Tag Archives: Google

Gmail Turns 10

Gmail

As a fan and admitted abuser of Gmail accounts (I have one for each personality I guess), I have to pass along this CNN Money article about Gmail turning 10 yesterday. To summarize, CNN Money points to these particular Gmail features as the reasons why Gmail became the industry dominant e-mail provider:

  • Size of space offered: ever-growing but initially 1 GB back in 2004, compared to Yahoo’s 100 MB)
  • Google-search-enabled searching of archived emails
  • Auto-save for unfinished email
  • Undo send, allowing users 30 seconds to retract sent emails
  • Priority sorting of important emails
  • Integration into Google services

News & Reactions: The Future of Google Books Post-Fair Use

On Thursday, November 14th, Google Inc. won a major court battle regarding its Google Books project. The federal district court in New York City ruled the Google Book project falls under the protection of fair use. Google, through collaborations with research libraries across the country, has digitized over twenty million books, making large portions of the books electronically and freely accessible.

  • U.S.D.C. Southern District of New York Judge Denny Chin’s decision is available from this case here.
  • The American Library Association lauds the decision here.
  • And the reaction of the Authors Guild can be found here.
  • Cheryl Beise of Wolters Kluwer’s Intellectual Property Law Daily (November 14, 2013) examines the four fair use factors of the decision here.

Included among those twenty million digitized titles, of course, are books with legal subjects: rare and ancient legal treatises, aged legislative materials, and superseded volumes are all available. Obscure titles covering differing technical subjects can be found as well, making, for example, a full-text search for an expert’s publications possible. Clearly, this will benefit law librarians, though accessibility of older, obscure legal materials have been available via commercial vendors for quite some time, and in a more organized manner.

LLMC-Digital (Law Library Microform Consortium) began its conversion from fiche-based materials to digital back in 2003. They now offer, in a categorically-organized fashion, a wealth of ancient federal and state-level legislative, executive and judicial materials. HeinOnline, too, begin its digitization efforts in the late 1990s, when the internet was in its infancy; HeinOnline now boasts libraries of various categorical content sets including a wealth of federal legislative materials as well as a robust collection of law journals.

The greatest difference between Google Books and similar commercial vendors concerns organization of content. Google Books’ content set, again, contains 20 million books, the organization of this material is clearly a problem. The commercial vendors are dealing with content sets that are smaller, more manageable, and contain like materials; they are able to organize through various classification systems; by state, by type (executive, legislative, judicial), by category, by date, etc. The user can search among smaller, categorically-defined content sets; the user can explore content via categorical browsing. Google Books has available categories on its landing page, but given the massive scope of its content set, the subjects have to remain very general; Google Books is essentially only navigable by full-text searching, which introduces a host of user-query-construction problems. Google’s approach to index and not catalog the internet proved to be correct, but Google Book’s sea of print materials may need a more commercial-vendor-honed organizational approach. Now that the legality of Google Books has been upheld, hopefully instituting clearer methods of organizing their vast content set will become prioritized.

Monday’s Musing: The Next Level of Search

CNN Money is reporting that fresh off its vindication for antitrust violations, Google is already looking ahead to how it can leverage its newfound clout.  “Search 2.0″ is what they are calling it and the goal is to bring users even more precision.  The “direct answer” remains as elusive and an almost as mythological as the Holy Grail itself.  Is it possible?  The folks at Google seem to think so.   And, it so,  what does it mean for those of us who make a career out of sifting haystacks to find needles?

We have been talking a lot lately in my workplace about the ability of computerized searches to deliver exactly what the enduser wants.  There always seems to be this notion that a search engine can be somehow configured to meet the minds and intentions of its users.  Yet for all of our Boolean logic, terms and connections, filters, and word wheels, we seem to always fall short.  It is frustrating to some and frightening to others.  If computers could simpy, efficiently, and precisely answer a user’s questions, what need would there be for librarians and information professionals?

