Friday, September 7, 2007

User experience research

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Google Finance Blog: User experience research

I've recently joined the Google Finance team as a user experience researcher. My role is to observe, talk with, and otherwise hang out with people using Google Finance. Simply put, we want to learn how you use the site and how we can improve it. Your comments on this blog and through the Help Center are great sources of feedback; our research activities are another way you can share your thoughts with us. All of these activities help us to get more focused insight on a particular topic -- for example, how you use portfolios, or what type of community features you'd like to see. Our research activities might include:

- surveys
- remote or in-person usability studies
- field studies (at your home or office)

Please sign up if you're interested in participating in upcoming research projects.


KML 2.2

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Google LatLong: KML 2.2

On May 31, at Developer Day, Google previewed early beta documentation for KML 2.2, the latest update to our geographic data presentation language. That preview introduced a number of important features to KML, including:
When Google Earth 4.2 was released on August 22, KML 2.2 Beta was officially released, with some additions to what was previewed in May. Here's what's new:
  • ExtendedData, which allows sophisticated balloon templating and gives you the ability to embed your own custom-typed data in KML files. For more information, see the Adding Custom Data page.
  • Linking between features. There was a syntax change for this feature. For more information, see the KML 2.2 Reference.
  • Sky Data. For more information, see the Sky Data in KML page.
Very soon now, KML 2.2 will be exiting beta. I've started a discussion in the KML Developer Support group, so please give us your feedback on the new features of KML 2.2 as soon as possible. We look forward to hearing from you.


Allowed and clear

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Inside AdSense: Allowed and clear

We've learned through your feedback that some AdSense publishers are concerned about potentially malicious behavior on the web, such as having their ad code stolen, to be placed on an inappropriate site. To give you more control and security concerning ad code, we've recently launched the Allowed Sites list.

The Allowed Sites list, which you'll find by clicking the Allowed Sites link under your AdSense Setup tab, is the place for you to list sites or URLs where you want to allow your ads to appear. Sites that aren't on your list can still display ads using your ad code; however, impressions and clicks for these sites won't appear in your reports, advertisers won't be charged, and you won't receive any earnings from them.

Of course, it's entirely your choice whether to use this Allowed Sites feature. If you don't want to create an Allowed Sites list, there's no need to change the settings in your account; it will automatically default to allow any site to show ads.

To create your Allowed Sites list today, visit your AdSense Setup tab, click the Allowed Sites sub-tab, and choose the radio button for Only allow certain sites to show ads for my account. You'll then be able to enter allowed URLs for all your sites. Make sure to keep your list up to date when you add your code to new sites, too. last thing! We'll be doing routine maintenance tomorrow, September 8th, from 10am to 2pm PDT. As usual, your ads and earnings will keep tracking during this time, but you won't be able to access your account, including your Allowed Sites list.


Greener maps

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Google LatLong: Greener maps

We love it when you put our products to work to help the environment. Individuals and organizations have come up with all sorts of creative ways to create maps that highlight the causes that they care most about, and we wanted to recap just a few cool examples from this summer.

In June, the Commission for Environmental Cooperation released a layer for Google Earth that tracks pollution from industrial locations across the U.S., Canada and Mexico. Another Google Earth user did the same for Australia using the country's National Pollutant Inventory. Do you know where to find pollution data for your own country?

If you're interested in alternative energy, the San Francisco Solar Map shows the locations of solar installations around the city. We also found this great wind power assessment tool that calculates wind speeds at a given location, intended to help with planning wind farm installations. And in British Columbia, an individual mapped water licenses governing hydroelectric power generation. This layer publishes the locations where power companies intend to divert rivers and streams in order to generate electricity, inspiring discussions about the pros and cons of different energy sources.

One last cool thing: Walk Score created a map to show people what's within walking distance of residential areas. So if you're thinking about moving, you can easily see how you'll be able to cut down on trips to the gas station.

Want to protect your own corner of the planet? Check out some more examples, learn how to create your own layer and be sure to let us know what you come up with.


