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Google's new Flu Trends site is weeks ahead of the CDC at predicting outbreaks. It also comes with some nifty colorful charts.  (Source: Google.org)
Getting sick? Google knew you were going to...

If there's one Silicon Valley firm that's wildly creative it's Google.  Sure Microsoft might make all encompassing OS's and miss few details, Nintendo may make intuitive gaming devices, and Apple may make the most chic portable electronics, but these companies fall short of Google in terms of sheer zaniness of some of their ideas.

Perhaps it’s the playpens of multi-colored balls, or maybe something in the water, but ideas that anyone else would think of as crazy, Google not only listens to -- it goes for on a continual basis.  A perfect example was Google Goggles, a new Gmail API aimed at preventing you from drunk emailing.

Now the realm of weird, but strangely useful Google Apps has another addition -- Google Flu Trends.  Google Flu Trends is an initiative of Google.org, Google's philanthropic arm.

The device's base mechanic is either brilliant or invasive.  It tracks user searches of topics such as "flu symptoms" or "muscle aches" by location.  By aggregating this data and correlating it to location, Google Flu Trends develops maps of where flu outbreaks are occurring.

How accurate is Google Flu Trends?  On average, it has begun to pick up outbreaks a couple weeks before the Centers For Disease Control, the critical government organization tasked with tracking disease, can.  Considering the amount of medical data in the hands of the CDC and its vast funding, Google Flu Trends' superior accuracy is yet another impressive or perhaps scary testament to Google's power and all-seeing eye.

The new site has the potential to save lives as the flu still kills many elderly people and those with compromised immune systems yearly.  By identifying outbreak zones, hand washing protocols can be emphasized, public awareness campaigns can be carried out, and people can take supplements geared towards strengthening the immune system.

Google is diligently sharing its reports with the Epidemiology and Prevention Branch of the Influenza Division at CDC, perhaps to the Center's chagrin. 

If you want to check them out for yourself, you can head over to the main site.

What will Google dream up next?  It's hard to say, but nothing seems impossible for the Swiss-Army knife-like company. 



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By MrBlastman on 11/12/2008 10:28:51 AM , Rating: 5
Google Thought - what you will be thinking... before you think it.

Google Guidance Counselor - what your career choices should be, without a silly test.

Google IQ - how smart are you?

Google Population Control - Should you be part of the human movement, or not?




By JasonMick (blog) on 11/12/2008 10:52:27 AM , Rating: 5
Google God - Not sure what faith to choose? Choose the Earth's true all-seeing omnipresence.


By initialised on 11/12/2008 4:10:10 PM , Rating: 3
That should be Google Omnipotence Division or Google Automated Intelligence Agency for the hippies.

Seriously though, all the wonderful ideas cooked up by religions over the 100,000 years of human culture can probably be implemented technologically a prime example of this is the parallel between (within lifetime) karma and credit rating agencies.


By quiksilvr on 11/12/2008 5:15:47 PM , Rating: 2
Google Cult - Having trouble finding a Cult? Purchase your red Kool-Aid online today.


By BladeVenom on 11/12/2008 12:00:32 PM , Rating: 4
Google Skynet - Humans are no longer needed.


By Muirgheasa on 11/12/2008 12:09:47 PM , Rating: 2
Google guidance counsellor actually isn't a bad idea. It could work out fairly easily what you're interests are by what you search for, and, if you allowed it, could track how long you spend on a given page to see how interesting you find the content.

Doesn't address whether or not you'll be good at what you're interested in, or the practicalities of actually getting into what you're interested in, but you could always base that on how peoples posts on DT are rated...


By Digimonkey on 11/12/2008 1:01:29 PM , Rating: 2
And all 14-17 year old males would show up as being promising porn directors.


By Jimbo1234 on 11/12/2008 1:36:30 PM , Rating: 5
How about all males period? Age is harldy a factor.


By chrispine on 11/13/2008 3:44:53 AM , Rating: 2
> Google Thought - what you will be thinking... before you think it.

You will soon be thinking of banana pudding...

(Was I right??)


