BLOG POST: Search The Search Engine
This assignment uses Google Trends, a service that allows you to see the relative popularity of search terms typed into google. It also allows you to track search terms and traffic to different web sites by region. In this post you will use Google Trends to investigate the Bartelle reading.
Part I. Get Used to Google Trends.
First, try out google trends to get used to it. Go to http://trends.google.com/ and try the sample search "boots, shoes" (be sure to use the comma). You'll see that the keyword "boots" is less popular than "shoes." Also notice that people look for "boots" in more in the winter. If you look carefully, you'll see there is a small spike of interest in "shoes" when an Iraqi journalist threw a shoe at President Bush in December, 2008.
Next, change the region box (in the upper-right) to "United Arab Emirates." You'll see that boots are not searched for very often at all there (it is flat and hot), and the interest in "shoes" after the President Bush shoe-throwing incident was much more pronounced. There are many other things you can notice as well. Feel free to experiment.
Then, try out google trends for Websites by clicking "Websites" or visiting http://trends.google.com/websites. This compares traffic to different web addresses. Try the search: "uiuc.edu, illinois.edu". You'll notice that most people who visit these sites also visit a few other interesting sites related to life in Champaign-Urbana. Also the university's new domain name is gaining in popularity and the older domain name is declining.
Experiment with keyword searches at http://trends.google.com/ and website searches at http://trends.google.com/websites until you are comfortable using them. For instance, try comparing the keywords for two similar bands, celebrities, products, or politicians (facebook, myspace). Try comparing the websites for two similar companies or services (facebook.com, myspace.com).
Part II. Choose a Claim to Investigate
Use google trends to find support for an argument from the Bartelle reading. (You may have to experiment for a while until you find results that make sense.) Choose ONE of the following options and paste the text into your blog:
- search users "are incredibly lazy." They type in one word or "a few words at most, then expect the engine to bring back perfect results." (p. 24). Use a thesaurus and your imagination to investigate the different keywords that people might use to search for the same thing. Use google trends to compare synonyms and see what synonym is the most popular. Report your results. Then search for those keywords yourself in google and see which keyword is most effective at finding relevant results (or are they all the same?).
- Google has decided to emphasize product review sites over businesses (p. 157). How often do people use product review web sites vs. sites for stores that directly sell products? Identify several product review web sites that review the same product. Then investigate those web addresses using Google Trends website searches at http://trends.google.com/websites and use the also visited section to see what other sites people visit when they start at each URL. (For instance, are they trying to buy things? Or just read about things?)
- Some web searchers are looking for a particular web site that they already have in mind (last page of Bartelle). That is, they don't search for "social networking service," they search for "facebook." Use google trends to investigate website names (like brands) that people use as keywords. Try to compare prominent web sites or brands that do similar things (popular music sites, television networks, etc.). How do these compare to generic words and phrases that mean the same thing?
- Extra credit: Illustrate an argument of your choice that relates to Web searching and the Bartelle reading. You might use the keyword graphs to illustrate how searching works, or give some insight about search behavior from Bartelle. However, you must use evidence from Google Trends to support your argument and make a link to the reading. Feel free to email an instructor with your idea to see if you are on the right track.
Part III. Write up your results
Write up your results, explaining how they support the argument you chose from the Bartelle reading. You may also want to reflect on other parts of the Bartelle reading where your results might be relevant.
Two important requirements:
- You must include one or more screenshots to illustrate your findings (on some web browsers you can right-click or ctrl-click and select "view image" to select just the graph from Google Trends).
- Refer to and properly cite at least one concept or phrase from the Bartelle reading in your write up. The quotes given in the assignment prompt do not count.
TIP: If you get stuck, use the thesaurus, dictionary, SearchSpy, or Google Hot Trends to get you thinking about what people search for. On some web browsers you can also look through a list of things you've searched for in the past.
Post an answer of at least 300 words to your blog. Stating which option you chose does not count toward the word limit.
DEADLINE: your blog post should be online at 11 a.m. -- one hour before class begins.
Due on April 8, 2009.
This is the Web site for SPCM 199, Communication Technology and Society, at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.