Has YouTube Killed “Related Videos”?

Google moves in mysterious ways… Whatever happened to “related videos” on YouTube that were at least in someway tangentially similar to the previous video watched?

Suddenly, it seems that there are only four options presented – none of which are remotely connected to the preceding video. Like the ubiquitous promo for the “Invisible Mercedes” or some “Epic Pee Prank” they do however have many millions of hits.

It also seems that the “suggestions” (in the past, always pathetically inept guesses for the most part) are now just the same as those appearing where “related videos” used to!

Quite odd…

Charlie Brooker’s 2011 Wipe

To end the year on a fittingly sardonic note, here’s Charlie Brooker’s brilliant take on the past twelve months as darkly viewed through the pop culture lens of a jaded media critic:

If nothing else, you can just skip about half way through the video to enjoy a short documentary gem by Adam Curtis about “how Rupert Murdoch took over the old newspapers of Fleet Street and used them to wage a cultural revolution against the snobbish elites that dominated Britain…”

This short film not only provides a succinctly plausible explanation of the “weird logic” behind the rise of Murdoch’s media empire, but suggests that the same populism once driving the success of its luridly intrusive tabloids has now digitally metastasized itself in the form of… Google.

GOP Google/Fox Debate

For those who didn’t watch the “debate” last night on TV or participate online, TPM provides a one minute highlight reel of instantly forgettable soundbites:

Aside from the unremitting craziness of the GOP hopefuls on stage, Google and Fox set a new standard in terms of the interactive online format that could well become the model for future events. Online viewers were not only provided with a live stream of the debate, but several interactive features allowing them to post comments reacting to the discussion in real time, link out to social media sites, and vote on instant polls corresponding to the issues being debated.

All good and quite fun… when it was working. Unfortunately, that wasn’t often. Most of the time the rolling comment feature was disabled from server overload and the instant polls jammed out, failing to register votes or provide feedback but repeatedly dishing up annoying CAPTCHAs. Pity, as I really wanted to see how many people thought that “cutting jobs” was the “strategy most effective for creating jobs”…

As for the questions for the candidates derived through Google’s “crowd sourcing” technology, they were predictably mundane and obtuse as one would expect from the worldwide rabble, with a couple of notable exceptions such as this one…

Too bad it got served up to homophobic no-hoper Rick Santorum rather than getting a full airing amongst all of the candidates.

Revolution 2.0

Wael Ghonim, Google’s Head of Marketing for the Middle East and North Africa, speaking to CNN just shortly after the ouster of Hosni Mubarak…

“They convinced us for 30 years that Egypt had died, that there was no more Egypt. We were all looking for Egypt and thank God we found her today.”

Ghonim, an activist who helped launch the first online efforts calling for protests said that he had confidence that Egypt will not fall into dictatorship again: “Egypt will be a fully democratic state. You will be impressed.”

Certainly the revolution itself was impressive in every respect, so one hopes that the same qualities that enabled it achieve victory against all odds will carry through to the eventual realization of its democratic aspirations.

Is Google Gay?

The dynamic “autocomplete” feature that Google now features is certainly a clever (if somewhat pointless) demonstration of its on-the-fly data mining capabilities, but the results that it instantly proffers as you’re typing can indeed be curious…

Type in “is stephen harper” for example. Really, are that many people actually wondering if the Prime Minister of Canada is gay? Probably not. So why then is this question dished up as the third most likely search result, other than that his name may be attached to a lot of discussions about the topic of gay rights, etc.? Ditto with Jack Layton, btw; only in his case the query (no pun intended) is ranked even higher. Funnily enough, when you run Michael Ignatieff through the same exercise, you’re mainly prompted with questions about him possibly being American or Jewish…

Google’s Islamic “Bug”

I have to admit this is quite a strange little anomaly on the part of Google. It seems that if you enter the search expression “islam is” (minus quotes of course) Google offers no suggestions at all, whereas the same expression used with other religions readily offers up a number of prompts (mostly pejorative in nature — e.g., “christianity is”… bullshit; not a religion; a lie; a cult; wrong; fake; et cetera).

Google officials purport this anomaly is a “bug” of some kind in their algorithm; a claim that I think seems more than a bit dubious, all considered. But who knows? Go try it yourself and draw your own conclusions.

Just for fun, here’s what Google offers up on the Dear Leader using the exact same kind of search.

Michael Ignatieff’s result (just two suggestions, one being “an idiot”) is much less amusing.