The Internet is a double-edged sword. It helps us shop, watch movies, and settle bar bets. On the other hand, it is full of false information (Obama is an undercover Muslim), weird diets (Lose 15 pounds in 3 days!) and lots and lots of sites that begin with the phrase “Top 10”, or “Top 5” or “Top ”.
It is these sites that perhaps annoy me the most. Don’t get me wrong --- I really do appreciate the plethora of “Top Whatever” reviews when I’m considering a new laptop or camera or a mini version of a Pilot G-2 pen that will actually fit in my tee-shirt pocket --- virtually any piece of merchandise. On the other hand, I cringe when I see something like “ Top 3 Ways to Lose Belly Fat” , “5 Ways to Stop Constipation” or “How to pick safe stocks that will triple your investment !!!”. I’m not sure why these come-ons are so prevalent, but the advertisers must think they are effective or we would not be seeing so many of them. This got me to thinking about which is the most attractive number for these sorts of come-ons? Is it 5 or is it 10 or even 20? I was pretty sure it wasn’t 20 (who has that kind of time?) but curious about the rankings from 1 to 10.
In a previous column I discussed Google’s NGram site which graphs the frequency of usage for any phrase you input between 1800 and 2000. For this experiment, I found the usage of all the occurrences from “Top 1” to “Top 10” (plus Top 20 and 100). The Ngram chart I got was and was not surprising (before you read further, what would you guess the order of usage was?) Which phrase was used the most during the last 200 years?
I was not surprised to find that the winner was ....”Top 10” which had double the number of occurrences as “Top 20”, but was surprised that the second place was taken by 20 --- I was dead wrong about the “Top 20” phrase which really took off in the 1950s but then I remembered the Music Charts back then most always comprised the Top 20 popular songs. Following were: 1, 100, 5 (100 and 5 were very close, and essentially the same by the year 2000), 2, 3, 6, 7, 8, 4, and 9 bunched together as the least referenced. Now there’s some trivia that could possibly buy you a beer at the bar.
Another annoyance is the message I get when I decline to subscribe to a web service such as one that tracks stocks or sports or politics. Usually I’m given only two options: Yes!!! Sign me Up” and “No thanks I’m not interested in or < I’m not interested in becoming smart, rich and famous> or some equivalent snarky, passive-aggressive response designed specifically to make you change your mind. There’s nothing quite like being patronized by a computer. Nothing.
The final annoyance that I have space to complain about is sort of a semi-scam. It usually appears on a search for merchandise. For example, the other day I realized that my Camry was over 12 years old and might need a new set of rotors and brake linings, so, on a whim I started to search out prices for a newer car to get a feel for the market. After navigating several sites that purportedly Toyota has approved, I found most of them wanted my email address before I could receive a quote which I don’t like to do as it just makes for more junk mail in my Inbox. I could have given them my decoy email address that I use for such cases,
but guessing that the site would just ask for more personal information, I just cancelled the transaction. After much searching, I found the actual Toyota website which did display list prices with no fuss or bother.
I’m sure that you, dear reader, have your own set of Internet Annoyances and I’d be interested in hearing from you. Please use my website (www.tec-soc.blogspot.com) or my email (firstname.lastname@example.org) to share.