Top 10 little-known Gmail features (Part 2)

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Official Gmail Blog: Top 10 little-known Gmail features (Part 2)

Here are five more entries in my list of little-known features begun last week:

5. Smart links on the right
When you get an email that references an address, look to the right and you'll probably see a link from Gmail pointing you to a map of the address on Google Maps. Gmail also recognizes email text that refers to an event (e.g., 'dinner tomorrow at 8pm'), and will give you a link to add it to your calendar. It'll even pick up on package tracking numbers from UPS and link you directly to the tracking page, so you don't have to copy and paste the number. I really like this last one when I order stuff online and want the instant gratification of knowing a package is on its way.

4. Conversation update notification
It can be really annoying to write up a whole response to an email and click send -- only to discover that someone else has already responded. Gmail has a little feature that helps solve this problem. When you're replying to (or reading) a conversation, and someone else replies, a small notification window pops up to let you know. I sometimes think of it as the "prevent embarrassment" notification. Plus, it can save a lot of time by avoiding the series of follow-up emails needed to clear up the confusion.

3. Advanced search
Most people know that searching your archive is a huge part of what makes Gmail useful. But there are a few search features that you may not know about, which can be really handy. For instance, if I want to narrow down my search to only messages sent from Kevin, I can just add "from: Kevin" to the query. You can even search only for messages with attachments by including "has: attachments," or narrow by date with "after:" and "before:" Check out this whole list of advanced search operators.

2. Offline chat
Offline chat is another feature which makes chatting in the context of your email particularly useful. When you're chatting with a friend and they suddenly go offline, you can keep sending IMs and your friends will receive your messages the next time they open Gmail. The chat will show up as a new item in their inbox. And, of course, if you're still online, your friend can go ahead and reply by chat.

1. Create event
Since I use Gmail and Google Calendar at work (through Google Apps), I'm constantly emailing people about meetings, and scheduling them on everyone's calendars. When I'm writing an email to set up an event, I can actually do it all from within Gmail by clicking the "Add event info" link below the subject line. Then choose the time and location for the meeting or party. When you send the email, the event details will be added to to your Google Calendar, and Gmail will send an invitation to the email recipients to add it to their calendars as well.


Weekly Google Code Roundup: Learning to Remember The Milk offline, flying over Earth, and searching you feeds

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Google Code - Updates: Weekly Google Code Roundup: Learning to Remember The Milk offline, flying over Earth, and searching you feeds

On the back of the stream of developer releases last week, we had some interesting activity in the community, and from our own product teams.

Omar Kilani, of the Remember The Milk team, did a fantastic, thorough write-up of his experience getting his product working offline with Gears. The article moves past an introduction to delve into the design decisions around an offline-capable architecture, and user messaging and presentation of state. We learn why Omar decided to go with the explicit offline mode, and then the five steps to offline conversion.

The Google Mashup Editor team has also been churning out new features based on your feedback. As a developer you can now enable public read only $user feed so that applications can share $user feeds to create social applications, edit XML, CSS and HTML files uploaded into the editor, work with Gadget files, and much more.

The cool easter egg of the week goes to the flight simulator that is in the most recent Google Earth application. There is something special about flying around the grand canyon, or over manhattan. Give it a try.

Flying is cool, but we all love searching. The Google Reader team released the much anticipated feature of being able to search across your feeds. If you knew that you had read about something a few days ago but couldn't find it, now you can.

Sharing is a kin to searching, and the Google Book Search, which had a significant Ajax facelift a year ago, has joined the two. A summer intern added the ability to save snippets from public domain books, and embed them to your website. It is as simple as selecting the text you want, and how you want to show it (an image of just text).

Featured Media

Mark Stahl, tech lead of the Google data APIs, talked to us about GData, the history behind it, the parts and pieces, and how people are implementing applications on top of it.

Quicksilver is a keyboard-driven launcher that is the first application that I install when I get a new Mac. Nicholas Jitkoff, creator of Quicksilver, is a Google employee on the Mac team, and they finally got him to talk all about Quicksilver: past, present, and future.

Mark Utting came to talk about Model-Based Testing and he compares two different kinds of test model: black-box models and white-box models.

As always, check out the latest tech talks, subscribe to the Google Developer Podcast and visit the Google Code YouTube channel.


[G] Giving buyers more insight into Checkout orders

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Official Google Checkout Blog: Giving buyers more insight into Checkout orders

One of the highest goals of our seller team is to offer store partners the flexibility and tools they need to serve their customers. Starting this week, merchants based in the U.S. will have greater flexibility in communicating order fulfillment status to buyers. New API commands will enable you to ship and assign tracking numbers to individual items or groups of items. You can also mark individual items as back-ordered, returned, or canceled. Together, these capabilities give your buyers greater visibility into the status of their orders. For more details, check out the Order Processing API section in the Developer's Guide. Support for merchants based in the UK is coming soon, too.


