Archive for November, 2010

November 30, 2010

Google Result Previews

I always enjoy a bit of usability testing, and Binary Bonsai does not disappoint. His interaction disaster area for Google result previews illustrates the shortcomings of Google’s new search feature in a pleasingly entertaining yet brief video.

I’ll cite his description of the search feature first, as he expresses it better than I:

Google recently introduced a preview layer to their search results, which allows the user to not only preview the page before going to it, but also see the actual string highlighted on that page. A nice idea, wrapped in horrible interaction design.

Enjoy the video, Google Result Preview from Binary Bonsai!

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November 28, 2010

eReader Growth

Via Google Retail Blog, October 2010

Original version

Google eReader Growth

Original version of e-Reader market growth and milestones

My annotated version

Growth chart for eReader-type eBook

Annotated eReader growth chart

The x-axis is time, in monthly increments. The y-axis was not identified. The two footers denoted by labels ONE and TWO in red should be clearly visible if the image is clicked on and viewed full-size.

This is well after the fact, so to speak.The chart legend date is October 2010, the Google Retail Blogger blog post date was October 2010, the post date here is March 2012. Remember, this is for entertainment and curiosity purposes only… Sssssh!

Sssssh! means “hush” or “on the down low” or “sub rosa”. I have not provided a trackback to the Google Retail blog post for obvious reasons.

November 28, 2010

Going Social with Hotpot

Hotpot is a location-based service (LBS) with a social element. Yes, the rollout is being done with care and deliberation, but it seems that Google is finally going social!

Introducing Hotpot

Hotpot Logo

Google Hotpot is a new location-based service

Hotpot offers Google account holders the opportunity to give 1 – 5 star ratings and prose recommendations to businesses, presumably local, often smaller businesses.

Google can only access data that the user chooses to disclose, usually from other social networking services. The primary emphasis of Hotpot is dining establishments, although other business types seem to be included too. These are linked to the physical location of the business, as denoted on Google Maps.


Hotpot is “social” because users are encouraged to invite friends and contacts to take part in Hotpot. Of course, contacts with Gmail accounts can be invited very easily. I’m working on my Gmail friend invitations now. I’m not certain whether it is possible to take part without a Gmail account.

Hotpot users may use Hotpot with Google Maps for Mobile, or directly on the web. I tried Hotpot from the web. It worked very well. I was using Google’s Chrome browser, which probably helped my user experience. I have not tried Hotpot from any other browser.

Google is promoting Place listings for businesses at the same time as Hotpot. I’ve seen more than a few service screens e.g. for Gmail account login, with promotional images for Places and Hotpot. The product introduction page implies that Hotpot is a feature of Places, not Maps, as the heading is Google Places with Hotpot.

Hotpot appears to be a full-fledged Google product, unlike Google Tags. There is already an official Google Hotpot Blog for users to keep up with the latest news. There are similar user support issues, specifically a lack of Google representatives, which is common for many (free) Google products. I observed this in the Google Help Forums the day after Hotpot debuted.

Potential branding confusion?

Hotpot is an extremely cute idea. The giant red Google map marker is very endearing. However, I already foresee branding complications. I did a very casual scan of the Twitter-verse, and noted that at least half of the uniformly enthusiastic tweets were incorrectly referring to the new product as “HotSpot” instead of Hotpot. The Official Google Canada Twitter account was one of them.

Google Hotpot

Google Hotpot Blog

I actually prefer Google’s brand name choice of Hotpot. Yet it would probably be more semantically intuitive to name it “HotSpot” given the linkage with physical location. The food-related tie-in of Hotpot, is logical. Yet “HotSpot” is a stronger complement for Places on Google Maps. Perhaps Google has a compelling promotion which will overcome this issue. At such an early stage of the product’s introduction, it is too soon to decide whether this will be of any importance.


November 29, 2010: TechCrunch just published an article a few minutes ago. According to TechCrunch, this is how Google explains the Hotpot name:

It’s about community!

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November 22, 2010

AdSense Mailer

Google sends a personal identification number (PIN) by physical mail to all AdSense account holders upon becoming eligible to receive payments.  Eligibility is based on achieving a threshold earnings level, set at $10.00 for U.S. AdSense accounts. Thresholds and currencies for other countries are listed on the Google AdSense Payment Threshold information page.

