Friday, May 15, 2009

Absolutely Amazing AOL Search Logs

Initially, I assumed that these either weren't real or would never be acknowledged as so. Testifying as to their veracity could only cost you your job and your company credibility, right? It turns out I was spot on about this: after AOL acknowledged that these were legitimate searches by their users, three workers either quit or were fired over the perceived breach of privacy. So not only are these search logs pretty much totally incredible, they're also 100% real.

Each log is organized by user, identified by an anonymizing code number. That means that these are the terms that someone at a specific, individual computer, using AOL, put into the AOL search engine over a period of minutes, days or months. Clearly, someone has gone through and cut down the noise in these logs — there were, after all, over 21 million search queries released — but this is otherwise still pretty much raw information. These, then, are people's thought processes, either starkly focused or noticeably evolving as time passes.

Frighteningly, the same person who's searching for incest pictures is also searching for an FAQ on how to become a foster parent. Hilariously, the person wondering how to become an ordained pastor also wants to look at anal creampies. Deep down inside, we all suspected that Lou Dobbs had some furry fans; now we know. And the woman wondering whether male sex addicts still love their wives also shows an interest in inconclusive autopsy results. Either that, or her husband does.

This is the internet. This is basic humanity in its undiluted private form. It's racist, homophobic, predatory, prurient, scatological and extremely funny. If it's all faked, someone out there has a very good grasp of how deeply messed up his fellow human beings are.



Note on Readability: If you have difficulty reading any text, click on the pictures to enlarge.

There were something like 83 of these pictures when I started. I got them from a message board (and whoever posted them there got them from somewhere else as well), but whoever originally shared these evidently created them via a bizarre sizing system. Some individual users were separated into multiple smaller images; still other images combined multiple users. What this means is that some pictures were thousands of pixels tall, while others were under 200. There's really no way to show these to you, either on Blogger or on Flickr, where you won't have to click the taller ones to open them in a new window, full-sized. I cropped a few huge images into separate parts, but it got way too time-consuming to do that with anything other than the extreme cases. Also, some of the images may suffer a little cropping on the right side. Again, readability shouldn't be an issue if you click.

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Et tu, Mr. Destructo? is a politics, sports and media blog whose purpose is to tell jokes or be really right about things. All of us have real jobs and don't need the hassle that telling jokes here might occasion, which is why some contributors find it more tasteful to pretend to be dead mass murderers.