Thursday, September 6, 2007

Find a needle in a feedstack with Google Reader

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Official Google Blog: Find a needle in a feedstack with Google Reader

The fundamental problem with information is that there's too much of it, and this is probably why we all go to our trusted sources to learn what we really need to know. Your sources filter out the noise and present the most interesting bits to you in a useful way. For many of us, these sources include newspapers, magazines, and of course blogs. We built Google Reader as a way for you to see all of your online sources in one place.

So if you want to keep up with the chatter about the new iPods or Superbad, now you can. We've added a familiar search box to the top of Google Reader so you can search across all the blogs and sites to which you're subscribed.

See if this doesn't help with your information overload. And by the way, if you want to learn more about feed readers, here's a great explanation:


Webmaster Central gets a new look

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Official Google Webmaster Central Blog: Webmaster Central gets a new look

Written by David Sha, Webmaster Tools Team

We launched Webmaster Central back in August 2006, with a goal of creating a place for you to learn more about Google's crawling and indexing of websites, and to offer tools for submitting sitemaps and other content. Given all of your requests and recommendations, we've also been busy working behind the scenes to roll out exciting new features for Webmaster Tools, like internal/external links data and the Message Center, over the past year.

And so today, we're unveiling a new look on the Webmaster Central landing page at You'll still find all of the tools and resources you've come to love like our Webmaster Blog and discussion group -- but now, in addition to these, we've added a few more you might enjoy and find useful. We hope that the new layout will make it easier to discover some additional resources that will help you learn even more about how to improve traffic to your site, submit content to Google, and enhance your site's functionality.

Here's a brief look at some of the new additions:

Analyze your visitors. Google Analytics is a free tool for webmasters to better understand their visitor traffic in order to improve site content. With metrics including the amount of time spent on each page and the percentage of new vs. returning visits to a page, webmasters can tailor their site's content around pages that resonate most with visitors.

Add custom search to your pages. Google Custom Search Engine (CSE) is a great way for webmasters to incorporate search into their site and help their site visitors find what they're looking for. CSE gives webmasters access to a XML API, allowing greater control over the search results look and feel, so you can keep visitors on your site focused only on your content.

Leverage Google's Developer Tools. Google Code has tons of Google APIs and developer tools to help webmasters put technologies like Google Maps and AJAX Search on their websites.

Add gadgets to your webpage. Google Gadgets for your Webpage are a quick and easy way for webmasters to enhance their sites with content-rich gadgets, free from the Google Gadget directory. Adding gadgets to your webpage can make your site more interactive and useful to visitors, making sure they keep coming back.

We'd love to get your feedback on the new site. Feel free to comment below, or join our discussion group.


Where do you want to fly today?

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Google LatLong: Where do you want to fly today?

Word is out that the new version of Google Earth includes a hidden Flight Simulator. Good sleuthing!

You might be wondering why we hid it in the first place. Well, we know that discovery is what Google Earth is all about, and you've proven yourselves quite adept at finding the unexpected. We knew it would only be a matter of time before you happened upon this new, enjoyable way to appreciate the spectacular scenery in Google Earth.

Check out the Swiss Alps from this vantage point:

And the Grand Canyon:

If you haven't tried it yet, we encourage you to give it a go. The two plane models featured in the simulator are intended to be easy to fly, even for non-pilots. There are no complicated engine-start or takeoff procedures — simply add power and off you go.

Frank Taylor, author of the Google Earth Blog, has compiled some flying tips, which you can use to get started. I'd say the most important thing to know is that flying is much easier with mouse controls (or a joystick if you have one) instead of the keyboard.

Another tip: If you don't yet have the "Enter Flight Simulator" item in your tools menu, you can activate the simulator by entering "Lilienthal" in the "Fly To" box. It just so happens that this magic little word works in the same way that the key combination Ctrl+Alt+A does.

Once you've found a nice vantage point, just use the space bar to pause the simulator and enjoy the view for a moment. Then, you can calmly look around using the control and cursor keys.

Safe travels!


