The autocomplete feature in search engines can tell us a lot about what people are thinking and asking about.
According to the New York Times (21 November 2012) “sites like Google and Bing are showing the precise questions that are most frequently asked.”
Autocomplete suggests the rest of your search term based on the most popular things that others have asked for, so it speeds up your search selection by anticipating what you are looking for and by reducing spelling errors in your search terms.
Another advantage to seeing popular searches is to understand what the larger population is thinking about and looking for–this gives us insight into culture, norms, values, and issues of the time.
I did a simple google search of “do zombies” and as you can see the most popular searches are about whether zombies: poop, exist, sleep, “really exist,” and have brains.
Even more disappointing than people asking whether zombies really exist is that the #1 search on zombies is about whether they poop–what does that say about our lagging educational system?
I would at least have imagined that the preppers–those infatuated with the end of the world and with preparation for survival–would at least be searching for terms like:
pose a real threat to human survival?
have (certain) vulnerabilities?
beat vampires (or vice versa)?
I suppose autocomplete is good at crowdsourcing search terms of what others are thinking about, but it is only as good as those doing the ultimate searching–our collection intelligence at work. 😉