Ben Parzybok

apologizes unequivocally

Google Trends tracks the flu

Genius idea:

Fantastic way to use search data and to watch an epidemic unfold.

How can communities utilize this data to minimize an epidemic?  It might be the case that by the time the data shows a danger- it’s too late, as the spikes indicate the epidemic has successfully spread.

Imagine if you could be alerted to any acceleration of  a trend. Say you limit the search to a region and see a doubling or tripling of searches over a 2 day period (click on Arkansas, for example, as of today). Would having a sort of ‘snow day’ actually increase net productivity for a given period of time, considering that if you didn’t, you’d have a larger portion of the populace infected? Though the flu is communicable over about a week’s time, it appears, and you can infect others before you experience symptoms. Would it be worth having a text-message alert system where residents could sign up to be alerted to accelerations in the data? – and could that be done without causing paranoia and/or causing people to remove themselves from society unnecessarily?

And what’s the difference between Idaho and Oregon – there’s no scale to measure by, but it appears they are hypochondriacs in Idaho. –actually, I’m guessing that’s the effect of a lower population density on the spread of the disease. Compare Idaho to California and you can infer that higher density in California enables fast-spreading infections, whereas the infection travels slowly in ID.

My kids have just gotten over fevers – and the teacher said it went around the school. It does make you wonder if there’d be a net-gain in school days if everyone were kept home from school for a, say, 3-5 day period, at the beginning of an upward trend, rather than having an infection cycle over a couple of weeks.

Author: Benjamin Parzybok

My name is Ben Parzybok and I'm a novelist and programmer living in Portland, OR. @sparkwatson



  1. maybe someone should write a fictional novel to figure out all these questions

  2. Indeed. Are we flipping a coin or what?
    Or is it: 1-2-3 not it!

  3. no, no. by “someone” I meant you. i’m just a lowly short story writer. you, the world wants to know what your next project will be!!!

    congrats on the WW story today. looks like you are going to have TWO profiles of your life and personality in one week. quite a coup!

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