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Posts Tagged ‘Google’

Pleasant Communication


One of the good things I have found in my new position is that there is an internal library blog, and that that blog is well used. It means I have another place to consider when I find something I want to blog about. I may of course simply repeat posts across venues, but then I will have to tailor each post to the audience, but that is a good thing. 🙂

In a completely unrelated segue:  I recently discovered a new tool from Google which could end up being either a really useful tool or the bane of a website administrator’s life. It is called Google Sidewiki [http://www.google.com/sidewiki/] and it allows anyone to review a website, or simply make a comment on that website and attach that review to the website. If it can recognise you as the site owner it allows you to create a site message, which I have done.

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What can you do with the saved time? Google certainly do push the boundaries.

Really it’s quite an interesting development, and if you look at the figures Google has put out below, and start doing some math, you get a picture of just how much dominance Google has as the search engine of choice.  The implications for our users will be immense.

There is one drawback as far as I can see. Will users start to miss stuff they might previously seen? If you use that function chances are you will click on the first result that pops up before you even finish typing your search. Will that mean that Google Rankings become even more important to your website?

About Google Instant

Google Instant is a new search enhancement that shows results as you type. We are pushing the limits of our technology and infrastructure to help you get better search results, faster. Our key technical insight was that people type slowly, but read quickly, typically taking 300 milliseconds between keystrokes, but only 30 milliseconds (a tenth of the time!) to glance at another part of the page. This means that you can scan a results page while you type.

The most obvious change is that you get to the right content much faster than before because you don’t have to finish typing your full search term, or even press “search.” Another shift is that seeing results as you type helps you formulate a better search term by providing instant feedback. You can now adapt your search on the fly until the results match exactly what you want. In time, we may wonder how search ever worked in any other way

Did you know:

  • Before Google Instant, the typical searcher took more than 9 seconds to enter a search term, and we saw many examples of searches that took 30-90 seconds to type.
  • Using Google Instant can save 2-5 seconds per search.
  • If everyone uses Google Instant globally, we estimate this will save more than 3.5 billion seconds a day. That’s 11 hours saved every second.
  • 15 new technologies contribute to Google Instant functionality.

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This is a story for those of you out there like me who find some elements of the new paradigm of everything been stored out there on the web for free a worry.

When Google Owns You – A New Chapter

Almost two years ago, I wrote When Google Owns You, about what happened with Nick Saber was cut off from all his Google applications. It’s worth taking a quick read now. Now, it’s my turn. I woke up this morning in Montreal to find that my access to my Google accounts has been temporarily disabled due to a “perceived violation of either the Google Terms of Service or product-specific Terms of Service.”

Don’t ask why. I haven’t found out yet. I can’t just yet. I’m in Canada.

So, here’s the list of things I can’t do without my Google Account:

  • Use my phone properly – it’s an Android phone.
  • Access my primary calendar.
  • Access my Google Wave (for collaboration projects).
  • Access all my RSS subscriptions (Google Reader).
  • Access my documents (Google Docs).

For anyone who wants to write in the comments “you should have a backup for everything, etc,” save the ink. We all know we should have more than one system, but, look again. That means carrying another phone, using a synced calendar platform, and then for the last three, a lot of document sync.

But my thing is this: my access to several core functions are downed in one shot.

The only upside: it *appears* that it’ll be easier to fix this once I’m back in the States. I simply have to give them my phone number to receive a text message. Note that I say “appears.” I use a Google Voice phone number. Will it even be able to receive my text message from Google helping me open my accounts?

People outside of the United States should take note of this.

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OK OK so I know that there are fears being raised about stalking using google’s new goggles service but…

But…

… ain’t it the coolest thing ever?

I admit I have raised myself on a steady diet of science fiction, but I seriously like the idea of the kind of context that I hunger for and already use the net to provide coming to me this easily. Sure I enjoy using my creativity to massage search terms when looking for an unknown, but why should I when I can just scan?

Picture this: LIANZA 2020. A familiar face comes across the floor towards you… but no name arises. A subtle gesture, unobservable to the outsider, and a list of likely suggestions for the person in front of you scroll up on your glasses.

Privacy shmivacy. I’ve got a bad memory for names in my 30s and this is going to help in a decade’s time.