My experience has taught me two things.  First and foremost, there will never be a true meeting of the minds between man and machine.  Even the best engines and algorithms will only be as good as the people who program them.  Centuries of research experience should make it quite clear that even people have a hard time knowing exactly what other people want.  How will our cyber-creations do this if we cannot prepare them for it?  And second, serendipty cannot be recreated in a database, search string, or cloud.  It is when two minds meet and there is a back and forth of expectations, possibilities, and processes that most thorough answers are found.  Let’s face it, most of the time even the asker is not sure of exactly for what she or he is looking!  We can’t explain our needs to one another, let alone expect to be able to explain them to computers.  The intellectual wrestling match that follows a request is as vital to the success of the research process as the answer itself.

Google is pushing for the day when we can converse with a search engine.  I think that is exciting and that it will have its utility.  But it will also have its drawbacks.  For most, it will be a difficult and seemingly one-sided conversation.  We are going to need smart people who know how to speak the right language to make the discussion meaningful.  That is where we, my friends, come in,

Bring it on, Google.  We are ready to talk.

iGoogle is Going Bye-Bye & We’re Bummed!

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How is it that we only today noticed the little alert on our beloved iGoogle page saying that the service was going away?  It was shock.  Then horror.  Then sadness.  With all of the flops Google has released in recent memory (Wave, Buzz, Plus . . . ), the personalized homepage feature that is iGoogle was by far one of our favorites.  It was so nice to go to one place to get an overview of our e-mail, calendar, news feeds, and a whole host of fun and informative widgets (Confucius Quotes anyone?).  NOW WHAT WILL WE DO?

If you are an iGoogle user, you have until next November (yes, 2013) to wean yourself off of it.  The mobile version will be gone sooner.  You can read the announcement here.

We haven’t felt this vulnerable since our AOL homepages were taken away.  There is no joy in iBraryGuyville tonight.

Google announces Knowledge Graph change to search.

Google today announced the latest enhancement to its industry-leading search – a new feature designed to help users find the right information faster and with less fuss.  Enter the “Knowledge Graph”.  More than a mere update to the seach interface, it is a radical and interesting change to the way Google will deliver your results. 

The easiest way to explain what Knowledge Graph does is through a simple example.

Let’s say you wanted to search for information on the baseball team, “The Rockies”.  You may have baseball on your mind, but Google is no mind reader (or at least not yet).  In the current iteration of its search engine, simply searching for “The Rockies” will return a standard results list containing links to sites on the team, the mountain range, and several related institutions such as schools.  It’s a great results list, but you still have to do the legwork to get to just the stuff on the team.  Sure you could enter more terms, like “baseball”, to focus your search.  But wouldn’t it be sweet if Google actually knew the difference?  Thanks to the Knowledge Graph, it will!

When the new Knowledge Graph rolls out (and the roll-out has started!), Google will return those results in a compartmentalized fashion.  The results related to the baseball team will be kept together.  So will those regarding the mountains.  By choosing that grouping, you will limit the search to just the set you want.  Pretty cool!

My example was a simple one.  In its news release, Google used an even better one.  Their demonstration uses the term “Taj Mahal” and then asks whether you meant the landmark in India, the singer, or evern the Indian restaurant down the street.  Pretty profound differences, no?  It’s an innovative approach to results delivery.

Stay tuned . . . you will soon be seeing the Knowledge Graph on a screen near you.  It began rolling out in the USA today!

Google’s Recipe View a Delicious Idea!

As a foodie and home chef, I am almost ashamed to say that I have stopped buying cookbooks.  I used to love and treasure them.  But with so many recipes available online these days, it almost seems a waste to spend the money.  Of course, some are indispensable and I have my favorites with which I will never part (I may have my vegan slow cooker book cremated with me when I go!).  But for the most part, I can find almost any recipe I want these days on the internet.  Thanks to Google’s new Recipe View, recipe searches just got even easier!  Mon Deiu, what would Madame Child say?

Using the new Recipe View is easy-peasy and the functionality works like butter.  [Yes, we are having a good time with this one!]  Simply run a Google search for a recipe name or ingredients.  When you get your list of results, simply go to the left-hand side of the screen and choose “Recipes”.  When you click, your list is culled to only those results that are actually recipes.  Want to refine your search further by focusing on specific ingredients, cook times, or calories?  You can!  Just go back to the left side of the window and use one of the new filters that has appeared.  It is easier than boiling water!

