Saturday, February 27, 2010

[G] Resources for Chile earthquake response

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Google LatLong: Resources for Chile earthquake response

After hearing of the devastatingly powerful 8.8 magnitude earthquake that struck Chile overnight, we began to mobilize several teams to see what Google resources could help with disaster response.

Google Map Maker is currently available in Chile, and we are making this map data available for download by relief and aid organizations. Visit for more information and to access the data. If you have familiarity with the region, please help these efforts by contributing data about Chile on Google Map Maker. We will be refreshing the download data frequently to reflect the latest set of contributions.

For those concerned about loved ones in Chile, the Person Finder tool, initially created in the wake of the Haiti earthquake, can be used to submit or search for information about individuals who may have been affected. The Person Finder tool has been translated into Spanish and is currently available at, as well as several media sites and the US Department of State website. The gadget can easily be embedded on any site:

This My Map shows earthquake measurement data from the US Geological Survey to help give a better understanding of the areas most affected and the extent of the powerful aftershocks:

View Chile Earthquake helpful information in a larger map. This map will continue to be updated with additional information.

We will be updating imagery, maps, and other information as they become available and will continue to post updates to this blog. An overview of resources available, latest news, and links to make a donation can be found on Google's Chile earthquake relief page at

Posted by Jessica Pfund, Google Map Maker team

Friday, February 26, 2010

[G] Athens, Greece in 3D

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Google LatLong: Athens, Greece in 3D

No knowledge is ever wasted. In college I took three semesters of Greek civilization because I thought it was nifty (and apparently I also had some plan involving never graduating, but that eventually fell through). Although this makes me more fun at parties than I'd otherwise be, I have had no practical use for the information. Until now!

We're pleased to announce the addition of Athens, Greece to the 3D Buildings layer in Google Earth. No trip to virtual Athens would be complete without a visit to the Parthenon. The architecture of the Parthenon is fascinating; all of its lines exhibit subtle curvature (the columns, for example, are slightly convex) in order to avoid the optical illusion of concavity resulting from parallel lines viewed at a distance. While you're on the Acropolis, duck over to the Herodeion Theater, where for almost two thousand years music and theater performances have been held -- check out its schedule during the Athens Festival.

With the 2010 Winter Olympics in progress, naturally the site of the revival of the modern Olympics comes to mind. The 1896 Summer Olympics were held here; also, check out the Athens Olympic Stadium and sports complex constructed for the 2004 Summer Olympics. If your tastes run more towards archaeology, there's the Archaeological Museum, where you can see the Antikythera Mechanism among many other artifacts. Count on a geek to be interested in ancient mechanical computers...


Posted by Allison Floyd, Software Engineer

[G] Using Google Docs as a data mashup platform

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Official Google Docs Blog: Using Google Docs as a data mashup platform

Guest post: Tony Hirst is a lecturer in the Department of Communication and Systems at the UK's Open University, co-founder of document discussion platform and member of the JISC's DevCSI Developer Focus Group. An aspiring "mashup artist", he blogs regularly at

For several years, I have been exploring various ways of using online applications to grab and display data from around the web and represent it in a visual form. One fertile source of near-live data, particularly for sports results, is Wikipedia; but how can you get data out of Wikipedia and then display it in a chart, or on a map?

For the 2008 Olympics, I looked at how to create a map-based view of the overall medal tables using Google spreadsheets. With the Olympics coming round again - this time the 2010 Winter Olympics - I thought I'd take the opportunity to update that original mashup with a few tricks I've learned since then. In part as a teaching example, I came up with a recipe that illustrates a lot of functionality many people are unaware of, in a self-contained and hopefully coherent way - how to import data into a spreadsheet, how to write an application script, and how to use a spreadsheet as a database. The aim is to create a heat map of the current state of the medals table for the 2010 Winter Olympics that I can add to iGoogle.

The recipe runs as follows:

- Take one Winter Olympics Medal table on Wikipedia
- Use the importHTML function to import the table into a Google spreadsheet
- Filter out the name of each country from the imported table using either a Google Apps script function containing a regular expression or a SPLIT() formula; return the country name to the medal table spreadsheet
- Take one ISO country code table, found via a web search, and copy and paste it into a second spreadsheet worksheet. You will use this sheet as a database
- Using a =QUERY() formula applied to the ISO country code sheet, find the ISO country code for each country in the medal table. (Note that some extraneous space characters in the SPLIT country name require the trailing space to be recognized)
- Arrange the columns, by copying cells if necessary, so that you have a column of ISO country codes followed by number of medals. For example, ISO country code, number of gold medals, ISO country code, number of silver medals, and so on.
- Highlight a country code column and a medal tally column that are side by side, select a heatmap widget from the tools menu and configure it as required
- Embed your Winter Olympics 2010 Live Medals Table Heatmap in your blog or iGoogle from the Gadget menu.

