Friday, September 01, 2006

Chandler vs. Hammett, Round III

In previous posts, I compared the number of people searching for Raymond Chandler vs. Dashiell Hammett in Google, and then the number of people writing about them in blogs.

I thought I'd pushed the competition about as far as I could--until I saw an article describing how AOL either accidently or on purpose placed the search logs of 658,000 subscribers on the Internet. Although there are no names or identifiers like social security numbers associated with the data, each subscriber in the log was given an anonymous unique ID, so it's possible to see the searches that an individual did over time.

After AOL posted it, they removed the data pretty damn quick. But not quick enough that it wasn't copied to a number of other places on the Internet, and at least in one case, "front-ended" with a handy search utility that lets you type in particular search terms to see if people looked for them. You can guess what terms I decided to type in.

As in the previous competitions, Chandler beat Hammett: i.e., more of the 658,000 subscribers typed in Chandler's name as opposed to Hammett's. But this time around Chandler won by a very slim margin. Four subscribers typed his name versus three subscribers for Hammett.

Below are the results for Hammett. As you can see subscribers 776232, 4901959 and 967504 were looking for him.

And here are the four people looking for Chander: ID numbers 623628, 886372, 3386154 and 2703188.


Those results by themselves are not very interesting. But what is interesting (in a voyeristic sort of way) is to see what other searches the people who looked for Chandler and Hammett did. Can a case be made that you can characterize the sort of people who like Chandler and Hammett by the other things they search for? Can we determine if Chandler people are different from Hammett people?

Of course we can! We've only got a data sample of 7 subscribers, but that shouldn't stop us.

Here's are the surrounding searches that subscriber 776232 performed:

From it, we might determine that he or she is baseball fan, is interested in movies and movie stars, but doesn't know that Liz Sheridan is still alive. (But to be honest, I didn't even know who she is.)

Next up is subscriber 4901959:

It appears 4901959 is big a reader in general, and a fan of Black Mask pulp writers in particular.

Number 9674504 appears to have more diverse interests:

We got Oprah (pop culture), a jump to Hammett (hard boiled fiction) and then concern about the relative populations of the US versus Iraq (geopolitics).

So ends the Hammett subscriber group. In general, they appear to be a pretty well-grounded group with a variety of wholesome and mature interests. (Curious about why I qualified the word interests? Wait and see.)

Here's the first Chandler person, number 886372:

Another solid citizen. Interested in a variety of fiction and mystery authors, world history, and assuming he meant to type Jon Meacham--the managing editor of Newsweek--journalism.

But how about number 623628?

He or she is into gaming as well as Raymond Chandler, likes rock musicians and is interested in chick flicks. Or is that the screen name of someone from a chat room?

Our next Chandler person is number 273188:

Hmm, a John Bircher, who reads Ayn Rand and is interested in the Wedge Document. And apparently lives (and possibly teaches?) in Fort Worth, TX, but would like to vacation in Florida.

But our last subscriber, number 3386154, has other things on (I think it's safe to conclude) his mind:

He likes Chandler and MacDonald, is thinking about news and our President, but the first hint of things to come is the misspelled search for lingerie.

A little further in his search log, we find:

Uh-oh. But you can't say he doesn't have diverse interests. Mature women, nudes and football.

Then we find:
At least he's an equal opportunity shopper. But one does have to wonder how the cake frosting works in with the other things he's looking for.

Conclusions

I've got two: on the whole, it appears Chandler people are, ahem, living on the edge a little more, and more importantly, I'm glad I'm not an AOL subscriber!

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