You can read more about Google’s new Recipe View here.  Now get cooking!

Social Climber: Google Revamps Its Search

The social relevance of search results took on new importance today as Google announced a fresg revamp of its social search features.  To quote the company’s Project Management Director Mike Cassidy on Google’s blog, “[R]elevance isn’t just about pages—it’s also about relationships.”  Google is leveraging those relationships by bringing an even greater social emphasis to its search results.

Google rolled out its social search functionality back in 2009.  Since then, there have been some small changes here and there.  Today’s announced overhaul, however, is a major step in a bold direction.  Starting today, users will get more information from the people that matter to them, whether that info is being published onYouTube, Flickr or even their own blogs and sites.  How will this manifest in the search results?  Well, social search results will now be mixed right into the results list based on their relevance.  Annotations will tell you which of your friends posted the information and where.  Previously, social search results only appeared at the bottom of the screen.  Now, they will take their rightful places on the most valuable real estate on the screen.

Of course, you have to be logged into Google to see this functionality in action.  However, it is worth the extra step.  In fact, even links that your friends may feature publicly on sites like Twitter are rolled into the mix and annotated to show you the social connection between you and the poster.  To facilitate this, Google s making it easier and even more secure to connect your social network accounts.  In the past, you had to create a Google Profile and link your other accounts to it.  Starting today, you can privately connect those accounts directly to your Google account itself.

The new functionality really looks innovative and promising.  Talk about leveraging the knowledge of the people you know and trust most!  A helpful introductory video is available.  The new social search is rolling out in the days ahead.  Keep an eye out for it!

Open for Business! Google’s New eBookstore Delights & Disappoints

Google today opened the latest chapter in the great story on the battle of the eBook stores.  Established eBook retailers like Amazon and Barnes & Noble are taking note, as Google’s salvo is no small warning shot.  With a massive library, multi-device support, and a series of interesting partnerships, the search giant has launched a full assault on the market.  The new Google eBookstore offers some hot new features, but also has some interesting drawbacks.

First, the game changers . . .

The new Google eBookstore has launched with an impressive catalog of over 3 million titles available for download.  Everyting from classics to modern best-sellers is housed in an easy to search and navigate site.  The interface is sleek and pleasing to the eye!  Purchases are stored on shareable “shelves” in Google’s cloud and are tied to your Google ID.  If you use the Google Web Reader from a PC, netbook, laptop or tablet to access your books, you will actually be reading in the cloud as well.  No matter how many times  you change devices, use the Web Reader and Google will always know exactly where you left off.  Free Web Reader apps are being released for iOS and Android devices as well.

For those wishing to use their own devices, Google’s eBooks are compatible with many of the popular brands available.  The Sony eReader and Barnes & Noble Nook, for example, can take advantage of the available PDF and EPUB formats.  These actually allow you to download the books and store them on your device directly.

Finally, Google’s eBookstore is launching with some rather impressive partnerships.  Indie booksellers  Powell’s, Alibris and participating members of the American Booksellers Association have signed on to sell Google eBooks in their own right.  Loyal customers of these stores are able to buy the eBooks on their sites and still store and access them from Google shelves.  There is hope for the independent bookseller yet!

Now the drawbacks . . .

The launch of the Google eBookstore has come with a few technical challenges for some and at least one glaring omission for others.  First, the omission . . .  Kindle users, your device is not yet supported.  Google is hoping to bring the most popular of the eReaders on board soon, but no timetable has been set.  The picture is certainly much rosier for users of other devices, like the B&N Nook or Sony eReader for example.  However, even there extra are needed.  Users of those devices cannot simply purchase and download Google eBooks on the fly via wi-fi or 3G.  They have to download and install the latest Adobe Editions software on a home computer first.  The eBooks must then be d0wnloaded through the Adobe software and “moved” to the device.  Though potentially easy enough, we suspect it will be a bit of an annoyance to many.  Will it be enough of an annoyance to keep them away from Google’s shop?  Time will tell.