As the Wikipedia medals table is updated, your medals table heatmap should be too. To preview the spreadsheet, please visit here.

A complete recipe is given in the blog post "Creating a Winter Olympics 2010 Medal Map In Google Spreadsheets."

Posted by: Tony Hirst, Dept of Communication and Systems, The Open University, UK &

[G] Google joins the Cloud Security Alliance

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Official Google Enterprise Blog: Google joins the Cloud Security Alliance

Today we're happy to announce that Google has joined the Cloud Security Alliance, a non-profit organization of experts focused on best practices and education efforts around the security of cloud computing.

Cloud computing continues to gain momentum, and organizations such as the CSA are an important part of an ecosystem that works to increase transparency, lower risks, and promote independent research. The CSA's focus on security best practices offers valuable information to organizations looking to move to the cloud, and as a member of the CSA, we look forward to providing ongoing education about cloud computing and its value to the organizations that use it.

Google's activities with the CSA include sponsoring the Cloud Security Alliance Summit at RSA Conference 2010 on March 1, 2010 in San Francisco, California, and participating in a CSA panel discussion at SecureCloud 2010, held on March 16 and 17 in Barcelona, Spain.

Learn more about Google's cloud computing solutions for organizations.

Posted by Adam Swidler, Google Enterprise Marketing team

[G] Navigate your way through user photos in Street View

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Google LatLong: Navigate your way through user photos in Street View

With Street View in Google Maps, you can explore millions of images taken in places across the world. But the photographs you see are based on what the cameras on top of our cars, driving on public roads, can capture (or, in a few cases, what the cameras on our trike or even perched on a snowmobile can capture). That's one reason why we began integrating user photos into Street View last year. User photos allow you to view locations from entirely new perspectives, whether through the eyes of a talented photographer with a knack for capturing architectural detail, or simply taken from locations we couldn't get to. Today, we're making it easier to navigate through these images in a way that should feel similar to how you're used to exploring within Street View.

Let's say you are planning a vacation to Prague and want to get a sense of the area before you go there. You go to Street View and start looking around, finally ending up at the historic plaza where the road ends:
Even though you can't go inside the pedestrian-only plaza with Street View, you can click on the User Photo thumbnail in the upper right corner to enter our photo navigator. That allows you to view a variety of user-submitted photos from Picasa, Panoramio, and Flickr that present a look at some buildings in the plaza:

While navigating through user photos, you'll now notice "orbs" - small silver circles - that hover on and around many user photos. These new click-and-drag controls appear when there are neighboring photos for a location. By clicking or dragging these orbs, you can move to a new nearby photo. Polygons surrounding the zoom orbs show the approximate location of the next image when zooming in:

Clicking the highlighted orb in the middle of the polygon will take you to this picture, which is a closer shot of the buildings covered by the polygon:

Clicking again on the highlighted orb in the user photo above will show you a close-up photo of the details on the building's facade:

You'll find that there are two kinds of orbs: ones that allow you to zoom, and ones along the border of the image that allow you to pan around the location. We wanted to make the experience of navigating user photos more consistent with the smooth Street View experience you know and love, so you can now also drag anywhere in an image to pan. As you click and drag the photo, you'll see the next picture transition into view:

Besides coming from Street View, you can also get to user photos using the Photo Layer in Google Maps (under the 'More' button). For instance, following this this link you can get to a cool view of the plaza from a tower, and then you can easily browse to other photographs also taken from the tower. You should try it out for yourself to really get the feel for this seamless new navigation experience, but here's a short video that will also give you a walk-through of this feature:

Our personal suggestion is that you start at the Sagrada Familia in Barcelona. We hope you enjoy this new way to explore through the impressive array of user photos in Street View!

Posted by Daniel Filip and Daniel Cotting, Computer Vision Team, Google Zürich

[G] Sharing Our Favorite Custom Segments

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Google Analytics Blog: Sharing Our Favorite Custom Segments

Analysts often consider an aggregated view of their visitors when assessing reports in Google Analytics. Every visitor is assumed to be of the same type. But, looking at the information in an aggregated form is not nearly as useful as assessing the data for individual audience segments. Different types of visitors - whether new, returning, organic, paid, and so on - behave very differently and have vastly different expectations. The ability to understand what each of them wants, and how to cater to them, is important towards building a successful online presence.

