Yahoo today announced the 10th anniversary edition of their Year in Review. The top 10 searched terms are a general barometer of the year, giving insight into the biggest products, news stories, and celebrities. Yahoo boasts about 700 million unique monthly users, so these results do provide a pretty good overview of the hot topics of the year. Yahoo has made their Year in Review available “in 17 versions including Argentina, Brazil, Canada, France, Germany, Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, Italy, Korea, Mexico, Philippines, Spain, Taiwan, United Kingdom, and United States”
Surprisingly, at least to me, was that the most searched for term of 2011 wasn’t a celebrity or a news story, but a tech item – the iPhone. It was the first physical object to garner the number one spot since the Playstation 2 did in 2002. Britney Spears is the only multi-time winner, being number one in 2005, 2006, 2007, and 2008. The Apple phone was the only non-news, non-person to to make the top ten list. Beyond it, you will find a mix of names, mostly celebrities along with a couple from news stories. Only one event made this year’s list – the Japan earthquake.
Here are top ten most searched for terms of 20, based on Yahoo’s data.
- Casey Anthony
- Kim Kardashian
- Katy Perry
- Jennifer Lopez
- Lindsay Lohan
- American Idol
- Jennifer Aniston
- Japan earthquake
- Osama bin Laden
You can get a lot more data and lots of different lists by visiting the Yahoo Year in Review.
The murder trial of Jo Yeates is front page news throughout the UK – a neighbour Vincent Tabak is accused of killing her. At the moment, the prosecution is presenting its case and a couple of interesting things have emerged as evidence.
In particular, the prosecution has alleged that the defendant:
- looked at Wikipedia for the definitions of murder and manslaughter.
- searched for the maximum penalty for manslaughter, i.e. how many years in jail.
- looked up definitions for sexual assault and sexual conduct.
- searched maps showing the area where the body was later found.
- searched on CCTV cameras in street where both the defendent and victim lived.
- use Google StreetView to view the same area.
- researched criminal forensics, fingerprinting and DNA evidence.
- read news stories on the investigation into the disappearance of the victim.
Of course, it will be up to the jury to decide whether these are good indicators of guilt, but regardless it’s clear that if someone is accused of a crime then there’s a pretty thorough examination of one’s computers and on-line behaviour. Obviously this case is about a very serious crime but it’s almost a gift to the prosecution when put together like this: can you think of any good reason to access this material at the time of the disappearance? However, this is circumstantial evidence and needs to be weighed as such.
On a related note, Google has announced that if you are signed-in to Google when you search, you will automatically use https://www.google.com/, the secure version of Google Search. While this will prevent casual snooping on your search, Google will be keeping hold of your search information so that it can better serve you adverts. And how long does Google keep the search information? Indefinitely or until you remove it. So while on the face of it encrypted search is a good thing, it comes at the price of Google knowing yet more about you.
I suspect that in the current murder trial, all the computer forensics team had to do was look back through the defendant’s browser history. Easy if there’s only one computer, but more difficult if the person has a home computer, work laptop, smartphone and so on. If you’re tied into Google everywhere, all they’ll have to do is subpoena information from Google and get your search data in one tidy little bundle. Nice.
It’s almost my favorite time of the year, otherwise know as football season. And, today Google revealed that all sorts of football information, both NFL and college, is now available right in Google Search
Last week Google began bringing MLB results, but football is America’s number one sport, so it’s nice to see this partnership with ESPN evolve. The simple announcement from Google came from software engineer Itay Maman and reads as follows:
“Just as the NFL season kicks off and you have your fantasy football league ready to go, you’ll be able to get useful information such as the latest scores, schedules, standings and stats for football-related queries in your search results. Last week, we started showing MLB results in partnership with ESPN and we’re now expanding sports live results to include the NFL. In addition to information on the football league, teams and players, you’ll also have direct links to previews, live streams, updates and game recaps. We hope to add more and more sports information on google.com, so stay tuned. “
You can try it out by doing a Google search. A simple search for NFL yielded results such as the schedule, fantasy football, news, players, news, and more. Adding ESPN to the search gives you box scores right in the top your results. You can see screenshots of both at the bottom of this post.
This is a handy way to get quick information and news without trying to navigate the NFL web site, or an app app on your phone or tablet. As you saw in the Google announcement, they are promising even more integration is on the way. So….Are you ready for some football?!
Google NFL search
Google NFL ESPN search
Yahoo announced today that they are enhancing their image search. It has a new tiled interface, a “latest” tab for trending results, a “galleries” tab, and Facebook integration that displays pictures from your friends with your results. The biggest change is, perhaps, the way clicked images are displayed. According to the Yahoo announcement:
“By clicking on any image on the search results page, the image will appear on a fresh page allowing users to browse effortlessly through full-size images with a simple click on the desktop browser.”
