Saturday, July 25, 2009

[G] Midterm Report on Google Summer of Code

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Google Open Source Blog: Midterm Report on Google Summer of Code

(click to enlarge graph)

Thursday at OSCON, Leslie Hawthorn gave an update on the state of the 2009 Google Summer of Code program. One of the points that she shared with the audience was the 93% student success rate as of midterm evaluations, which were submitted July 13th. Congratulations to our students, mentors, and admins for all their hard work! Based on our mentor survey, most of our students are doing well, with a few students already finishing their project!

For the rest of the students, the summer is not over yet and there is still lots of coding left to do. I hope that this year will be our most successful to date! Read the statistics about previous years here.

By Ellen Ko, Open Source Team

Friday, July 24, 2009

[G] Pearson saves customers time and money with Google Maps

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Official Google Enterprise Blog: Pearson saves customers time and money with Google Maps

Editor's note: We’re pleased to welcome Bryan MacDonald, Chief Technology Officer at the School Systems group of Pearson – an international media company specializing in education, business information, and consumer publishingas our guest blogger today. Pearson has integrated Google Maps API Premier into their flagship student information systems, PowerSchool® Premier and Chancery® SMS. With Google Maps, districts and schools can easily and accurately identify geographic boundaries and assign students to the correct districts.

As a global leader in education and education technology, Pearson develops student information systems (SIS) used by district and school administrators and teachers to perform functions such as scheduling, enrollment, attendance, grading, and reporting. Here at Pearson, we've recently integrated Google Maps technology into PowerSchool Premier Version 6 and Chancery SMS Version 7, both of which were released last month.

Pearson's customers rely on our product to manage their student enrollment process smoothly and efficiently.
With the integration of Google Maps API Premier, users can create their school and district boundaries within the system, and use information on students to easily confirm that these students are appropriately enrolled in the correct schools.

Unlike the technology used in most other SIS applications, which requires complex definitions based on latitude and longitude coordinates,Google’s technology makes boundary definition as easy as drawing lines on a map with a virtual pen. We’ve also created a process that will allow our customers’ existing student addresses to be entered into the system in one easy step. This is a significant breakthrough and timesaver for school districts across the country, and the data integration also helps ensure that the school system can communicate important information such as report cards and newsletters to students and their families.

You can see how it works in this video:

Google Maps will revolutionize the way our customers manage their address data. They'll now be able to easily manage it from within their Pearson SIS and won't have to maintain separate databases, which are frequently prone to error. Through our address verification process, customers will reduce returned mail and associated printing and mailing costs.

Additionally, access to Google Maps technology provides this critical functionality in an intuitive format, delivering an ease-of-use breakthrough compared to the typical address technology in other systems.

At Pearson, we believe that the integration of Google Maps will provide our products with the competitive advantage that truly makes a difference for today’s educators. We’re excited to partner with Google, and we look forward to more opportunities in the future. For more information on Pearson School Systems and our SIS products, visit us here.

Bryan MacDonald, CTO, School Systems Group, Pearson

Posted by Colleen Horan, Google Enterprise team


[G] Zoom photo navigation in Street View

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Google LatLong: Zoom photo navigation in Street View

One of the missions of the Street View team is to help users navigate the world's geographically located photos. We have just launched Street View Smart Navigation which provides 3D navigation between Street View panoramas. We have also recently added the option to browse user-contributed photos that match Street View images. Now we're bringing these concepts together to make it easier to explore photos through Street View.

For example, our Street View car has captured a nice shot of Big Ben:
View Larger Map

However, our Panoramio users have uploaded an impressive variety of shots of Big Ben taken from different angles, at different times of day, and zoomed into different regions. To link all these images into Street View, we are launching a new feature that lets you navigate between similar user-contributed photos, which is especially useful when one photo is a zoomed-in region of another. Perhaps the best way to explain a photo feature is to show you some images -- take a look at the following sequence:

When an image is first shown in the photo viewer, a small set of the zoom polygons are shown indicating that there are close-up photos available to explore:
Subsequently, moving the mouse around in the window highlights the best polygon near the mouse location. Similar to our new smart navigation feature, double clicking on the shaded rectangle jumps you to the corresponding photo. After one or more jumps, the back button appears next to the photo title to give you the option to move back through the selected sequence of photos. We've put together a quick demo video so you can see it in action before trying for yourself:

We hope that this new feature will allow you to explore a large diversity of photos in an entertaining and intuitive way!

Posted by Daniel Filip, Computer Vision Tech Lead, Google Z├╝rich

[G] Google Analytics seminar in India

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Inside AdWords: Google Analytics seminar in India

For those of you reading the blog in India, we're hosting a Google Analytics Conversion University Seminar at the Google Gurgaon, India office on August 8th, 2009. Google Conversion University is an open event for anyone interested in learning more about how Google Analytics helps you make smarter business decisions based on your website data. The seminar will include a variety of experts in the field including in-house Analytics product experts and Google Analytics Authorized Consultants.

For registration and more details, please visit: Read more about this event on the Official Google India blog.

Amanda Kelly, Inside AdWords crew

[G] Show off your Google Number

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Google Voice Blog: Show off your Google Number

Want to share your new Google number with family, friends and co-workers? To help spread the word (or should we say, the number), get your Google number printed on cards that you can hand out. There are three design options to choose from, so you can decide whether you want to show business info, personal info, or just your name and number.

