Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Google and the 2008 U.S. Presidential Election

I've seen many Google search result statistics articles around the Web, but I couldn't find one about the Presidential race. This is one of my favorite games, so I decided to give it a shot, and created Google the Vote (a play on MTV's "Rock the Vote") with questions ranging from issues of trust to likability. Each question is formed by adding the candidate's name into a simple phrase. For example, "Barack Obama as President" or "I can trust John McCain" (note that those aren't really the phrases used, as I don't want my blog to have an impact.

We then search for those phrases as exact matches on Google and take Google's estimated number of results. Only in one case do we get no results. I've found a number of things using this approach:

  • Obama's results relating to trust have been declining
  • McCain's basic Presidential search has been suffering a losing and widening gap with Barack Obama
  • Neither candidate appears to be expected to balance the budget, though Obama simply has no results at all on this search!
  • Both candidates may "feel the love" of their supporters, but Obama's supporters are quite a bit more vocal about it
I hope you enjoy this. I know I've enjoyed putting it together.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Gaming the phone: GOOG-411

You may know that by dialing "1-800-GOOG-411" you can access a voice-based Google search for businesses by city and state. Well, I just tried it out a few times, and found some amusing results. First, I tried "comic book shop" and was pleasently surprised that it recognized the phrase and found lots of matches. Then I tried something more generic, "thin crust pizza." It responded back with just "pizza" so I figured I was going to get a uselessly broad list, but it gave the name of the best known thin-crust Pizza in Cambridge, MA (Emma's).

I figured it was good, but I was going to really test it. What's a good test for such a system? What about a problem rather than a category? I tried "arachniphobia" and got a pause with some kind of odd sound, followed by "try again." Well, now I was on to something, so I tried simplifying: "phobias." Now I heard that sound again and it was a person saying "boop-de-bop" over and over very quietly. Of course, many voice-based services have a fake "the computer is working" noise, but I was amused to hear an actual human doing a sort of scat on this theme. Bravo for injecting a little humor, Google!

All things considered, GOOG-411 is a very solid service as far as I can tell. I'll have to try it in more rural areas next, but certainly for my next White Wolf game, I'll have to use this to decide where to order from!

Monday, August 4, 2008

Saturnalia: 3-Manning World of Warcraft

Saturnalia is a guild that some friends of mine and I started, and almost entirely by accident we started 3-manning lots of the old-world instances. Turns out it's quite hard to do, but fun in ways that most of the stuff I've been doing in World of Warcraft for the last few years just isn't. We've done all of the old-world (Azeroth) instances from RFC to BRD and now we're working on the level 60 instances and will then move on to Outland. We should hit level 70 just in time for the Wrath of the Lich King expansion, and we'll just keep 3-manning everything we can in that expansion.

Some things we've discovered about the game:

  • A paladin as tank can make a lot of content much easier
  • Shamans are wonderful at healing and dpsing in whatever ratio is required
  • In general the hybrid classes are more valuable for undersized groups
  • Twinking with outrageous gear is definitely not required
  • Voice chat is a must if you're not in the same room

It's been a fun ride, and I hope it continues to be. See you in the game!