The new tiled interface renders all images in equal size, which I actually like better than Google’s “mismatched” look. Like Google and Bing, Yahoo enlarges an image if you hover your mouse over it.
Yahoo is also claiming that more improvements are on the way. These changes are worth checking out because I think this may be the cleanest, prettiest image search of any of the big three search engines. Of course, the bottom line is the results your query gets, and that remains to be seen. You can test it out at images.yahoo.com.
Controversy. The world of news seems to thrive on it, including the world of tech news.
Ever wonder what goes on inside a premier tech company like Google?
I just finished listening to “In The Plex: How Google Thinks, Works, and Shapes Our Lives” written by Steven Levy and narrated by L.J. Ganser.
“In The Plex” is all about Google – it’s employees, it’s business culture, and even it’s cafeterias. Additionally it includes behind-the-scenes accounts of major Google controversies most people will remember.
Google is one of those remarkable “Great American Company” stories that happened right under our noses within the past decade.
The unabridged “In The Plex” Audible audiobook version is 19 hours long. The narration is top-notch and the content quite entertaining. It ends with a discussion of Google’s sometimes-tumultuous, sometimes ho-hum social networking forays, along with a brief discussion of the development of “Google+” which has recently gone into a controlled roll-out to the general public.
If you were ever curious about the company behind the search engine, I recommend “In The Plex” as a means of sating that inquisitive urge.
While Google+ may have been making most of the headlines, Google also introduced “What Do You Love” at www.wdyl.com. It’s a way of searching Google services such as Maps, YouTube, News, Patent Search, Blogger all at once will the results presented together.
The user interface is much as you’d expect.
The results are displayed on a single page broken up into applets showing the individual returns from each service.
Let’s say you love kittens – who doesn’t? The results for a WDYL search for kittens is shown below.
You can easily dismiss it as superficial – who cares about the popularity of kittens on the web – and the name WDYL doesn’t help. But if you were wanting to get an idea of emerging trends, say democracy in the middle east, you can see what’s happening along with (mostly) relevant books and videos from YouTube. The more you experiment with it, the more you get the feeling of how powerful a tool it is for research. There’s nothing that you couldn’t have done yourself, but by presenting everything together you can start to see synergies.
WDYL isn’t going to replace standard Google search, but if you want to go a little bit further and search beyond text, give it a try.
A couple of months ago Google released a new Search app for iOS devices. Now, today, they are releasing an update to that app based on user feedback they have received. The new version is touted as faster and easier to use.
Google claims that search is now 20% faster as you type in your queries. They have also turned off the “Just Talk” app by default claiming that it was a part of the slower performance that users were experiencing. Just Talk allowed users to search via voice by bringing the phone up to their ear and speaking, rather than tapping ,the microphone icon. It can be re-enable by users by visiting the Settings > Voice Search menu.
Google has also increased the size of the font that appears in search results, making it easier to read on a small screen. They have also made the entire result “tappable” as opposed to just the actual link.
Both of these improvements should enhance the usability for all iOS device owners. Google, in mobile especially, needs to continue moving forward with improvements given that Bing is suddenly emerging. While Bing has a great mobile service, I wouldn’t go so far as to call them a competitor yet, but they are at least the little dog that nips at ankles.
If you are at all interested in search or Google you have no doubt noticed the on going battle between Google and Demand Media. The fight is over search ranking, the higher in search your site are the more likely people will go to your site, which for companies like Demand Media means more money. Many people complain that companies like Demand Media are simply content farms and that they are gaming Google search to the detriment of better sites. First what are content farms. Content farms are defined by most people as companies that use a large number of authors to crank out post. The posts are optimized for search by the use of keywords. The idea is to get as many hits to the web site they can. Demand Media is considered to be one of the biggest content farms by most critic. Below is a great visual guide to how Demand Media Works.
[Image Source: OnlineMBA.com]
[Image Source: OnlineMBA.com]
You will notice if you scan down toward the bottom of the image that Demand Media is at this time very successful financially. They are successful because they have figured out how the Google search algorithm works and they send users to their sites which means money thru the ads that Demand Media owns. Wall Street likes Demand Media’s business model and traffic growth. In January 2011 when Demand Media went public its stock was priced at $17 per share, the stock has not gone below $18 a share and has gone as high $26. Despite Wall Streets love affair with Demand Media many user and Google are not fans of Demand Media or other content farms. Articles written for these sites are often of low quality and are written by people who have little knowledge or interest in the subject they are writing about. Unfortunately because they are optimized for search, they tend to push more relevant and higher quality articles down the search results. In February 2011 Google made an update in their search algorithm. Prior to that Matt Cutts, Principal Engineer for Google wrote a post on Google’s Blog, acknowledging that content farms had become a significant problem for Google. Although Google has never verified that the changes in their search algorithm were targeting sites like Demand Media all paths point in that direction.
