Google Charmed By Grandma’s Polite Searches

screengrab of google search

Excerpt from this article:

“I asked my nan why she used ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ and it seemed she thinks that there is someone — a physical person — at Google’s headquarters who looks after the searches,” he told the BBC.

“She thought that by being polite and using her manners, the search would be quicker.”

…”I thought, well somebody’s put it in, so you’re thanking them,” she told the radio network.

“I don’t know how it works to be honest. It’s all a mystery to me.”

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Forget conspiracy theories – here’s why Google’s ‘Conservatives are’ blacklist is worrying

Google Conserative

Excerpt from this article:

This week, people noticed that entering “Conservatives are” to Google doesn’t result in any suggested searches popping up – in contrast to searches for “Labour are”, which offers up “… finished”, “… a joke”, and “… scum”, or “Libdems are”, which offers “… finished”, “… pointless” and “… traitors” as search suggestions.

It’s not the first time seemingly arbitrary Google search suggestions have hit the news. The service generally allows suggestions to be produced purely algorithmically, based on common searches. But sometimes it steps in, either to remove specific suggestions, or, more typically, to override the system and prevent a specific term returning any searches at all.

It’s that lack of explanation that leads some to leap to conspiracy. There’s no evidence to suggest when the term “Conservatives” was added to the blacklist, and Google won’t tell me, but the mere timing of its discovery has drawn people to ask whether it’s part of some shady deal regarding the company’s £130m sweetheart deal with HMRC over back taxes.

 

Why have I never been asked out? You asked Google – here’s the answer

‘This is why you’re never been asked out. Because very few people are sure enough of themselves to ask you.’

‘This is why you’re never been asked out. Because very few people are sure enough of themselves to ask you.’ Photograph: Allstar/Cinetext/Polygram

Excerpt from this article:

Every day millions of internet users ask Google some of life’s most difficult questions, big and small. Our writers answer some of the most common queries [such as]:

Why have I never been asked out?

…Why do humans kiss?

…What if I never get over him (or her)?

 

What Google can show us about our reaction to mass shootings

12-08-2015

Excerpt from this article:

You and millions of others turn to Google, where you type in the location of this shooting. You tweet or update Facebook about your rage, your frustration that this has happened again, your despair that politicians will still do nothing to protect you or anyone else from the next mass shooting. Because there will be more. The pattern will repeat itself. We know this. We’ve seen this.

Then you probably forget about it for a bit. Until news about the next mass shooting breaks.

According to Google Trends, interest in a mass shooting peaks on the day of or the day after, and then almost immediately drops off the day after that.

We care about these tragedies. We care about gun control. Why do we lose interest so fast?

The Ghosts in Our Machines

A friend calls unexpected connections with lost loved ones “winks,” and finding Google Maps photos of my mother felt like a wink of monumental proportions.

Excerpt from this poignant article in The New Yorker, where the writer describes spotting an image of his deceased mother on Google Street View:

Every now and again, when I’ve been working for too many hours without a break or have spent an entire day writing something, I jump on Google Maps Street View and get lost in my past.

The images on Street View, taken by fancy cameras that are usually—though not always—strapped to the tops of cars, are a boon for basement-dwelling architecture buffs and those who want to see the world without going broke. I use the site for far less cosmopolitan purposes. I track down baseball diamonds and bike trails I played on as a kid. I locate comic-book shops from back in the day, old college dorms, hotels my family stayed in during summer vacations back when we took summer vacations as a family. I plop down in places I’ve been, places that have meant something to me, and look around. Then I compare the contemporary to what’s in my memory. It’s a way to unwind, a respite from more taxing laptop-based endeavors.

At first I was convinced that it couldn’t be her, that I was just seeing things. When’s the last time you’ve spotted someone you know on Google Maps? I never had. And my mother, besides, is no longer alive. It couldn’t be her.

That feeling passed quickly. Because it was her. In the photo, my mom is wearing a pair of black slacks and a floral-print blouse. Her hair is exactly as I always remember it. She’s carrying what appears to be a small grocery bag.

The confluence of emotions, when I registered what I was looking at, was unlike anything I had ever experienced—something akin to the simultaneous rush of a million overlapping feelings. There was joy, certainly—“Mom! I found you! Can you believe it?”—but also deep, deep sadness. There was heartbreak and hurt, curiosity and wonder, and everything, seemingly, in between.

Personal (Search) History

Illustration by Erik Carter

Excerpt from this article:

One afternoon, riding the bus in downtown Montreal, Madelyne Beckles swiped open her phone to browse the web. She caught sight of her most recent mobile searches — ‘‘Snooki diet,’’ ‘‘Miley Cyrus’ sex tape,’’ ‘‘Bruno Mars songs’’ — and found this collection to be absurd but unexpectedly poignant: an unvarnished glimpse into the meanderings of her mind. Beckles, a 23-year-old visual artist whose work explores her relationship to technology, took a screen grab and shared the image on Instagram. This became the genesis of her newest project, called Herstory: Every so often, Beckles pulls up her mobile search history and saves it with a screen shot.

Beckles says she likes how this public display of her innermost thoughts, represented by her search terms, conveys an uncomfortable truth: that we are rarely as sophisticated and erudite as the versions of ourselves we publish online. ‘‘It is what I have actually searched, and it is how my mind works,’’ she said. She described viewing the images as ‘‘opening an underwear drawer of thoughts.’’

Six Things Google Remembers About My Parenting That I’d Almost Forgotten

Illustration by Abigail Gray Swartz

Excerpt from this article:

Google remembers. Over those six years (and even before they fully began) Google was my parenting manual and my “What to Expect When You’re Expecting.” That means that if I want to know what I was worried about in those first weeks, months and years, I have only to open my search history. Thus, the Internet version of “This Is Your Life:”

Searches about eating, peeing and pooping dominated in the first year or two of my children’s lives: “what’s in formula”; “toddler is picky eater”; “can a pull-up hold poop”; “potty training in three days” (Ha!)…

Sleep was also a major issue…

Some things never change. Our challenges with picky eating have continued, leading to a (fruitless) search for “children’s multivitamins only cherry.” Sleep issues also persist, albeit in more sophisticated forms. A search for “night fears” was somewhat addressed by a related one for “Dora night light.” Perhaps the most persistent problem is my children’s general, er, demeanor. On a particularly bad day recently, I asked Google: “Why are my kids so annoying?”