We are giving away 50,000 free sets of 25 cards (no shipping or any other fees) over the next week. Keep an eye open for an image and link to appear in your Google Voice inbox, on the left side below the account balance, as it will appear at different times for different Google Voice users throughout the week. Once you click on the link, you will be able to customize and order your free cards through

Posted by Brian Hutchins,
Google Voice Product Marketing Manager

[G] Location extensions, a new way to run local ads

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Inside AdWords: Location extensions, a new way to run local ads

Today, we'd like to tell you about a new way to run your local ads – location extensions. Location extensions allow you to "extend" your AdWords campaigns by dynamically attaching your business address to your ads. This new feature will be fully available in the coming weeks, with some advertisers having access to the feature starting today.

If you're a business owner, you can set up extensions by linking an AdWords campaign to your Local Business Center (LBC) account. If you're not the primary business owner of the locations you're advertising, you can manually enter addresses directly into AdWords. For example, a clothing brand that distributes to a number of different stores might want to associate their ads with various store locations through extensions, even though their official business address doesn't correspond to those addresses.

Once extensions are set up, we'll dynamically match your business locations to a user's location or search terms and show the address with your text ads. If we're unable to determine a user's location or if there are no relevant addresses to show, we'll simply show your ad without an address. If you prefer not to dynamically match addresses to your ads and would rather show a specific address in one particular ad, you can do so by setting up specific location extensions for individual ads. Your ads can show with their relevant extensions on Google and Google Maps and as regular text ads without the extensions on partner sites in the Search and Content Networks.

With the introduction of location extensions, local business ads will no longer be a separate ad format. Instead, you can simply create new local ads with extensions from scratch or add extensions to your existing text ads. For those of you who have existing local business ads, your ads will continue running as long as you don't edit them. If you edit a local business ad, it will be converted to a text ad with the ad's address attached as a location extension. The new converted ad will look identical to the local business ad and will appear in the same places as your local business ads. AdWords Editor will continue to support the creation and management of local business ads, and we plan to launch Editor support for location extensions in a future release. For full details about editing local business ads in the new interface, please visit this Help Center entry.

To learn more about location extensions, please see the location extensions overview section of the Help Center.

Posted by Emel Mutlu, Inside AdWords crew

[G] Now We're Really Tweeting

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Google Analytics Blog: Now We're Really Tweeting

A few weeks ago, we mentioned some Google Analytics and Website Optimizer focused tweets that you can follow. Well now, as you can see if you glance over to the "Subscribe" section on the right, we've got an official Google Analytics Twitter account. Follow us at

Here are some of our latest tweets:

GA Tip in 140Char: Segment regions in the Map Overlay report by Keyword to see regional search trends
4:44 PM Jul 22nd from web

@drumFunny For optional parameters that have no values you can use an empty string. More here:
3:25 PM Jul 22nd from web in reply to drumFunny

@redduck666 Requested duly noted Almir. Thank you.
3:15 PM Jul 22nd from web in reply to redduck666

@thegrif Segmented sums do not equal the non segmented sum. Each dimension could have some overlap.
3:14 PM Jul 22nd from web in reply to thegrif

Want to learn more about GA? Google Analytics Learning Resources Roundup: Enjoy!
2:28 PM Jul 8th from web

One of the easiest & fun guides to setting up Goals & Funnels: Bonus points for setting up goal values.
5:25 PM Jul 6th from web

New Google Website Optimizer feature added today, it automagically stops showing poorly performing combos:
3:57 PM Jul 6th from TweetDeck

Ever wonder how to use Google Analytics and Website Optimizer together? Watch the quick new shiny video:
5:48 PM Jul 2nd from TweetDeck

Posted by Jeff Gillis, Google Analytics Team

Thursday, July 23, 2009

[G] Keep up with your friends with Google Latitude

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Social Web Blog: Keep up with your friends with Google Latitude

In February we launched Google Latitude, a service that lets you to see where your friends are and what they're up to, while allowing you to maintain very fine-grained control over how your location is seen by the people you care about.

Today, we're bringing Latitude to the iPhone and iPod touch as a web application accessible by going to from the Safari browser. To easily access Latitude, try creating a home screen link using Safari's "+" icon.

Check out the Google Mobile Blog to learn more.

Mat Balez, Product Manager, Google Mobile Team

[G] Announcing the 2009 Google Online Marketing Challenge winners

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Official Google Blog: Announcing the 2009 Google Online Marketing Challenge winners

This year we held the second Google Online Marketing Challenge — a global university competition, launched last year, that gives undergraduate and post-graduate students hands-on exposure to online marketing. Working with their professors, teams receive the equivalent of US$200 to spend on Google AdWords advertising, then work with a local business to devise an effective online marketing campaign. Teams are given three weeks to mastermind the strategy before submitting a campaign report to an international judging panel of professors.

This year's Challenge was bigger and better in every way — more teams, more students, more universities and a significant improvement in the quality of campaigns and reports. We're thrilled to report that 2,187 teams took part from across 57 countries, representing a 36% increase in participation from last year. The Challenge continues to develop as one of the world’s biggest university competitions.

We're excited today to announce the results. Our global winners come from Deakin University, Australia and were taught by Chia Yao Lee. The team of Andrew Kidd, Richard Blakely, Kevin Fung, Clinton Hinze, Katalin Kish and Howard Lien worked with a local kids play center,, to create a well-crafted campaign that highly impressed our judges.