AdSense accounts cannot take receipt of their earnings without this PIN.

This is a scaled image of the PIN mailer used by AdSense. The postcard-type mailer is sent via standard post to the account holder’s address of record with Google.


Postal Mailer Used to Send AdSense PIN

The dimensions are given as 6.0 inches wide and 4.5 inches in height when mailed.  When opened, the total height doubles to 9.0 inches.  Additional details can be found on the Google AdSense PIN Process Help page.

November 18, 2010

Yahoo Announces Clues Product and Updates Privacy Policy

Yahoo announced a new search product yesterday, Yahoo! Clues.

Yahoo search engine enhancement

Yahoo! Clues Beta

It offers new features such as trend tracking options. Clues is available as a beta release, and has similar functionality to features offered by Google’s search engine since 2008.

While on the main page for Clues, I noted that the link for the Yahoo! Privacy Policy was highlighted in red and prefixed with an Updated label. I looked further, and was very favorably impressed with Yahoo’s cleaner page design, in comparison to many of Google’s policy and help pages. Somehow I always end up clicking link after link to find what I need on Google help pages. Unfortunately, I usually get distracted along the way!

In contrast, most Yahoo information pages, including the Privacy Policy, are very readable, with most content accessible from a single screen. While Yahoo’s data collection practices might not be substantively different from Google’s (although I am not certain, as I have not perused Yahoo’s policy in enough detail), Yahoo’s page layouts are much easier to negotiate. This makes the underlying content seem more honest, less like there is something hidden, although there is no reason to assume that is Google’s intent.

The other reason for a revised privacy policy is Yahoo’s integration with Microsoft Bing, for both “regular” and sponsored search.  The privacy policy page has details about what information is shared with Microsoft when using the combined Yahoo-Bing search engine.

The policy page provides instructions for opting out of content served advertising. There are also instructions and a link if you want to remove your webpage or sites from appearing as a search result.

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November 18, 2010

Syntax for Microsoft Bing

This particular page resides on the Microsoft TechNet site, in the Resources for IT Professionals section. It is not behind a secured firewall.  It is a documentation page, and includes an excellent chart to assist in realizing the full functionality of the Microsoft Bing search engine.

UPDATE: I was pleasantly surprised by Microsoft’s official policy for embedding screen shots of Microsoft’s content on personal website.  Here is the chart documenting Microsoft Bing search syntax that I referenced in the hyper link in my preceding paragraph:

Microsoft Bing search engine screen

Microsoft Bing Syntax screen shot

*This link to the Microsoft Intellectual Property Permissions policy helped me to determine allowed usage of Microsoft content.

November 16, 2010

Google Tags Special Offer

The naming and categorization of Google product lines is getting confusing. Google has innovated and introduced new items so quickly that it can be difficult to keep up with their fast pace!

The items described in this post are products for businesses, although not exclusive to the enterprise-level, perhaps the opposite, in fact.

It would really help to use a flow chart or diagram to keep track of everything!

Google Places

  • a business listing associated with a unique location on Google Maps.
  • includes text, a rating, the hours of operation, photo, directions, and potentially other options
  • Places entries are returned as a response to queries submitted to Google Search.
  • Places may also appear as a sidebar in Google Maps.

Google Tags: Promote your business on Google search and Maps

Google Tags are a new optional feature for Google Places. Google describes Tags as an enhancement feature, presumably to appear on Google Places listings, on Google Maps AND/OR in Google search itself, with Places but without Maps.


As of today November 10, 2010, Google was making the following special offer from the Welcome to Google Places page:

New! For a limited time, you can activate tags for free, and cancel anytime.

November 15, 2010

Open Source Data Quality Tool

I was surprised to see Google enter an important area that it had not approached before: Data quality.

Google Refine 2.0 was released last week

Google Refine is an open source data quality and data integration tool.  DataQualityPro seemed impressed with RefineRefine is Google’s first “consumer” product* for  data quality.

