May 16, 2006

Look Who's Googling Osama

I'm working on a long piece about the Palestinian West Bank that will include lots of photos and interviews with Palestinian civilians and politicians. In the meantime I don't want to let this space get stale. So I'll leave you with this to chew on for now.

Yesterday the Egyptian Sandmonkey introduced me to Google Trends. (Yeah, I know, I'm behind on this one.) Turns out, for those of you who don't know, you can use Google Trends to track search phrases over time. It even includes nifty graphs that show you which citites and countries the searches originate from.

Here's an example that Sandmonkey thought was funny. These are the top ten countries where Google searches for “man boy sex” come from.

Top Region One.bmp

It would be so easy to misinterpret data like this. Nevertheless, when I showed Sandmonkey (who is Egyptian and lives in Cairo) who Googles “Osama,” he said “Oh man. Man oh man.”

Top Regions Two.bmp

Can anyone think of a benign explanation for this? Egypt is overwhelmingly the most Islamist place I've ever been, and I can't think of a benign explanation that takes that into account. No other Muslim country even appears on the chart, not even Saudi Arabia.

Whatever the explanation, Google Trends is addictive. Once you start, it's impossible to stop. Some of the results are insanely counterintuitive. Like this one.

Posted by Michael J. Totten at May 16, 2006 11:47 AM
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