Andreas Weigend | Social Data Revolution | Fall 2016
School of Information | University of California at Berkeley | INFO 290A

Video: Social Data Revolution: Topic 7
Transcript: sdr2016topic07.docx
Audio: sdr2016topic07.mp3

Class Info:
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Wikilead: Francisco Peralta |
Contributor: Jon Khaykin |

Topic 7: Leveraging Google Data Tools for Social Science Studies

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Guest Speaker: Dr. Qing Wu | Google Economics |


Today we're looking at how there are existing tools available to help us better understand the data of the people (#OurData). We can understand so much by looking at the data collected by Google and they make it easy and accessible yet blurred to keep user data anonymous. We will explore a couple of tools that were discussed by our guest speaker and we will show you how to use these tools to better understand the data of the people.

Google Tools


View the latest trends, data, and visualizations. Also, view trends for any search term.
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Finds search patterns which correspond with real-world trends.
This is a tool for people as well as businesses to efficiently and effectively run market research surveys.
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A web analytics platform that effectively tracks and reports website traffic

Diving In

Google uses our search and click data to constantly give us what we like or want. Their entire business thrives on understanding how searches made by users can help them better serve ads on which the users would click. While many have concerns about Google selling data, Qing reassured us that it doesn’t make sense financially; there is little incentive for them to sell data and lose the trust of users. With the massive amount of data that Google has, rather than selling our data, they aggregate it, anonymize it, and make it available for all users to experiment with. One of those tools is Google Trends.

Google Trends
A lot can be discovered using Google Trends, one example close to home is the announcement of the resignation of Chancellor Dirks. On Tuesday, August 16th 2016, The Daily Cal broke the news about the resignation.


Not surprisingly, if we look at the Google Trends data with the keyword “Chancellor Dirks”, we find that there was a huge spike in interest during the week of August 14th - August 20th 2016. If you look at the interactive chart below, you will see that over the past 5 years, the average weekly interest is below 20. Another interesting trend is the beginning of the interest in Chancellor Dirks started the week of August 12th - August 18th 2012, right around the time it was announced that he would become the 10th Chancellor.

Now, it’s your turn. Try out Google Trends yourself and see what you can discover.

Google Correlate
A subset of Google Trends which lets you find queries with a similar pattern. In theory Google Correlate seems like a great tool, but in practice you don’t always find relations that make sense. Qing gave us an example of Google Correlate showing an interesting relation between people searching “weight loss” and “best vacation spots”. His theory is that people who are planning a vacation would like to lose weight to look fit during their vacation.

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But sometimes, Google Correlate finds correlations that don’t seem to have a real connection:

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("Chancellor Dirks" was correlated 80.63% with "Eminem Soundcloud")

Want to learn more about Google Correlates:

To see more correlations that don't make sense, check out Spurious Correlations

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(Dinner with Qing Wu)