I’ve found trends on Google news interesting for some time. For example, did net news predict a housing bubble?
As online sources of such social data get richer, and control and normalization issues are solved or at least made transparent, they could become a useful input to behavioral models. Already, I find them to be a useful reality check, for seeing how long it takes for events to show up on popular radar, and whether things that seem big are really big in the public mind.
Google Trends lets you compare the trajectories of multiple terms. What energy source grabs people?
Now Google Insights adds geography and other information to the mix. Should I be alarmed that system dynamics is on a downward trend? Surprisingly, interest is highest in Iran, with the US in 9th (perhaps due to some kind of per-IP-address normalization? Update: it’s share of total search volume.). At least there’s still a hub in Massachusetts.