Collect, share, and discover books

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Official Google Blog: Collect, share, and discover books

Books often live a vibrant life offline, and through digitization Google Book Search tries to help them live an even more exciting life online through full text search. Today we're launching some new features that go beyond search so you can collect, share, and discover new books.

To start, you can create your own personal collection on Book Search, and use it to help find just the right book from your collection for any occasion. Other people can view your library, so you can share your collection as Bethany has done. Or take a look at some other interesting collections.

Digitized text is useful beyond search, too. It enables us to infer connections between books through shared passages. For example, Sir Isaac Newton once said:
I know not what I may appear to the world; but to myself I seem to
have been only like a boy playing on the sea shore, and diverting myself in now and then finding a smoother pebble or a prettier shell than ordinary, whilst the great ocean of truth lay all undiscovered before me.
This quote has resonated and been used in hundreds of books from the early 1800s to 2007. You can discover connections between books through quotations like this in a feature we call "Popular passages." Read more and dive into the meme pool.

We've also launched a way to let users, select, copy and embed segments of public domain books (like the Newton quote) in any web page. We hope to make it as easy to blog and quote from a book as it is from any web page. Like many innovations at Google, a stellar summer intern worked on this .

We hope these new features help you discover, collect, and share some of the great truths just waiting to be discovered (or maybe re-discovered) in the great ocean of books before us.


Wednesday, September 5, 2007

"We found it!"

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Official Google Reader Blog: "We found it!"

Here's a search box:

Search in Reader

Doesn't seem all that special, does it? Most Google sites have it. But let's look at where it is:

Search in Reader

That's right, search is finally in Google Reader. Now you can find that that apricot recipe you came across a few months ago and now have a craving for. Or perhaps you'd like to search for "ipod" so that you can read at once all the posts in your subscriptions that mention today's announcements.

Search lets you use keywords to find items in your subscriptions (if you're looking to search all blogs, give Blog Search a try). If you subscribe to someone's shared items, it'll search those too. This handy feature is brought to you especially by Ben and Chris's tireless engineering work and Jenna's relentless iteration on user interface concepts.

Along for the ride in the search release are a few other Reader tweaks. You can now hide the side navigation by clicking on the separator to its right. Unread counts now go to 1,000, so that you can know just how far behind you are when you come back from vacation. Finally, Reader now behaves like every other web page and lets you use the forward and back buttons to move between folders and subscriptions that you've navigated to.

If you'd like to let us know how search is working out for you, or have any other Reader feedback, you can use our shiny new forums to get in touch.


Gmail eats your Bacn

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Official Gmail Blog: Gmail eats your Bacn

Recently, the Internet has been abuzz over a new term: 'bacn' - with the requisite missing vowel - which is pronounced, you guessed it, "bacon." Wikipedia defines it as: "electronic messages which have been subscribed to and are therefore not unsolicited but are often unread by the recipient for a long period of time." Or, for the rest of us, bacn is "email you want, but not right now." I get a bunch of messages every day from sites like Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, and Google Docs & Spreadsheets, all of which are important to me but which I don't need to see immediately. In fact, I'd like to defer them until later, for my late-night Family Guy-email sessions.

We have a couple of features in Gmail that can help tame your bacn and bring order back to your inbox. Here are 3 easy steps to inbox feng shui:

1) Create labels for each service that sends your bacn by clicking "Edit labels" in the green box on the lefthand side of your inbox. I've created some for my inbox:

2) Create filters to put bacn in its place by clicking "Create a Filter" next to the search buttons at the top of your inbox. First, tell Gmail what types of messages you'd like to filter. I typed "LinkedIn" in the "from" box and then clicked "Next step >>".
If you're like me, you probably want to review the notifications at a later time, so you click "Skip the Inbox" and "Apply the label: LinkedIn". This keeps all your notifications in one place, accessible by clicking the "LinkedIn" label on the left hand side of your inbox.

3) Since at some point I may want to review all my bacn at once, I created another label called "Review Later" into which all my bacn goes. Then, I use one of Gmail's advanced search operators ("OR") to create a filter that matches any bacn:

Now I can easily view my LinkedIn notifications all at once OR I can view all my bacn together by clicking the "Review Later" label.


Lazy Wednesday...

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Official Google Docs & Spreadsheets Blog: Lazy Wednesday...

