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Coolest Job Ever? Google Pays These People to Watch the World Cup

Jul 13 2014 - 12:05pm

Google's World Cup War Room [1] is the place where people are doing your dream job. It's a large, open loft with a team of about 20 designers, writers, translators, and data scientists nestled inside. This small army works around the clock to power the 2014 Google Trends World Cup hub [2], which identifies search patterns — in real time — and publishes them to the web with original illustrations and unique insights. Basically, they get to watch the World Cup all day, every day . . . because it's their job.

"Trends" are the packaged cards you see on the World Cup hub's front page. Sometimes it takes as little as 20 minutes to get a trend up live! We watched the team at work during the devastating Brazil vs. Germany [3] game, in which the Germans steamrolled the home team with a final score of 7 to 1.

Seeing it all come together was a stark reminder of how most of the Internet is still actually run by real humans, not robots. Scroll down for a fascinating replay of what happens when Google watches the World Cup.

Photo: Lisette Mejia

This Person Looks at a Bunch of Numbers

This is Danielle Bowers, lead data analyst of trends. The numbers and stats on those "trend" cards? They come from analysts like her. In the morning before a match, she's looking at top searches on Google.com and looking at what people are talking about on Google+.

Danielle's not only looking at search volume (the number of people looking for a certain term like "Neymar de Silva Santos Jr."), she's looking at sentiment, too. That's right, Google can measure something as subjective as feelings. Through data, she can see if Brazilians are feeling unsure about their players or if Germans are feeling confident about the outcome of a match. At the end of Tuesday's semifinals, Brazil fans were feeling "heartbroken," while German fans felt "unstoppable."

Photo: Nicole Nguyen

Then, She Relays Data to Writers and Designers

During the game, every time there's a red card, a goal, or even a crazy biting incident [4], the analysts are on it. They're looking for huge spikes in certain search queries when exciting things happen. In this match's case, one of the top questions in Brazil was, "What are the players going to say about the match?" Since, you know, Germany completely owned them.

When something major hits their radar — like when the term "cumbia," the name of the Colombian team's victory dance [5], surged after the first goal of Brazil vs. Colombia — they'll send the numbers to designers and writers so they can start moving on getting the trend to the hub page.

Photo: Lisette Mejia

This Person Translates Words Into Brazilian Portuguese

But, of course, these incoming search queries are often in different languages. That is where a translator like Luciana Guimarãres comes in. Most of her job involves turning all of the English copy into Brazilian Portuguese, but she wears many more hats.

When something is spiking in search, oftentimes it's very culturally specific. For example, analysts were baffled when "sweet popcorn" became popular during World Cup matches, so they turned to a local cultural expert like Luciana. According to Luciana, a Brazil native, the term was trending because Brazilians love eating sweet popcorn while they watch futbol, their country's greatest pastime.

The translators give analysts the context behind what their countrymen are searching for. They also make sure that the graphic puns [6] actually express what the copy means — and isn't culturally offensive.

Photo: Lisette Mejia

Sometimes She Has to "Trans-Create"

Some idioms, however, don't translate well. So instead of translating a term, Luciana must trans-create. For example, this trend, Neighborhood Watch [7], is about how Brazilians started searching for Argentina, the country they'd most love to beat, in massive quantity. Neighborhood watch, translated literally into Portuguese, doesn't have the same meaning as it does in American English.

So Luciana adapted the message to "O que fazem 'los hermanos'?" which means roughly, "What are our brothers doing?" "Los hermanos" is Spanish for brothers, and that's what Brazil calls their greatest rivals, the Argentinians.

This Person Looks at Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, and Google+ All Day

This dude, digital strategist Matt Garner, works with the team's craziest display set up. On his eight monitors, Matt is looking at social media from every angle. He's watching live conversations on Twitter and live analytics on what people are posting about (rather than searching on Google).

After Germany's fourth goal against Brazil (who had scored none up to that point), Americans started comparing the loss to the Seahawks vs. Broncos Super Bowl qualifier (the Broncos lost 43 to 8), and Matt was the first to know.

Photo: Lisette Mejia

He's the Senior Correspondent of Memes, Basically

Since Matt's job is to basically be on social media all day, he sees weird, obscure reactions as they happen. This Tumblr, All the Brazilian Tears [8], was just one example. If you couldn't tell already, this was a seriously depressing game.

Photo: Lisette Mejia

This Person Gets to Draw Stuff on the Computer

Designing original graphics for each trend isn't really such a late step. When a trend is in motion, visual designer Wilf Eddings is working while writers are writing and translators are translating.

Wilf, who moved from London temporarily just for this project, looks at the data and begins to construct a visual pun. He works from a giant Photoshop canvas [9] that includes every digital asset he's ever worked on. Every arm, every hand, every jersey, and every ball is there.

Wilf will pull pieces from here and there to create the illustrations you see on the hub page, which is how he's able to get them done quickly (in as little as 20 minutes, and an average of an hour and a half), and maintain a consistent look across all graphics.

Photo: Lisette Mejia

Sometimes, He Sketches

Most of his graphics start as a very rudimentary sketch.

Photo: Lisette Mejia

Then, Those Sketches Become Gorgeous Graphics

After the idea is drawn out, Wilf takes to the computer. All graphics take on a similar color palette drawn from every participating team's national flags. In the hub, you'll notice each trend's dominant color reflects the country it's referring to.

This particular image was made preemptively before the Argentina vs. Netherlands semifinal. It's meant to illustrate how Argentina is searching for the World Cup match three times more than its own Independence Day, which also happens to be on July 9. Seen here is the draft we previewed before it was finalized.

Photo: Lisette Mejia

Finally, the Trends Hit the Web

Then, the data, the copy, and the illustration come together on the web in Google's World Cup Trends Hub [10]. It's translated into 12 languages and every asset is sent to Google teams worldwide for posting on their social handles.

And that, my friends, is what happens when Google watches the World Cup. Crazy stuff, in real time.

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