Are MeFiites......?
November 22, 2012 10:47 AM   Subscribe

Google and Bing autocomplete what they think they know what you're thinking. Sometimes they get it wrong. "People who study online behavior also say the autocomplete feature reveals broader patterns, including indications that the questions people ask of search engines often veer into the sensitive and politically incorrect." previously
posted by Xurando (29 comments total) 4 users marked this as a favorite

 
"I like to t"
"I like to think of Jesus as a mysterious badger"

I can see why. In the Gospel of Thomas, Jesus spends most of his time digging holes, spouting Gnostic doctrine and biting animals twice his size.
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 11:00 AM on November 22, 2012 [7 favorites]


I find that in real life I can never get The Fuck to repeat things that I didn't hear clearly the first time.
posted by srboisvert at 11:05 AM on November 22, 2012


Can auto complete be gamed? Can we pick a meme, and all search for it, and make it begin showing up in auto complete? I sense a MetaFilter project...
posted by LarryC at 11:13 AM on November 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


I was recently dumbfounded by a photo of Oakland Raiders owner Mark Davis’s haircut, and Google beats me to the punch.
posted by migurski at 11:14 AM on November 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


Is it wrong to masturbate to MetaFilter?
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 11:15 AM on November 22, 2012


I just lost The Game, apparently. Too bad, I had been on a 30 year winning streak without even knowing it.
posted by arcticwoman at 11:19 AM on November 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


I don't know, if I type in something like, say, "Prince Charles is not...", or "Prince Harry is not...", the suggestions seem just fine...
posted by Jehan at 11:19 AM on November 22, 2012


I was pretty impressed last night when I started to Google how long to cook a turkey based on weight, and Google caught it after "how long"
posted by exogenous at 11:29 AM on November 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


I did something like this for Mefi a few years back, though I'm sure it's changed a lot since then.
posted by Rhaomi at 11:30 AM on November 22, 2012


For revealing results, try "is it OK," "is it illegal," "why do," etc. You can get some interestingly gendered results by ending with the letter "g," since this leads to "guys" and "girls" (for instance, "why do g" or "is it ok for a g").
posted by John Cohen at 11:56 AM on November 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


Can auto complete be gamed? Can we pick a meme, and all search for it, and make it begin showing up in auto complete?

Wait, does it even work like that? Aren't your results personalized to your own search history, as long as you're signed in to your Google account? For instance I start a search in Google, it sometimes autocompletes to results that end in "site:ask.metafilter.com." That's clearly because I've done searches in the past that are restricted to AskMetafilter.
posted by John Cohen at 11:58 AM on November 22, 2012


Mefi is a darker place than I expected.
posted by Blue Meanie at 11:59 AM on November 22, 2012


Ha! I figure that Dead Body Disposal AskMe is searched and clicked a lot.
posted by elwoodwiles at 12:03 PM on November 22, 2012


...the questions people ask of search engines often veer into the sensitive and politically incorrect.

And there's nothing wrong with that. It hurts absolutely no one to google your prejudices. And maybe you'll even learn something to break them.
posted by DU at 12:20 PM on November 22, 2012 [2 favorites]


Well there is something kind of wrong with that, which is it becomes a reminder of how inane the mass of humanity are. Like when you are looking for mathematical proofs and you start by typing "proof that"
posted by iotic at 12:25 PM on November 22, 2012


Proof that Fermat's Last Theorm was solved is available online. True or false?
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 12:32 PM on November 22, 2012


Can auto complete be gamed?

Of course it can. Most of those autocompletes in the OP's fourth link are notorious fakes done with javascript. But you can also game the system by using Mechanical Turk to set up a distributed net of thousands of searches. Look in this link for the section near the end "And Fake Queries?"
posted by charlie don't surf at 1:11 PM on November 22, 2012


There are some depressing autocompletes, like Are blacks/black people/africans -> humans or Is the earth -> flat... Are there so many English speakers wondering about such things in 2012, or are those pranks/fakes/statistical glitches?
posted by elgilito at 1:23 PM on November 22, 2012


It's worth noting that almost all the really odd ones are actually quotes from various media. The article point this out, a bit coyly, but here are the sources.

