So there I am one recent weekday morning, laboring away at my ever-stressful columnist job, when I run a Google search that begins, "How do you ...."
Because my memory cells maxed out years ago, I can't remember what I was attempting to figure out. Quite likely something that had nothing to do with work.
Anyway, being the highly observant professional that I am, I noticed that Google, admirably concerned about the longevity of my keyboard, had provided me with a long, odd list of suggestions to automatically complete my "How do you ..." query:
... sleep Sam Smith?
... get pink eye?
... get a UTI?
... get ringworm?
... get hepatitis C?
Highly amused (it must have been a Monday), I read the list aloud to nearby co-workers — who immediately insisted that those offerings were in response to searches I had previously made. An ugly accusation, indeed.
So I badgered them to run their own searches. They did (must have been a slow news day) and, yes, they got the same results.
This led to extended merriment and mirth on company time. Next, we tried “Can I ...” and got these suggestions:
... run it?
... stream it?
... get an abortion in Ohio?
... have your number?
... have this dance?
... have a what what?
Yes, you may have a what what, as long as Jay-Z is OK with it.
A query that begins "Will it ..." leads almost exclusively to meteorology:
... rain today?
... rain tomorrow?
... ever stop raining?
... rain tonight?
Will it SLIME? Are that may people really punching up that question?
Apparently so. The first thing that turns up for “Will it slime?” is a YouTube video entitled, "GIANT SIZE BUTTER SLIME! 10 biggest and best giant slimes ever! You won't believe your eyes! If you like slime videos with big slime, you'll love this compilation!" As of late last week, it had been viewed 1,430,162 times.
Yes, slime. Never have I felt more out of the loop.
It gets worse. When you search for "Why can't ..." the first response is "... I get slime?" Good lord.
The rest of the list sounds more like the culture I thought I was living in:
... we be friends?
... dogs have chocolate?
... I cry?
... can't you just be normal?
... this be love?
As we continued to mull over these vital journalistic issues, speculation added to the fun. On the brink of punching up “Why do ...”, Deputy Metro Editor Joe Thomas suggested "birds suddenly appear" — thereby cementing his reputation as a lost soul whose top-of-mind responses include corny Carpenters songs.
Sorry, but the top returns for “Why do ...” are all about house pets, not birds:
... dogs eat grass?
... cats purr?
... cats knead?
... we yawn?
... dogs pant?
... dogs lick?
... dogs lick their paws?
Well, if you're going to do a “Why do ...”, you've gotta do the flip side. And as I prepared to Google “Why don't we ...", I was rooting hard for the first response to be “do it in the road?”
Nay. Instead, the question was hijacked by another musical group from another era, this one named, ahem, Why Don't We. So that query led to:
How does Google decide what to offer?
Initially I figured the suggestions were based on searches by Google users nationwide. But the error of that assumption became evident when I went for “Where does ...” and the top response was:
... Baker Mayfield live?
Clearly, there's a regional component at work.
I would have asked Google to explain, but Google has not responded to a single one of my inquiries since it came onto the scene in 1998. However, if you Google around enough, you can learn a lot about Google.
Seems this “predictive search,” as it's called, is based on a number of factors, primarily overall popularity, although sometimes less-popular searches appear near the top because Google considers them more relevant.
The results also can be influenced by your geographic location, current events and, yes, your own previous searches.
Google has been offering the autocomplete feature since 2008. (If it annoys you, you can turn it off. Just Google it.)
By the way, the correct answer to “Where does Baker Mayfield live?” is: “on the biggest pedestal in Northeast Ohio.”
Not really. But it should be.
At least until the Browns suffer their first loss of 2019.
Bob Dyer can be reached at 330-996-3580 or email@example.com. He also is on Facebook at www.facebook.com/bob.dyer.31