Why is Amarillo in So Many Songs? …and Other Google Autocomplete Assertions

Jul 18, 2013

You may or may not agree with it, but Google has some interesting things to say about where you live.  You just have to know how to ask.

By manipulating the “autocomplete” function implemented by Google, bloggers and journalists alike recently discovered they can trick the search engine into surreptitiously suggesting what may appear to be biased or over-generalized judgments regarding various geographic locales.

If you’ve performed a Google search recently, you may already be familiar with autocomplete.  This feature automatically predicts what you are trying to search for as you are typing.

Google says these predictions are based upon data from what other people previously searched for as well as the content of web pages Google has indexed.  If a lot of users asked Google “Why is Kansas so windy?” then that suggestion will be at the top of the list as you type “Why is Kansas…”

And that’s the genesis of how blogger Renee DiResta amassed data for a map illustrating popular assumptions for each of the fifty states.  The blogger asked Google “Why is (insert place name here) so…?” and then let Google autocomplete the query.

KUT News tried this trick for the city of Austin.  I took the liberty of testing this idea on a few places associated with the high plains.  Some of these results may be no surprise, while others may seem a little inaccurate.  How representative do you think autocomplete is?

Kansas:

  • Why is Kansas so windy
  • Why is Kansas so humid
  • Why is Kansas so conservative
  • Why is Kansas so flat

Western Kansas:

  • Why is western Kansas so windy
  • Why is western Kansas so flat
  • Why is western Kansas so boring
  • Why is western Kansas so controversial

Eastern Colorado:

  • Why is eastern Colorado so healthy
  • Why is eastern Colorado so awesome
  • Why is eastern Colorado so hot
  • Why is eastern Colorado so skinny

Oklahoma:

  • Why is Oklahoma so backward
  • Why is Oklahoma so susceptible to tornadoes
  • Why is Oklahoma so prone to tornadoes
  • Why is Oklahoma so cold

Texas:

  • Why is Texas so big
  • Why is Texas so cheap
  • Why is Texas so hot
  • Why is Texas so humid

Amarillo:

  • Why is Amarillo so windy
  • Why is Amarillo so cold
  • Why is Amarillo in so many country songs
  • Why is Amarillo in so many songs

After Google reminded me of lyricists’ supposed affinity for Amarillo, naturally I solicited suggestions form HPPR’s own Mike Fuller.  Here's a selection of songs that lay mention to Amarillo:

  • Route 66” by numerous artists
  • Snowin on Raton” by Townes Van Zandt
  • Hello New Orleans” by Robert Earl Keen
  • Amarillo Highway” by Robert Earl Keen or by Terry Allen
  • Amarillo Way” by AJ Swope
  • Amarillo Song” by Andy Chase Cundiff