Clockwise from top left: Richard Blakely, Chia Yao Lee (professor), Katalin Kish, Kevin Fung, Bardo Fraunholz (professor), Howard Lien, Andrew Kidd, Fiona and Mike (from Little Tigrrs), Clinton Hinze and Mick, The Big Hearted Tiger

Team spokesman Andrew Kidd gave us some insight into their winning campaign:
"After discussions with the business owners, we decided we needed to conduct three separate campaigns. One would promote the play center to customers outside a 10 kilometre geographic radius, another would attract more mothers' groups to the center, and the third one would attract more party and group event bookings. Visitors to their website more than doubled compared with the same period last year. We knew we had developed a strong campaign — but to win the global competition is outstanding."
The team and their professor are off to Mountain View, California for a tour of the Googleplex. To help in their ongoing studies, each team member will also receive an Apple MacBook Pro.

There were also three regional winners: for the Americas, the winning team comes from James Madison University in the U.S., while a team from the Warsaw School of Economics in Poland won for Europe, the Middle East and Africa. In the Asia Pacific region, the winners come from the International College of Management in Sydney, Australia. Here are more details about our winners.

We developed the Challenge to benefit everyone involved. We're delighted that thousands of small businesses around the world have seen their online presence improved in just three weeks. Professors tell us that the Challenge has allowed them to deliver a unique, practical teaching and learning exercise. For those students that took part, we hope they have developed some useful online marketing skills which they can use when they graduate and enter the workforce.

For anyone interested in competing in the 2010 Challenge, formal registrations will open later this year, but in the meantime you can register your interest.

Posted by Lee Hunter, Product Marketing Manager

[G] Google Latitude for iPhone

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Official Google Mac Blog: Google Latitude for iPhone

If you're an iPhone user, you might have been waiting for Google Latitude, our service that lets you see where your friends are, which has not been available on iPhone. Well, today we're releasing Google Latitude for iPhone and iPod touch as a web application running on iPhone's Safari browser. Now you can share your location with your friends, as well as control who gets to see it, all from your iPhone.

To start using Latitude, go to from the iPhone's browser. You can even add a bookmark to your home screen for one-touch access. Check out the Google Mobile Blog to learn more.

Posted by Scott Knaster, Google Mac Team

[G] Google Latitude on your iPhone

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Official Google Blog: Google Latitude on your iPhone

Earlier this year we announced Google Latitude, a service that lets you and your friends share your locations with each other. You control who gets to see your location and where on the map you appear to others. Today, we're releasing Google Latitude for iPhone and iPod touch, available in the Safari browser.

Visit from your device to start using Latitude. Add a bookmark to your home screen to quickly launch Latitude. Just open Latitude in Safari and tap the + icon > Add to Home Screen > Add. For more details, check out the Google Mobile Blog.

Posted by Marc Wilson, Software Engineer

[G] Google Latitude. Now for iPhone.

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Official Google Mobile Blog: Google Latitude. Now for iPhone.

I'm a big fan of the iPhone. I'm also a big fan of the web. So, naturally, I'm excited that today we're finally releasing Google Latitude for iPhone and iPod touch as a web application running in Safari.

Our Latitude web app provides all the core functionality you might expect: you can see the location of your friends on a map and modify your privacy settings so that you control how your location is shared and with whom. In fact, if my friends and colleagues back in London haven't yet noticed my absence, they'll see in Latitude that I'm currently vacationing on the beach in Australia. Hi guys, remember me!?

You'll also find basic Search and Directions functionality to help you get around the world. And just like our Google Maps for mobile client apps (and more recently on desktop Google Maps), you can press the "blue dot" to be taken to your approximate current location on the map with My Location, thanks to Safari now supporting the W3C Geolocation API.

To try Google Latitude, type into your iPhone's browser. And if you miss the experience of launching the app directly from your home screen, you can add a bookmark to the home screen by opening Latitude in Safari and tapping the + icon > Add to Home Screen > Add.

We worked closely with Apple to bring Latitude to the iPhone in a way Apple thought would be best for iPhone users. After we developed a Latitude application for the iPhone, Apple requested we release Latitude as a web application in order to avoid confusion with Maps on the iPhone, which uses Google to serve maps tiles.

Google, like Apple, continues to push for improvements in web browser functionality. Now that iPhone 3.0 allows Safari to access location, building the Latitude web app was a natural next step. In the future, we will continue to work closely with Apple to deliver useful applications -- some of which will be native apps on the iPhone, such as Earth and YouTube, and some of which will be web apps, like Gmail and Latitude.

Unfortunately, since there is no mechanism for applications to run in the background on iPhone (which applies to browser-based web apps as well), we're not able to provide continuous background location updates in the same way that we can for Latitude users on Android, Blackberry, Symbian and Window Mobile. Nevertheless, your location is updated every time you fire up the app and then continuously updated while the app is running in the foreground. And, of course, you can check in on where your friends are, so we think there's plenty of fun to be had with Latitude. Learn more about updating and sharing your location from your iPhone.

The Google Latitude web app currently supports iPhone/iPod Touch OS 3.0 or above. For now, it's available in the US, UK, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand, and we hope to bring it to more countries soon.

Posted by Mat Balez, Product Manager, Google Mobile Team

[G] Customize your mobile Reader experience

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Official Google Reader Blog: Customize your mobile Reader experience

Reader's mobile interface for smartphones (iPhones, Android-based devices, and the Palm Pre) is a handy way to keep up with your subscriptions on the go. We realized that we've never officially talked about the settings page for the mobile interface, so here's a quick rundown of the ways in which you can customize your Reader experience to suit your tastes (on your phone, you can find this page by looking for the "Settings" link at the bottom of the screen).

