Looking to pin down the
year something big happened or watch a trend unfold gradually over
time? FindForward (http://www.findforward.com)—nee the
Google Centuryshare Calculator (http://blog.outer-court.com/centuryshare)—employs
some of the same logic as the Google Mindshare Calculator to
determine the weight of a search query across a 50- year
Let's say, for example, we search for Chernobyl,
site of a terrible nuclear power plant accident in April 1986. Enter
the search term—in this case,
search box and choose a range of years from the pull-down menu to the
right. Given that my choices were 1900-1950 or 1950-2000 and the fact
that I know I was alive when it happened, I chose 1950-2000. Click
Find and the engine will chew on your query for a bit,
it's backend feeding a steady stream of queries to
Google via the Google API [ clearly shows that the Web knows a little
something about Chernobyl and the year 1986.
Figure 1. The Centuryshare Calculator clearly shows something important happened at Chernobyl in 1986
So, how does the Centuryshare algorithm work?
Centuryshare tries to find natural peaks for ideas in particular
years by searching the Web via Google. For every year, the number of
the year is combined with the search query: to find out when Elvis
Presley was at the height of his fame, the engine searches for
Elvis Presley 1950, ElvisPresley 1951, Elvis Presley
1952, and so on, keeping track of the returned result count
along the way.
But a simple count of results isn't quite enough.
There is an additional transformation of these numbers that needs to
be done in order for the result to be meaningful. Mention of various
years occur in much larger quantity online: 1900, 1910, and 1920
occur more frequently, as do the years in the late part of the
twentieth century—the boom of the Web.
So the Centuryshare calculator also gleans result count for each year
by itself, without any additional search query (i.e., Google for
Those base numbers in hand, the engine then calculates a percentage
based on the result count of year and search
query relative to year by itself, without search
These result count percentages are normalized for display purposes
and returned to you as a nice bar graph of results by year.
Compare the Chernobyl results in with
those for the gentle rise and fall of disco in .
Figure 2. The Centuryshare Calculator on the bell (bottomed) curve of disco's reign
FindForward sports a host of other search features (http://findforward.com/about/), including
Amazon.com, IRC logs, weblogs, assorted files people leave lying
about on the Web, people (famous and not), and things. For instance,
you can ask a question such as "When was Albert
Einstein born?" and FindForward will trawl the Web,
figure it out (or something close enough for horseshoes), and provide
a link to the source, as shown in ).
Figure 3. Ask a decent question...
Check the source out for yourself by clicking the
"Check source" link or find another
by clicking "Find new answer."