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Google Feud is addictive and educational — really

I stumbled onto Google Feud and now my life is over.

In fact, I’m writing about Google Feud because the only thing I’ve done since a co-worker pointed out Google Feud is play Google Feud. Write what you know, they say. Google Feud is now all I know. I even got a little panicky when it morphed into “bing feud” as an April Fool’s joke.

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You probably know about the Web-based game. In fact, you’re probably playing it now. Who isn’t? Patterned after TV game show “Family Feud,” the Web obsession offers players the first few words of a search query — for instance, “Tom Hanks is __” — and ask them to predict how Google’s autocomplete feature would finish the query. You’re allowed three misses as you try to come up with the top 10 answers, racking up points with each correct answer. (“Forrest Gump,” “married to,” “dead,” among others in the Tom Hanks example.)

A wrong answer delivers a bit red X, ala Family Feud. And yep, it’s pretty much addictive.

Silly, you say? Enlightening, I say. Think about those who create content for the Web and those who sell products on it. It’s challenging work. First, you need great content. But even then, you need to make sure that people can easily discover your great content.

There is plenty of work you can do filling content gaps, tagging products, creating paid search strategies etc., but meeting the challenge inevitably moves beyond human scale, in part because of the reality that Google Feud helps illustrate: Web users think of things and search for them in different and individual ways.

And so, Web operators turn to automation. The more automation, the better.

Consider, for instance, the wonders of auto-complete. It’s a key way to make a Web search easier for users. Type a few words, or even a few letters, and voilà, the phrase you were going for appears — thanks to the wisdom of the crowd that searched before you.

Can you imagine if a search engine tried to provide that feature manually? You don’t have to. In fact, Google in a spoof video imagined it for you with an interview of Michael Taylor, Google autocompleter.

But what if, instead of relying on machine learning, a person had to take an educated guess and list the full phrases users most likely intended to type? OK, what if I had to guess?

Who would build a time suck like Google Feud and why, you ask? That would be Justin Hook — and for fun.

“Google Feud’s surge of popularity really took me by surprise,” Hook said by e-mail when I asked him about his 15 or 20 minutes of fame. “It had actually been online for over a year, getting just a few hits a day, when one morning I woke up to find it on the front page of BuzzFeed. Thankfully, most of the feedback has been extremely positive. I’m not a programmer or game designer by trade. I just made the thing for a laugh, so I’m glad to find people are laughing along with me.”

And yes, I’m laughing. When I’m not pulling my hair out trying to come up with answers. Let’s just say, based on my track record, I’m no Michael Taylor.

I started with the “Names” category and was confronted with the partial query: “Sharon ___” I guessed “Stone,” which was a winner — top choice. Then Osborne, which yielded a big red X, ala the TV game show. I did slightly better when I tried “Osbourne,” which apparently is how Sharon spells her name. It was No. 4 on the list. And then I drew a blank, so I tried “Sharon Cassidy,” my cousin. Nothing.

I moved on to “Culture” and the partial query, “What the hell is a __” I went with my first thought: “Dongle.” Nope. “Cronut?” Uh-uh. How about “Wheatshocker,” given Wichita State’s recent March Madness run? Nope. Try: “hufflepuff,” “thot” and “hashtag.”

Really, people?

And I won’t get into the more complicated queries, like “My friend is addicted to ___” (I had no idea…) and “Should I stop___”  Why do I think those queries are coming from essentially the same set of people?

Anyway, that’s not important now. What’s important now is I get back to Google Feud and the next question that I’ll have no chance of properly completing.

Mike Cassidy is BloomReach’s storyteller. Reach him at mike.cassidy@bloomreach.com; follow him on Twitter at @mikecassidy