  • Start page: Choose which folder or view you'd like to see when you first log in.

  • Link reformatting: Though smartphone browsers can generally render any webpage well, you may still want to reformat webpage (removing most styles and compressing images) if you're on a low-bandwidth connection.

  • Links in new window: By default Reader will open links in new windows, but if you prefer you can open them in the same window, replacing Reader.

  • Items per page:New! Reader normally displays 15 items at a time, but if you have a fast connection or if wish to blast through more items at a time, you can choose to display even more.

We got the idea for the last setting from a blog post, so please keep the feedback coming, whether via blogs, our help group, Twitter or Get Satisfaction.

P.S. Speaking of settings, we've added a checkbox that those of you that are not big fans of liking may appreciate.


[G] The Google Books settlement and privacy

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Google Public Policy Blog: The Google Books settlement and privacy

Posted by Dan Clancy, Engineering Director for Google Books

Last year, we signed a settlement agreement with authors and publishers that, if approved by the court, will unlock access to millions of books for anyone in the US. We reached another important milestone a few weeks ago, as University of Texas and University of Wisconsin-Madison announced new agreements with Google to broaden access to their collections under the settlement.

Recently, we've heard questions about our agreement and what it will mean for user privacy. Privacy is important to us, and we know it's important to our users, too. We have a strong privacy policy in place now for Google Books and for all Google products. But our settlement agreement hasn't yet been approved by the court, and the services authorized by the agreement haven't been built or even designed yet. That means it's very difficult (if not impossible) to draft a detailed privacy policy. While we know that our eventual product will build in privacy protections -- like always giving users clear information about privacy, and choices about what if any data they share when they use our services -- we don't yet know exactly how this all will work. We do know that whatever we ultimately build will protect readers' privacy rights, upholding the standards set long ago by booksellers and by the libraries whose collections are being opened to the public through this settlement.

We're thinking hard about how best to build privacy protections into the products authorized under the settlement. We've been having ongoing discussions with a wide range of privacy advocates, and we look forward to talking more with them and others throughout the industry about how to protect the privacy of people who search, browse, and buy books online.

Privacy organizations and Google have a lot to agree on: expanded, free online access to library books should be supported by continued privacy protections for readers. You can read our initial thoughts on how to do so in our FAQ. To read more about privacy at Google, visit our Privacy Center, and stay tuned for more details as we have them.

[G] The Google Books settlement and privacy: frequently asked questions

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Inside Google Books: The Google Books settlement and privacy: frequently asked questions

The following are some questions we've heard about privacy and Google's proposed settlement agreement with authors and publishers, which is still subject to approval by the court. We've addressed many of them here, and may update this document as our product plans evolve. For more on privacy and the agreement, take a look at our blog post. Thanks for reading.

What is Google going to do to ensure reader privacy if the settlement is approved?

Important principles from our Google Privacy Policy would apply to this service, as with every Google service. For example, we will never sell personal information about our users. In fact, we will never share individual users' information at all unless the user tells us to, or in some very unusual circumstances like life-threatening emergencies. The Book Rights Registry created under the settlement won't have access to users' personal information, either.

Users will also have choices about the kinds of information that Google receives when they use the service. Most of the new ways of reading books online that the settlement makes possible will not require any kind of registration or account with Google. For example, people who use institutional subscriptions, such as students at subscribing schools, will not have to register with Google to read the millions of books available through the subscription. They only need to confirm their identity to the school’s system – not ours. And of course, regular users of Google Books do not need to set up an account to get the benefits of the settlement. They will be able to see much larger portions of books – often 20% of the book, instead of the current three short snippets – without having an account or giving personal information to Google.

Will Google give data about individual users to the Book Rights Registry?

No. Google is not required under the settlement agreement to provide individual user data to the Registry, and will not be providing it. In fact, the settlement specifies that in circumstances where the Registry seeks this data, it should use legal processes to do so. The Registry will receive aggregate usage data that is needed for the allocation of revenues under the settlement agreement; however, this will not include information specific to individual users.

Will Google be selling data on what users read to other parties?

No. The Google Privacy Policy is clear that we do not sell users' personal information.

Will users have to get a Google account to use Google Books? What about students at colleges or universities?

Users of Google Books will not be required to have a Google account. Anyone can freely search Google Books and preview up to 20% of most books without logging into Google. For the institutional subscription, Google will conform to common practices adopted within the industry to protect user privacy: users will be authenticated either using the student's or the institution's IP address, or using other methods such as Shiboleth -- a technology that lets Google confirm that a user is part of a subscribing institution without knowing who that user is. For the Public Access Service terminals, authentication will be based upon IP and Google will not have information about the individual user.

If someone uses a free public access terminal in a public library, what data will you keep about them and what they read?

Unless that person chooses to log in to use a Google account, we will not have any information that would uniquely identify them when they access Google Books from a public access terminal in a public library.

Why weren't privacy provisions included in the settlement?

