1. France is bacon, and other nuggets of wisdom

    Posted January 2, 2014 in visualisation  |  No Comments so far

    Yahoo! has an autocomplete service much like Google’s. When you enter the name of a place such as “France”, the results it suggests give an indication of what the Yahoo! search system thinks about it. Almost all of them are either derogatory or surreal.

    Kier Clarke over on Google Maps Mania has produced a Google Map which displays these Yahoo! auto-suggestions over the associated regions. It’s a mixture of the sublime and the ridiculous.

    Western Europe as seen by the Yahoo! autocomplete algorithm

    Western Europe as perceived by the Yahoo! autocomplete algorithm

    I especially like the ones where the algorithm gets confused over homophones and generates sentences that have nothing to do with the country at all, like “Greece is the word” in the screenshot above.

    But while those examples provide an insight into the rules and quirks of the Yahoo! system, most of the others reflect a disdain for the world as a whole – “Italy is racist”, “Wales is crap”, “Germany is being crushed” and so on.

    There’s something strange and uncanny about the effect the map creates, its jarring combination of bleakness, hostility, confusion and nonsense. This seems to be par for the course for objects created by the haphazard collision of software algorithms with the real world.

    (via Atlantic Cities)

  2. Google’s guinea pig

    Posted September 6, 2010 in user centred design, web  |  No Comments so far

    Google is testing a new feature on its main search page, and I seem to have become an unwitting guinea pig.

    The feature is called “streaming” (edit: it was actually Google Instant, which went live a few days later) and the idea is that the search results page is dynamically generated as you type into the search box. You don’t have to click “Search” for the results to appear. You could think of it as the “suggested results” box on steroids.

    Initially, the results page is completely blank waiting for your input:

    Then, as soon as you type something, Google starts to run a search. I had to move quickly to get this screenshot:

    A few milliseconds later Google has come up with some results, which then appear on the search results page:

    At this point I’ve yet to click “search”, but doing so will only clear the auto-suggest box – the results are there already. And the whole thing happens so quickly you don’t really notice it, as your focus is on the search box you’re typing into.

    Does it improve Google? It’s difficult to say. Fast Company were sceptical about it when it was announced back in August. It certainly doesn’t mar the experience, once the initial surprise has worn off, but it doesn’t really enhance it either. In fact it’s mildly frustrating to see your desired result on the screen, but to have it obscured by the auto-suggest menu until you click return.

    Maybe the main benefit is the slightly extended life your keyboard will enjoy if this feature becomes official, as you’ll be hitting the return key far less frequently.