Archive for ‘Labs’

November 23, 2011

Google Sidewiki is closing

Google Sidewiki will close effective 5 December 2011 and all content will be deleted. Sidewiki was a web annotation experiment of sorts, allowing anyone with access to the internet to comment on any web page, in an ad hoc sort of way.

Google Sidewiki to be seen no more

Sidewiki icon

Demise of another Google Labs project

Google Sidewiki seemed to have a relatively small cadre of regular users. It was initially received with anticipation, and from some surprising sources. According to pharma industry analyst Dominic Tyer, in his coverage of the closure:

Sidewiki was briefly a big deal for pharma…it caused at least one over enthusiastic pharma commentator to declare it a “game changer” at launch two years ago.

Google Sidewiki was plagued by spam and extraneous content from the beginning. Google itself did not seem to stand behind the project as much as with other Labs, as the Google Sidewiki Twitter account and Google Buzz feed were not updated after July 2010, despite remaining online. Google+ is much more closely aligned with the direction Google seems to be taking for social and collaborative web interaction lately.

How to export your Sidewiki contributions

You can do this as follows:

  1. Sign in to your Google account
  2. Go to All my entries to see all Sidewiki content that you have created
  3. Save the page to your computer. It will be in a *.zip file format.
  4. Check that the saved page is readable
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Final days for Sidewiki

There is also a Google Toolbar Help Center article about removing Sidewiki for those who don’t use Chrome browser, but it hasn’t been updated since September 2011.

Chrome Extension for Sidewiki

If you use the Sidewiki Chrome extension, see these Help Center instructions  which are up-to-date, about how to remove it.

In order to keep your Sidewiki contributions you must export them before 5 December 2011.

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September 27, 2011

Google Tashkeel for diacritics in Arabic to be discontinued

The name Tashkeel – تشكيل means to “give shape or form”. The process of diacritizing is also called Tashkeel.

Google Tashkeel adds missing diacritics to Arabic text:

Diacritic symbols are crucial to identify how words are pronounced and to disambiguate their meanings. Arabic uses diacritic symbols to specify short vowels.

Google Tashkeel Translation product

Google Tashkeel for Arabic diacritic annotation

The symbols are usually omitted by native speakers when writing, as the word meaning can be inferred by context. However, including diacritics is necessary as a pre-processing step for many text processing applications. Diacritics are used in a similar context in many other languages. The two that I am most familiar with are Chinese and Hebrew.

Google is shutting down Tashkeel

Tashkeel will go offline by September 30, 2011. The URL is

http://tashkeel.googlelabs.com

Arabic language by geography

which explains why Tashkeel is shutting down: It is yet another product closing as part of the Google corporate decision to shutter Google Labs.

Tashkeel will be missed by many users. As of September 16, 2011, the product page had over 200 five-star reviews.

September 4, 2011

The Google Labs story continues

Green is the new blue

According to this comprehensive listing via Google Code, Google Code Labs projects will be associated with a green bar, not light blue. Google Labs that have graduated to full products will have the usual light blue bar:

Instead of the blue page elements that you see on most Google Code pages, Labs products use green. For example, see the title bar above that says “Google Code Labs.” For Labs products, you’ll also notice “(Labs)” in the title bar, next to the product name.

The other way of denoting a Google Labs project is more pleasing to me, and endearing:

Instead of the typical Google Code logo, Labs products have one with a conical flask as the “L”… We’re admittedly fond of conical flasks so they may show up in other places as well.

I am also fond of conical flasks.

Google Labs is being discontinued

Swiffy (click to view full size)

Which Google Labs projects will be discontinued and which will remain?

This is unclear. There will be some survivors, despite the demise of Google Labs announcement several weeks ago. For example reCAPTCHA is a Google Labs project, but is unlikely to go away! Nor is the Google Prediction API.

Google also indicated that Google Swiffy, the HTML to SWF Flash content converter project, will continue as a Google Labs project, although perhaps in a different location. See image above for further details.

UPDATE

Two days ago, Search Engine Land featured a comprehensive post about Google Labs. Some projects will live on, others will not.  A few of the more noteworthy decisions were that Google Correlate will survive. Say farewell to Google Sets and Google Squared though.

UPDATE 2

This is a shock. Straight from the REAL GooglePlex was this sad announcement on 2 September 2011. The following much-loved favorites, at least by me, and profiled in the past here on this very blog, are being discontinued:

There were several others on the list.

Google Health and Google Power Meter were discontinued too. That announcement was made separately, in June 2011.

Google Experimental Labs logo

???

The Fate of Google Experiments

I do not know how this will impact Google Experimental.

Although the image denotes it as part of Google Labs, the URL is a sub-domain for google.com rather than the Google Labs URL googlelabs.com.

The official description implies to me that it is a search-specific feature:

Google is always experimenting with new features aimed at improving the search experience. Take one for a spin and let us know what you think. Join an experiment and you’ll see that feature whenever you do a Google search.

August 16, 2011

Google Labs for Enterprise Search

Labs logo

Google Labs

Google Enterprise Search now has a lab of its own ! Actually, I first noticed this in February 2011, but just got around to writing about it. I was too busy collecting cool images of Google Enterprise hardware to put together a post.

What does Google Enterprise Labs offer?

Recall that Google Enterprise refers to these products:

  1. the Google Search Appliance (GSA)
  2. Google Commerce Search for larger online businesses
  3. Google Intranet search, and
  4. the Google Mini, a less powerful, blue-colored version of the yellow GSA.
GSA connector

GSA connector

Google Enterprise Labs offers many enhancements such as open source connectors to improve GSA connectivity with file systems, databases or SalesForce.com documents. Cross-language Enterprise Search is an interesting project too.

