Observations from monitoring Google Autocomplete during hurricane #sandy:
- Results from Google Autocomplete are now very close to real time.
- In under 48 hours, update was replaced with pictures in the top 5 results.
- In under 48 hours, the number of total terms jumped from 30 to 171 and growing.
- User information discovery started with maps, satellite, doppler, radar, latest news and agencies such as NOAA.
- Twitter was the first social network users went to information discovery, followed by YouTube, Wikipedia, then tumblr.
- Facebook, Instagram, or Pinterest did not make an appearance as a source for storm content discovery.
- Major media outlets were late to enter, beginning with the weather channel, fox news, and abc news. Surprisingly, CNN did not enter the result set.
- Memes appeared within hours of the storm beginning with Grease, the fake statue of liberty photo from the movie The Day After Tomorrow. Surprisingly, the shark swimming in Atlantic City did not enter the results, nor did the McDonalds flood, Arlington Cemetery photo, and the others which are all documented here at Snopes.
- Conspiracy terms such as end of the world and apocalypse appeared prior to the storm hitting land.
- Major news such as the crane collapse at Manhattan’s tallest residential tower appeared within several hours of the incident. The explosion of the ConEd power plant on the Lower East Side which blackened downtown Manhattan did not appear.
- Local terms became increasingly hyperlocal during the storm. The initial terms were the states on the eastern seaboard, followed by major cities. As the storm hit, locations near the eye that were affected most dominated the local terms, such as towns on the Jersey Shore, Long Beach Island, Cape May, Fire Island, Virginia Beach, Outer Banks, etc.
- As the storm downgraded, terms such as casualties, aftermath, subway, flight cancelations started to appear.
10/28/12, 2:57pm EST (before storm)
10/30/12, 2:57pm EST (after storm)