A partial solution to the Google Trends enigma
On December 2, 2022, Kas Thinks examined search results for Kiely Rodni’s name. To her surprise, people were searching for Kiely Rodni months before she made the news. How did Kas know this? She put Kiely’s name into Google Trends:
So, is something nefarious going on? The first two things I thought of were:
- Psychics had visions or dreams about Kiely, and wanted to see if those were about someone who had already died
- Google Trends is corrupt and has serious flaws with its database
Both of those could be true. All of us are psychic, to some degree. ESP, or extra-sensory perception, exists in everyone. Most people don’t have particularly strong ESP, but some do. However, could it be that there are that many people who had visions about Kiely? I am not so sure.
As for Google’s database, it might seem unlikely that a team of experienced programmers don’t know how to index HTML pages or YouTube videos. Remember that YouTube and Google have the same parent company. But, the sum of the codebase that comprises Google is very large and complex. Also, programmers may create perfectly stable code, while at the same time not considering that the choices that they made are the most appropriate ones.
Have you read or watched Jurassic Park? Without spoiling anything, some of the characters found that, although the computer code that automated various functions in Jurassic Park was solid per se, it didn’t take into account anomalous scenarios. In other words, the programmer, Dennis Nedry, made one too many assumptions.
It’s worth making a very important point here, which applies to software and to life in general: it’s impossible to predict if your assumptions are the correct ones, because you can’t be presented with every single scenario that could ever happen. Climate models, for example, are notoriously unreliable. But not because the programmers don’t know physics. To start with, their fundamental assumptions may not be appropriate. Secondly, because while they understand known unknowns, they cannot understand unknown unknowns – by definition.
And so, if there is a flaw in Google’s code, we didn’t discover it by looking at the code, but by using it in an anomalous fashion. Were it not for Kiely Rodni, we may not have stumbled upon this problem for a long while – if there is a problem with the code to begin with.
I think that there is a flaw in Google’s code, but I can only solve half of the equation. If people were searching for Kiely Rodni’s name before she died, what information would be returned? Her Instagram account? Her Facebook account? Why not just search social media platforms directly? Isn’t that how you would search for someone?
Also, if potential kidnappers or traffickers knew who she was, why were they searching for her? Surely they already knew where to find her.
Kas has already shown us worldwide results for “Kiely Rodni”. Below is a result just for my country, Australia, for the past 12 months:
You can see that there is a spike that occurs in early 2022. Now let’s try “Kiely Rodni cause of death” just for Australia:
Look at that huge spike in early 2022. It’s bigger than any of the spikes in August. What the hell is going on here? Let’s try that search term, but for the entire world:
That’s more like it, although we still see small spikes around March 2022. But then I looked at search engine results for more clues. And I think I found something. Let’s try Bing first:
See that crappy spam website at the top, next to the date, Feb 15, 2022? Keep that in mind. Now let’s try Duck Duck Go:
Hmm. More spam sites. It looks like they have created search term magnets, where they include any date that you search for, plus your search term. This shouldn’t happen though, surely? Because any website, no matter how crappy, has a creation date. Right? Finally, let’s try Google:
We don’t get those crappy spam sites. So that’s nice. But we get ABC, Fox, and Apple Podcasts. Those sites are used by millions of people every day. And yet those results are being returned with dates before August 6th. But when you click on them, it turns out that those Web pages were not actually created on those dates – 2 August, 5 August, 4 March, etc. It turns out that they just mention those dates somewhere on those pages. And, in one case, ABC writes that she went missing on August 2nd, in an article published in October:
But it gets better. I think I found a single clue that can help us understand why our search results are dated earlier than August 6th. Have a look at the last one, dated March 4th. Guess where that links? You might think that it links to the YouTube page of Adventures With Purpose, the group who found Kiely and her car on August 21st. But no, you would be wrong. It links to this video by EWU Crime Storyline:
This video does not mention Kiely Rodni at all (as far as I can tell). The above video has over 5.5M views as of December 7th, 2022. The video by AWP which documents their search for Kiely has 3.4M views. But, look again at the Google result. Do you see what is going on with the search terms? Give yourself a minute.
Notice that the AWP video has 3.4M views. And the link is dated 4 March. Do you see it yet? Google saw the term “3.4” and assumed it was the date, March 4th. For whatever reason, Google doesn’t take into account the creation date of a page, but the text inside the page that might indicate a date. This is not very helpful, because we are not searching for dates, we are searching for terms in a given time bracket. Those are different concepts, and it seems that Google does not differentiate between the two.
As for the problem with Google Trends, perhaps the solution is tied to the above problem, common to Google Search as well as Duck Duck Go and Bing. In other words, what might have happened is this: people searched for “Kiely Rodni” after August 6th, but their searches returned pages with dates that were earlier. Those pages weren’t created before August 6th, they just mentioned dates before August 6th. And Google Trends counts those pages as being created in the past.
So if my hypothesis is true, that Google’s code is flawed, then that explains why it appears that people were searching for Kiely long before she went missing. There is absolutely nefarious activity surrounding Kiely Rodni: the cover-up of her death and disappearance. But there were no traffickers or criminals searching for Kiely Rodni before August 6th.
As for the psychics, I don’t doubt that some people did have visions of Kiely. But from what I understand about ESP, not that many people would have sensed her disappearance. If they did, they might have documented it on a blog somewhere. If you know of such a blog, do let me know.