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I Know What You're Thinking

I once referred to the Internet as a "fountain of wisdom". I was immediately corrected - the Internet is a "fountain of information, with some wisdom in it". The good thing about the Internet is that all opinions are out there for everyone to see - some you agree with, and some make you quite uncomfortable, to say the least. However, it's all there - a digital representation of what the world thinks.

On 1 January 2012 at 12.01AM I was returning home from a family get-together, thinking about why the powers-that-be decided not to install street lights on a particularly dark and dangerous road.

What were you thinking about on 1/1/2012? Don't worry if you don't remember, Google knows.

The thing about Google is that their core business is collecting data, organizing it into meaningful bits, and using it to generate income. In an act of generosity, benevolence and magnanimity, Google has given us a nice little tool called "Google Trends", which anyone can use to track what the most popular searches are at any given time - in other words, Google knows what the global collective is thinking about at any moment.

The following table contains a list of the most searched terms in the first few hours of 2012. The data was recorded on the rssrover.com website and is originally sourced from Google Trends.
To enlarge, click the table.
Data compiled from rssrover.com
As you can see, the top search term on 1 Jan 2012 at 01:02AM was Brock Lesnar, a pro-wrestler (also see number 12). The next most popular search term at the beginning of 2012 is a chicken dip recipe, followed by searches for Dick Clark, ABC's New Year's presenter for the last 40 years.

A quick study of the list shows that 1, 12, and 14 are all searches for wrestling terms, with number 9 a search term based on a medical condition that Brock Lesnar suffers from, so I suppose it counts. There are also a couple of searches for alcohol-related terms (6 and 19).

At 02:18AM, priorities seem to have changed. Dick Clark moved up two places to the top of the list, the buffalo chicken dip recipe became a more popular search term than Brock Lesnar, jello shots moved down three places, but finding a liquor store was obviously a more pressing need, moving up to 16th place.

At 04:13AM Brock Lesnar made a comeback, the buffalo chicken dip recipe sliding down to 11th place. Although jello shots slipped to number 19, desperation for alcohol seemed to pick up with liquor store bumping up one place to 15 and the addition of moonshine at number 20. It also seems that a bunch of people forgot how to tie a bow-tie and sing auld lang syne.

The list at 05:14AM changed somewhat. Dick Clark retained the title as the top search term, Brock Lesnar slipped to third. Fewer people needed to know how to tie a bow tie and there was less demand for alcohol-related information, with jello shots falling off the list completely.

At 06:08AM, as people were either going home or waking up, a curious thing started to happen. Dick Clarke's unbreakable lead remained, but suddenly Brock Lesnar became a lot less important. All hope for finding a liquor store at 6AM was lost, but it suddenly dawned on the groggy, hungover masses that the world might end in 2012 (number 20 on the list).

By 07:49AM, when more people were coming-to, Dick Clark, obviously the most important, held position at the top, but the realization that last night's party could have been the last was sinking in with searches for Mayan calendar edging up a notch and the introduction of a new term "December 21 2012" coming in at 18th place.

So, in the first few hours of the new year, the important things to know were that:
  • For the 40th time, Dick Clark would rather work than go to a New Year's party
  • Actress Jenny McCarthy kissed an unidentified policeman at midnight
  • Michael Dyer was suspended for undisclosed reasons (I assume it had nothing to do with kissing a policeman)
Evidently, Dick, Jenny and Michael are far more important than the fact that the world is about to end.

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