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Some of you may have read the article “Is Google making us stupid?”.  In it Nicholas Carr says the the internet is affecting his memory and powers of concentration.  Information is quick to find through a few clicks from Google “tripping from link to link to link” so that he gets sidetracked and distracted and his brain can no longer focus.  He believes his brain is being remapped so it expects instant gratification without need of contemplation.  He cites others who say they can no longer read books or passages of several paragraphs, who claim their way of thinking has changed.  Instead they “power browse”.  I think it all depends on what information you’re looking for and why.  Haven’t people always skimmed over text to get the gist of it?  I, for one, haven’t stopped reading books (non-fiction included).  I still like to read in-depth, particularly if I’m interested in a subject.  How widespread is the surge of short attention spans and is the internet (let alone Google) to blame?

Jamais Cascio on the other hand asks if Google is actually making us smarter in his article “Get Smarter“.  He says that that internet is helping with our intelligence, referring to it as our “hive mind”.  The internet makes it easy for everyone to create as well as consume material.  Cascio argues therefore that there’s just more information out there and can be misinterpreted – “It’s easy to mistake more voices for more noise”.  Scientists such as Steven Johnson maintain that increasing complexity and range of media make us smarter.  Labelled “fluid intelligence”, it is the ability to get meaning from confusion and solve new problems.  Cascio goes on to say that the attention deficit problem currently experienced may be a short-term problem as we come to grips with managing the glut of information, and reminds us that the phrase “information overload” was coined in 1970.  “Google isn’t the problem; it’s the beginning of a solution”.  The future is upon us.

Certainly I think blaming Google is unfair even if it is used as a term to indicate the way we browse and search for information.  I don’t think the glut of information is making us stupid.  If anything is, it would be the dumbing down of public TV programmes not the internet. (A documentary is a rarity and intelligent dramas seem to be fewer.  Don’t get me started on TV – it stays off most of the time.)

Have your powers of concentration been altered?  Have you stopped reading long passages of text?  Or do you think you’re getting smarter, as suggested by Jamais Cascio?

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Lately we’ve been hearing a lot about Microsoft’s new search engine Bing and Wolfram Alpha (which, to be fair, is not a search engine).  I’m as guilty as anyone in always searching on Google while, at the same time, wondering if there’s an alternative which is just as good if not better. There are some pretty good search engines out there – the lesser known ones, which you may or may not have heard of.  Are they good enough to cure me of my Google habit?  Below is a list of a few which I’ve tried or recently discovered.  I did a very brief experiment searching for two topics in each of the search engines below.  I didn’t have time to suss out any advanced features.  The searches were quick and dirty.

Cuil

I quite like its clean lines and some of the results had images from the sites. I found that the top results were relevant for both searches.

Icerocket

I used this search engine for my research project and found it very useful. I did the same searches as above and found one set of results relevant and the other not so much. It very much depends what you’re looking for. There are also separate search tabs for searching within Twitter and Myspace.

Exalead

I found this one listed on an academic site as a recommended alternative to Google and Yahoo.  However, I was disappointed with the results. Very few were relevant. It does display images of the websites, which is nice. It also offers a download for searching within your PC.

Duckduck.go

This is my most recent find and despite the weird name I was impressed with the results. They were displayed in large readable font and were relevant. On the right you can click on the icons of numerous Web 2.0 websites to search within them. Cool feature.

Gigablast

This was the most disappointing search engine of the few I tested in my little experiment. There were very few relevant results.

Clusty

You’ve probably heard of this one as well as gigablast. This is a meta search engine which I’ve always found rather disappointing. Again, it might depend on the sort of material you’re searching for.  Search engine showdown has a list of other meta search engines, none of which have cured my Google habit.

An important one to remember for searching images in particular is creativecommons.org which is great if you want to find copyright-free images.

Lastly, a handy website which enables you to do a blind search on Google, Bing and Yahoo at Blindsearch.  A blind search is handy to test results without bias getting in the way.  Try it.  Do a search and vote on the search engine you think was the best and, hey presto, the search engine is revealed. The results for my searches revealed that I’d voted for Bing for one search and Google for the other.

The above list is by no means comprehensive, but mostly ones I could remember from the top of my head with the little time I had available.  I will probably still rely on dear old Google.

Have you discovered handy alternatives to Google and how do they compare?  Why not share your discoveries.

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