I'm a pretty lazy guy, as I'm sure anyone who knows me can attest to. Any method or process that reduces the amount of work I have to do in order to accomplish a task is always a welcome addition to my tool set. This is why it made me very excited to hear that I would be in charge of providing the ultimate laziness feature to Google Spreadsheets users: AutoFill . With AutoFill you can reduce the amount of repetitive entry into your sheets by dragging the new little square at the bottom right of whatever range is selected. You can now fill in commonly seen series, like the days of the week or a series of numbers, or simply use it as a copy-and-paste tool. But of course, that's not all...

For some real interesting fills, we've hooked AutoFill up to our old-timer Labs brother, Google Sets (a combination that JR refers to as 'MagicFill'). Make use of the integration by holding down the CTRL (Linux and Windows) or ALT (Mac) keys before dragging the handle, and you can use it to create grocery lists, luggage manifests, or a list of similar prospective colleges (for all you rising high school seniors out there). We're still working out some kinks, though, so consider this an early-release feature ;). Thanks to Matt for helping make sure there were less kinks than my earlier version.

Of course, AutoFill isn't the only new addition...
We've also just introduced some cool new data query functions that allow you to import RSS/Atom, HTML, CSV/TSV and XML data directly into your sheet. These are handy for basic data import tasks and provide virtually endless opportunities for integrating information from web sources. The spreadsheet fanatics out there (we have some here) might even try this as an alternative to the fantastic Google Reader interface for aggregating your favorite feeds ;). Special thanks goes out to Tom Swedlund, a summer intern, who was in charge of implementing those.

You may also notice the new strike-through font formatting button that was implemented courtesy of Animesh Kejriwal in his 20% time. Thanks Animesh!

Have fun, and don't forget to post some of your own discovered 'MagicFills' in our Help Group...


Google Developer Podcast Episode Eight: The world of Google data APIs

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Google Code - Updates: Google Developer Podcast Episode Eight: The world of Google data APIs

Mark Stahl is a technical lead on the Google data APIs team. Many of the APIs that Google offers are part of the Google data API family, so we thought it would be prudent to get some time to chat with him, and discuss all things GData.

If you are new to GData, or want to learn more, listen to the podcast to hear:
  • What "Google data API" actually means (the parts and pieces)
  • What Atom, Atom Publishing Protocol, and other tech behind GData are all about
  • What GData adds to the mix on top of Atom and APP
  • How Atom compares to RSS
  • What are ETags? And how can they help me?
  • Why REST, the style, was chosen for these APIs
  • Where REST makes sense, and where it doesn't. Resource driven vs. RPC.
  • What the first GData APIs were
  • How the killer app of syncing data with Google Calendar
  • How you actually use the APIs? What do they need to learn? What tools do we give them?
  • Can you write APIs that implement the same GData APIs?
  • And much more.
You can download the episode directly, or subscribe to the show (click here for iTunes one-click subscribe).


Continuing the Internet tax moratorium

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Google Public Policy Blog: Continuing the Internet tax moratorium

As Internet use continues to spread in the U.S., the government should pursue policies that help promote investment in, and greater consumer access to, faster and more robust broadband services. The current Internet tax moratorium is one policy that Congress has enacted to help make the internet a universally accessible, free, and open platform capable of delivering a rich variety of services to consumers.

With that moratorium due to expire this November, Google recently joined Don't Tax Our Web, a coalition of companies and associations dedicated to extending the current moratorium and reducing barriers to the Internet's continued growth.

The current moratorium prohibits three things: state and local taxation of Internet access, multiple taxes on a single e-commerce transaction, and taxes that discriminate against online transactions. We support a permanent extension of the moratorium because multiple or discriminatory taxes on internet transactions could damage internet-based commerce, a critical and growing component of our economy.

What are these "multiple or discriminatory" taxes, exactly? Imagine a web user who purchases a music file (maybe "One Week" by the Barenaked Ladies, which was released in 1998, the year the original moratorium was signed into law by President Clinton). Under current law, the transaction couldn't be taxed at a higher rate than if the sale had occurred in a physical store or through any means other than the Internet. In addition, the moratorium prohibits more than one state, or more than locality, from taxing the transaction. Protecting internet-based transactions like this from multiple and discriminatory taxes makes a lot of sense to us.

