A terminology experiment

After all of the observation- and analysis-based discussions of terminology on this blog, I decided to do a little experiment to see if there was any data that could be collected. To get an idea of how much people used which term, I first thought that I should just tally the Google references to each of the terms that refer to ubicomp and related concepts. Then I realized that that technique suffered from the unpredictable nature of the Google estimation algorithm and it didn't recognize that some of the terms have been around a lot longer than others, so there are probably more documents that refer to them, even if they're not as popular in the field today.

I decided that a better way to do this would be to buy some search engine keywords (specifically "ubiquitous computing," "ubicomp," "pervasive computing" and "ambient intelligence") and watch how many times the keyword was searched-for and how many times people clicked on it.

Here are the results from 11 days of keyword placement on Google:

OK, what do we see? I'm going to treat clicks as active interest and impressions as a kind of semi-active interest, though I acknowledge this is projecting a lot on the audience and may be conflating several factors in terms of audience composition and intention. In this analysis, "ambient intelligence" is a nonstarter in terms of active interest, although as many people searched for it as "ubicomp." Maybe it's just an academic term and my ad for ThingM (there needs to be something people can click on ;-) wasn't interesting to academics. Still, it's interesting to note that no one clicked on an ad that mentioned "ubicomp" when they had searched for "ambient intelligence."

The next finding, though, I think is the most interesting: "pervasive computing" was searched-on as much (actually a little more) as "ubiquitous computing," but clicked significantly less. First of all, I was surprised that it was searched for as much, but it gets clicked on less than "ubiquitous computing," and that puzzles me. It shows different levels of interest, or different audiences, between the terms. Moreover, the cost-per-click on it is significantly higher, which means that other people are trying to buy the term (I don't think I had any competition for any of the other terms).

Anyway, out of this small thicket of numbers come more questions than answers. Some things we can extract reliably: "ubiquitous computing" and "pervasive computing" are both roughly equally as popular in terms of interest. "Ambient intelligence" is not so popular. "Ubiquitous computing" creates more active interest than any of the other terms, and "ubicomp" is not in nearly as active use (despite its greater popularity as a tag on del.icio.us; for comparison: ubiquitous computing).

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This page contains a single entry by Mike Kuniavsky published on March 12, 2007 10:37 AM.

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