Google Analytics makes it easy to segment your audience with advanced segments. Google Analytics includes a number of predefined advanced segments (e.g. new visitors, paid search visitors, iphone users) that you can take advantage of immediately. More importantly, however, you can create custom advanced segments tailored to your own specific needs.

One of the new Google Analytics features announced in October is the ability to share custom advanced segments with other users across accounts. Using this feature, I'll share links to my favorite custom segments that you can use too. Head over to the Solutions for Southeast Asia blog to learn more and for links to the following segments.

* Bounced visits
* Visits that dropped out of the funnel
* Brand keyword visits
* Brand keyword (organic) visits
* Brand keyword (paid) visits
* Non-brand keyword visits
* Non-brand (organic) visits
* Non-brand (paid) visits
* Visits from Country X
* First-time buy visits
* Return visit buys

Posted by Vinoaj Vijeyakumaar, Customer Solutions Engineer

[G] Refine your searches by location

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Official Google Blog: Refine your searches by location

Location has become an important part of the way we search. If you're a foodie looking for restaurant details, food blogs or the closest farmer's market, location can be vital to helping you find the right information. Starting today, we've added the ability to refine your searches with the "Nearby" tool in the Search Options panel. One of the really helpful things about this tool is that it works geographically — not just with keywords — so you don't have to worry about adding "Minneapolis" to your query and missing webpages that only say "St. Paul" or "Twin Cities." Check it out by doing a search, clicking on "show options" and selecting "Nearby."

You can choose to see results nearby either your default location or a custom location, and you can narrow down to results at the city, region or state level. Try these examples:

[things to do on st. patrick's day] - In the Minneapolis region
[food blogs] - Near you
[farmers market] - Near the city of Ithaca
[dmv] - In the same state as Tucson

The new "Nearby" search option is available now on the domain in English.

Posted by Jackie Bavaro, Product Manager

[G] YouTube Interviews: Pelosi, Boehner, Reid Answer Your Top Questions after Health Care Summit

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YouTube Blog: YouTube Interviews: Pelosi, Boehner, Reid Answer Your Top Questions after Health Care Summit

For over seven hours yesterday, the nation's top leaders gathered in Washington for a unique conversation on the future of health care reform. Moderated by President Obama, the healthcare summit revealed disparate views on current legislation, with Democrats arguing for comprehensive reform and Republicans pressing for a more incremental approach (or for starting over entirely). We streamed the entire summit on CitizenTube, and Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, Minority Leader John Boehner, and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid all agreed to answer some of your top-voted questions from our Google Moderator platform during the event. (We also offered the opportunity to Senator Mitch McConnnell, the Senate Minority Leader, but he was unable to participate due to a scheduling conflict.)

Though it's doubtful many of you were able to tune in to the entire meeting, the fact that it was broadcast online was an important aspect of the discussion. It spoke to one of the top concerns that YouTube users posed to President Obama in our YouTube Interview earlier this month, when they demanded that health care proceedings become more transparent.

We selected three top-voted questions and the two top-voted ideas that you submitted during the summit, and the lawmakers replied to the same five questions with the YouTube videos that we've embedded below, which are also posted on the YouTube homepage today.

Here are the questions and ideas that each leader answered. We'll leave the full list up on CitizenTube for the next few days:

1. What is the explicit reasoning behind mandating the purchase of healthcare services? - Chris, University of Florida

2. Do you believe that healthcare is a right, or that health insurance is a right? - Brian, Student

3. Thompson Reuters had performed a study in which they concluded that 40% of healthcare waste was from unnecessary care. Unnecessary care is primarily a result of a fear of being sued, aka malpractice. What is being done to address malpractice? - JatPat, Chicago, IL

4. Why not quit artificially limiting the market? Stop tying health insurance to employers and increase the market dramatically. Allow insurance providers to sell across state lines and increase it even more. The larger the market the lower the price. - crodgers1981, Lincoln, NE

5. All people voting on these bills should be required to personally read the entire bill before being allowed to vote on it. It is ridiculous that these bills are thousands of pages long. Bills should be written in clear language. - Blinn, Illinois

Here are Speaker Pelosi's answers:

Here are Congressman Boehner's:

And here are Senator Reid's replies:

YouTube has become the place where leaders can connect directly with citizens around key events in the political process. That opportunity for meaningful dialogue makes politics feel more personal, more democratic, and opens up Washington in exciting new ways. Stay tuned for more YouTube interviews, and let us know in the comments whom you'd like the chance to speak with on this platform.

Steve Grove, Head of YouTube News and Politics, recently watched "
White House Health Care Summit Part I."


