Saturday, December 12, 2009

[G] An Android dogfood diet for the holidays

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Official Google Mobile Blog: An Android dogfood diet for the holidays

At Google, we are constantly experimenting with new products and technologies, and often ask employees to test these products for quick feedback and suggestions for improvements in a process we call dogfooding (from "eating your own dogfood"). Well this holiday season, we are taking dogfooding to a new level.

We recently came up with the concept of a mobile lab, which is a device that combines innovative hardware from a partner with software that runs on Android to experiment with new mobile features and capabilities, and we shared this device with Google employees across the globe. This means they get to test out a new technology and help improve it.

Unfortunately, because dogfooding is a process exclusively for Google employees, we cannot share specific product details. We hope to share more after our dogfood diet.

Posted by Mario Queiroz, Vice President, Product Management
URL: http://googlemobile.blogspot.com/2009/12/android-dogfood-diet-for-holidays.html

[G] 'Tis The Season to Sing a Christmas Carol on YouTube

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YouTube Blog: 'Tis The Season to Sing a Christmas Carol on YouTube

Take off your winter coat and warm up your webcams as this holiday season YouTube brings the age-old tradition of caroling to the digital world. Now you can sing and share carols via YouTube without having to abandon your cup of hot cocoa to tramp door-to-door in the snow. Just go to our caroling channel page to join Happy Slip and others in doing your best rendition of classic sing-alongs like "Jingle Bells" and "Deck the Halls," along with other customized carols. For example, sneak a peek at these YouTube Carolers who are already spreading the holiday cheer:

Another bonus? In the spirit of the season, our sponsors TJ Maxx and Marshalls will donate money to Toys for Tots for every carol submitted. They are also offering a $5,000 gift card to the best caroler who sings one of their two original songs.

This program continues through December, so be sure to add your voice to the season at www.youtube.com/caroling. Later this month we'll be highlighting some of the best submissions on the site.

Michele Flannery, Music Manager, recently watched "Silent Night."



URL: http://feedproxy.google.com/~r/youtube/PKJx/~3/0wjmCGClBe4/tis-season-to-sing-christmas-carol-on.html

Friday, December 11, 2009

[G] Tis the Season to be Merry and Mobile

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Official Google Mobile Blog: Tis the Season to be Merry and Mobile

Holiday season is in full swing (again). And we want to help you take advantage of everything your mobile device can offer to help deck the halls or hit the malls. If you're like us, you'll probably use your phone to research products and check out reviews, locate stores, purchase gifts, or capture holiday memories with a photo or video. In fact, a recent study estimates that 19% of consumers will use their phone for holiday shopping research, coupons, or purchases (a number that's likely much higher for our mobile-savvy blog readers). So we've posted a 'Holiday Help' section in our Mobile Help Center to share tips and tricks for using Google's mobile products during the holidays. Take a peek if you want to learn some new tips and tricks to help you get through the season. Happy holidays!



Posted by Robin Norvell, Consumer Operations elf
URL: http://googlemobile.blogspot.com/2009/12/tis-season-to-be-merry-and-mobile.html

[G] Upgrade to a Google Number

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Google Voice Blog: Upgrade to a Google Number

A few weeks ago we launched the ability to use Google Voice with your existing number. This option gives you all the voicemail features of Google Voice, like transcriptions and email/SMS notifications, without needing to ask people to call you on a new number.

But once you've dipped your toes in the water, you may decide you'd like more of the features that come with a Google number, like call screening, SMS via email, and custom ring schedules.

Today we're announcing that if you've been using Google Voice with your existing number, you can now upgrade your account, pick a new Google Voice number, and start taking advantage of the full Google Voice feature set.

To do this, click “Settings” and look for a link to “Get a Google Number” next to your voicemail access number.


Once you've upgraded, you can reactivate Google Voice for your cell phone’s voicemail. This will let you continue accessing all your voicemails in a single place, whether someone calls your Google Voice number or your underlying cell phone.

Posted by Ilya Frank, Senior Software Engineer
URL: http://googlevoiceblog.blogspot.com/2009/12/few-weeks-ago-we-launched-ability-to.html

[G] Upgrade to a Google Number

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Google Voice Blog: Upgrade to a Google Number

A few weeks ago we launched the ability to use Google Voice with your existing number. This option gives you all the voicemail features of Google Voice, like transcriptions and email/SMS notifications, without needing to ask people to call you on a new number.

But once you've dipped your toes in the water, you may decide you'd like more of the features that come with a Google number, like the ability to get your calls on multiple phones, call screening, SMS via email, and custom ring schedules.

Today we're announcing that if you've been using Google Voice with your existing number, you can now upgrade your account, pick a new Google Voice number, and start taking advantage of the full Google Voice feature set.

To do this, click “Settings” and look for a link to “Get a Google Number” next to your voicemail access number.


Once you've upgraded, you can reactivate Google Voice for your cell phone’s voicemail. This will let you continue accessing all your voicemails in a single place, whether someone calls your Google Voice number or your underlying cell phone.

Posted by Ilya Frank, Software Engineer
URL: http://googlevoiceblog.blogspot.com/2009/12/upgrade-to-google-number.html

[G] This week in search 12/11/09

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Official Google Blog: This week in search 12/11/09

This is part of a regular series of posts on search experience updates that runs on Fridays. Look for the label This week in search and subscribe to the series. - Ed.

What a busy week for Google! From the launch of real time, to the addition of universal search features in Suggest, searching on Google just got a whole lot better this week.

