AOL Soul Searching

I’m addicted to searching the AOL search databases. A great one’s here, courtesy of Erik Mednis.

If you haven’t heard about what happened, Wired sums it up great in a Frequently Asked Questions column, "AOL’s Search Gaffe and You." From Wired:

Word spread last week that researchers at AOL had released three
months’ worth of search logs that contained nearly 20 million search
histories detailing the online lives of 658,000 customers. The data
included information on subscribers who used AOL’s browser, but not
those who had used AOL’s portal.

AOL user IDs were replaced with pseudonymous numbers and the data
was organized by a user’s search history. The data set included the
time and date of a search, the search terms and the result, if any,
clicked on.

AOL did mean well by this and quickly took down the database, but it’s teeming with insights into how people search. It’s so rare that so much information is available in one shot, with all of certain users’ searches compiled chronologically.

Bone up on this if you haven’t yet. This week my Search Insider column will focus on it, and I’ll have some other excerpts that didn’t make it to the column.