Thursday, February 25, 2010

[G] Join us at America's Small Business Summit

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Official Google Enterprise Blog: Join us at America's Small Business Summit

Small business owners often ask us how Google Apps can help improve the way they work. We'll be sharing some answers in May when we join the U.S. Chamber of Commerce at this year's America's Small Business Summit.

Every day, thousands of businesses of all sizes sign up for Google Apps to help save money, reduce IT hassles, and improve collaboration. For small business owners, Google Apps provides a familiar set of easy-to-use Google business applications with minimal setup and maintenance costs, so that you can stay focused on more strategic elements of running your business.

We hope that you'll join us at this upcoming summit, and, in the meantime, we invite you to take a look at how a few small businesses are using Google Apps today to help improve they way they work.

Posted by Shaluinn Fullove, Google Apps team

[G] Latest Changes to Video Page: New Playlist Experience, Integrated Comments & More

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YouTube Blog: Latest Changes to Video Page: New Playlist Experience, Integrated Comments & More

The video page overhaul that's underway now is one of the biggest redesigns in YouTube history. It's been a month since we offered a sneak peek of the new look and functionality, and in that time we've been gathering your feedback, looking at data, and tweaking elements to ensure that the page is as clean and useful as it can be. Here's what's changed since our last post on the topic:

New playlist interface: We've introduced a new playlist design and introduced an AutoPlay On/Off switch that controls whether you automatically go to the next video or not. When we have a robust set of videos for you to watch next, we'll default you into AutoPlay mode but you can turn it off easily.

Queue comes to search: When you search from the video page, you can now add videos to your queue. Many of you have indicated you enjoy watching and programming your 'next up' experience, so we've made it easier.

Integrated comments: The comments section now lists both text and video responses, bringing together the whole spectrum of conversation going on around a video. We'll be touching this up quite a bit in the coming weeks so keep an eye on this area and give us feedback.

We've got a bit more work to do before we'll roll this out more widely; right now, only a small percentage of users are testing the page. Until then, keep the suggestions coming by dropping a comment on this blog post or popping by our forum topic on the matter.

As always, you can opt-in to the watch page by clicking on this link. (To revert back to the old video page, use the opt-out link at the top of the new video page or opt out here.)

Shiva Rajaraman, Product Manager, recently watched "TIK TOK KESHA Parody: Glitter Puke - Key of Awe$ome #13."


[G] Barcelona: Mobile First

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Official Google Mobile Blog: Barcelona: Mobile First

Last week at Mobile World Congress, where more than 55,000 people gathered in Barcelona to see what the coming year holds for mobile phones and computers, Eric Schmidt had the unique opportunity to reflect on achievements in the mobile space, and to discuss what lies ahead - both for the industry and for Google. With the continued growth of smartphone usage -- increasing by more than 30% year over year, with mobile web adoption proceeding at a rate that is eight times faster than the equivalent point ten years ago for the desktop, with more than half of the new Internet connections coming from mobile devices -- it's clear that we're experiencing a fundamental shift in how we access information.

So how did we get here and what's in store?

Back in December, I pointed to the convergence of three trends: computing, connectivity, and cloud computing. Eric described these in more detail last week. Basically, devices are getting smaller, faster, cheaper, and more powerful; the same is true of processors. Today, roughly 700 million public servers are connected by the Internet, and this pervasive connectivity is being driven further into our daily lives, as evidenced by individuals, companies, and even the US Embassy in Beijing increasingly relying on services like Twitter to constantly share information. Finally, cloud computing not only is essential for storage of sophisticated amounts of data, which can be accessed by multiple devices, but also is paving the way for a new generation of applications and powerful, interlinked systems. These three waves are not new, nor is their intersection. What is new, however, is that the point of intersection is now a phone - a phone that's blazingly fast, is connected to the Internet, and leverages the power of the cloud. Comparing today's possibilities with what was possible 25 years ago, and then thinking ahead 25 years from now, it's incredibly exciting to imagine what we might be able to do.

Clearly, the mobile phone is the iconic device of the moment, and we're encouraging a new rule: Mobile First. When we announce new services for desktop computers, such as real-time search, we will debut an equally powerful mobile version. We will take advantage of this new class of smartphone, which is more sensory, acts as an extension of you, is aware of location, and can hear you, speak to you, take pictures and return information in a matter of seconds. We opened the year with a new model for purchasing a mobile phone, and since then, we've also made it possible to see a list of nearby businesses from, developed a web app for Google Voice, made ads more useful by including a clickable local phone number, let you attach location to your Buzz posts, and we're just getting started. You can look forward to seeing support for more languages in Google Search by voice - German is coming soon. We're working to make it possible to take a picture of text and translate it to any of the 52 languages supported in Google Translate, and we have lots of other ideas up our sleeves.