Real-time search
Want to know what people are saying about [google chrome] right now? Or maybe you're wondering if things can get any worse for [tiger]? With Google's real-time search, you can find out what's happening right now. Once you've entered a query, you can also click on "Latest results" or select "Latest" in the Search Options menu for a full page of the latest web, blogs, news and updates. You can also restrict your results to "Updates" mode which shows only short form content from our partners that we announced on Monday, which will include Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, FriendFeed, Jaiku and Identi.ca. Finally, you can also check out the common topics people are publishing to the web in real-time by going to the "Hot Topics" section in Google Trends. Real-time search is live worldwide in English, and is available on mobile too from google.com and google.com/trends on Android and iPhone.

Check out the video from our real-time search announcement here.

Universal search features in Suggest
Google Suggest learned a new trick this week, or rather 10 of them. To save time and keystrokes, we now show universal search features in Suggest for a range of straightforward questions, including ones for: weather, flight status, local time, area codes, package tracking, answers, definitions, calculator, unit conversions, and currency conversions. So the next time you start searching on Google for [weather in wichita], the [alaska area code], or look to [define dichotomy], chances are you won't even need to hit enter to see the answer. Though these features are available for Google.com users in English so far, we're working hard to expand them to our international users.

Google Similar Pages beta on the Chrome extensions gallery
Ever find yourself enjoying the webpage you're looking at, but curious to discover other pages similar to it? Or trying to find more pages about a topic, but struggling to come up with the right query? We certainly do, which is why we're excited to introduce the Google Similar Pages beta Chrome extension to help do just that. We use the same data for this as for the "Similar" link you see next to web search results, which you may have seen next to the Cached link for many web search results. But this Chrome extension is portable -- so you can use it to see similar page wherever you are on the web, not just on the Google search results page.

Quick Scroll on the Chrome extensions gallery
This week we released a Chrome extension called Google Quick Scroll. Once installed, this tool lets you use Google's search capabilities even after leaving our results page. For some queries, after you click on a result and the page you're visiting is done loading, the Quick Scroll panel will pop up in the lower right corner of your screen. The panel highlights the most relevant content on the page, based on what you just searched for on google.com. Clicking one of the bits of text in the panel will scroll you directly to that part of the page. This should save you from scrolling around or using Control-F to manually hunt for the relevant content on the page. The Quick Scroll panel won't appear for all queries or results; it'll only pop up when we think that relevant content for your search is buried down the page or hard to find.

After you've installed the tool, try these example queries and results:
[does flap of butterfly wings affect weather] - click on result from en.wikipedia.org
[visiting berber villages in morocco] - click on result from www.gonomad.com
[evidence universe expands and contracts] - click on result from www4.ncsu.edu

Google Quick Scroll, like all extensions, requires the Beta version of Chrome 4, and can be installed from the Chrome Extensions Gallery here.

More Transit information in search results
We know a lot of people rely on public transit to get where they're going, and we want to make it even easier for you to find the right stop for your travels. Starting this week, when you search for local businesses in cities where public transit is popular, we'll show you nearby public transit stops in the map appearing at the top of your results. For example, if you wanted to visit [heidelberg nyc], we now show you that it's near the 86th Street station. If you were in Germany, you might want to take the tram to the National Theater stop for [hofbrauhaus munich]. Clicking on the station name will take you to Google Maps with your query and the transit stop highlighted, so that you can easily get full directions.

Stay tuned for more great posts for the remainder of 2009!

Posted by Amit Singhal, Google Fellow
URL: http://googleblog.blogspot.com/2009/12/this-week-in-search-121109.html

[G] Introducing namebench

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Google Open Source Blog: Introducing namebench

Slow DNS servers can make for a terrible web browsing experience, but knowing which one to use isn't easy. namebench is a new open source tool that helps to take the guess-work out of the DNS server selection process. namebench benchmarks available DNS services and provides a personalized comparison to show you which name servers perform the best. As a System Administrator at Google, I was curious about measuring how BGP route selection affected the performance of Google Public DNS. This curiosity resulted in writing a small benchmarking script, which was further developed during my 20% time to become a full-featured application for Windows, Linux, and Mac OS X.



namebench is covered by the Apache 2.0 license, and was made possible by using several other great open-source tools including Python, Tkinter, PyObjC, dnspython, jinja2 and graphy. It also makes use of the Google Chart API to visualize the results:



In order to provide the most relevant results, namebench employs a number of interesting techniques. First, it personalizes the benchmark by making use of your browser history to see what hosts to benchmark with. It also determines cache-sharing relationships between different IP's and removes the slowest of these servers to avoid improperly benchmarking them solely on cached results. namebench will also report on DNS misbehavior such as DNS hijacking and censorship.

namebench 1.0 is available for download now. If you would like to discuss or have any questions namebench, please join the namebench mailing list. Happy hacking!

By Thomas Strömberg, Hardware Operations Team
URL: http://google-opensource.blogspot.com/2009/12/introducing-namebench.html

[G] Ad policies — the year in review

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Official Google Blog: Ad policies — the year in review

We’ve always said that a top priority for us is making sure that your search results are relevant, useful and safe. Of course, this commitment to a positive search experience extends to the ads you see on Google too. Earlier this week we took a stand to fight Internet scams, and in recent months, we've also put a new procedure in place to eradicate "scammy" ads. But that's not all we've done in the past year to help you get the best possible information from our ads.

Given that there are hundreds of thousands of businesses running ads through our AdWords system, you can imagine that reviewing all the ads is no easy feat! That's why we have both automated and manual ways to check them, and advertising policies meant to ensure that the ads you see on Google — and on partner sites that show our ads — are appropriate, fair, consistent and of the highest quality. We regularly review and update our guidelines to make sure they continue to provide the best user experience. Here's a recap of the improvements we’ve made in 2009.

Making sure the ads work
When you click on an ad for a holiday gift basket, you probably want to go directly to a website with gift basket choices. That's why we have link policies to ensure that the URLs in our ads actually get you to the sites you want to visit. For example, our updated Display URL policy helps advertisers better organize the URLs in their AdWords campaigns to make sure that when you click on an ad for gift baskets, a webpage with gift baskets is exactly where you go.

