Searches for ‘Olympics’ are Popular! But What Other Trends are There?
Posted by Brian Kelly (UK Web Focus) on 13 August 2012
A Four Year Cycle For Searches for ‘Olympics’ and ‘World Cup’
You will be unsurprised to hear that Google searches for ‘Olympics’ have peaked recently:-) As shown using the Google Insights tool to search for ‘Olympics’ we can spot a four-year cycle for such searches together with a slightly smaller peak two years before the Olympics which probably corresponds to the Winter Olympics.
The trends also help to identify a number of recent peaks which include:
A: Olympics: Rowers win Britain’s first gold at Olympics
B: Opening ceremony of the London
C: Olympics: London 2012 torch lit in Olympia
D: London Olympics to open with Duran Duran
E: 100 days to the London Olympics
F: Assad regime not welcome at Olympics
G: Queen to open 2012 Olympics
A similar search for “World Cup” again shows a clear 4-year cycle. But might the Google Insights tool help us to gain a better insight into trends for technological developments and help to provide indications of significant developments?
Helping to Spot Trends
The JISC Observatory provides a scanning function to detect early indications of technological developments which may have a significant impact on the higher education sector. How useful might Google Insights be for detecting or confirming trends? In order to see an answer to this question the Google Insights was used to analyse trends for several of the developments listed in the post giving My Predictions for 2012 together with a number of other developments which have generated interest recently.
The Google Insights search for “tablet computers” trend for shows a clear decline in interest until the beginning of 2010 – which coincided with speculation of the announcement of Apple’s first iPad Tablet. However the sharp decline in searches since the start of 2012 might suggest that Tablet computers have passed their peak which would seem surprising. Looking more closely at the trends we saw a similar decline in the early part of 2010 and 2011 which perhaps suggested that the peaks in December are due to Christmas shoppers. It will be interesting to observe how searches for the term development over the rest of the year. Perhaps the lesson for this example is that trend analyses may well be significantly affected by consumer patterns.
The second prediction I made for 2012 was that we would see a growth in a variety of “open practices” within the sector. However this term has not gained widespread acceptable with Google Insights picking up on use of this term when the British Lions announced public access to their practice sessions. The lesson for this example is that it may not be appropriate to look for meaningful trends for use of a general expression which may have a particular meaning in a higher education context. This might also be the case for a search for ‘open access’ which shows no growth in recent years, even when the trend analysis is restricted to the UK.
Although the term ‘open access‘ may be used in a number of contexts, “learning analytics” probably has a more specific meaning which is directly relevant to the higher education sector. A search for this term suggests that that public interest began in September 2010 with a significant growth taking place in January 2012, which coincided with the announcement that Blackboard Opens Field Trial for Learning Analytics Solution.
The trends for ‘mobile web’ is probably unsurprising, with an increase in the number of searches starting to grow in June 2010 and a sharp growth beginning in May 2012.
The trends for searches for “Big data” show that there has been a steady growth since 2010. It was interesting that these two common words do not appear to have been used outside of their technical usage described in Wikipedia as “data sets so large and complex that they become awkward to work with using on-hand database management tools“.
The reflections on use of Google Insights to detect trends has helped to identify things to consider in using the service to gain a better insight into technological developments:
- Trend analyses for IT used by consumers may be significantly affected by consumer purchasing patterns.
- It may not be appropriate to look for meaningful trends for use of an expression which may have a general meaning in addition to a specific meaning when used in a higher educational context.
- It may be useful to look for trends in the UK if these may differ from global trends.
Finally if we look at the trends for searches for “Semantic Web” and “Linked Data” which are illustrated below we might conclude that Semantic Web has passed its prime but Linked Data in importance. Whilst some might argue that this is the case, another view is that the names given to IT developments and how they are marketed is important, in addition to the underlying value the developments may themselves have. Might Linked Data be being perceived as important because, in comparison with the Semantic Web, it is being actively marketed and promoted?
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