This is how quickly we give up on resolutions

Posted: January 1st, 2012 | Author: | Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: | No Comments »

On Facebook today, I noticed one of my friends posted a picture with the label “1/365”. Like other people, she’s attempting to post one picture every day of the year. An admirable goal!

This got me thinking: I wonder how long it takes most people to give up on resolutions? Well, the best (read: easiest and cheapest) way to figure this out is to see how many Google results there are for “1/365”, “2/365”, etc.

This is how quickly we give up on our resolutions*:

It appears most people give up after the first week, and the vast majority give up after the first month or two. But if they stick with it for the first 10 months or so, they’re talking about it a lot until the end of the year.

The technical details

First off, Google’s estimates of how many results a query has are grossly exaggerated (thanks, James). The chart above uses Andrew Zich’s Google Search Matrix.

I had to remove some outliers, which I set to be the average of up to 3 days on either side of them.

  • “7/365”: 719k (mostly in the form of “24/7/365”)
  • “364/365”: 1.8m (apparently a lot of sites just have numbers in sequence)

Below is the PHP script I used to generate the numbers initially. Note that the Google homepage (and thus the text around the number of results) looks different when you aren’t logged in.

echo '<html><table>';
for ($i = 1; $i <= 365; ++$i)
    $url = '' . urlencode('"' . $i . '/365"');
    $result = file_get_contents($url);
    preg_match('/of about <b>(.*)<\/b> for/', $result, $matches);
    echo '<tr><td>' . $i . '</td><td>' . str_replace(',', '', $matches[1]) . '</td></tr>';
echo '</table></html>';

Here is the chart created with the numbers that Google estimates on the first page of results:

The general shape of the data is the same, but the actual numbers of results are very different between the two.

The disclaimer

Oh man, this is so unscientific it almost hurts. Just because someone stops posting about their resolutions doesn’t mean they’ve given up. Not everyone who’s come up with a resolution posts about it online. Etc etc etc. I sacrificed a lot of scientific rigor to come up with a catchy title.

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