A Skewed Web: Are you an outlier?

14 09 2010

70/365 - It. Was. Amazing.

Image by BLW Photography via Flickr

As previously seen at Biznology:

Relying solely on social news or social bookmarking services such as Digg, Reddit, Fark, Slashdot, and Delicious might leave you with a very peculiar version of the world. A glance at the Twitter hot topics or Google Trends suggests that our collective Web brain is that of a tween. It’s a skewed Web out there, and sometimes you might just feel like you don’t belong. But is that real, or just a distorted view of the social media world?

If you believe that Google’s Zeitgeist is a good proxy for “the spirit of times” as its name claims, last year we apparently cared more about Jon and Kate and Twilight’s New Moon than about the presidential inauguration, and there was also a quite unusual interest in paranormal activity:

Google Zeitgeist (US) – 2009 News – Fastest Rising
Google Zeitgeist (US) – 2009 News – Overview

Also, a quick glimpse at the current Twitter trending topics, or the top 50 topics of all time (which, in social media terms, means since September 2008) may also leave you wondering about how wise the crowds really are:

Twitter Trending Stats (Source: TweetStats.com, Aug 7, 2010, 12:07 AM)
Twitter Trending Stats – “All time”: Sep 24, 2008 to Aug 7, 2010 (Source: TweetStats.com)

Collectively, our social media activity seems to be closer to People Magazine and Sports Illustrated than to The New York Times or National Geographic. Of course, there’s nothing wrong with that, it is what it is—and I’m as guilty of taking the occasional look at TMZ as the next person.

Is this definitive proof that users of social media are more interested in celebrities, athletes and gadgets than in politics, science and, you know, “serious stuff”? Well, not necessarily. Both Google Zeitgeist and Twitter Trending Topics show “deltas” of interest, subjects that for one reason or another are suddenly becoming popular. A quick look at Google Trends show that, for all its popularity in 2009, “New Moon” doesn’t hold a candle to other popular terms:

Google Trends snapshot (taken on Aug 7, 2010)

Furthermore, people obviously search for things they don’t know where to find. Sites you visit often are likely already bookmarked or just get resolved by your browser when you start typing related keywords in the navigation box.

So, before you lose all faith in humanity, or at least in the online portion of it, take a deep breath and think again. There is a social Web out there that is much more diverse than what is revealed byTwitter or Google trending topics. If you are an outlier, rest assured that you are in good company 😉

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Itu 400 – Part 3: The land that Google forgot

30 01 2010

Google Maps still amazes me, even after all these years. It evolved from a plain online map to a full-fledged tool with niceties such as Street View and the ability to add your own location. If you live in Toronto, New York or Paris, you can’t help but expect that one day live images of your street will be available.

On the other side, if you live in a small city in South America, chances are that you won’t be that lucky. Here’s a snapshot of the satellite view of Itu in Google:


Itu, city core, Google Maps

As you can see using the red and green arrows as a reference, the map view and the satellite view are off by about 50 m. If you can read a bit of Portuguese, you’ll find that this map shows two city halls and, oddly enough, a campsite in the middle of the city! And if you ever lived there, you’ll spot many other errors in the map, with several points of interest with the wrong name or in the wrong location.

I wonder if a Street View of Itu will ever be considered by Google. Until that day comes, I’ll be helping them with my 2 cents: I’ve just visited their Local Business Centre and added my brother’s restaurant to it. After all, social media gurus told me that, if you are not Googleable, you don’t exist 😛

For my previous posts celebrating the 400 years of Itu, click here and here.





Brazilian football: a disregard for the impossible

13 12 2009

(…) regional tournaments are not economically efficient, as small football clubs benefit from revenues without generating them, due to their lack of followers.

(…) to solve several problems in Brazilian football (…):

1. Reduce the importance of regional tournaments, which would include from now on only small clubs on a “promotion and relegation” system.

2. Integrate the national and international tournament schedules (…)

3. Solve the economic issues of football clubs, and consequently, the issues of Brazilian football as a whole.

If you thought the excerpts above were written by Juca Kfouri or some other present-day Brazilian sports writer, think again: they were taken from the first issue of the weekly news magazine Veja, published on September 11 (!), 1968:

Veja No 1 - Sep 11, 1968

Forty one years later, the administrative problems of Brazilian football are still pretty much the same. Despite of the perpetual mess that is the CBF (the national football association), or perhaps because of that, Brazil has won 3 more FIFA World Cups after that article was written, and has been a staple at the top of FIFA rankings since its inception.

As anything else in the world, the success of Brazilian football in the international arena can’t be linked to a single factor. The diversity and the size of the population, the tropical climate, and the popularity of the game across all social-economic classes, all played a significant role in the development of that sport in Brazil. That’s all nice and logical, but I would argue that chaos and uncertainty were no smaller contributors there.

Where else in the world you would find:

On the other side, football is not a conventional team sport. To win the FIFA World Cup in its current format, a team does not need to score a goal or win a single game in regulation or extra time. Chile qualified to the knock-out phase in 1978 with 3 draws, and theoretically could go all the way to the finals by the means of just winning on penalty shootouts. Furthermore, bad refereeing seems to just increase the interest of fans, to the point that football remains one of the few team sports today where modern technology is off-limits. I suspect this kind of logic is unfathomable to the typical sports fan in North America. If the sport itself is so counter-intuitive, maybe being disorganized, irrational and implausible end up being competitive advantages 🙂 .

Marissa Mayer, VP of Search Product and User Experience at Google once wrote:

Creativity loves constraints but they must be balanced with a healthy disregard for the impossible. (…) Disregarding the bounds of what we know or accept gives rise to ideas that are non-obvious, unconventional, or unexplored. The creativity realized in this balance between constraint and disregard for the impossible is fueled by passion and leads to revolutionary change.

I can’t think of a better description for the jogo bonito. Of course, being creative and fancy is not necessarily the road to success (Netherlands in 1974 and Brazil in 1982 come to mind), but from time to time, that passion for the unconventional gets us gems like these:

Note: This post was updated after its initial publication to add the screenshot of the news magazine and for clarity purposes.