Google Refine 2.0

Google Refine is a data quality app that runs in your browser

Refine is presented as a tool for especially messy data sets, with inconsistent content, mismatched formatting or units, and in dire need of clean-up for improved referential integrity.

Remember though: This is a free web app!  It isn’t SAS Data Miner. The comments in the DataQualityPro post make that clear. Have a look at them if you want to get an idea of what Refine’s benchmark performance might be. Some of the comments are funny. I suspect that later versions of Google Refine will focus on performance.

Synergies from a Google-built data quality tool

An obvious benefit will be ease of access to certain static databases such as latitude and longitude. Also, there should be fewer discrepancies due to inconsistently defined data formats when working with Google-maintained data sets. Compatibility with Google’s other open-source applications is interesting to contemplate, though not certain.

Google posted three, pleasingly brief (under 15 minutes each) “how-to” videos for Refine users:

  • Introduction
  • Data Transformation
  • Data Augmentation

This is the first of the series:

The other two are also available on YouTube.

If this is version 2.0, what was version 1.0?

I do not know if there was a Google Refine 1.0. Nor could I find any reference to Google deprecating an earlier version of Refine, which was somewhat odd. Perhaps version 1.0 was internal-use only.

Please leave a comment if you have any ideas!

UPDATE: June 2011

The predecessor to Google Refine 2.0, call it Google Refine 1.0 if you will, was Gridworks! Gridworks is a data quality tool that I associated exclusively with Freebase

Here’s some background: Freebase is a large open-use database which is designed for semantic as well as algorithmic or machine search. Gridworks was developed by Metaweb for use with Freebase. Google acquired Metaweb Technologies in late June 2010. I found the connection between Refine 1.0 and Gridworks only a few moments ago, while browsing through a Gridworks write-up on The Chicago Tribune data blog. It was dated 17 May 2010, before Google announced any intent to purchase Metaweb.

*There are other Google data quality projects such as BigTables. But BigTables is for “Big Data” or applications development, unlike Refine.

November 8, 2010

Promoted Tweets Now on Realtime Search

Although Twitter Promoted Tweets Come To Google, according to SearchEngine Land (November 3, 2010), they will not be displayed as part of results returned by regular Google search.

Promoted Tweets carried by Google Realtime Search

Promoted Tweets Now on Realtime Search

How WILL it work?

SearchEngine Land emphasized that Promoted Tweets should be thought of in the context of real-time information.

… regular Google search… sometimes integrates real-time matches along with web search listings and other matches.

[However] they [the Promoted Tweets] will only appear when someone drills-down into the real-time results after doing a regular search at Google, or if they conduct a search from the still relatively new Google Realtime Search home page.

Note the precedent here: this is the FIRST time Google has carried ads directly from someone else’s advertising network, via a Google search product, and not through Google’s AdWords system.

The Promoted Tweets will be displayed first, before all other results returned by Google Realtime Search queries.

What benefit does Google derive from this?

Twitter and Google will split revenue 50/ 50. Twitter has stated that its advertising partners would share equally in Promoted Tweet advertising revenue in the past.

November 7, 2010

Yahoo! Advertising Solutions

Yahoo! Advertising Solutions = SCIENCE + ART + SCALE

Yahoo home page has better reach than all cable TV channels combined

Yahoo! continues to be a formidable competitor for Google in many ways. While Google may have a higher profile and garner more respect as a technology and search algorithm innovator, Yahoo Labs pursues research initiatives too.

Yahoo cross platform optimization

While not as high-profile as Google, Yahoo keeps up to speed by acquiring smaller companies with innovative applications. Yahoo recently purchased Dapper, a new developed technology platform for delivering dynamic online ads.

Dapper dynamic advertising platform

Yodel Anecdotal website






Yahoo! also re-designed its venerable Yahoo Mail service.

When considering profitability from online advertising, business-to-consumer and business-to-business services, Yahoo actually surpasses Google in certain markets and niches, and is more accessible for many small businesses looking for turnkey solutions.  This is due to Yahoo’s longer history, deeper industry experience and good customer service.

Good for Smaller Businesses

However, there is plenty of room for Google, Yahoo, Microsoft Bing and hopefully others.  Choices are good for everyone!

via Yahoo! Advertising Solutions.

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