Making sure the ads are legitimate
To protect you from unsavory online entities that hope to victimize folks, we've shared tips to help you avoid falling for scams that sound too good to be true, and have taken recent legal action against fraudulent online schemes. To make sure that the ads are safe, we've also increased our efforts to detect scam ads and remove them from our system. For example, we’ve recently implemented a new process for permanently disabling AdWords accounts that attempt to harm users by doing things like installing malware on your computer, or offering free services that bait you into accepting hidden fees. This practice better protects users and is even stricter than our previous process of disapproving scam ads and disabling their domains. We're now trying to proactively prevent suspicious characters from creating new accounts with us regardless of their websites.

Making sure the ads are appropriate
We try to make sure that the ads you see aren't obtrusive, inappropriate or offensive. Our editorial policies help verify that ads meet basic grammar, spelling and composition rules. For example, we don't allow excessive punctuation or capitalization, because it would be really annoying if all ads were littered with lots of exclamation points or used all caps for their messages.

Our content policies make sure that the types of things offered in ads are appropriate. There are some things we don't allow because they are not legal in many countries — like child pornography and drugs — and other things we don't allow because they're offensive and considered socially unacceptable. To help us figure out where to draw these lines, we consider factors such as legal regulations, public sentiment and general codes of ethics and values.

Our commitment to appropriate ads also applies to the sites we accept to our AdSense program. We want website owners who have news and shopping-related information on their sites to be able to show you relevant ads. But we don't like sites that do inappropriate things, like repurpose copyrighted material without permission or automatically initiate unwanted downloads. To protect users and ensure we work with good sites, we take a look at website content and practices in accordance with our AdSense policies, and don't allow sites that violate the policies in the program. We act quickly to weed out the non-compliant sites so that someone who's looking online at sites that, for example, have illegal content like child porn or engage in shady invalid click activity won't see ads from Google there.

As new issues crop up, we revisit our content policies to make sure they're comprehensive and help to show you the best ads we can. Over this year, for instance, we've updated our global alcohol policy and U.S. trademark policy to give you additional relevant ad options. You can find more information about these changes and all our other policies on our Advertising Policies page.

To make good on our promise to show you ads and sites that help you find what you want, we enforce our advertising policies in both automated and manual ways. These are rules that aren't meant to be broken, so when we discover violations, we stop any offending ads from running. We also encourage users who’ve had a poor experience with an ad to report it, so we can look into it and take any necessary action.

While we've done a lot in 2009 to make ads better and more useful, we recognize that our systems aren’t always perfect. We'll continue to work hard in 2010 to show you only the most relevant, high quality and safe ads possible.

Posted by Alana Karen, Director, Online Sales and Operations
URL: http://googleblog.blogspot.com/2009/12/ad-policies-year-in-review.html

[G] Optimize your campaigns for mobile in time for the holidays

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Inside AdWords: Optimize your campaigns for mobile in time for the holidays

Shoppers increasingly use their smartphones to search the internet, and we typically see an increase in shopping-related queries on Android, iPhone and Palm WebOS devices during the holiday season.


Ensure that your online campaigns perform well on mobile devices with full internet browsers by viewing device statistics on your Campaign Summary, Ad Groups, or Ads reports within AdWords. Just select the "Device" segment option under the “Filter and Views” drop down.


You can now compare clicks, impressions, CTR and other performance metrics for desktop vs. high-end mobile devices. Note that this data only dates back to June 3, 2009.


Now is the perfect time to optimize how you target consumers on-the-go. Here are a few best practices we think you'll find helpful:
  • Create separate campaigns and ad groups for your ads that appear on mobile devices. This makes it easier to customize ads, keywords and bids to optimize performance.
  • Put your call to action in a spot on your landing page that's easy to find. Keep in mind that it's a bit more difficult to navigate websites on a mobile device, so consider shortening your checkout process.
  • Most mobile phones don't support flash, so make sure your landing page is written in HTML and contains little or no Flash.
We hope these tips help you create great campaigns both for desktops and mobile devices this holiday season.

Posted by Miles Johnson, Inside AdWords crew
URL: http://adwords.blogspot.com/2009/12/optimize-your-campaigns-for-mobile-in.html

[G] Google Apps highlights – 12/11/2009

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Official Google Blog: Google Apps highlights – 12/11/2009

This is part of a regular series of Google Apps updates that we post every couple of weeks. Look for the label "Google Apps highlights" and subscribe to the series. - Ed.

We've been busy over the last three weeks adding new functionality to make communicating and sharing with Google Apps easier than ever, whether you use Google Apps for work, for school or at home.

Google Docs search improvements
In the past, when you searched for a document, spreadsheet, presentation or PDF in your Google Docs list, the results were a set of exact matches arranged by "last modified date". Since Tuesday, we now provide personalized search results in Google Docs, sorted by relevancy — a combination of factors including whether you're an author on the document and if the file is explicitly shared with you. Search in Google Docs also supports stemming and synonyms now, so even if your search terms aren't quite exact, you can still find what you're looking for.


Offline Gmail graduates from Labs
After making many improvements to Offline Gmail since it first launched as a Labs feature (like the new ability to add attachments while offline), on Monday Offline Gmail graduated from Labs. Now it's easier to for Gmail users to enable offline access and adjust their preferences. Just to to the the "Offline" tab in Gmail's "Settings" area.

Picasa Web Albums connects with Eye-Fi
On Monday we announced a special offer to help you make even better use of our new overflow storage plans for photos and personal email. For a limited time, we'll send you a free Eye-Fi card (a $95 value) when you buy 200 GB of paid Google storage for $50. The Eye-Fi card offer lets you wirelessly upload photos and videos to Picasa Web Albums or to your computer, right from your camera, no cables required!


