Useful Discovery

This was published more than 13 years ago

Attitudes and opinions change and evolve.

You know that feeling you get when you stumble upon something you wrote in the distant past and it's terrible? There are many cringe-worthy bits of immature writing on this website (and I'm probably still creating more).

As well as the mere cringe-worthy, there are also opinions and attitudes expressed that I no longer hold and am, frankly, embarrassed by. (Please don't go looking, they're deliberately hard to find, but left for the sake of posterity.)

I hope if you've stumbled across some here, you'll give me the benefit of the doubt.

Yesterday What Do You Suggest was featured on Information Aesthetics (thanks to Michael for submitting it) and then got picked up by Gizmodo. Needless to say, I thought that was pretty exciting. Since it’s getting some attention, I thought I’d better post something more about it.

When I started building WDYS, my only aim was build something that used the Google Suggest data in an interesting way (and give RaphaelJS a try). After playing with it for a while and showing a few friends, I thought I’d achieved that goal. In many ways I found it more than just interesting - I found some of the results utterly fascinating, and very informing.

Sometime later I started thinking about whether it could be more than a novelty data visualisation with next to no practical use. I tried, but simply couldn’t find a useful application.

Then I saw a tweet from @recipepuppy and, on a whim, seeded WDYS with the word caramelized and hey presto, I’d found a practical use - recipe discovery.

Seed it with more or less any cooking style or technique and you’ll find an array of recipe options you might never have otherwise thought of or discovered.

This sort of works with ingredients too, but generally not quite as well.

Because each of the results given by Google Suggest (presumably) represent millions of searches I expected the results to be fairly narrow. I expected it would only rarely throw up suggestions I’d never heard of, but if you give it a go, I guarantee you’d find something new, probably weird and possibly delicious.

Another Practical Use?

It’s actually fairly difficult to find (or define) the type of words which turn it into a useful tool for discovery. I just stumbled across this one, and still haven’t found another. If you find something that makes WDYS useful I’d really love to hear from you.