We're proud to be part of this shift and excited to broaden expectations for what's possible on a mobile device.

Posted by Vic Gundotra, Vice President of Engineering, Mobile

[G] Trend to Watch: Shopping Focused on Key Promotional Periods (3 of 4)

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Google Affiliate Network: Trend to Watch: Shopping Focused on Key Promotional Periods (3 of 4)

Repost from the Google Retail Blog 2/25/2010 12:11:00 PM

In addition to the extended shopping cycle and increased online research, we've also found that purchases were concentrated around key promotional periods such as the Black Friday, Cyber Monday, last minute, and post-holiday time periods.

Taking a look at when consumers completed the majority of their purchasing in the graph below, we find that almost one quarter of consumers completed the majority of their purchasing over the 4-day Thanksgiving Weekend (Black Friday - Cyber Monday), while another 14% completed the majority of their purchasing at the last minute.

Likewise, though few completed the majority of their purchasing during the post-holiday season, 64% of consumers did shop during this period.

What's driving the concentrated shopping around these time periods? When asked, consumers said they were taking advantage of sales, making additional purchases for themselves and others, and shop for upcoming occasions.
With record e-commerce sales on Black Friday and Cyber Monday and 44% of consumers identifying promotions as a key driver of their shopping decisions, consumers have remained deal-seekers through the end of 2009 and into 2010.

Headed into Mother's Day, Father's Day, and graduation seasons, ensure you are attracting the price conscious consumer through your marketing efforts.

Source: Google/OTX Post-Holiday Consumer Study, January 2010. Q3 [1] And, when did you do the majority of your holiday purchasing? n=1850. [2] Q1 Which of the following retail (non-grocery) purchases, if any, do you plan to make this week? n=2757 [3] Q7 For which of the following reasons did you shop after Christmas/Holiday Season (during post-holiday sales or markdowns) or are you still doing your Holiday shopping? Select all that apply. n=819.

[G] Better site traffic data and new name for Google Ad Planner

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Inside AdSense: Better site traffic data and new name for Google Ad Planner

Already, tens of thousands of AdSense publishers have used Google Ad Planner to share information about their website with advertisers. We are continuing to invest in the product in order to provide the deepest, most accurate data possible. To that end, we have improved how we calculate site traffic by over 10%, upgraded the way we publish opt-in Google Analytics data from publishers, and renamed the product to DoubleClick Ad Planner. Visit the DoubleClick blog to read more about the new product features and new name.

As always, anyone can use the newly renamed DoubleClick Ad Planner whether or not they are a DoubleClick customer. The product remains free and open for everyone. The URL for publishers to update their profile remains the same:

If you are new to Ad Planner, we invite you to learn more about claiming your site.

Posted by Wayne Lin - Product Manager, DoubleClick Ad Planner

[G] Report from XMMS2Con

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Google Open Source Blog: Report from XMMS2Con

The XXMS2 Team Hard at Work
Photo by Sébastien Cevey

Last weekend I arranged and participated in the first XMMS2Con. For those not familiar with XMMS2, it's a cross-platform Free software media player software suite that allows you to play audio files, manage your music libraries and more. Usually we do our yearly meetup at FOSDEM, but this year it wasn't possible for a couple of us to join, so I entertained the idea of a special meetup. We got a lot of things done and a lot of code merged.

First of all, we released the latest version of XMMS2, 0.7 DrNo, even before the Con started. This release was way overdue; in fact, it was nearly a year since our last release, 0.6 DrMattDestruction. We had a few reasons for the delay of the release — I think most of the people in the team are starting to feel the effects of their "real life." Some have become parents, others have been busy with work, school and other activities that have to take precedence over our love for hacking. But as always, when we get together and get to it, we get a lot of work done. I think I am not the only one to feel a bit energized and to come away with a lot of ideas that would be cool to see realized.

The most discussed topic on Saturday was GenIPC. What is GenIPC you might ask yourself? Well if you have been around and tried to write any XMMS2 bindings at any point you know that it involves a lot of manual labour for wrapping all the functions the server implements. GenIPC makes that effort less difficult. Our plan is to have the IPC definition in a XML file, which can then be used to generate the code for each binding. One of the benefits of this approach is that it will be easier to add new functions to all bindings. The other great benefit is that it will be easier to implement native bindings for all languages, since you only need to write the serialization and the code generator and the rest will be taken care of for you. Tilman Sauerbeck has done some great work with GenIPC and the server side of it was merged directly after the DrNo request. On Saturday Tilman, Anders Waldenborg and Henrik Gustafsson discussed a lot of improvements for GenIPC in order to allow for function overloading and default arguments. This work is now well under way and I hope to see it in the master branch pretty soon, since I want to convert native Qt4 bindings to GenIPC and also finish my Objective-C bindings.

