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THE WEEKLY GEEKLY ‌ From A to Zeitgeist

Find out what the world is searching for

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Among bloggers, the "you'll never guess what search terms people entered that made them wind up at my site!" post is as common as the one about what they had for lunch. And it's true — it's kind of funny to read what people are searching for on the web, especially when you think about the crushing disappointment they must've felt when they couldn't find it on your site.

The best random search result I ever had, for example, was "what year was the toothbrush invited?" And while I'm fairly certain the quasi-illiterate searcher meant to type "invented" rather than "invited," I still like to think that he was performing some sort of etiquette check before having the hairbrush, the toothpaste, and the mouthwash over for a party. Because, my god, can you imagine if the toothbrush was invited two years in a row? The horror!

It's the inner nosy neighbor in me that loves Yahoo's new site The Buzz Log (www.buzz.yahoo.com), which lets you know — in a blog-type format, updated three or four times a day — what the rest of the world is searching for. A coworker of mine described it as "a dictionary to the Zeitgeist," and in fact it's similar to Google's older, weekly Zeitgeist Report, but handier. My coworker's dead-on. We're a fickle bunch, and our interests are piqued daily (several times a day, if it's a boring afternoon at work). We use the internet for information automatically, without thinking, the way our grandparents probably reached for an encyclopedia or an atlas. We can find things out with the touch of a button or a click of the mouse. And we take advantage of that. Boy, do we ever.

As of last Thurs., April 19, for example, the top five most searched-for stories on the web were the WWE, Kylie Minogue, Dancing With the Stars, the Virginia Tech shootings, and — at number one — American Idol. I'm not sure what it says about our collective subconscious that the exit of Sanjaya generated more queries than the massacre of 32 college students, but there you have it.

Speaking of Sanjaya, the number one search for him, apparently, during his reign on American Idol, was "Sanjaya Malakar hairstyles," with "Sanjaya Malakar gay" (with or without a question mark, nobody knows) falling close behind. One has to wonder if that's what the wannabe-singer hoped to be noted for when he signed up to become America's next hit chanteur.

The "buzz score" Yahoo! assigns a certain topic is based on the percentage of Yahoo! users searching for the topic on a given day, multiplied by a constant to make it easier to read. The subjects the sites pinpoint for blog entries — or compile into a weekly list — are the ones that get the greatest average buzz score in any given week. To put it simply, the more you search for something, the bigger the buzz you create around it.

Check out the site sometime — it's a fantastic time-waster, as well as a fairly revealing peek into the brains (and mouse-clicking fingers) of the internet-loving collective. And how about this? If we all search for "what year was the toothbrush invited?" as many times as we can, maybe it'll become part of the Zeitgeist.

Holly Burns invited the toothbrush in 1993, but not the dental floss. Find her on the web at www.nothingbutbonfires.com

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