Window on society

AOL Search data was revealed in an earlier this week in a mis-guided attempt to help academic researchers better understand web behaviour. The New York Times found one AOL user from the data and conducted an interview with her. You can find the article here (registration required).

Valleywag has some of the more painful and bizarre users here.

Slate.com has an article by a geeky journalist Paul Boutin who mined the data to come up with seven segments based on the profiles which were of interest.

  • The pornhound
  • The manhunter – none of them appeared to be stalkers, but they did check up on people online
  • The shopper – AOL’s users were value conscious on the look out for coupons
  • The newbie
  • The obsessive – use their web to pursue their passion rather like the Digging PR campaign that I did for Yahoo! this time last year
  • The omnivore – heavy search users
  • The basket case – using the search engine as therapist, you can see some of the questions in Yahoo! Answers being used the same way.

Graphic courtesy of the New York Times.AOLSearchDatabase is an interesting way of mining data on there.

Some interesting terms and the number of hits that they return from the 36,000,000 or so total terms.

Google: 181,160
Yahoo!: 138,530
Porn: 31,087
movie torrent: 22,446
Customer services: 13,563
Apple: 4,683
iTunes: 1,784
Privacy 1,173 (though I guess that may go up now)
Viagra: 852
AOL: 0
MSN: 0