By Garreye on 11/14/2008 12:16:09 PM , Rating: 2
Nope, wrong. As soon as I read that I actually thought "I've heard this joke way too many times"


MICK PROOFREAD!
By fezzik1620 on 11/12/2008 10:37:18 AM , Rating: 2
quote:
Getting sick? Google k new you were going to... If there's one Silicon Valley firm that's wildly creative it's Google. Sure Microsoft might make all encompassing OS's and miss a(?) few details, Nintendo may make intuitive gaming devices, and Apple may make the most chic portable electronics, but these companies fall short of Google in terms of sheer zaniness of some of their ideas.

corrections with emphasis added
Jason, please, proofread. I won't even read the rest of the article. Journalists have always been held to a higher standard. And this digital age with all of its text messaging, forums, and blogs does not excuse you, the journalist from proper spelling and punctuation!

[takes a breather and steps down off of his soapbox]




RE: MICK PROOFREAD!
By fezzik1620 on 11/12/08, Rating: 0
RE: MICK PROOFREAD!
By joex444 on 11/12/2008 12:16:16 PM , Rating: 2
Now why would he edit it and put "k new" back into "knew" and insert the word "make" but refuse to stick in that pesky "a"?

Do you really think Microsoft misses few details? You do realize that implies Microsoft is near-perfect. Come on, I like Windows a lot, but I wouldn't go that far...


RE: MICK PROOFREAD!
By joex444 on 11/12/2008 12:20:02 PM , Rating: 2
There's also this
quote:
On average, it has begun to pick up outbreaks a couple weeks before the Centers For Disease Control, the critical government organization tasked with tracking disease , can .


Seriously, do you really need that "can"? It is just very awkwardly placed. The sentence makes perfect sense and has good form without it.


RE: MICK PROOFREAD!
By Tegeril on 11/12/2008 8:19:12 PM , Rating: 2
Because the "a" wasn't really missing. The sentence is fine without it.


RE: MICK PROOFREAD!
By Alexstarfire on 11/13/2008 1:10:45 AM , Rating: 2
True, but it changes the meaning of the sentence, well part of it anyways, entirely.


RE: MICK PROOFREAD!
By jimpaka on 11/12/2008 12:29:32 PM , Rating: 2
Thank you, fezzik. Journalists who don't proofread are not journalists.


RE: MICK PROOFREAD!
By ice456789 on 11/12/2008 1:44:12 PM , Rating: 4
You should've used Google proofread.


RE: MICK PROOFREAD!
By Clauzii on 11/12/2008 4:57:25 PM , Rating: 2
Besides spelling, the addon 'gTranslate' for Firefox(using Google translation) is nice for translating almost any language to any language directly from a webpage.


RE: MICK PROOFREAD!
By wordsworm on 11/13/2008 1:46:28 AM , Rating: 3
Journalists have bucket-loads of editors, proofreaders, and copy editors whose job it is to do their best to make sure the errors are all ferreted out before their prints make it out to the public. I have a rather low opinion of journalists - they're hacks, propagandists, and for the most part only know how to write dribble. They write for an audience who passed grade 8 English. Yet, mistakes constantly make their way into print. I don't think Jason has quite the host of helpers that those journalists do. Also, I read his articles, which is more than I can say for the waste-of-paper that is the newspaper.


vaccinations?
By Murloc on 11/12/2008 1:19:40 PM , Rating: 2
if death is a problem, why not vaccinate?
hand-washing doesn't saves you from flu.




RE: vaccinations?
By pyr0m on 11/12/2008 1:34:52 PM , Rating: 2
Brilliant! I shall ensure that Google starts immediately.


RE: vaccinations?
By Jimbo1234 on 11/12/2008 1:40:42 PM , Rating: 2
It certainly reduces your risk of contracting it from things people has touched with their flu slimed hands.


RE: vaccinations?
By foolsgambit11 on 11/12/2008 8:31:55 PM , Rating: 2
I'm guessing the problem is something about how the vaccination weakens your immune system for the first couple of days, making you more susceptible to contracting the full-blown flu. Plus, there's always a good chance the vaccine isn't for the right strain, and will weaken your immune system at a critical time without providing any benefits.