It is too early to tell if Google’s changes have had any effect on sites like Demand Media. In fact Demand Media’s EVP of Media and Operations, Larry Fitzgibbon, stated a week after the changes were made that they had seen little effects on the number of hits to their sites and for now the numbers seem to be bearing them out. In fact Googles changes maybe having more effect on sites that are not content farms such as Your Tango.
Clearly, this is not an easy problem to solve after all many articles written on sites like eHow, which is own by Demand Media are basic but good post and maybe exactly what the user is looking for. Also changes to the search algorithm effect not only content farms they also can have bad effects on legitimate sites such as Your Tango. The one change or addition that Google made around the same time as their algorithm changes is they added the ability for users to block sites from their individual search results. If users take advantage of this option then that will at least improve search for that user and hopefully over time for everyone. Unfortunately, Google can only do so much, as long as users click on these sites in Google Search they will continue to rise to the top of the search results, or as the cartoon Pogo once said, “We have met the enemy and he is us.”.
If you follow the news about Google or search you know that what some people call content farms have become a big issue. First what are content farms, Wikipedia defines content farms as Web sites that employ a large number of freelance writers to generate large amounts of articles that are written to be search engine friendly. The main goal is to increase ad revenue. Critics of these sites say the content is often of low quality and many of the articles often just copy information directly from other sites. Proponents say they are just reacting to market demand and are doing nothing wrong. The problem I have with content farms is they tend to push higher quality articles down the search page. The more popular a search is the more likely this is to happen. They also tend to be simplistic and leave out important details.
The question is what to do about content farms. There are a couple of solutions that have become available lately. The first is to use a search engine called Blekko. Blekko allows you mark sites as spam and then that url is removed from your search database. It works really well, however for it to work you have to use Blekko. This is not realistic for most people who equate search with Google. The second option is a Google created solution which can be found in the Google App Store called Personal Blocklist by Google. Once you install the extension when you do a search if a site comes up that you consider to be spam, you simply click on Block this Site and that site is again removed from your search database. There are a couple of problems with Personal Blocklist that prevent it from being the ultimate solution at this time. First it is available in Google Chrome only and it doesn’t sync across computers. However if you live in Google Chrome and have a single computer this is a great option. A third option is an independent tool called PersonalBlock through Kynetx which is an Appbuilder site. Personal Block works on Google Chrome, Firefox, and Internet Explorer. It will works whether you search through Google, Yahoo or Bing. When you do a search and you find a site you consider spam you click Block x Web site and like the Google extension those sites are now blocked from your searches. With Personal Block if you decide you want to see the site if you scroll to the bottom of the search page there is an option to show the site. If you use this method then Google doesn’t get the information. if you use the Google created solution, then Google can aggregate the information and hopefully better search for everyone. I do like the fact that all these solutions leave the choice up to the user. I am not sure I want Google or Bing or Yahoo to make that decision for me.
Today’s smartphones are amazing devices and can do some pretty cool things. Some of the apps can be quite remarkable, but do they offer real-world functionality?
Yesterday was another 104 degree day. Get used to it – there are days like this every year.
I was in my bedroom yesterday afternoon and suddenly the lights went out. To spare you the details, the problem ended up being an aging 60 amp breaker that had weakened to the point where it couldn’t handle my dishwasher and washing machine running simultaneously.
So here I was standing there in front of the breaker box with a magnifying glass trying to make out the tiny numbers printed on the breaker in question and writing them down on a piece of paper. After a few minutes, I realized there was a barcode sticker located on the top of the breaker. Unfortunately, it was located in a position where there was no way that I could see the numbers on it.
Barcode… barcode… BARCODE!!! I have multiple barcode apps on my HTC Evo smartphone. “I wonder if I can possibly scan that barcode with my phone?” I thought to myself. I got the phone, started the Amazon Barcode app, and held the phone up a rather awkward, non-ideal position, trying to hold the phone as still as possible. Success!! The barcode suddenly scanned. I was able to click on the button to look the number up in Google and to my delight it popped right up with the product description and the actual model number of the electrical breaker.
A quick trip to the nearest Lowe’s store and $10 dollars later, I had the exact replacement breaker model that I needed.
It turns out that the Amazon Barcode app ended up being very useful in a way that I could have never imagined.