past 30 days sees a large gap between searches for Obama (still the Blue Line) and Clinton (Red Line) in these two key upcoming primary states. Tuesday will tell, but as far as people looking for candidate information, it appears that they are more likely to be seeking information about Obama. Or maybe how to contribute to his campaign. Or how to volunteer. Or who knows. Maybe they already know enough about Clinton.

This Google Trends stuff is so cool. And despite the fact it skews to Internet users–more educated, more white, more wealthy– it’s now the Doc’s zeitgeist poll.


Loathe as I am to defend the Miserable Ms. Spears recently as a performer, folks need to lay off her and her mothering.

This isn’t to say that Britney is a “good” mom. But who is? Reading and hearing (non-stop) the accusations, I kept waiting for the awful surprise. Turns out that the kids may “have poor dental hygiene and bad eating and sleeping habits.” That Britney used Whitestrips on the babies–DUMB–and sometimes is naked in front of them. And the awful part–the reason we should take her kids away is…is…is???

Now, don’t think that I approve of all the bad stuff that Brit is doing–but I don’t approve of lots of things that other parents do. Like putting ice tea in the baby’s bottle. Like taking their 3 and 4 year-olds to R-rated movies (and sitting in front of me!). Like spanking their kids. Like teaching them that evolution is a theory or that Reagan was a great president.

I am thankful that nobody ever saw me the day after my sister-in-laws wedding when I was hung over and my kids saw. Or when I turned my back for a minute and there was a baby in the middle of the dining room table, lapping up the butter in the dish. Or when we let the family dog return after biting the then six-year-old. Or when we were in the pool and the lifeguard jumped right in front of us in the pool to save our 4-year-old who got in over his head. Or the time(s) that they heard me curse.

From what I have heard, Britney’s actions to date–like ice tea in the bottle and Cheetos for breakfast–are not the things that you lose custody for. Part of being a parent is learning on the job, and the judge has sentenced her to that.

Sometimes I think that outside of her million$$, there but by the grace of God go I.

The millions of dollars thing, though, does make me relate to her a bit less.


Turns out that the 12-year old isn’t allowed to touch the snow while at school. Even when they are on the playground for recess. Even when there is wonderful packing-style snow all over the place.

No snow touching.

Now I got the other touching thing, and watching out where the huskies go, but no touching snow?

“Why?” you ask.

Well, because you might put your eye out, of course!

We have really become a very scared people. And not just terror-wise. We have adopted these zero tolerance modes to protect ourselves and our kids–and the insurance premiums of schools, government, stores, etc.

We warn people that coffee is hot. We don’t allow kids to bring in sunscreen to pre-school without a waiver. We make toddlers take off their shoes and coats and take them out of their mom’s arms before being screened for explosives. And we don’t let them touch snow.

Yet, there is no shielding from pictures of Britney’s privates (sorry, no link to that). Or from the graphic violence in video games marketed to kids. Or from the sexualization of little girls. And we are still afraid to protect kids from sexually transmitted diseases.

This seems squirrely. Do we want our kids’ in a plastic bubble to keep them safe? Do we give up control of our kids to the “media”?

Wait, I am losing track–should I be afraid? Should I be strong? And where on this spectrum is yellow snow?