Data overload: some surveys seem senseless

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Sometimes I feel like we’re being surveyed and analyzed to death. Everybody and their dog wants to know how we rate every blessed thing we buy or event we experience.

How was your stay at such-and-such hotel? Take this survey for a chance to get a free stay.

How was your shopping experience at XYZ store? Go online, take a survey and be entered into a drawing for a shopping spree.

Google a certain brand of shoe and you’ll find your Facebook page and email inbox filled with ads for shoes.

There also seems to be an online preoccupation with ranking all kinds of things, perhaps as part of some bigger marketing scheme.

WalletHub, a personal finance website, is notorious for its wide-ranging ranking lists and pitching them to newspapers for potential stores. They rank things such as the best and worst states to start a business; states most dependent on gun industry (spoiler alert: Idaho was first, Montana was second); top 20 most fun states in America (California was ranked No. 1 and Montana didn’t even make the list!); and best states for women (my home state of Minnesota topped the list).

Their lists generally are based on analyzing a number of key metrics. For the most fun states, the website looked at data that ranged from the cost of movie tickets to accessibility of national parks and numbers of casinos per capita.

I had to laugh when my editor forwarded an email recently about the “Most Googled Summer Obsessions by State.” This gem of a useless compilation was done by a Chicago pizzeria, of all places. It doesn’t appear to be much of a scientific probe. The pizza joint said it used Google trends data to find the most searched summer obsession in each state.

The top 10 summer obsessions, in order, seemed fairly reasonable: burger, trampoline, farmers market, skateboard, air conditioner, grill, hammock, watermelon, Popsicle and flip-flops. Pretty much summer in a nutshell.

What was entertaining was the map of the United States that showed the top summer Google search by state. In Montana, the top search was for air conditioners. I find that highly suspect, since we generally have about two weeks a year when the AC is really needed. Air conditioner was the top search in Pennsylvania and Connecticut, too.

And in a place like the Big Sky, wouldn’t more people be searching online for popular hiking trails, campgrounds or recreation venues?

Even more curious, porch swings were the top summer-related Google search in five states: Kansas, Indiana, Kentucky, West Virginia and South Carolina. Huh?

Hammock was the top summer search in Minnesota, Michigan, Ohio, Missouri and Arkansas. I find that hard to believe.

Farmers markets were most sought-after on the East Coast, in places like Virginia, New Jersey and Delaware. That makes sense. So does public swimming pools for Arizona and bike rentals in Alaska.

But corn on the cob was the top summer search in North Dakota, not Iowa. Sprinkler systems were tops in corn-fed Iowa.

I can’t believe I spent as much time as I did poring over this ridiculous list, but that’s the point. It made me look. What any of these Google searches has to do with eating pizza in Chicago, I have yet to understand.

Features Editor Lynnette Hintze may be reached at 758-4421 or lhintze@dailyinterlake.com.

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