I am extremely terrified of Chinese people (I believe the original source is Postsecret)
I like to think of Jesus as a mischievous badger.
Why is there a dead Pakistani on my couch
Cats like Hitler
I pooped a cornish game hen
Old people burning
You smell like a baby prostitute
I ate a big red candle
Irish people are impervious to psychoanalysis

I feel like this makes Google make a little more sense, and the questions people ask Google a little more comprehensible. At the same time, how mad is our popular culture?

In fairness, though, Will Ferrell seems responsible for a lion's share of these.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 2:01 PM on November 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


Proof that Fermat's Last Theorm was solved is available online. True or false?

I have a really elegant answer but there's not enough time to google it.
posted by ersatz at 3:02 PM on November 22, 2012 [3 favorites]


At this point, you only need to type in "I once go" for Google to autocomplete "I once got busy in a Burger King bathroom" as the first result.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 3:27 PM on November 22, 2012 [3 favorites]


Google seriously needs to revert to their circa: 2005-08 or so algorithm. When it gave you brilliantly diverse results for what you specifically asked for, instead of today's filtered, marketing-driven, and location-specific results based on what they think you really meant to type.
posted by Thorzdad at 6:34 PM on November 22, 2012 [4 favorites]


You can get some interestingly gendered results by ending with the letter "g," since this leads to "guys" and "girls" (for instance, "why do g" or "is it ok for a g").

But I also liked "Is it OK for g....uinea pigs to eat newspaper".
posted by rongorongo at 7:41 PM on November 22, 2012


I'm sort of surprised autocorrect hasn't been gamed more thoroughly. Autocompleting "how" with, let's say "does verizon offer such top-notch service" would seem like exactly the type of thing various SEO entities would straightup kill people to achieve. For something as broad as that example I imagine there are too many legitimate queries to overcome, but I do wonder if more specific questions are manipulated in some such manner.
posted by passerby at 7:47 PM on November 22, 2012


The most disturbing thing about the autocomplete is that when you begin typing a female celebrity's name, the suggestions almost always include "feet" as a high ranking option. Are there really that many people out there googling feet?
posted by gjc at 9:12 PM on November 22, 2012


Foot fetishists.
posted by pharm at 12:51 AM on November 23, 2012 [2 favorites]


Thorzdad: Google seriously needs to revert to their circa: 2005-08 or so algorithm.
What you want are the results from that era, not the algorithm, which was figured out and subsequently gamed to death by SEO. And I very, very much doubt their search algorithms are driven by marketing in the least. They sell ads because the entire world trusts them to have useful results. If that reputation begins to slip, they lose the cornerstone of their entire business.

They make it very clear that they do not sell positioning or anything else related to the search results themselves, as you seem to imply. They've even punished spammy behavior by some of their largest advertisers by docking their PageRank. SEO and spam continue apace, of course, but Google is hurt by and fighting them, not encouraging them.
posted by gilrain at 8:15 AM on November 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


Google seriously needs to revert to their circa: 2005-08 or so algorithm. When it gave you brilliantly diverse results for what you specifically asked for, instead of today's filtered, marketing-driven, and location-specific results based on what they think you really meant to type.

I know how this makes me sound, but almost every element of using the web the way I like to use it has become rigged and clunky in the past 5-7 years. From having to inexplicably click links twice, to constantly dealing with pages optimized for a different device, to Google assuming I'm only interested in the things I already know, it is a constant low-level frustration.
posted by General Tonic at 9:34 AM on November 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


The most disturbing thing about the autocomplete is that when you begin typing a female celebrity's name, the suggestions almost always include "feet" as a high ranking option. Are there really that many people out there googling feet?

That's because Google doesn't yet know that "feet" is a dirty word. Say no more.
posted by General Tonic at 9:37 AM on November 23, 2012


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