Keeping Internet access tax-free is also another way that government can help further the growth of the web to all corners of the U.S. At a time when American policymakers are working to increase broadband penetration rates and improve the quality of broadband services to consumers, we believe that increasing barriers to access -- whether they are created by the government or by the private sector -- will only frustrate our common goal of greater access to better broadband for all consumers.

We look forward to working with the members of Congress championing this issue and with the Don't Tax Our Web coalition to extend the internet tax moratorium.


Happy trails

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Google LatLong: Happy trails

As many of you have discovered, the line tool in Google Maps is a great way to create maps of your bike routes and hiking trails. But something has been missing: After plotting out a hike in Yosemite, how do you know whether it's going to be a 2-hour hike or a 2-day hike? You can't tell how long the trail is!

Well, now you can. We've added distance measurement to the line tool. Whenever you draw a line, you'll see the current distance as as you move the mouse and add new points. The distance is also displayed in the info window when you click on your completed line.

Here's one of my favorite trails. I cut through several switchbacks as I was drawing the path, so the distance wasn't very accurate initially. Luckily, it's easy to refine a path by dragging on the "ghost points" (those translucent squares that appear at the midpoint of each line segment) to add detail in the middle of a completed line. As I did so, I watched the distance increase.

And there it is: a lovely hiking trail in all its wiggly glory. At 12.7 miles round trip, there's no need to pack a tent, but I hope someone remembers the trail mix.


Historical LSE data

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Google Finance Blog: Historical LSE data

We now have historical daily prices for LSE stocks (like Vodafone or British Airways) back to 1996. You'll note that splits have been imported, but dividends have not. Dividends will follow along shortly.

If you notice any problems, please let us know.


Website Optimizer Gets an Update

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Google Analytics Blog: Website Optimizer Gets an Update

Today, we are happy to announce the first major update to Website Optimizer. (For those who are unfamiliar with Website Optimizer, we've blogged about it before here and here.)

The first feature that we've added is a wizard for creating A/B split experiments. A/B tests are ideal for testing how well different page layouts perform and for pages that don't get a lot of traffic. Although you can perform A/B testing in Google Analytics, using Website Optimizer simplifies the process and makes it really easy to set up experiments and view results. Watch this demo to learn how to set up an A/B experiment.

We've also improved the experiment list display. Your most recent experiments appear at the top and you can now delete experiments.

Finally, we've added My Client Center Access Manager. Now, with permission from their client accounts, agencies can access Website Optimizer directly through the My Client Center.

We've published a testing strategy that details how to set time on page as a conversion goal and an article describing how we look at full factorial versus fractional experimental data analysis.

For more details, visit the Website Optimizer site or read the Inside AdWords blog post.

Peter Harbison


New Features in Website Optimizer

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Inside AdWords: New Features in Website Optimizer

Today, we've released our first major update to Website Optimizer, our free site content testing tool. Based on feedback received from advertisers and agencies, we've added three highly requested features:

1. We've added the ability to create A/B split experiments. This new feature is designed to make it faster and easier to optimize your website, and improve conversion rates. A/B experiments are ideal for testing different page layouts and pages with less traffic. Take a look at this multimedia demo to learn how to set up an A/B experiment.

2. You can now access Website Optimizer directly from the My Client Center. You can find more information here.

3. The experiment list is now automatically sorted so the most recent experiments appear at the top. We've also added the ability to delete experiments – by far our most requested feature.

We hope you enjoy these updates to Website Optimizer. If you would like to learn more about Website Optimizer, please visit the Website Optimizer homepage.


Mercedes-Benz Search & Send uses Google Maps

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Google LatLong: Mercedes-Benz Search & Send uses Google Maps

We are pleased to announce the launch of Mercedes-Benz Search & Send, a new service that enables you to send destinations directly from Google Maps to select Mercedes-Benz vehicles equipped with Tele Aid. Mercedes-Benz is the first automotive manufacturer to offer this functionality in the U.S.

Search and Send is a convenient way to plan trips from the comfort of your own home or office. Using Google Maps, you can search for a destination online and send it right to your car. You can even have colleagues or family members send a destination to your car while you're on the road.

Once in your car, there's no need to spend time in putting data into your navigation system. Simply push the i-button of the Mercedes-Benz Tele Aid system and the destination will be downloaded directly from Google Maps to your navigation system. You will be prompted to either start route guidance immediately or save the information for later use in your navigation memory.

