Stuff I liked in ’06

(In no particular order)



  • The Killers – Sam’s Town
  • Colorblind – Robert Randolph and the Family Band
  • Straight Outta Lynwood, Weird Al Yankovic


  • Cars
  • Casino Royale
    (I really didn’t see many movies this year, but both of these were superb)


  • Dead Rising (Xbox 360)
  • Rainbow Six: Vegas (Xbox 360)
  • Tetris (Nintendo DS)
  • Big Brain Academy (Nintendo DS)
  • Guitar Hero 2 (PS2)

Five Things You May Not Know about Me

I’ve been tagged!

Off the top of my head, and in no way do I promise they’re interesting:

  1. Except for one visit to Hawaii, I’ve never been west of the Mississippi. I’m hoping to change that this year.
  2. My favorite kareoke song is Monster Mash. But I prefer to handle the backup vocals.
  3. I was one question short of making the second round of Jeopardy tryouts.
  4. I share a few genes with Almanzo Wilder, husband of Laura Ingalls Wilder.
  5. I’ve been in a few musicals, even somehow scamming my way into a role of ‘featured dancer’ once. When almost no males try out for roles, times get desperate 🙂

Four people who should fill this out too: Todd, Harley/Mr. J, Eli, and Libraryman. My world is quickly running out of those who are untagged.

Search engines’ top ten lists – What do they really mean?

As December comes to a close, the web once again gets swarmed with “year’s best” or “most popular” lists. I’ll probably be writing my own annual wrapup post in the near future. Today and yesterday I spent some time looking at Google and Yahoo’s top ten search terms for the year:

Google’s “Top Searches in 2006” (source):

  1. bebo
  2. myspace
  3. world cup
  4. metacafe
  5. radioblog
  6. wikipedia
  7. video
  8. rebelde
  9. mininova
  10. wiki

Yahoo’s “Top 10 Overall Searches” (source):

  1. Britney Spears
  2. WWE
  3. Shakira
  4. Jessica Simpson
  5. Paris Hilton
  6. American Idol
  7. Beyonce Knowles
  8. Chris Brown
  9. Pamela Anderson
  10. Lindsay Lohan

Now, something obviously doesn’t add up here. There’s no way Google’s and Yahoo’s user bases can be that different.

I started looking into just how each search engine calculates and chooses their top results. Google somewhat vaguely states that “To compile these year-end lists and graphs, we reviewed a variety of the most popular search terms that people typed into Google.”

Looking for more specifics, I ran across this interview with a Google VP. It turns out that the top ten is not based on simple popularity. Instead, it is based on ranking the quickest gainers in popularity. This explains why Bebo is ranked higher than Myspace. As a newcomer relative to Myspace, Bebo had more room to grow. If searches for Bebo went from nothing to a huge level this year, that’s a larger change than Myspace going from an already huge to slightly more huge level. And if searches for pornography and other net vices have leveled off, they won’t make the list either no matter how huge their numbers are. The only terms censored from Google’s list are their own product names.

This computer-generated list contrasts sharply with Yahoo’s policy of heavily editing and paring down their list. Based on reading the FAQ about Yahoo’s ‘Buzz’ rankings, the ranking process seems to follow Google’s pretty closely – the list is based on the largest increase, not simple numbers of searches. What’s more revealing is the list of what’s left out: “Company names (such as Yahoo!), utilities and formats (email, MP3), and general terms (movies, downloads, football)…” This alone explains most of the differences between the two companies’ lists – seven of Google’s ten qualify as company names.

Also, “The editors’ goal is to list subjects that are interesting to the broadest possible audience.” It’s hard to be sure, but I’d imagine the real world interpretation of that statement means the focus is on the entertainment world and the listed celebrities.

So what’s really the most-used search term of the year? Of the two lists, I think Google comes closer to answering the question. But there’s a third option: While I couldn’t dig this deeply into AOL’s search rankings, as they provide no background to the selection process, their top ten list rings a little more true to me. ‘Weather’ is number one, and the rest of the list is mostly generic terms like ‘games’ or ‘lyrics’. Not everyone is a power user, after all. But again, how this list was chosen is a mystery. Ultimately, without access to annual raw data the ‘real’ number one term probably can’t be known.

And there are probably a million ways of defining how the ‘real’ one should be calculated anyway. These lists are still useful in trend spotting, just take them with a grain of salt.

Time Person of the Year: You!

Time magazine has decided that each of us is worthy of the Person of the Year award – thanks to the rise of user generated content on the web (and I am of course putting this on my resume :-)).

Read the full article here. I think the ending bit is particularly illuminating:

Sure, it’s a mistake to romanticize all this any more than is strictly necessary. Web 2.0 harnesses the stupidity of crowds as well as its wisdom. Some of the comments on YouTube make you weep for the future of humanity just for the spelling alone, never mind the obscenity and the naked hatred.

But that’s what makes all this interesting. Web 2.0 is a massive social experiment, and like any experiment worth trying, it could fail. […] This is an opportunity to build a new kind of international understanding, not politician to politician, great man to great man, but citizen to citizen, person to person. It’s a chance for people to look at a computer screen and really, genuinely wonder who’s out there looking back at them. Go on. Tell us you’re not just a little bit curious.

Cool things I’ve run across recently:

By no means is this an all-inclusive list. – This site lets you download a whole U.S. patent in one pdf file, as opposed to the official registry’s method of one page at a time. I made a couple of our researching faculty members really happy with this link. – See which of your Flickr photos have been featured on the Explore page. Four of my year in photos project made the cut! (On a related note, I’m going to revive that project for 2007)

This primer/guide has been invaluable as I start to think about getting an HDTV. So many acronyms and numbers! Unlike a lot of more technical tv choice guides, this one is anchored with a dose of reality.

Beth of LibGaming invited me to iLike, a social recommendation engine for iTunes. It takes up a bit more of my screen real estate than I’d like, but otherwise seems pretty useful so far.

I got an iPod Nano! (Just the 2gb version, that’s still far more music than I can listen to while running.) Combined with the Nike pedometer sport kit and an armband, it has completely changed the way I exercise. The online stat tracking and comparisons with friends is really addicting. Plus, I run outdoors more now that I can keep reasonably accurate track of how far I’ve gone. I may write more about this at some point.

Lastly, I recently got to try the Nintendo Wii at a store. Now I’m going to have to buy one. Even a simple driving game is addictive!

Symposium Wrapup

I’ve been pretty quiet here as of late, but am in the process of making a ton of posts over at the UAH Symposium blog. Our “E-Info Global” symposium wrapped up on Friday, and early indications are that it went very well! I know I personally enjoyed listening to every speaker, and had some great conversations with other attendees during the breaks. By the end of today I hope to have the rest of the speaker summaries posted.

It was fascinating to see this symposium come together from behind the scenes. I now have a much deeper appreciation for those who plan conferences!

We’re thinking about doing it again next year, so keep an eye out!