The settlement was a negotiation between the plaintiffs in the lawsuits and Google. It settles the copyright claims that were raised, and addresses the new uses authorized by the copyright holders under the settlement -- including detailed provisions for security of scanned files, and other considerations relevant to the lawsuit. It does not attempt to prescribe Google's product plans beyond the points that related to this authorization -- which is a good thing, both for users and for privacy. For one thing, the product has not yet been designed and developed, which makes detailed privacy policy drafting almost impossible. Also, with a product such as this, it is important to engage in discussions with the broader community and in particular with institutions such as libraries about the appropriate privacy policy for these services. Google has been actively engaging with representatives of the library community and other public interest groups to get input on what should be included. These discussions have been very helpful and we expect to continue to engage in these discussion as we develop our products.

[G] Los Angeles universities take to the clouds with Google Apps

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Official Google Enterprise Blog: Los Angeles universities take to the clouds with Google Apps

Robert H.A. Moore recognized that he couldn't go it alone. As a student drafting proposals for the University of Southern California Undergraduate Student Government (USG), Moore realized that, even at the undergraduate level, collaboration was essential for politics and content. So Moore turned to multiple Google applications to help manage proposals, reports and projects developed with the input of more than 70 individuals in the USG offices. Moore, like other USC students, has used Google Apps Education Edition to communicate and collaborate with other students and faculty since USC launched Google Apps in late 2007.

USC isn't the only Los Angeles-area school that's using Google Apps. Today we'd also like to hail Pepperdine University, Loyola Marymount University (LMU) and UCLA Law School, which – in addition to USC – are all offering Google Apps for Education to students. While we see schools adopting Apps worldwide, this trend demonstrates LA schools are at the head of the class in regard to making the most of the benefits of cloud computing.

Universities choose Google Apps for a variety of reasons. As UCLA Law School's Chief Information Officer, Albert Woo, explains, "UCLA Law decided to use Google Apps in order to give law students new methods of collaborating and to tap into the innovation that is inherent in cloud computing. We no longer worry about space limitations, viruses, SPAM filtering, hardware failures, and patching server software." When schools switch to Apps, Google takes care of all the hardware and security maintenance, so IT departments can focus on more interesting projects rather than fighting fires.

While universities and other schools represent some of the largest organizations using cloud computing suites like Google Apps Education, businesses and government agencies at all levels are moving cloud-ward as well. Large businesses including Genentech, Motorola, Fairchild Semiconductor, and Valeo are all in the cloud. The City of Washington DC rolled out Google Apps to 38,000 city employees last year and the Obama administration encouraged cloud computing in the FY2010 budget report as innovative technology that also helps save money.

Pepperdine University Chief Information Officer Dr. Timothy Chester echoes the importance of leveraging Google scale to run Pepperdine's communication and collaboration through Google Apps. "Google Apps allows us to tap into economies of scale that we simply can't create on our own," Chester notes. "Furthermore, it aligns our capabilities with the stream of innovation in the cloud." When Pepperdine's 10,000+ students arrive back at school this fall, they'll be able to use Google Apps with each other and with faculty and staff – just as Robert has been doing at USC.

Pepperdine, LMU, USC, and UCLA Law are some of the pillars of higher education in Los Angeles and it's exciting to see them adopting cloud computing. It's great for Southern California, and is also a microcosm of the rest of the education world. The next generation of professionals is learning not only in the classroom, but in the cloud as well.

Posted by Miriam Schneider, Google Apps Education Team

Get timely updates on new features in Google Apps by subscribing to our
RSS feed or email alerts.


[G] Predicting Initial Claims for Unemployment Benefits

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Official Google Research Blog: Predicting Initial Claims for Unemployment Benefits

Posted by Hal Varian, Chief Economist and Hyunyoung Choi, Sr. Economist

One of the strongest leading indicators of economic activity is the number of people who file for unemployment benefits. Macroeconomists Robert Gordon and James Hamilton have recently examined the historical evidence. According to Hamilton's summary: " each of the last six recessions, the recovery began within 8 weeks of the peak in new unemployment claims."

In an earlier blog post, we suggested that Google Trends/Search Insights data could be useful in short term predictions of economic variables. Given the importance of initial claims as a macroeconomic predictor, we thought it would be useful to try to forecast this economic metric. The initial claims data is available from the Department of Labor, while the Google Trends data for relevant categories is available here.

We applied the methodology outlined in our earlier paper, building a model to forecast initial claims using the past values of the time series, and then added the Google Trends variables to see how much they improved the forecast. We found a 15.74% reduction in mean absolute error for one-week ahead out, of sample forecasts. Most economists would consider this to be a significant boost. Details of our analysis may be found in this paper.

The bottom line is that initial claims have been generally declining from their peak and that, so far at least, the Google query data is forecasting further short term declines. It would be good news indeed if this particular Google trend continues.

[G] Inside...Google Ad Manager

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Inside AdSense: Inside...Google Ad Manager

In March 2008, we launched Google Ad Manager, our ad management solution for publishers with small direct sales teams. Following the rapid growth of this product, we're excited to announce that we're now devoting a new blog to Ad Manager at . The Ad Manager team has lots of information to share, and we encourage you to visit the new blog for the latest Ad Manager news, tips, and resources.

For those of you new to Ad Manager, it can help you sell, schedule, deliver, and measure all of your directly-sold and network-based ad inventory. It offers an intuitive and simple user interface, Google serving speed and reliability, and significant cost savings. Best of all, Ad Manager can be optionally integrated with AdSense to offer you an automated way to maximize the revenue of your unsold and network-managed inventory. If you don't have an account yet, visit We also recommend looking through our two-part series on getting started.

Thanks for following our Ad Manager posts here on Inside AdSense for the past year; we hope that you'll stop by and visit the new Ad Manager blog for the latest announcements and tips.

