Monday, 2 November 2009

Superfreakonomics - wrong by a factor of nine

So tomorrow is the big day: the result of the Superfreakonomics counting contest!

My logarithmically scaled maximal-gap estimate, as you'll recall, was 88,782. This number was my carefully calibrated guess for the number of Google results shown for "Superfreakonomics".

At first I was worried that my number might be too high. But in fact I was stunningly inaccurate in the other direction. The current figure, one day before the authors will calculate the final result, is 737,000. It has been increasing at tens of thousands per day and will likely creep up a bit more before the search is carried out at 6am Eastern time tomorrow.

Two scenarios are possible:

Either, one of the other contestants has gamed the Google search in order to bring the results up to their guess - probably not worth it, as such skills are highly marketable in the search engine manipulation, I mean optimisation, industry. Then again, I've wasted a couple of hours writing about it by now so we can't rule this out.

Or, a stunningly successful PR campaign about global warming and geoengineering has triggered intense debate and insults all over the blogosphere, spilling into the "real" media. It's worked on me anyway - I have given up on any chance of winning the book and ordered one from Amazon.

Everyone else seems to have assumed that this publicity was orchestrated by Levitt and Dubner themselves. But they claim that they never expected the global cooling chapter to provoke this kind of response. Thus I suspect that "Nick", whose contest entry was 787,316 Google hits, might just be the responsible party.

Stand up and take credit, "Nick" - a new career in book marketing beckons...


Nick said...

I'm 95% sure that the 787,316 guess was me =].

Why only 95%?

1. Because I wasn't keeping track of the contest, I just kind of ran a few numbers really quickly and posted my answer.

2. Because I don't usually use the tag "Nick" when responding to blogs, but I do sometimes when it's important (a formal contest would induce me to do so).

Nick said...

Alas, I did not win.