7 posts about google

The Panopticon. Now With An Improved Menu!

Jan 20 2007
"When I go to a restaurant, and look at leftovers on my plate, I don't see food, I see information. If the restaurant were Google, they wouldn't just take that plate and scrape it off into the trash. There would be a camera in the kitchen, photographing every plate coming back, with analysis of what people liked and disliked, and what portions were too big, helping to optimize future servings."Jon Orwant,
on O'Reilly Radar

A recent post on O'Reilly Radar describes a "pervasive culture of measurement" which is touted as an example of how "smart" web companies these days are maximizing their use of data from their consumer's "leftovers."

Hmmm.

Waitasecond. Photographing my leftovers? You're totally creeping me out. I mean, I get the point, but is that really the direction that savvy Web-2.0-aware businesses take these days? The overtone of pervasive surveillance makes me feel a bit ill. Minus points for O'Reilly implying that this will lead to Web 2.0 apps that are constantly improving themselves based on user activity. Of course the corporate world has always wanted to know as much about me as possible. But what do they usually do with it? Banner Ads.

Bansky.

Google Rankings and "Canonical" URLs (technical)

Jan 12 2006

Finally some useful help from the "celebrity engineer" Matt Cutts, one of the few people in the world that has had intimate relations with the Google Pagerank algorithm. (EDIT: He also happens to use Wordpress, not Blogger. Hmmm.)

This is a description of how to best reference your urls in order to ensure that Google understands them clearly. (the corresponding clarity, is designed — clearly — to increase your rank.)

From the blog of Cutts:

Q: What is a canonical url? Do you have to use such a weird word, anyway? A: Sorry that it' a strange word; that's what we call it around Google. Canonicalization is the process of picking the best url when there are several choices, and it usually refers to home pages. For example, most people would consider these the same urls: * www.example.com * www.example.com/ * example.com * example.com/ * www.example.com/index.html * example.com/home.asp

Roger Johannsen at 456 Berea St. (web design) says he adds

1. RewriteCond %{HTTP_HOST} ^456bereastreet.com [NC] 2. RewriteRule ^(.*) http://www.456bereastreet.com/$1 [R=301,L]

to his htaccess file in order to ensure that "www" is added to all requests for a page on his server. Great work. Great post. Thanks, Matt and Roger.

What a Relief: Google Maps for Mac

Jan 10 2006

This is minor news in most contexts: Google Earth (the software power tool that feels like a toy) has been released for the Mac.

Aside from the obvious usefulness of this release, this signals a money-where-their-mouth-is confirmation thae Google isn't just reinforcing Microsoft's monopolistic dominance.

Google has offered a wealth of opportunities for open source, multi-platform development. But their unusual business model (offer almost everything for free) means that they've been targeting the largest mass of computer users — Microsoft-bound users, that is.

As (Open Source Journalist) Glyn Moody wrote recently:

Google's software is heavily weighted towards Microsoft Windows. Programs like Google Earth and Picasa are only available under Windows, and its latest, most ambitious foray, the Google Pack, is again only for Microsoft's operating system. This means that every time Google comes out with some really cool software, it is reinforcing Microsoft's hold on the desktop. Indeed, we are fast approaching the point where the absence of GNU/Linux versions of Google's programs are a major disincentive to adopt an open source desktop.

Glad to see that little bit of criticism go so out of date so quickly. Now, Google, a Linux release, please.

Via: The Map Room: Google Earth for Mac Officially Released

Key system requirements: OS X 10.4 (Tiger), a 400-MHz processor, and 16 MB of video RAM, minimum — essentially, even a G3 iBook from mid-2002 should be able to handle it — but they recommend more than 1.5 GHz, 32 megs of video and a fairly speedy broadband connection. I've been restraining myself from acquiring the leaked beta, but I'm going to download it now.

Google's Librarian Newsletter Offers New Explanation of Pagerank

Dec 30 2005

Google has a new librarian's newsletter that offers a nice clear (and brief) look at how their rankings work.

Nice to see a little bit of transparency from the behemoth Google, which is known to be more than a little secretive about its algorithms.

This doesn't actually, clear things up entirely, but it is Google's clearest, simplest explanation yet of how things work.

Being visible on the web is essential for anyone with good information to share. If you're a nonprofit, activist, artist, or otherwise a force for good, you should know how to make your website prominent.

From the introduction:

One of the most common questions we hear from librarians is "How does Google decide what result goes at the top of the list?" Here, from quality engineer Matt Cutts, is a quick primer on how we crawl and index the web and then rank search results. Matt also suggests exercises school librarians can do to help students.

Read the newsletter: Google Librarian Center

Online Resources for Evaluation Nonprofit Programs

Aug 3 2005

Here's a link to a nice comparison of Google Scholar and Scrius. It points out that Google Scholar has become neglected and is no longer updated regularly. This is a super-unfortunate development; Google is the web's best hope for easy, inexpensive archiving of scholarly research. (In other news, however, Amazon is now offering scholarly articles for a fee. It's easy — they're delivered electronically, but they aren't cheap — about $5.00 per article.)

Here's the link to the Google article: Scholarly Web Searching: Google Scholar and Scirus

The Google Game

Jan 13 2005

There is no shortage of webmasters desperate to get their hard-won site noticed. After spending many sleepless nights coding and debugging a site for a nonprofit, it only makes sense that you would want it to actually show up when someone is searching for your organization's keywords. But, like much of the web-authoring career, you won't find a perfectly simple solution.

The science and art of ranking highly on Google has become a major industry, populated (not surprisingly) by some folks willing to do some very unsavory things to get your site listed. Here's how it works: you make the site and want to see it ranking higher; you pay a "Search Engine Optimization" company to get you listed on the first page of Google for certain keywords. What happens after this point will either 1.) entail rewriting most of your content and all of your title/meta/alt tags or 2.) entail the SEO company setting up false domains that feed into your site (or a number of other dirty tricks). Both will get you higher listings, but only rewriting your content (a major project in most cases) will keep you there. Some unsavory SEO techniques will actually get you banned from Google et al, making your site effectively useless. This was a major point of discussion on a recent thread at techsoup.org, which is highly recommended in general. Here's a snippet of the conversation:

While there's a lot you can do to improve your site's ranking, nobody in the world can guarantee that you'll come up with a top ranking on the first or second page of the search results. A statement like this implies that humans have complete control over the search engine ranking process, when in fact this is not true at all. However ... SEO can lead to excellent results without it having to be a complicated process.

You can find the thread under the "web building" forum, but you'll have to browse for the search engine-related threads. The above conversation touches on some very good, basic techniques of search engine optimization, such as the use of the title tags and keyword-rich copy. There are other guides available online for sure, but the best resource I've found is the 2004 Search Engine Optimization for Dummies. If you're new to search engine optimization, just sit down with that and apply a little of what you learn to your site. Even just an afternoon's work can make your site several times more visible on search engines and result in greatly increased traffic on the web. If you're really willing to work at it, you can get an incredible amount of publicity for your organization through your website.