A Big Day for Books

Whether you believe the pros outweigh the cons, one thing that is certain is that today is a big day for books and book lovers.  Google’s books initiatives, at times controversial, has been running for a number of years now and has made great headway in making books more accessible.  The 3 million titles in the eBookstore are but a fifth of what Google actually has digitized.  As more and more of its books become available to online and portable e-readers, Google is certain to become a major player in the eBook market.  Competition can be a very good thing!

Google’s new URL shortener not short on features!

As if there were not already enough choices for shortening those long URLs, another one has launched.  And if it was not for the company launching it, we would probably not be paying it much attention.  But this is no run-of-the-mail-under-the-radar kind of unveiling.  This is Google’s new URL shortener, Goo.gl and it is not the least bit short on sweet features.

As we said, there are plenty of URL shorteners already on the market.  From the uber popular Bit.ly to the simple, yet customizable Doiop, they are a true godsend to anyone looking to save space and improve the aesthetic of long, complicated, and ugly URLs.  For tweeters especially, these tools are becoming ubiquitous.  To play in the URL shortening game today, a start-up has to bring something big to the table.  What the new Goo.gl brings is the backing of search behemoth Google, its bag of innovations and tricks, and a pretty tall promise to be the “stablest, most secure, and fastest URL shortener on the web.”  Can it live up the hype?

Released to the public today, Goo.glis easy to use.  Just like the other URL shorteners, you simply type or paste a long URL into the form and click on the “shorten” button.  Goo.gl will then compress that long link into something much shorter and more easily manageable.  In this respect, it is not much different than its myriad of competitors.  However, this is Google offspring we are talking about.  So you know that the features do not end there.

Sign in with your Gmail / iGoogle account information, and Goo.glbecomes your own URL shortening space.  It keeps track of all of the shortened URLs you create, complete with the original link, date created, and even the number of clicks it has spawned.  Sure, you are probably thinking that other shorteners do this too.  But let’s be honest.  None of them integrate with your Google presence.  If you are already using Gmail, Google Docs, or any of the growing suite of Google applications, this is just another feather in your cap.  Not to mention, there is already talk of Google integrating its new shortener with the power of its Analytics programs.  To be sure, ste standalone Goo.gl site is probably just the tip of the iceberg here.  You can bet that the competition is already be taking notice!

In the months ahead, it will be interesting to see what comes of Google’s latest offering.  In our opinion, it is already a more auspicious debut than that of Google Wave or even Buzz.  Give Goo.gl a try and let us know what you think!

Google Wave-ing Good-Bye?

Can it be that one of the most hyped new tools of the year has already met an early and untimely demise?  According to Google’s blog, the company has decided to end support for the much-anticipated and, apparently, hardly used Google Wave.  What can we say besides, “Google Wave, we hardly knew ye!”

It seems like just yesterday that the iBraryGuy team was using every social networking tool available to get one those exclusive invitations to Google Wave.  It was rumored to be the tool that would forever change the way we communicated.  Better than e-mail, better than chat, said eager-eyed technophiles.  When we finally got our invites to Wave, it felt like Christmas.  Just a few weeks later, after struggling to understand how Wave worked and looking fruitlessly for ways to incorporate it into our lives, we shelved it just like those Christmas toys from our youth.  Apparently, we were not alone.

On the company’s blog, Google Vice-President Urs Holzle wrote, “. . . Wave has not seen the user adoption we would have liked.”  He further announced that Google would discontinue development of Wave before the conclusion of the year.  The site is to stay active through year’s end and the code behind Google Wave will be made available via open source for those who wish to work with it on their own.  Wave was home to a series of innovations.  From real-time sharing of images and media to spell-checking that actually worked by understanding the context of a word as well as the word itself. Sadly, these improvements never quite caught on with users.

Google Wave did have its fans . . . just not enough. We here at iBraryGuy certainly gave it our best try.  However, from its busy, clunky interface to its confusing system of gadgets and bots, we just never got it.  For its part, Google says that it has learned a lot from its great Wave experiment – lessons that it plans to put to good use in the development of its next social networking project.  For our money, they are alluding to the company’s rumored challenge to Facebook, the so-called “Google Me”.  Like Google Wave, this yet-to-be-seen innovation is generating a great deal of buzz.

Oh . . . and speaking of Buzz . . . we can only hope that it is next to go.  ;-)