November 15, 2009

Google Knows How Smart We Isn't

I stumbled across a very brief blog post concerning Google search suggestions and how they reinforce the idea of "txt speak" being associated with immaturity and generally less-than-stellar decision making skills. I thought I might expound on this with some screenshots.

Everyone is familiar with Google Suggest, which is the little AJAX function that throws up commonly searched for terms when you start typing in a Google search box. So by typing in a phrase, we can see what the most popular searches are containing said phrase.

Using this tool, we can make a quick, albeit unscientific, analysis of those folks who want to know the answers to life's questions through the anonymity of a Google search. For example, people who type their question in the form "How might ..." most commonly are searching for these answers:

We have questions about biology, chemistry, project management, communication techniques, and fallacious arguments. Those all sound like pretty smart topics to me.

So what if we start our search with something a little more "hip" and "youthful"?

The search quickly goes from scientific to, well, just stupid. Myspace account hacking, kissing, working out, growing weed, losing weight, and getting pregnant. I'll go out on a limb and say that "how 2 make a website" and "how 2 tie a tie" indicate our searchers are neither white collar professionals or web developers, and with grammar skills like those, I don't envision either becoming true in the near future.

It gets worse. Let's combine "txt speak" with bad grammar and see what turns up:

I don't think it's too far of a stretch to say that if your tween son/daughter starts their text messages and searches with "how u", there is a fair chance they are already well on their way to embarrassing you.

How about the world's most pressing ethical questions?

These all (arguably) seem like very important, intelligent questions. But "unethical" is such a difficult word. Let's go with something more monosyllabic.

Now that's more like it. Show me the ethical dilemmas I really care about. Like incest.

So if you or your offspring can't bear the thought of wasting time spelling out a word when it can be reduced to a single letter, really like keeping your vocabulary nice and slender, or think that the improper use of tense is acceptable because it's a cultural "dialect", let me suggest a new Google search for you.

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