Collaborative albums in Picasa
You've been able to collaboratively manage online albums in Picasa Web Albums together with friends and family since August, and on Tuesday we released an update so you can upload to collaborative albums directly from the Picasa software. From Picasa, you can also now manage the collaboration settings for your online photo collections.


Google Groups for businesses and schools
Also on Tuesday, we launched Google Groups for businesses and schools using Google Apps. Employees and students can now set up group aliases without taxing IT administrators for support, and group members can browse and search archives of messages sent to the alias. Group aliases also make it easier to share items like documents, spreadsheets, presentations and sites with a whole list of people at once, instead of adding recipients who should have access individually. You can watch an overview of what's new on YouTube.

Improvements to BlackBerry support for businesses and schools
Google Apps Connector for BlackBerry Enterprise Server enables "push" email, contacts and calendar for BlackBerry devices. Two weeks ago, we added new functionality so businesses can support 500 BlackBerry devices per server — doubling the previous capacity. This lets businesses support fewer servers for BlackBerry users. We also added support for BlackBerry Professional Software, which is used by smaller companies to support up to 30 BlackBerry devices.

Who's gone Google?
I'm happy to offer a warm welcome to Mattson Technology, LCC International Inc., Fresno State University, The University of Delaware, St. Joseph's College and the thousands of other businesses and schools that made the switch to Google Apps in the last few weeks!

We hope these updates help you get even more from Google Apps. For details and the latest news in this area, check out the Google Apps Blog.

Posted by Jeremy Milo, Google Apps Marketing Manager
URL: http://googleblog.blogspot.com/2009/12/google-apps-highlights-12112009.html

[G] The Motor City goes 3D

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Google LatLong: The Motor City goes 3D

[Cross-posted from the Official Google SketchUp Blog]

A few of us on the SketchUp team either have roots in Detroit or grew up there, so we're especially happy to announce that Detroit, Michigan as been added in 3D to Google Earth. From sports venues like Joe Louis Arena (home of the Red Wings) and Comerica Park (new home of the Tigers), to great watering holes and eateries, like The Old Shillelagh and the legendary Lafayette Coney Island - home of the world's best 2am coney dog - they are all there in 3D.



Being able to cruise through Detroit in 3D reminds us of how much history this great US city has. We're excited that users around the world will now be able to discover this city virtually, for themselves.


Posted by Chris Dizon and Steve Dapkus, Google SketchUp Team
URL: http://google-latlong.blogspot.com/2009/12/motor-city-goes-3d.html

[G] Two new features enhance search beyond the results page

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Official Google Blog: Two new features enhance search beyond the results page

On Monday, when Amit Singhal introduced Google real-time search, he talked about bringing you information at the speed of light. But speed isn't just about the time it takes the results to load, or even the time it takes us to index new information — it's about the time it takes to get you the information you're looking for.

That's why this week we're making two more improvements to satisfy your information needs more quickly: we're adding universal search features to Google Suggest, and we've released a powerful new extension for Google Chrome called Google Quick Scroll. Both features are examples of ways we want to extend the power of Google search beyond the results page.

Universal search features in Google Suggest
Let's say you're planning a vacation to Belgium for the holidays. Most vacation planning includes many simple questions: What's the weather? Is my flight on time? How many euros can I get for $100? For a long time we've provided answers to these kind of questions in one simple place with universal search features on the results page. Building on the improvements we made to Google Suggest earlier this year, now we're adding these features to the list of suggested search terms beneath the search box.

For example, let's say you want to visit the capital of Belgium, but you can't remember what it is. Type "capital of belgiu" in the search box and you'll immediately find your answer (Brussels) before you're even done typing. Similarly, you can type, "weather brus" and quickly decide how much warm clothing to bring (a lot!).

This kind of information will appear in Suggest either above or below the suggested search terms for a variety of queries. For example, you can type "delta 140" to see the flight status. You can also quickly discover the current time, figure out how many Euros you'll get per dollar, or even brush up on metric conversions. In total, there are currently 10 universal search features available in Google Suggest: weather, flight status, local time, area codes, package tracking, answers, definitions, calculator, currency and unit conversions — and we plan to add additional features in the future.

Quick Scroll to the information you're looking for
Many queries aren't as simple as [weather brussels], so in addition to adding universal search features to Google Suggest, this week we released a new Google Chrome extension called Quick Scroll which enables you to use Google's search capabilities even after leaving our results page.

After clicking a result, most searchers end up scrolling around looking for the relevant sections of the page. You may have learned to use the find feature in your browser (Control-F on a PC or Command-F on a Mac) to search for specific words on the page. The browser find function is a useful tool, but it's limited to matching the exact words you type, and most people don't know about it. With Quick Scroll, the process of finding relevant content and scrolling to it happens automatically, as an extension of your Google search.

Continuing our prior example, let's say you've heard that, in Belgium, Belgian waffles are served by street vendors, but you want to be sure. You do a search for [belgian waffles served by street vendors?] and click on the first result. With Google Quick Scroll, a small black box appears in the lower right hand corner of the browser with a couple snippets of text from the page that might be relevant to your query. In this case one of the snippets says, "In Belgium, it is served warm by street vendors." Click on the text snippet and Quick Scroll will take you right to that part of the page with the relevant text highlighted.


Apparently, Belgian waffles are in fact served warm by street vendors (yum!). In the screen shot, you can see that the highlighted section doesn't include the exact phrase "belgian waffles served by street vendors," so in this case the browser find command wouldn't actually be able to take you to the information you're looking for. Like Google Search, Quick Scroll analyzes things like proximity, prominence and position of the words to identify the most relevant content. You can think of it like a personal assistant who reads webpages before you do and highlights the parts you might want to read. If several sections of the page have useful content, Quick Scroll will show you multiple text excerpts from different portions of the page and you can click on any of them to scroll to that spot.