The next big project that Sebastien Cevey and Daniel Svensson looked at was S4. S4 is our homegrown database backend that is supposed to replace the SQLite backend we have now. S4 was developed by Sivert Berg as a Google Summer of Code™ 2009 project. The rationale behind S4 is that we horribly misuse the SQL part of SQLite and force our datamodel into it. This mismatch leads to bad performance, lot of code overhead and so on. S4 solves this by introducing a datamodel that fits our use case a lot better. Preliminary tests show that S4 is a lot faster when you have a lot of entries in the database, in fact the only time it's slower is when you do advanced queries that use regex matching and that's slow almost everywhere. We will probably do some reworking so that we don't use regex, but rather globbing as we had with SQLite. I hope to see S4 merged soon.

We also discussed our participation in Google Summer of Code for 2010 and everyone was really looking forward to it. We discussed a lot of ideas that we could have propose as student projects and I think we have some really cool and interesting ideas coming up for 2010.

Thanks to everyone that came out. I had a great time organizing it and I am more than willing to do it again. I also want to make sure to thank Purple Scout AB for hosting us and Google for the fantastic Google Summer of Code program, that not only gives us cool code and good students but also money to spend on things like XMMS2Con.

By Tobias Rundström, Long Time Hacker on XMMS2 and Google Summer of Code Mentor

[G] Traffic improvements and new name for Google Ad Planner

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Inside AdWords: Traffic improvements and new name for Google Ad Planner

Every day, thousands of AdWords advertisers use Google Ad Planner to research websites and select where to advertise online. We're continuing to improve this tool in order to provide the deepest, most accurate insight into online audiences possible.

To that end, we've improved how Ad Planner calculates site traffic by over 10%, and we've changed its name to DoubleClick Ad Planner. Visit the DoubleClick blog to read more about the traffic improvements and the new name.

You don't need to be a DoubleClick customer to use the newly renamed DoubleClick Ad Planner as the tool remains free and open for everyone. You can continue to access it at:

If you haven't used Ad Planner, we invite you to give it a try. We think you'll find it to be a powerful research and media planning tool that makes it easy to find your audience and create well-informed media plans.

Posted by Emily Williams, Inside AdWords crew

[G] This stuff is tough

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Google Public Policy Blog: This stuff is tough

Posted by Amit Singhal, Google Fellow

(Cross-posted from the Google European Public Policy Blog)

Yesterday's news that the European Commission has opened a preliminary inquiry into competition complaints from three companies has generated a lot of questions about how Google's ranking works. Here, Amit Singhal, a Google Fellow responsible for ranking, who has worked in search for almost 20 years, explains the principles behind our algorithm.

Pop quiz. Get ready. You're only going to have a few milliseconds to answer this question, so look sharp. Here goes: "know the way to San Jose?" Now display the answer on a screen that’s about 14 inches wide and 12 inches tall. Find the answer from among billions and billions of documents. Wait a second - is this for directions or are we talking about the song? Too late. Just find the answer and display it. Now on to the next question. Because you'll have to answer hundreds of millions each day to do well at this test. And in case you find yourself getting too good at it, don’t worry: at least 20% of those questions you get every day you’ll have never seen before. Sound hard? Welcome to the wild world of search at Google. More specifically, welcome to the world of ranking.

Google ranking is a collection of algorithms used to seek out relevant and useful results for a user's query. There's a ton that goes into building a state-of-the-art ranking system like ours. Our algorithms use hundreds of different signals to pick the top results for any given query. Signals are indicators of relevance, and they include items as simple as the words on a webpage or more complex calculations such as the authoritativeness of other sites linking to any given page. Those signals and our algorithms are in constant flux, and are constantly being improved. On average, we make one or two changes to them every day. Lately, I’ve been reading about whether regulators should look into dictating how search engines like Google conduct their ranking. While the debate unfolds about government-regulated search, let me provide some general thinking behind our approach to ranking. Future ranking experts (inside or outside government) might find it helpful. Our philosophy has three main elements:

1. Algorithmically-generated results.
2. No query left behind.
3. Keep it simple.

After nearly two decades, I’ve lost count of how many times I've been asked why Google chooses to generate its search results algorithmically. Here's how we see it: the web is built by people. You are the ones creating pages and linking to pages. We are utilizing all this human contribution through our algorithms to order and rank our results. We think that's a much better solution than a hand-arranged one. Other search engines approach this differently -- selecting some results one at a time, manually curating what you see on the page. We believe that approach which relies heavily on an individual's tastes and preferences just doesn't produce the quality and relevant ranking that our algorithms do. And given the hundreds of millions of queries we have to handle every day, it wouldn't be feasible to handle each by hand anyway.

