December 11, 2002
World Barometer

Has the world ever had such a realistic pulse-taking machine as Google's Zeitgeist (2002)? (Has the world ever cared?) Some surprises: Canada as a more popular destination than New York? Ferrari the top brand of 2002?

Posted by tmonkey at December 11, 2002 05:01 PM

OK, the 1% of the computer-using population of the world.

Posted by: tmonkey on December 11, 2002 05:06 PM

Actually, there is something far better, and it costs a lot of money, and is known mostly to the folks who are backstage in the persuasion industries. It's called "Yahoo Buzz" and the civilian version is here, and is nothing so special, but the backstage version is quite powerful.

Because people "join" yahoo and surrender whatever demographic data, I can carve up those trends however I like. Ferrari may be the top brand, but I can tell you in which zip codes. With which age groups. And also, what other brands the Ferrari searchers did searches on.

It's pretty handy. And I would argue that if you really are looking for something that embodies the zeitgeist, part of the geist of the zeit is that it is available only to those who would use it to sell you shit.

Posted by: Kevin Slavin on December 11, 2002 05:27 PM

But on a more hopeful note, see also the work that Edwin Schlossberg is doing with RGA in Times Square. The full article is here, but to excerpt:


Schlossberg's next big thing is the Reuters News Index, an addition to the sign that debuts in 2003. Roughly every hour, a 304-foot thermometer will appear onscreen measuring how "hot" the news day is on a scale of zero to ten. Schlossberg hopes it will inspire people on the street to turn to each other and say, "Did you see that? The News Index just shot up to 6 degrees — what have you heard?"

The Index is calculated using Satran's Algorithm — developed by Reuters and R/GA, and named for veteran Reuters editor Dick Satran. Every 15 minutes, the formula crunches four data points: the total volume of stories filed from Reuters' 200 offices in 97 countries; the number of priority one and priority two stories filed (editors assign a priority code to each report coming off the Reuters wires); and the total number of hits logged in the previous 15 minutes. At one early meeting with Reuters editors, ESI design manager Gideon D'Arcangelo recalls, "one of them said that if we really wanted to make the index true to life, we ought to factor in the blood pressure of Reuters editors, too."

Because Mondays will almost always be hotter than Sundays, each hour's values are averaged against previous values from the same hour and day of the week. The index rises throughout the day and falls back to zero at midnight, New York time.

Schlossberg hopes the index will become the news equivalent of the Dow Jones Industrial Average — the simple stock price metric that now serves as a shorthand for Wall Street's frame of mind, the economy, even America's well-being. "The index confirms what most of us in a high-density information world sense intuitively," Schlossberg says. "It's a way to make something we already know explicit."

Posted by: Kevin Slavin on December 11, 2002 05:38 PM

Damn. Sounds like Shlossberg's temp gauge will outdo The World's Tallest Thermometer, in Baker, CA. Though one can quibble about Fahrenheit vs. Zeitgeist.

Posted by: dbrown on December 11, 2002 07:04 PM

Also (since we're apparently graced by the illuminati here), does google similarly track their porn searches? I know they don't like to talk about them, but an annual index of desire and fetish and breast size and pubic hair shaving patterns would be really, really interesting.

Posted by: dbrown on December 11, 2002 07:09 PM


Posted by: dbrown on December 11, 2002 07:38 PM

But also, out my window I can see a flagpole, with an American flag, right by the Sailors and Soldier's monument.

I swear to god the thing is at half-mast half the days of the week. It's always pure conjecture as to what it is we mourn today. But since it does go up and down, invisibly, and with no clear causality, I like to use it as the barometric indicator for United States foreign policy, insofar as there is one.

Posted by: Kevin Slavin on December 11, 2002 10:33 PM
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