To use Quick Scroll or any other Chrome extension, you need the beta version of Chrome 4. Once you have it, you can install Quick Scroll from the extensions gallery. Because it's not always needed, you may notice that Quick Scroll doesn't appear for every result. If Google detects that the entire page is relevant to your query, then there's no need to scroll to a specific section.

With universal search features in Google Suggest and Google Quick Scroll, we hope you save precious seconds for many of the searches you perform. As Amit said on Monday, "seconds matter."

Posted by Ruth Dhanaraj & Matias Pelenur, Software Engineers
URL: http://googleblog.blogspot.com/2009/12/two-new-features-enhance-search-beyond.html

Thursday, December 10, 2009

[G] Help improve transcription quality

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Google Voice Blog: Help improve transcription quality

Google Voice automatically transcribes voicemail messages so you can get a sense of what messages are about without needing to listen to them. The automated process sometimes works great, sometimes not so well. But we're committed to making it better. After all, my friends don't call me "ten cent" in real life!

There are many variables that influence the quality of transcripts, from background noise, to caller accent, to connection quality, and more. Having a pool of messages that can be used to gauge accuracy is very useful in that respect.

And this is where you can help by "donating" some of your voicemail messages. Until now, the only feedback you could give was to let us know if the quality of the transcript was good enough to be useful or not, by checking the corresponding box next to the message. You can now go one step further by letting us figure out why it was good or bad. When you rate a transcript, you will be asked whether you would like to donate the message. You have three options:


The messages you donate may be listened to, manually transcribed by us and/or used to gauge transcription improvements over time, but they will never be made public or used for any other purpose than improving the transcription quality.

And if you're feeling generous, you can go back to old messages you previously rated and donate those, too!

Thanks in advance for your help.

Posted by Vincent Paquet,
URL: http://googlevoiceblog.blogspot.com/2009/12/help-improve-transcription-quality.html

[G] Mars in Google Earth imagery update

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Google LatLong: Mars in Google Earth imagery update

We just launched new imagery and terrain for Mars in Google Earth! If you have the Google Earth plugin installed, you can view the updated areas highlighted in red (imagery) and white (terrain) below. Alternatively, you can download this KML, for viewing while using Mars in Google Earth.

The updates are from the High Resolution Stereo Camera aboard the European Space Agency's Mars Express orbiter. With these updates, nearly half of the martian surface is covered by imagery having a nominal resolution of 25 meters per pixel. As such, there are many exciting, newly-visible surface features to see. We've indicated some of these sights with color-coded arrows on the globe below:

Red arrow: Layered deposits on the floor of Hebes Chasma.

White arrow: Voluminuous lava flow fields adjacent to, and associated with, the Tharsis volcanoes Ascraeus and Pavonis Mons.

Blue arrow: New imagery of Olympus Mons' Aureole and the huge glacier-like structures along its north-west flank.

Yellow arrow: New images of the Shalabanta Valles (a deep canyon) section north of Orson Welles Crater showing huge landslides that occurred with such force that the debris (having an area the size of Chicago) flowed half-way up the other side of the canyon.

Green arrow: Dust and ice layers that comprise one of the Mars' most active geologic features, the ice cap of the north polar plateau, Planum Boreum.


Imagery and terrain updates are noted with a red and white frame, respectively

As a reminder, you can view Mars in Google Earth by clicking the 'planets' button on the toolbar:


Click here to find out more about Mars (and Moon!) in Google Earth.

You can also share your cool new imagery finds with us using Twitter! After looking at the updates in the viewer above, tweet your cool finds and add the #GEarthIMG hashtag to your tweets.

Posted by Eric Kolb, Geo Data Strategist
URL: http://google-latlong.blogspot.com/2009/12/mars-in-google-earth-imagery-update.html

[G] Open broadband data, brought to you by M-Lab

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Google Public Policy Blog: Open broadband data, brought to you by M-Lab

Posted by Derek Slater, Policy Analyst

How are the performance and quality of broadband networks changing over time? How does the service experienced by users on certain networks compare against others?

Today, Measurement Lab (M-Lab) took another step to help answer these types of questions. Two M-Lab researchers have publicly released the results from over 150,000 broadband connection speed and quality tests run by users all over the world. Anyone can use the datasets without restriction, under a "no rights reserved" Creative Commons Zero waiver.

As we've discussed here before, M-Lab is an open server platform for researchers to deploy broadband measurement tools. This project is a collaborative effort led by researchers, with Google and other partners around the world providing additional support.

Thousands of users are now running tests every day on M-Lab, and while only results from two tools – NDT and NPAD – are available right now, all data collected by M-Lab researchers will be released in the near future. Amazon Web Services is providing M-Lab with free data hosting through its Public Data Sets program, and M-Lab would welcome the participation of others who want to host the data and make it easier to access.

The raw data are not yet in a form that's easily intelligible to average users, but since re-use of the data is entirely unrestricted, anyone is free to analyze the information, mash it up with maps, or create other user-friendly reports. In addition, M-Lab requires that tools' source code be open, so that anyone can review, understand, and build upon the testing methodologies. We think this kind of openness is critical to developing robust, reliable broadband measurement.
URL: http://googlepublicpolicy.blogspot.com/2009/12/open-broadband-data-brought-to-you-by-m.html

[G] Research Areas of Interest - Multimedia

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Official Google Research Blog: Research Areas of Interest - Multimedia

Posted by Michele Covell, Vision Research Team

Recently, Google's research groups reviewed over 140 grant proposals across sixteen different research areas. During this process, we identified a number of strategic research topics. These topics represent critical areas of research for Google in collaboration with our university partners.