Posted by Stephen Kliff - Google Ad Manager Team

[G] It's a's a's iGoogle comics themes!

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Official Google Blog: It's a's a's iGoogle comics themes!

We have always been excited to introduce design flair and whimsy to our user experience, especially on our homepage. Be it through our special holiday logos or special themes for our iGoogle users, we like to open up our homepage as a canvas for artists to express themselves and reach their fans and Google users around the world. Today, I'm particularly excited to announce the new comics themes for iGoogle, just in time for Comic-Con's 40th anniversary.

The themes showcase the amazingly diverse world of comics. Browse our gallery ( to choose from nostalgic comic strips like Peanuts, iconic heroes like Batman and Iron Man, or alternative comics greats like Dan Clowes, author of the graphic novel, "Ghost World." The dozens of themes represent talented artists from around the world including Rumiko Takahashi from Japan and Lewis Trondheim of France.

To offer his unique perspective as one of the world's most accomplished comics artists, I'm pleased to introduce guest author Jim Lee. In addition to being a recognized industry veteran, he also drew today's beautiful homepage logo incorporating some of DC Comics' most famous characters.

During his 20 year career, Jim has worked with DC and Marvel Comics, co-founded Image Comics and also WildStorm Comics – one of our iGoogle themes. His Batman, Superman, X-Men, Iron Man, Fantastic Four and WildC.A.T.s issues have sold millions of copies. Jim is a recipient of the Harvey Award, Golden Panel Award and is widely respected for his contributions as an artist, a creator and a publisher of comics.

An artist's POV by Jim Lee

Even as the world of comics evolves and embraces a new digital era, it doesn't change the universal, international appeal of the unique art form that is created through the simple marriage of word and picture. I'm excited to have been chosen to help launch this wonderful project. But I'm more elated, both as a professional and as a fan, that so many different types of comics have been chosen to be part of the iGoogle comics themes launch. From the mainstream superhero world of DC that I work in to the mainstays of the newspaper funnies from my childhood, to the Tokyopop manga titles I collect with my teenage daughters to the esoteric and more literary works of Dan Clowes and Gene Yang, two of my favorites; I think the breadth of choices available demonstrates the amazing diversity and the fundamental vitality of the stories comics can tell.

Posted by Marissa Mayer, Vice President of Search Products and User Experience, and Jim Lee, Comics Creator/Publisher

[G] Unsubscribing made easy

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Official Gmail Blog: Unsubscribing made easy

Posted by Brad Taylor, Gmail Spam Czar

We believe you should only get the mail you want to get. Some of you already use the "Report Spam" button on all kinds of unwanted email, and for that we're very thankful: the more spam you mark, the better our system gets at weeding out junk mail.

Unsubscribing from mailing lists and newsletters you subscribed to a while back but no longer want to receive should be just as easy. Searching through individual messages for little unsubscribe links is too big a pain —you should be able to unsubscribe with a single click.

So we just launched something that makes this all work better, both for Gmail users and big email senders. Now, when you report spam on a legitimate newsletter or mailing list, we'll help you unsubscribe. After clicking report spam, you'll see a little dialog like this:

Clicking "Unsubscribe" will automatically send a request back to the sender so they'll stop emailing you.

This only works for some senders right now. We're actively encouraging senders to support auto-unsubscribe — we think 100% should. We won't provide the unsubscribe option on messages from spammers: we can't trust that they'll actually unsubscribe you, and they might even send you more spam. So you'll only see the unsubscribe option for senders that we're pretty sure are not spammers and will actually honor your unsubscribe request. We're being pretty conservative about which senders to trust in the beginning; over time, we hope to offer the ability to unsubscribe from more email.

For those of you senders who are interested in this feature, the most basic requirements are including a standard "List-Unsubscribe" header in your email with a "mailto" URL and, of course, honoring requests from users wishing to unsubscribe. You'll also need to follow good sending practices, which in a nutshell means not sending unwanted email (see our bulk sending guidelines for more information).

With an easy way to unsubscribe, everybody wins. Your spam folder is smaller, and senders don't waste time sending you email that you no longer want.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

[G] Conversion Optimizer is now available to more campaigns

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Inside AdWords: Conversion Optimizer is now available to more campaigns

We're excited to announce that Conversion Optimizer, an AdWords CPA (cost per acquisition) bidding feature is available to more campaigns. Any campaign with at least 15 conversions in the last 30 days is now eligible to use Conversion Optimizer. These conversions can be tracked either through AdWords Conversion Tracking or as linked Google Analytics goals.

A recent analysis showed that campaigns which adopted Conversion Optimizer achieved a 21% increase in conversions while at the same time decreasing their CPA by 14% (on average and in comparison to similar campaigns).

An example of this improvement can be seen in PRWeb, who describe the results they saw from Conversion Optimizer as "phenomenal". Meg Walker, the Director of Online Marketing for PRWeb, initially turned to Conversion Optimizer in order to improve PRWeb's campaign management and results. Within a week she was able to see the value of Conversion Optimizer for driving incremental conversions at lower costs. Overall, she's been able to reduce CPA and CPC by 12.5% and 5.4% respectively and increase overall conversion rates by 76.5%. Even more impressive, one campaign that seemed to be maxed out increased conversions by 201.5% and decreased cost per conversion by 66.5%.