But mostly, I don't think the CDC would justify reallocating vaccine doses based on Google's say so without more real world testing. For now, they'll stick to their tried and true method of identifying hot spots. Just my guess.


Cool
By gsellis on 11/12/2008 12:32:05 PM , Rating: 2
I thought this is a brilliant piece of epidemology. While it undersamples, at least it might show trends. Invasive? Since when has the internet been private? I just love this naive view. Always assume that what you do on the internet, someone knows.




RE: Cool
By tmouse on 11/12/2008 1:27:15 PM , Rating: 3
Clever, maybe but certainly not brilliant. So they have spotted a few trends before the CDC, now the other side what about the false discovery rate? Most people mix up flu and colds ect. I'm willing to be it identifies many more false trends than real. At least the CDC data is based upon clinically defined parameters. It’s clever but I'd bet they will be eventually using it to target ads by area


FTW!
By JonnyDough on 11/12/2008 12:34:54 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
The device's base mechanic is either brilliant or invasive. It tracks user searches of topics such as "flu symptoms" or "muscle aches" by location. By aggregating this data and correlating it to location, Google Flu Trends develops maps of where flu outbreaks are occurring.


I'm sorry but that's just freakin' brilliant. A search algorithm doing something useful, instead of spying on people's surf habits on the internets FTW! Great, now even I'm using this stupid FTW thing. See what happens when they name computer hardware with things? Nerds like me decide it's hip and cool. Ugh. BBL, ~AFK




Pharm + Google = Money Pharm?
By JonnyDough on 11/12/2008 12:39:35 PM , Rating: 2
So Google sells banner ads for medicines on the new site, become friends with the pharmaceutical companies, and takes over the world using their friends at NASA for space threats.

All bow to your new overlord, GoNASMedoglA.




Bad Idea?
By bubbastrangelove on 11/12/2008 2:34:46 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
Google guidance counselor actually isn't a bad idea. It could work out fairly easily what you're interests are by what you search for, and, if you allowed it, could track how long you spend on a given page to see how interesting you find the content.


q: So, how did you become a proctologist?

a: I was doing anagrams on my girlfriend Lana's name to make her a Christmas card, went to get a soda, fell down the steps and wound up leaving the computer on for three weeks.

How did you get into horse breeding...err, never mind.




Jason and adjectives
By v3rt1g0 on 11/12/2008 4:48:48 PM , Rating: 2
You know why Jason Mick's writing bothers people so much? He uses completely overblown adjectives to describe otherwise mundane details. Grade school adjectives at that; someone buy this guy a thesaurus and/or dictionary, please.

"wildly", "zaniness", "crazy", "brilliant", "swiss-army knife-like". Heard of multifaceted? Ugh.
At least make it read like you revised your rough draft.




Google competition squasher 1.0
By Smilin on 11/12/2008 6:07:03 PM , Rating: 2
Making too many queries about downloading competitor's software?

Reading about all those day-0 vulnerabilities in Chrome and Android?

Going shopping without google checkout?

Don't worry, we won't tell anyone what you've been looking at...we'll substitute what you've been looking at with these terrorist watch list links then forward it over to homeland security.

It's the google competition squasher 1.0 (beta forever like everything else we make of course)!




Google
By NubWobble on 11/13/2008 12:29:59 AM , Rating: 2
The immense powers of Google, it's a terrifying thought.




Godoogle!
By Joz on 11/12/08, Rating: -1
RE: Godoogle!
By Joz on 11/12/2008 5:57:47 PM , Rating: 2
haa haa, I got a zero rating!

I bet all you established religions ganged up on me, just like you ganged up on the Jews, and the Mormons, and the Scientologists and Australia!

GANG UP!


RE: Godoogle!
By JonnyDough on 11/13/2008 5:45:44 PM , Rating: 2
I want to personally kick your ass for being such a complete moron, but as it stands I can't even rate you down because I posted.


"Spreading the rumors, it's very easy because the people who write about Apple want that story, and you can claim its credible because you spoke to someone at Apple." -- Investment guru Jim Cramer














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