We'll be examining several of these topics in future posts but we'd like to begin by raising some of the research challenges we face in our multimedia endeavors:
  • Large scale annotation: How can we learn from large, noisy sets of image/video data to automatically get human-level accurate models for label annotation?
    The images and videos that are available on the web provide massive data sets. We have some very noisy labels on that set, in terms of possible content. We have labels based on popularity of an item when considered for a particular search, on anchor text and other context, and on labels given to other content that is often associated with each item. The challenge is to make use of the sheer volume of available data to improve our recognition models and to carry appearance models from one media type to another. Further, we must be able to handle the variability in appearance and in the labels themselves.
  • Image/Audio/Video Representation: How can we improve our understanding of low level representations of images that goes beyond bag of words modeling?
    Much of the current work in labeling and retrieval is based on fairly simple local descriptions of the content, putting the emphasis on classifier learning from combinations of simple models. While this classifier approach has been useful, we should also examine the basic features that we are using, to see if we can better characterize the content. Providing better inputs into our learning algorithms should reduce the size of the space over which we need to search. Possible examples include shape modeling in images, better texture/color models, and descriptions of soft segmentations of regions.
  • Localization of image-/video-level labels to spatial/temporal portions of the content: Can we automatically associate image and video labels with specific portions of the content?
    The most obvious examples in this area are labels like "dog" and "explosion". However, can we also localize more complex concepts like "waves" or "suspense"? Alternately, can we automatically distinguish between labels, based on how well we are able to localize them to a particular place or time within the content?
  • Large scale matching / Hashing: Can we identify matching techniques to deal with large datasets?
    We need image, video, and audio matching techniques that can effectively deal with large datasets, embedded in high-dimensional descriptor spaces, in sub-linear time. Of special interest are methods that can efficiently handle a wide range of recall/precision needs without massive increases in the data-structure sizes that are used.

We expect these questions to keep us busy for some time.
URL: http://googleresearch.blogspot.com/2009/12/research-areas-of-interest-multimedia.html

[G] Emily Dickinson, in her own words and in translation

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Inside Google Books: Emily Dickinson, in her own words and in translation

Posted by Agustina Dates, Google Books Online Team

In A Room of One's Own, Virginia Woolf poses a question that's had a major impact on discussions of writing and gender over the past and current century: Does writing have a "gender"? Does one’s gender leave a trace in words? Could you tell the gender of a writer just by reading what they've written?

Emily Dickinson was born on this day in the year 1860. And while in most of Dickinson's poems it's very obvious to me that they came from the pen of a woman, in others she seems to make her gender imperceptible.



My first introduction to Emily Dickinson was when reading her work in Spanish, and the translator for the book was another woman: the great Argentinean writer Silvina Ocampo. Here things become more complicated... how do we translate? And if writing has a gender, does a translation have it too? What is the task of a translator? Grammar has its own agenda and changes according to the language, so the traces of gender that appear in the original version of a poem may disappear in its translation. At other times, I've read translations that have unearthed traces of gender that were not evident in the original version.

Google Books has scanned books in over 100 languages, and you can search for titles in a specific language by selecting it on our advanced search options. If you speak a language other than English, why don’t you give it a try and look for versions of your favorite books in different languages? You will see it’s a totally different experience!
URL: http://booksearch.blogspot.com/2009/12/emily-dickinson-in-her-own-words-and-in.html

[G] A note about a messaging change in your AdSense account

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Inside AdSense: A note about a messaging change in your AdSense account

Today we're changing some messaging in the AdSense interface concerning your earnings, and we wanted to give you some more information on why we're making this change.

In order to be more transparent about how our system calculates earnings, we've added the words "Estimated" and "Finalized" next to "Earnings" throughout your account. Rest assured these terminology changes don't reflect a change to the way your finalized earnings are calculated. It's simply intended to give you a clearer idea of what's our estimation of your earnings and what's finalized.

As you may have noticed in the past, the earnings on the Overview and Advanced Reports pages may sometimes differ from the earnings listed on your Payment History page. This is because earnings on your Overview and Advanced Reports pages reflect initial estimations based on our records. We aren't able to provide finalized earnings on these pages because they still need to be verified for accuracy, a process that takes place a few days after the end of every month. The finalized sum is then posted on your Payment History page by the 10th of the next month.

While we can't say how much these amounts would differ for any one publisher, most publishers will not see a significant difference. Again, please keep in mind that this is only a display change, and that your finalized earnings will continue to be calculated and credited to you in the same way as before.

Posted by Elizabeth Ferdon - AdSense Payments Team
URL: http://adsense.blogspot.com/2009/12/note-about-messaging-change-in-your.html

[G] Panelists for CNN/YouTube Climate Debate Announced; CO2 Cube "Powered by YouTube" Unveiled

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YouTube Blog: Panelists for CNN/YouTube Climate Debate Announced; CO2 Cube "Powered by YouTube" Unveiled

Last week, we announced the CNN/YouTube Climate Debate in Copenhagen, an effort to make sure that your voice is included in the climate debate — and that your questions are posed to decision-makers on an international stage. Today, we want to inform you that panelists will include former U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan, journalist Thomas Friedman, U.N. Executive Secretary Yves de Boer and author Bjorn Lomberg.


To submit your question for these leaders, upload a short video of yourself posing the question and submit it here: www.youtube.com/cop15. We've already seen some top-notch video questions like this one from Angela in Italy who wants to know about the consequences of climate change, and this question from Mo in Florida who is concerned about the cost of going green:



The top questions will be posed to leaders during the debate, and also projected onto the CO2 Cube, a 3-story art installation now residing in the center of Copenhagen, built to represent one metric ton of carbon and powered by YouTube videos related to the climate crisis. Here's an in-depth look at this stunning artistic display:



You can submit your video at www.youtube.com/cop15 and vote on questions for potential inclusion in the debate and on the Cube. The debate will be live-streamed in full on the COP 15 channel, and onto the Cube, on December 15 so make sure to watch and see if world leaders answer your question.

Cross-posted on the Official Google Blog

Ramya Raghavan, Nonprofits & Activism, recently watched, "Day Three of the Climate Talks"


URL: http://feedproxy.google.com/~r/youtube/PKJx/~3/SJ7eQOchsgs/panelists-for-cnnyoutube-climate-debate.html

[G] Panelists for CNN/YouTube Climate Debate announced; CO2 Cube "Powered by YouTube" unveiled

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Official Google Blog: Panelists for CNN/YouTube Climate Debate announced; CO2 Cube "Powered by YouTube" unveiled

(Cross-posted from the YouTube Blog)

Last week, we announced the CNN/YouTube Climate Debate in Copenhagen, an effort to make sure that your voice is included in the climate debate — and that your questions are posed to decision-makers on an international stage. Today, we want to inform you that panelists will include former U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan, journalist Thomas Friedman, U.N. Executive Secretary Yves de Boer and author Bjorn Lomberg.

To submit your question for these leaders, upload a short video of yourself posing the question and submit it here: www.youtube.com/cop15. We've already seen some top-notch video questions like this one from Angela in Italy who wants to know about the consequences of climate change, and this question from Mo in Florida who is concerned about the cost of going green:



The top questions will be posed to leaders during the debate, and also projected onto the CO2 Cube, a 3-story art installation now residing in the center of Copenhagen, built to represent one metric ton of carbon and powered by YouTube videos related to the climate crisis. Here's an in-depth look at this stunning artistic display:



You can submit your video at www.youtube.com/cop15 and vote on questions for potential inclusion in the debate and on the Cube. The debate will be live-streamed in full on the COP 15 channel, and onto the Cube, on December 15 so make sure to watch and see if world leaders answer your question.

Posted by Ramya Raghavan, Nonprofits & Activism, YouTube
URL: http://googleblog.blogspot.com/2009/12/panelists-for-cnnyoutube-climate-debate.html

[G] Google Docs viewer Chrome extension

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Official Google Docs Blog: Google Docs viewer Chrome extension

The Google Chrome team launched beta support for extensions on Tuesday. We didn't want to miss the extension party, so we created a Google Docs extension. The Google Docs PDF/Powerpoint Viewer makes it easy to preview PDFs, Powerpoint presentations, and other documents you find across the web in the Google Docs viewer, instead of downloading them.

Let us know how you like the extension and what you like to see us add by posting a review on our extension's page.

Note that extensions are currently available only for the beta channel of Google Chrome for Windows and Linux.

Happy viewing!

Posted by: Wes Carr and Jesse Kinkead, Software Engineers, Google Docs
URL: http://googledocs.blogspot.com/2009/12/google-docs-viewer-chrome-extension.html

[G] Search Appliance gets real-time: Twitter feeds now available on the GSA

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Official Google Enterprise Blog: Search Appliance gets real-time: Twitter feeds now available on the GSA

Real-time information is becoming an increasingly important part of searching online – both for business and consumer search users. Yesterday we announced the launch of real-time results on Google.com, and today we're announcing that the Google Search Appliance (GSA) can show users tweets from Twitter next to their internal Search Appliance results.



Social information is important for businesses: employees searching for information needed to do their jobs benefit from real-time news too. They might be developing a new breakfast cereal, or designing a marketing plan for a clothing line, or writing strategy report for a political campaign. In all of these cases, understanding what is being said just as Twitter users are saying it can be invaluable.



Google’s focus is to provide the most relevant search results to users. In the case of the GSA, this means accessing information from multiple sources, aka universal search. To this end, we already offer a feature called Related Web Results, which allows employees to view results from Google.com alongside corporate search results.

Customers have told us that placing web results next to intranet ones often allows employees to think differently about a particular topic and approach it in new ways. By integrating enterprise search with more of the information that exists in the cloud, like tweets, employees can more easily leverage the wisdom of the crowd.

To turn the Twitter box on in GSA results, follow the instructions provided here. It should take no more than 15 minutes to get up and running. It can be enabled for only some users, all users, or set up so users can choose themselves whether they want to see the Twitter results by using a keyword trigger (like 'twitter'). Integration info and how-tos for this feature can be found here, and happy realtime reading.

Posted by Cyrus Mistry, Product Manager, Google Enterprise Search



URL: http://googleenterprise.blogspot.com/2009/12/search-appliance-gets-real-time-twitter.html

[G] Local Experts share a few spots in Vancouver

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Google LatLong: Local Experts share a few spots in Vancouver


Voted the most livable city by The Economist, Vancouver fronts the Pacific Ocean in British Columbia, Canada. This February it will host the 2010 Winter Games, and beforehand we wanted to share the favorite (or "favourite", for Canadian readers) places of some notable Vancouverites.

Vancouver is the first Canadian city we're adding to the special local experts version of Favorite Places on Google Maps, our insider's guides to great cities around the world. For this edition, every expert has been given the same Maple Leaf pin as the city warms up for the Olympics. Take a look at their top Vancouver picks for eating, shopping, playing and more:

Gordon Campbell - Premier of British Columbia
Ross Rebagliati - Olympic Gold Medallist, snowboarding
Simon Whitfield - Olympic Gold & Silver Medallist, triathlon
Rob Feenie - Food Concept Architect for Cactus Restaurants, Iron Chef champion
Bif Naked - rock singer-songwriter, breast-cancer survivor
Kit Pearson - children's book writer, Governor General's Award winner
Monte Clark - owner of Monte Clark Gallery
Rebecca Bollwitt - Vancouver's Best Blogger & Top Twitter User for Miss604.com
David Eaves - public policy entrepreneur, open government specialist


View Ross Rebagliati's Favorite Places in a larger map

And if you need an expert travel writer, John Lee from Lonely Planet provided contributions this past October (see other Lonely Planet Contributions).