The success PRWeb achieved with Conversion Optimizer has freed up funding and time that can now be spent on other aspects of the business. As Ms. Walker mentions, "I don’t have to bid for position or constantly manage CPC changes. Since my objective is to hit a specific CPA goal, the Conversion Optimizer is ideal.” To read the entire success story, please visit

To learn more about Conversion Optimizer and read other success stories, please visit the AdWords Conversion Optimizer page.

Posted by Austin Rachlin, Inside AdWords crew

[G] Improving web browser security

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Google Online Security Blog: Improving web browser security

Posted by Chris Evans, Security Team

Malware is the source of a large number of reported security incidents on the Internet. Since Internet users can become infected in many different ways, the proliferation of malware is a very hard problem to solve. One part of the solution is to improve the robustness of web browsers such that security compromises due to browser bugs are minimized. We work hard to scrutinize our own code for potential vulnerabilities. We also contribute to research in this area with projects like the Browser Security Handbook and open source releases of the fuzzers involved in our software testing.

Some of you may have noticed that while working on Google Chrome, we have also discovered and responsibly reported a number of security issues in other browsers. Various scenarios lead us to report these bugs:

  • Some browsers share code bases with Google Chrome, and we collaborate with those browser vendors.
  • We develop generic fuzzers that are applicable to most browsers and that we want to share with others.
  • We spend time analyzing behavior in different browsers, and we sometimes discover bugs in the process.
  • It benefits our users and the Internet as a whole if we work collaboratively on better web browser security.

A few of the more interesting bugs we've researched recently include: this one in Opera uncovered by Michal Zalewski's <canvas> fuzzer; a HTTP 449 response code issue in IE found by Tavis Ormandy; contributions to Safari 4's security by Robert Swiecki, SkyLined, and Dean McNamee (and others); an XMLHttpRequest leak in Firefox discovered by Marius Schilder; and a cross-domain leak in Chrome / Safari (the two share a common base) unearthed by Chris Evans.

The collaboration works both ways. We'd like to thank the following browser vendors:
Microsoft for helping with SSL interactions with HTTP proxies, Mozilla for sharing fuzzers, and Apple for sharing and coordinating Webkit-based bugs.

Together as a security community, our combined efforts to find vulnerabilities in browsers, practice responsible disclosure, and get problems fixed before criminals exploit them help make the Internet an overall safer place for everyone. We'd also like to thank all those who have helped us by contributing to Google Chrome.

[G] Lots of layers in Google Maps for mobile 3.2

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Google LatLong: Lots of layers in Google Maps for mobile 3.2

Many of the features in Google Maps involve adding layers of information to your map: the 'More' button (like Wikipedia and Transit), Traffic, My Maps and search layers (little red dots onyour map).

We're now adding lots of this same functionality to your
mobile phone. With Google Maps for mobile 3.2 for Symbian S60 & Windows Mobile phones (and soon on other platforms too!) you can now access and interact with this content by tapping "Layers" in your main menu.

One of my favorite things about this new version is that I can log into Google Maps for mobile with my Google Account and see the My Maps I've created on Google Maps (like my favorite spots in London) and then line that information up against other layers -- like where my friends are currently with Latitude. Fun!

Check out the Google Mobile Blog to learn more.

Posted by Mat Balez, Product Manager, Mobile

[G] Using Google Analytics to determine your Demographic Bidding strategy

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Google Analytics Blog: Using Google Analytics to determine your Demographic Bidding strategy

One of the coolest new features in Google AdWords is the ability to target different demographics using demographic bidding. This allows you to adjust your bidding strategy based on your target audience and how each demographic group converts on your website.

The AdWords demographic bidding interface can tell us the cost per conversion and conversion rate of each demographic.

(Please note: The advanced reporting information presented in this post may require some additional help from your Webmaster to implement. We have included links in this article to relevant help center topics to assist you or your webmaster.)

Demographic bidding interface:

The screenshot below shows you the interface for demographic bidding within your AdWords account. Once you have activated this option you will begin to see data for each of the demographics listed.

The interface above allows you to increase or decrease your bidding for different demographics that visit your website. But what if conversion rate and cost per conversion isn't enough information to form your bidding strategy? But what if you're not sure which demographic you should be focusing on? Analytics can help you understand this.

For Example:

Q. What demographic has the highest value per visit on our website?

A. Use Google Analytics and visitor demographics

As you may already be aware Google Analytics can reveal many actionable insights about visitors and visitor trends on your website.

Before Google Analytics can report on visitor demographics we need to:
  1. Ask your visitors to provide some information about themselves

  2. Pass this information to Google Analytics

So how does it work? In 2 Steps:

Step 1: Forms

One of the easiest ways to collect information about users on your website is when you ask them to complete a form on your website. Many website registration forms ask for a visitors date of birth and often their title (mr or mrs) or gender (male or female). It's usually a good idea to keep registration forms short and simple, so that they're not off-putting for visitors. Think about what details are most useful to you before including them.

Example user registration form:

If we know the users selected title (for example Mr = Male, Mrs = Female) we can determine the users gender. From date of birth we can also easily identify their age group.

Step 2: Passing Information to Google Analytics

This step may require a small change to your website (javascript) in order to pass the information into your Google Analytics account. To find out more about this technique visit this Help Center article, or pass the details to your webmaster who may also like to view this article on visitor configuration.

Example of how the information is passed to Google Analytics:


Where the values 'Male' and '18-24' were obtained from reading the values of the user submitted form. We use the _setVar method which is part of the Google Analytics Tracking Code API to pass the information to Google Analytics.

Once your Webmaster or IT team has managed to make these changes to your website, the appropriate info will be accessible from your Google Analytics account. We can now move onto the next step of interpreting the information.

Reading Google Analytics User Defined Reports, in 4 steps:

Step 1.

In your Google Analytics account go to Visitors - User Defined report.

Step 2.

Click on the tab E-commerce (if you have an E-commerce website), alternatively you could also use the Goal Conversion Tab.

Don't have Goals or E-commerce setup? Read our previous post and learn how to
set up goals and e-commerce.

Step 3.

Change the view type to percentage. You should then see a drop down menu? Choose Per Visit Value from the list (If using goals, try per visit goal value instead). This will then populate the report with visitor types that have the 'highest value per visit'.

Step 4.

Use the above report to identify your highest value per visit demographic. You can then adjust your bid strategy in AdWords.

Example above shows that the 'Male 35-44' group have the highest per visit value. So using Demographic bidding we would increase our bidding for this demographic.

We could also take this a step further and consider using an AdWords creative that specifically targets this demographic.

Next Steps...
Knowing the visitor demographic that provides the 'highest value per visit' is an important factor to take into account when using the advanced Demographic bidding option provided in Google AdWords.

As a further exercise try creating a custom report with the dimension User Defined Value. You may discover new and exciting details about visitor demographics on your website.

Let us know how you have used demographic data to improve your marketing effectiveness.

Posted by Gavin Doolan, Google Analytics Team

[G] Layers of fun in Google Maps for mobile 3.2

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Official Google Mobile Blog: Layers of fun in Google Maps for mobile 3.2

Just as the world itself can be viewed through many lenses, the latest version of Google Maps for mobile allows you to view many layers of information on your map at the same time. Layers make it easier and more useful to find and interact with geographic content, like public transit, traffic (with incidents!), local search results, Latitude friend locations, Wikipedia and more. You can also see your own My Maps content as a layer on Google Maps for mobile. And finally, multiple layers can be combined at the same time to give you a content-rich view of what's around you.

Layers on the Map: Latitude locations + My Map

Since my wife and I love participating in cycle touring events on our tandem bike, we thought our challenge for this year -- 1500 KM of riding in Audax UK's Super Randonneur Series -- would make for a great environment to test the Layers functionality while on the go.

The first thing we wanted to try was My Maps. This feature on Google Maps on desktop becomes even more useful with the ability to access them from my phone. We're not alone in wanting this -- it's the fifth most requested feature on the Google Mobile Product Ideas page. It was great to trace bike routes and add places to stop on the computer, add the My Maps layer in Maps for mobile with a few clicks, and see them up on my Nokia S60 handset from our bike.

Next was discovering new places. When frequently (and literally) rolling into new villages and towns, it was really handy to be able to turn on the Wikipedia layer and quickly learn about interesting stuff in the area. We could click on any of the 'W' icons on the map to read more.

And search is improved too! Maps now displays a lot more search results -- shown as small red dots -- making it easy to find the nearest refreshment stop or plan way ahead.

Not only are search results more useful but it's now easier to search in the new version as well. Under Search, you'll find a link to browse popular categories, which helped us avoid the pain of typing on a mobile whilst out on the road (only available in the US and China for the time being).

Completing an Audax ride within time is no use if you don't get to the start on time. Traffic has been available on Google Maps for mobile for some time, but this new release includes traffic incident information for certain cities, giving more insight into the nature of the delay. Around London (and other cities where supported) we might use public transport, so having a map of transit lines with departure times is great. Now I just wish more transit services carried tandems!

To get started with Layers on Google Maps for mobile 3.2, hit the "2" key or select Layers in the menu. You can toggle various layers on and off, and you can mash up combinations like friends' Latitude locations against a planned route. Google Maps for mobile Layers is available now on Symbian S60 and Windows Mobile phones, and will come soon to other platforms. The upgrade is available for all countries where Google Maps for mobile is currently available. To get it on your phone, go to You can read more about this over in the Help Center or check out the release notes for this version.

Posted by by Jonathan Dixon, Mobile Software Engineer and Randonneur

[G] Submit a video: "So much email, so little time"

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Official Gmail Blog: Submit a video: "So much email, so little time"

Posted by Sarah Price, Online Operations Strategist

Like many of us nowadays, I get a lot of email. So much email that going on vacation can be a little scary because I know I'll have a mountain to wade through when I get back. A few messages I receive each day are time-sensitive or very important — but only a few. Lots of my mail can wait a few hours or a few days or even a few weeks, or in the case of that mailing list I've always meant to unsubscribe from, forever.

Thankfully, Gmail has a lot of features that keep me organized, from filters to archiving to keyboard shortcuts to Tasks, as well as a whole bunch of Labs features, like Superstars. I've developed my own system for dealing with all my incoming mail, but I'm always curious to hear about how other people manage their messages.

If you're a Gmail expert and an organizational wizard, we want to see how you do it. So submit a short video at to showcase your tips and tricks for managing your inbox. Submit a great one by August 15th, and your video could end up in our Help Center, our forum, or even on this very blog. And if you aren't into making your own video, check out the videos that others have submitted and let us know what you like.

You can discuss these videos in the official thread in our new forum. The Gmail Help Forum isn't just about "help" -- it's also a great place to connect with other Gmail users and share tips and tricks. We recently gave it a complete makeover, so if you haven't been there in a while, check it out.