At whatdoestheinternetthink.net you can actually find out what the internet’s global opinion is on a given search term: positive, negative or indifferent. I conceived the idea and built the site in January 2009 and it went on to go viral twice; June/July 2009 and April 2012 (following a re-design and re-coding).
Since launching, this has sparked some discussion as to how it all works. Well, you can understand that I don’t want to disclose too much of the ‘algorithm’ of the site. However: basically it searches based on associative (so far just English) sentences. The given search term is used in these sentences which are then sent off to the various search engines, counting the amount of results returned. (Sentences are double quoted before they are sent off, so as to make sure the search-engines search for occurrences of the *whole* sentence).
This, of course, produces questionable results which should not be taken very seriously. However, the more results (hits) returned, the more reliable these results can become. Do a search for George Bush and then Barack Obama, and you’ll see that the internet is certainly not far off – or perhaps even in-sync – with the result you had in mind.
Velar Trill has written a very nice article on whatdoestheinternetthink, which is spot on. I suggest you read it, as it explains more on the connotation of searches.
This is a fascinating little application that uses Microsoft’s Bing search service to analyze perception of phrases based on the context they occur in across the interwebs. It sounds pretty fascinating, but any amount of testing will immediately reveal seemingly contradictory results like “the Internet hates Hitler, but loves Adolf Hitler” or “the Internet dislikes marijuana, but loves weed.”
So is whatdoestheinternetthink.net laughably broken? Far from it! This results are actually exactly what you’d expect, and it’s pretty clear why they happen. What these two apparent errors are an example of is what my LING 201 professor called “unspeak,” a phenomenon where words that ostensibly refer to the same thing have radically different connotations.[..]
So while whatdoestheinternetthink.net isn’t that useful for figuring out what the internet thinks (although it’s dead on when it comes to cats and 4chan), it could be very useful to linguists charting the development of the English language, or other languages if it ever bothers to index them.
Articles on (or using) whatdoestheinternetthink.net: