Hong Kong Tags

The top 25 tags in 166,246 tweets between 2014-09-29 09:54:18 – 2014-09-21 10:31:00 (EDT) mentioning #occupycentral.

hongkong 37,836
hkstudentstrike 13,667
hk 12,819
hk926 9,928
hkclassboycott 7,439
china 5,297
occupyhongkong 5,273
occupyadmiralty 5,075
umbrellarevolution 4,271
hkdemocracy 3,863
occupyhk 3,626
hk929 3,195
hk928 3,063
hongkongdemocracy 2,500
hongkongprotests 2,144
solidarityhk 1,983
hkstudentboycott 1,702
democracy 1,466
ferguson 1,449
umbrellamovement 1,168
globalforhk 1,157
?? 1,080
imperialism 1,003
gonawazgo 800
handsupdontshoot 777

Satellite of Art

… still there

Google’s Subconscious

Can a poem provide insight into the inner workings of a complex algorithm? If Google Search had a subconscious, what would it look like? If Google mumbled in its sleep, what would it say?

A few days ago, I ran across these two quotes within hours of each other:

So if algorithms like autocomplete can defame people or businesses, our next logical question might be to ask how to hold those algorithms accountable for their actions.

Algorithmic Defamation: The Case of the Shameless Autocomplete by Nick Diakopoulos

and

A beautiful poem should re-write itself one-half word at a time, in pre-determined intervals.

Seven Controlled Vocabluaries by Tan Lin.

Then I got to thinking about what a poem auto-generated from Google’s autosuggest might look like. Ok, the idea is of dubious value, but it turned out to be pretty easy to do in just HTML and JavaScript (low computational overhead), and I quickly pushed it up to GitHub.

Here’s the heuristic:

  1. Pick a title for your poem, which also serves as a seed.
  2. Look up the seed in Google’s lightly documented suggestion API.
  3. Get the longest suggestion (text length).
  4. Output the suggestion as a line in the poem.
  5. Stop if more than n lines have been written.
  6. Pick a random substring in the suggestion as the seed for the next line.
  7. GOTO 2

The initial results were kind of light on verbs, so I found a list of verbs and randomly added them to the suggested text, occasionally. The poem is generated in your browser using JavaScript so hack on it and send me a pull request.

Assuming that Google’s suggestions are personalized for you (if you are logged into Google) and your location (your IP address), the poem is dependent on you. So I suppose it’s more of a collective subconscious in a way.

If you find an amusing phrase, please hover over the stanza and tweet it — I’d love to see it!