One of the pleasures of Internet culture none of the eggheads talk about at conferences is that the Internet lets you be dumb.
This afternoon, the trending topics list on Twitter is a rotating set of call-outs to the late King of Pop. At first it was shocking to see how many people are capable of operating Twitter, but not spelling “Michael” correctly. Then I realized this is part of why we like Internet technology. Online businesses, eager to take money from anyone and everyone, have made it possible to find and buy any product you want, without needing to spell it correctly.
Google helpfully offers, “Did you mean: Michael Jackson” with only the slightest whiff of British-butler condescension at our inability to spell one of the most common names on the planet.
If you haven’t tried an iPhone keyboard, you owe it to yourself to spend 20 minutes tapping away on your friend’s phone. Watch how the iPhone makes up for bad tech with good tech: The phone’s keyboard is hard to type on correctly. So Apple engineers added software that guesses what each word you type was probably meant to be.
Twitter’s trending topics exemplify the other way to deal with human users’ mistakes: Ignore them. Instead of trying to spell-fix trending topics, Twitter’s software often throws them out there and presumes we humans will figure them out. And we do! Right now, Twitter is merging tweets about Farrah Fawcett with those about “Farah.” But more often there’s no mechanical fixing involved. It’s the opposite of Google’s machine smarts. Google often seems like it thinks it’s smarter than me. It probably is. That’s why I hang out at Twitter instead.
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