For more information please visit


Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Reforming patents, promoting innovation

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Google Public Policy Blog: Reforming patents, promoting innovation

Many of our nation's founding fathers (most notably Ben Franklin) were inventors, and from America's earliest days we've been a country that has promoted innovation. To protect and promote invention, those same founding fathers gave Congress the power (in Article I, Section 9 of the U.S. Constitution) "to promote the progress of science and useful arts, by securing for limited times to authors and inventors the exclusive right to their respective writings and discoveries." Inventors have relied on the patent system to protect those rights (check out Google Patent Search to see for yourself).

Unfortunately, the patent system has not kept pace with the changes in the innovation economy. Google and other technology companies increasingly face mounting legal costs to defend against frivolous patent claims from parties gaming the system to forestall competition or reap windfall profits. The National Academy of Sciences has said the current patent system shows "areas of strain, inefficiency, excessive cost on one hand and inadequate resources on the other hand that need to be addressed now." And the Supreme Court's consideration of several patent cases in the past two terms is evidence of growing consensus that patent law needs to be rebalanced in order to protect patent owners while ensuring that patent rights are not abused.

A growing chorus of business leaders and companies spanning the technology, financial services, and traditional manufacturing industries has joined with legal scholars, economists, consumer and public interest organizations, government institutions and major editorial boards in calling for patent reform.

Bipartisan patent reform legislation is likely to be considered by the full House of Representatives later this week, and is moving through the Senate as well. As a member of the Coalition for Patent Fairness, we support this legislation and have urged Congress to address these issues in particular:
  • Damages apportionment. Damages should be calculated based on the fair share of the patent's contribution to the value of a product, and not on the value of a whole product that has many components. So for example, a windshield wiper found to an infringe a patent should not spur a damage award based on the value of the entire car.
  • Restricting forum-shopping. Certain district courts have become notorious for rarely invalidating a patent, and have tilted the balance too often in favor of plaintiffs. We support judicial venue provisions to ensure that patent lawsuits are brought only in district courts with a reasonable connection to the case.
  • Post-grant review. The patent system should include a meaningful second chance for the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office to review potentially problematic patents in a timely way, thereby promoting high-quality patents.
  • Willfullness. Patent infringers can be forced to pay triple the damages in cases where they are found to have "willfully" infringed a patent, but that standard has been devalued. Punitive triple damages should be reserved for cases of truly egregious conduct.
The product of six years of legislative debate and compromise, the bipartisan Patent Reform Act would achieve many of these goals in a fair and targeted manner. It clarifies the standard for calculating damages based on the value of the invention, establishes fair criteria for where patent cases can be brought, improves post-grant review and applies to patent law the traditional standard for punitive damages. These reforms will go a long way toward modernizing the patent law system to ensure it continues as an engine for economic growth and innovation.

Some have argued recently that reforms to the patent system would somehow make the U.S. less competitive in the world. That couldn't be further from the truth. Low-quality patents and escalating legal costs are currently hurting the ability of U.S. companies to compete globally, and that in turn hurts U.S. workers and consumers. Without a modernized patent system, U.S. companies are at a competitive disadvantage, spending resources on unnecessary litigation and unwarranted licensing instead of on innovation.

We'll be talking to House members and their staff this week to tell them just how important this is.


AdWords system maintenance on September 8

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Inside AdWords: AdWords system maintenance on September 8

On Saturday, September 8th, the AdWords system will be unavailable from approximately 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. PDT due to our regularly scheduled maintenance. While you won't be able to log into your accounts during this time, your campaigns will continue to run as usual.

AdWords system maintenance typically occurs on the second Saturday of each month during the above times. We'll continue to update you here as we always have, but you may want to take note of our intended dates and times to help you plan for any scheduled downtimes further down the road.


Inside AdSense launches in Chinese

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Inside AdSense: Inside AdSense launches in Chinese

Today, we're excited to announce the launch of our 11th AdSense blog -- Inside AdSense: AdSense 中文博客. The new blog is written in Simplified Chinese, and will provide Chinese-speaking publishers with the latest AdSense updates and announcements. Members of the Chinese support team will be addressing commonly asked questions, sharing optimization advice, and introducing you to publishers who have been successful with the program.

We encourage you to subscribe today to begin receiving posts directly in your email inbox!