Cracking the Case at SXSW: Chicken or the Egg?

South by Southwest, here we come.

When SXSW first started in 1987, the festival was all about the music,  film and interactive components were added to the mix in 1994, during the same time that Yahoo! Founders David Filo and Jerry Yang were holed up in their campus trailer, making lists of favorite links which eventually became Yahoo!.

Now we, crew members at Yahoo! Search —Vera H-C Chan (@FastTalkingD), web trend analyst, and Brian Theodore (@bptheo), director of product management for social and real-time search (the fearless leader behind Yahoo! Clues) – are taking Austin by storm. We’re excited to use Search data and activity to finally answer the question, “Chicken or the Egg: What Search Activity Conveys.”

Search is a powerful tool that people use in their everyday lives and by analyzing resulting search data, we have the capability to provide a snapshot of what is happening in society at any given time based on popular searches. Our session will explore search data analysis and the interesting trends that can be discovered by users such as the hottest new gadget, the most popular travel destination, or signs that a flu pandemic is about to hit. Analyzing search trends also helps us understand the impulses and processes behind people making certain choices at a particular moment in time.

With Brian’s help, we will do a deep dive into the larger paradox of Search Intelligence: How the act of searching has in itself become a form of insight. Before the goal of searching was to just find information, now the pursuit in and of itself has become a mission of greater discovery.

Daylight Savings Time searches on Yahoo! CluesThe panel will be held the day before daylight savings time, so while we are speaking we expect many searches related to the time change. Spring forward appears to already be on many minds as searches for “Daylight Savings time 2011” are up 519 percent this week on Yahoo!.  (Click the clock on the left to see the latest “Daylight Savings Time” search trends)

According to Yahoo! Clues, both women and men equally search for the term – 51 percent vs. 49 percent respectively – and we’re making sure everyone who attends walks away with a time-saving souvenir!

If you’re heading to SXSW, we would love to have you join our conversation. Here are the panel details:

Saturday, March 12, 12:30-1:30pm  
Hilton Austin, Salon H, 6th floor
500 East Fourth Street, Austin, Texas
Chicken or the Egg? What Search Activity Conveys 
When people have questions they turn to search engines for the answers. Search activity can tell some interesting trends – hottest new gadget, most popular travel destination, or whether it’s going to be a bad flu season. By digging deeper, this activity can be used in more compelling ways. For instance, it can be interpreted to foresee trends and develop news stories as billions of searches lend themselves to many narratives. Figuring out the “what-does-it-all-mean” goes beyond declaring the winner in an ever-changing popularity contest, or what’s on top of everyone’s mind day to day. What does the rise in apocalypse-related searches following natural disasters say about our modern society? Are the lookups following Tiger Woods’ story prurient, or are we repeating our ancient fascination with the morality tale? And can search activity project what the masses will decide, even before the masses know themselves? By analyzing what people are searching for, societal trends can be determined and some would go as far as to say that search trends can actually predict the future. Analyzing search trends helps us understand the impulses and processes of why people make their choices at that particular moment in time. This session will discuss the predictive nature of search and whether search has the power to drive news.

Vera H-C Chan, Yahoo!’s Web Trend analyst

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