This brings me to the next point: leaving no query behind. Usually once I've explained to people the thinking behind algorithmically-generated results, some will ask me, "But what if you do a search, and the results you see are just plain lousy? Why wouldn't you just go in there by hand and change them?" The part of this question that's valid is in terms of lousy results. It happens. It happens all the time. Every day we get the right answers for people, and every day we get stumped. And we love getting stumped. Because more often than not, a broken query is just a symptom of a potential improvement to be made to our ranking algorithm. Improving the underlying algorithm not only improves that one query, it improves an entire class of queries, and often for all languages around the world in over 100 countries. I should add, however, that we do have clear written policies for websites that are included in our results, and we do take action on sites that are in violation of our policies or for a small number of other reasons (such as legal requirements, child porn, spam, viruses/malware, etc.). But those cases are quite different from the notion of rearranging the page you see one result at a time.

Finally, simplicity. This seems pretty obvious. Isn't it the desire of all system architects to keep their systems simple? We work very hard to keep our system simple without compromising on the quality of results. This is an ongoing effort, and a worthy one. Our commitment to simplicity has allowed us innovate quickly, and it shows.

Ultimately, search is nowhere near a solved problem. Although I've been at this for almost two decades now, I'd still guess that search isn't quite out of its infancy yet. The science is probably just about at the point where we're crawling. Soon we'll walk. I hope that in my lifetime, I'll see search enter its adolescence.

In the meantime, we're working hard at our ongoing pop quizzes. Here's one last one: "search engine." In 0.14 seconds from among a few hundred million pages, our initial results are: AltaVista, Dogpile Web Search, Bing and I guess I'd better get back to work.

[G] A meeting of the minds: Google's 2010 EMEA Faculty Summit

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Official Google Blog: A meeting of the minds: Google's 2010 EMEA Faculty Summit

As the world's premier athletes assembled in Vancouver for the Winter Games, Googlers in the equally snowy Zurich, Switzerland were preparing for a prestigious event of a different sort. On February 8, 100 top academics from 62 leading universities throughout EMEA (Europe, the Middle East and Africa) descended upon our Zurich engineering headquarters for our third annual Faculty Summit — three days of in-depth technical presentations, discussions and networking sessions, all targeted at strengthening partnerships with EMEA's foremost computer science thinkers. Like their athletic counterparts in Vancouver, Faculty Summit attendees face big challenges. EMEA is a huge and very diverse region where companies and universities alike have huge mountains to climb. By sharing information about our projects, plans and initiatives, we hope to foster mutually beneficial relationships with our academic colleagues and their universities — working together to solve the big problems and drive technology forward.

We designed the Summit to allow maximum potential for debate, networking and reflection. Attendees participated in day-long "stream" discussions on themes ranging from privacy and security — with the participation of leading researchers such as Ross Anderson (University of Cambridge) — to natural language technologies, featuring NLP expert Fred Jelinek (Johns Hopkins University). Academics selected from a range of opt-in "teach the teacher"-style workshops on Google tech (including mobile platforms, MapReduce and web technologies). Additional events included a Google Wave demo geared towards educational use and special sessions for guests from Africa and the Middle East, showcasing Google's ongoing work in these regions. This year, we added extra time for 1-1 break-out sessions, in which academics and Google engineers met, chatted and developed ideas in an intimate, face-to-face setting.