Further explore the city with Street View for Vancouver, where you can click on "Street View" for any of these favorite places to see how they really look. Recently, we also launched new aerial imagery of Vancouver, Squamish and Whistler in Google Maps, Google Earth, and Google Maps for mobile and added thousands more 3D buildings in downtown Vancouver to Google Earth:



Posted by Tamara Micner, Google Canada & David Kim, Google Maps Marketing
URL: http://google-latlong.blogspot.com/2009/12/local-experts-share-few-spots-in.html

[G] Seeing the forest through the cloud

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Official Google Blog: Seeing the forest through the cloud

Today, at the International Climate Change Conference (COP15) in Copenhagen, we demonstrated a new technology prototype that enables online, global-scale observation and measurement of changes in the earth's forests. We hope this technology will help stop the destruction of the world's rapidly-disappearing forests. Emissions from tropical deforestation are comparable to the emissions of all of the European Union, and are greater than those of all cars, trucks, planes, ships and trains worldwide. According to the Stern Review, protecting the world's standing forests is a highly cost-effective way to cut carbon emissions and mitigate climate change. The United Nations has proposed a framework known as REDD (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation in Developing Countries) that would provide financial incentives to rainforest nations to protect their forests, in an effort to make forests worth "more alive than dead." Implementing a global REDD system will require that each nation have the ability to accurately monitor and report the state of their forests over time, in a manner that is independently verifiable. However, many of these tropical nations of the world lack the technological resources to do this, so we're working with scientists, governments and non-profits to change this. Here's what we've done with this prototype to help nations monitor their forests:

Start with satellite imagery
Satellite imagery data can provide the foundation for measurement and monitoring of the world's forests. For example, in Google Earth today, you can fly to Rondonia, Brazil and easily observe the advancement of deforestation over time, from 1975 to 2001:

(Landsat images courtesy USGS)

This type of imagery data — past, present and future — is available all over the globe. Even so, while today you can view deforestation in Google Earth, until now there hasn't been a way to measure it.

Then add science
With this technology, it's now possible for scientists to analyze raw satellite imagery data and extract meaningful information about the world's forests, such as locations and measurements of deforestation or even regeneration of a forest. In developing this prototype, we've collaborated with Greg Asner of Carnegie Institution for Science, and Carlos Souza of Imazon. Greg and Carlos are both at the cutting edge of forest science and have developed software that creates forest cover and deforestation maps from satellite imagery. Organizations across Latin America use Greg's program, Carnegie Landsat Analysis System (CLASlite), and Carlos' program, Sistema de Alerta de Deforestation (SAD), to analyze forest cover change. However, widespread use of this analysis has been hampered by lack of access to satellite imagery data and computational resources for processing.

Handle computation in the cloud
What if we could offer scientists and tropical nations access to a high-performance satellite imagery-processing engine running online, in the “Google cloud”? And what if we could gather together all of the earth’s raw satellite imagery data — petabytes of historical, present and future data — and make it easily available on this platform? We decided to find out, by working with Greg and Carlos to re-implement their software online, on top of a prototype platform we've built that gives them easy access to terabytes of satellite imagery and thousands of computers in our data centers.

Here are the results of running CLASlite on the satellite imagery sequence shown above:

CLASlite online: This shows deforestation and degradation in Rondonia, Brazil 
from 1986-2008, with the red indicating recent activity

Here's the result of running SAD in a region of recent deforestation pressure in Mato Grosso, Brazil:

SAD online: The red "hotspots" indicate deforestation 
that has happened within the last 30 days 

Combining science with massive data and technology resources in this way offers the following advantages:
  • Unprecedented speed: On a top-of-the-line desktop computer, it can take days or weeks to analyze deforestation over the Amazon. Using our cloud-based computing power, we can reduce that time to seconds. Being able to detect illegal logging activities faster can help support local law enforcement and prevent further deforestation from happening.
  • Ease of use and lower costs: An online platform that offers easy access to data, scientific algorithms and computation horsepower from any web browser can dramatically lower the cost and complexity for tropical nations to monitor their forests.
  • Security, privacy and transparency: Governments and researchers don't want to share sensitive data and results before they are ready. Our cloud-based platform allows users to control access to their data and results. At the same time, because the data, analysis and results reside online, they can also be easily shared, made available for collaboration, presented to the public and independently verified — when appropriate.
  • Climate change impact: We think that a suitably scaled-up and enhanced version of this platform could be a promising as a tool for forest monitoring, reporting and verification (MRV) in support of efforts such as REDD.
As a Google.org product, this technology will be provided to the world as a not-for-profit service. This technology prototype is currently available to a small set of partners for testing purposes — it's not yet available to the general public but we expect to make it more broadly available over the next year. We are grateful to a host of individuals and organizations (find full list here) who have advised us on developing this technology. In particular, we would like to thank the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation for their close partnership since the initial inception of this project. We're also working with the Group on Earth Observations (GEO), a consortium of national government bodies, inter-governmental organizations, space agencies and research institutions through GEO's Forest Carbon Tracking (FCT) task force. Last month together we launched the GEO FCT portal and are now exploring how we can also together bring the power of this new technology to tropical nations.

We're excited to be able to share this early prototype and look forward to seeing what's possible.

Posted by Rebecca Moore, Engineering Manager, Google.org and Dr. Amy Luers, Environment Manager, Google.org
URL: http://googleblog.blogspot.com/2009/12/seeing-forest-through-cloud.html