Using ‘collective intelligence’ to detect the start of a recession period?

I try to read the Economist regularly, but it’s hard to keep up because each issue is so good. I just came across an article in the Economist from Jan 10th 2008 issue talking about using the frequency of the word ‘recession’ in Washington Post and NYTimes to identify the start of an actual recession period. Interestingly, according the graph below and the Economist, “This simple formula pinpointed the start of recession in 1981 and 1990 and 2001.” Seems somewhat believable to me.


However, since news articles are written by the ‘elite’ journalists at Washington Post and the NYTimes, so this isn’t quite what people have in mind when they think of ‘wisdom of the crowd’. So I tried Google Trends instead, to see if the way people searched for the keyword ‘recession’ also correspond to the start of the recession period predicted by the R-index method by the Economist. Sure enough, the results seem to agree:

I then checked the same trend on the access traffic numbers for the ‘recession’ article on Wikipedia, and found the same peak in January:

I guess we don’t need any more evidence that ‘recession’ started in January, or at least everyone seems to be obsessed about it then.

I then thought to myself: Perhaps, ‘wisdom of the searchers’ can also be used to predict who will win the presidential race in November? Here I deliberately made sure that blue is the keyword ‘Obama’, while red is the keyword ‘McCain’.

It sure looks like Obama has the upper hand right now.

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