GSA enabled for open search also caught my attention. OpenSearch is a collaborative venture led by Amazon, and includes the major search engines. Its goal is to set up common standards for internet search. Unfortunately, there doesn’t seem to be a lot of activity at the moment, but that’s just my personal impression. Google gives this description (via the Enterprise Labs page that goes on to describe how to implement open search with browser integration):

OpenSearch is a collection of simple formats for the sharing of search results. OpenSearch… format can be used to describe a search engine so that it can be used by search client applications. Such search client applications include all major browsers.

In other words, you can send search queries right from your browser (Firefox, Internet Explorer or Google Chrome), after registering your GSA as a search provider.

GSA for Enterprise

GSA and Open Search

The same sort of browser integration is possible for Intranet Search (with Windows 7):

If your Intranet content e.g. Windows file shares or SharePoint, have been indexed by a GSA, all Windows clients will be able to submit search queries from Windows Explorer.

Be careful, though, as Secure Search cannot be used from within Windows Explorer.

July 21, 2011

Maps minus the map

With the approach of Google’s massive API deprecation at year-end, I have paid closer attention than ever to Google products. (The API deprecation news was followed by an announcement about winding down Google Labs earlier this week).

I really enjoy Google Maps, whose API is among the deprecated. While reading more about it, I happened to notice a most unusual looking Google-esque map.

This had that distinctive look and feel of Kotke to me. Although the image, see below, appeared on the Programmable Web blog, I promptly unearthed evidence that was highly suggestive of a Kotke origin. The title revealed all.

Google Maps without the Map

Google styles in maps

Showing off Google styles in Google Maps. Without the map.

I highly recommend giving it a try. Visit Maps without the Map for entrée. Try accessing some of the usual Google Maps features, like Streetview. I was pleasantly surprised at how well the version without the map, so to speak, is integrated with the real Google Maps. The sans map version uses JavaScript along with some CSS-like functionality for color choices.*

For explanatory details see the Programmable Web post (September 2010).

For visual fun, play with this image gallery of Google Maps Styles, and this excellent tutorial** on how to get the most out of Google Map Styles in general.

For specific usage guidelines, review the Google Maps Styles documentation.

Notes

*    Take a look at the map footer. The plain white Google logo featured in the sans map version is amusing!
**  I found the Google Maps Styles tutorial (May 2011) on the rather excellent BestFromGoogle website, an unofficial Google-themed blog. It is much more substantive than my own modest Google hobby blog. Features include code snippets, various tutorials and other cool stuff, in a readable, well-designed format.

December 17, 2010

Body Browser

The Google Body Browser is now accessible to the public.

Introducing the Body Browser from Google Labs

This is not like any other browser, based on the usual definition of the word. Specifically, it runs within the existing browser e.g. Chrome or Firefox. Modern features such as HTML5 must be supported by the user’s browser.

Body Browser

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What does the Body Browser do?

The Body Browser is an interactive anatomical chart of the human body. Biological categories include musculature, skeletal, circulatory and nervous systems, as well as internal organs. Features include rotation and zoom. Complete labels in Latin are available as a toggle on-off option.

The Body Browser showcases the full glory of HTML5 and Google’s new image format, WebGL. For example, each of the biological categories can be enabled separately, producing a layered effect. A good analogy would be to Google Earth, in terms of realistic rendering of 3-D image complexity.

There may be other features about which I am unaware. I found the site via Twitter, this morning, Thursday December 16, 2010.

What of Zygote Media?

See the page footer credit:

Imagery Copyright 2010 Zygote Media Group Inc.

No hyper link or other information is available on the page for Zygote Media Group. Nor did I have any particular success searching for Zygote Media in any of the usual places. However, it seems that Zygote Media is Google Lab’s partner in this project.

UPDATE

I later found that ZYGOTE MEDIA GROUP INC. is either owned by or does business as 3D Science. More information may be found about Zygote Media from that source.

December 8, 2010

Fast Flip in the Wild

Finally, I present a Google Labs project observed in the wild!

Location was the ReadWriteWeb’s technical section, called ReadWrite Hack. Subject matter was the intriguing still new start-up company, FluidDB, and their Flimp tool for importing JSON, YAML or CSV data sources into FluidDB. FluidDB, the product, is a new type of database, which ReadWriteWeb says that FluidDB says is a

hosted database with the heart of a wiki

For the very very curious, Flimp is an acronym for FLuiddb IMPorter. I foresee a critical dependency on case sensitivity in this company’s future.

Introducing Fast Flip

Note the pleasing yellow smiley face in the last letter “p”. Fast Flip has been extant for some time, possibly as long as a year. I hadn’t noted it anywhere outside of the Google domain or Google product pages until now.

logo for fast flip

Google Fast Flip Logo

I thought that Fast Flip was merely the Google version of a slide sharing application. I was incorrect. Apparently there is far more functionality built in, as described by Google:

My Fast Flip Info

Fast Flip personalizes results based on many different signals. These include articles that you have clicked on, liked, or shared. Below you will find a summary of the preferences that Fast Flip has learned for you.

Since this is my first time using Fast Flip, the above was followed by this notification-of-sorts:

Sorry, no preferences have been learned for you yet. Use FastFlip some more and check back here soon!

Emphasis is mine.

Compare one to the other. I am uncertain if the project is named “Fast Flip” or “FastFlip”, given the alternative spellings used by Google, and on the same page. However, there were two instances of “Fast Flip”, actually three if I were to include the meta-data for the page, so I’m inclined to believe that “FastFlip” is a typographical error. Such is allowable. After all, Fast Flip is a Labs project, not a full-fledged Google Product!

Much more information about Google Fast Flip can be obtained from the official Google source, which is not a blogspot Blog this time. Instead, Google chose to use one of their Python answer pages for About Google FastFlip.

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