The Summit also gave us a chance to see long-term relationships maturing and generating concrete outcomes inside and outside academic settings. Notable guests included keynote speaker Professor Andy Hopper, Head of the Cambridge Computer Lab, whose research initiative Computing for the Future of the Planet (CFTFP) received a Google Focused Research Award earlier this month. Andy's project promises major results in the areas of privacy and green computing research. We were also happy to welcome back former Google Visiting Faculty member Professor Hannah Bast (University of Freiburg). Hannah recently completed a year-long sabbatical with our Zurich development team for Transit in Google Maps, contributing major improvements to an application that started out as a 20 percent project and is now available in over 400 cities around the world. Privacy and security expert Dr. Frank Stajano (University of Cambridge) — our newest Visiting Faculty member — and Sara Adams, Anita Borg Scholar, former Google intern and current software engineer, joined us from the Munich office where they're working on privacy-related projects. We also had several Faculty Research Award winners in attendance, including Dr. Simon Harper (University of Manchester), Dr. Miles Osborne (University of Edinburgh), Lawrence Muchemi (University of Nairobi) and former Visiting Faculty member Dr. Hinrich Schuetze (University of Stuttgart). The Faculty Research Award supports academics working within universities on areas of mutual interest; for instance, Lawrence's Award-funded project creates a new mobile application development course for Kenyan students, while Hinrich and his Stuttgart team are improving search engine results by investigating the structure of queries. Hinrich, Lawrence and our other awardees offer examples of how partnerships can lead to amazing results, on local to global scales. We hope their stories inspired both academic and Googler attendees to take advantage of existing programs and help build new opportunities for all tech users.

Our engineering teams in EMEA and our academic partners have lots of work to do in 2010. This year's Faculty Summit offered an opportunity to explore new solutions, kick-start collaboration and prove, yet again, that our combined efforts always yield results far greater than the sum of their parts! For more information about how Google supports university programs and partnerships, check out our Google Research site and stay tuned for news of the North America Faculty Summit — planned for late July.

Posted by Nelson Mattos, VP, EMEA Product and Engineering

[G] Master Class In Singapore And Kuala Lumpur

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Google Analytics Blog: Master Class In Singapore And Kuala Lumpur

Are you ready for a Google Analytics Master class, happening Tuesday, 9 March in Singapore and again on Thursday March 11 in Kuala Lumpur? We bet you are, and we bet, as seekers of data and truth, you ask, what makes it a Master class? And why so far away from Mountain View, CA?

Well, you know how proud we are of how global Google Analytics has become. But this is a special class because it's run by the Google Analytics and Website Optimizer team in Southeast Asia, spearheaded by the excellent Vinoaj Vijeyakumaar, Customer Solutions Engineer, Google Southeast Asia, who manages the Southeast Asia blog. He's an engineer's engineer, and has organized a great day of sessions, including a keynote by Beth Liebert, Google Analytics product manager here in Mountain View who led the Google Analytics Intelligence launch, among other great features.

There will be a session on Website Optimizer of course, and a full day of talks by both specialists on the Google team both from here in Mountain View and also from Southeast Asia, as well as local partners who have great case studies from the region and techniques anyone can, and should, use.

Take a look at the agenda and register if you're in the area. It will be worth the time.
  • Singapore:
  • Kuala Lumpur:

Posted by Jeff Gillis, Google Analytics Team

[G] Live, and Open for Questions: Health Care Summit on YouTube

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YouTube Blog: Live, and Open for Questions: Health Care Summit on YouTube

While some people are calling it the most important political event of the year and others deem it political theater, one thing is clear: Thursday's health care summit, featuring President Obama and top legislators from both bodies of Congress, will be a fascinating look into the inner workings of Washington. Democratic and Republican party leaders will engage in direct dialogue on an issue that has consumed the political landscape for the past year, and we'll be streaming the summit live on CitizenTube (, so you'll be able to watch the conversation unfold in its entirety.

What's more, top legislators have agreed to address your questions and ideas on health care after the summit, exclusively on YouTube. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, Minority Leader John Boehner, and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid have all agreed to answer a selection of your top-voted questions about health care, the summit, and current legislation, which you can submit via our Google Moderator platform on CitizenTube during the event. The three lawmakers will upload video responses to your questions, and we'll feature those videos on the YouTube homepage on Friday.

The summit starts at 10 a.m ET tomorrow at the Blair House (located just across the street from the White House), so head to CitizenTube to submit your questions as you watch the proceedings. Be sure to ask your questions and vote during the event, since we'll close down the Moderator platform at the conclusion of the summit, which is slated to end around 4 p.m. ET.

This promises to be one of the most transparent moments in recent Washington history, so get your health care questions ready.

Steve Grove, Head of News and Politics, recently watched "Stage Set for Obama's Health Care Summit."


Wednesday, February 24, 2010

[G] Gmail Labs graduation and retirement

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Official Gmail Blog: Gmail Labs graduation and retirement

Posted by Mark Knichel, Software Engineer

We launched Gmail Labs over a year and a half ago as a playground where engineers can come up with new features and let your input help decide which are good ideas and which don't quite work out. Any engineer at Google can come up with feature, code it, and launch it quickly to tens of millions of users.

Labs started out with 13 features and quickly grew to 60, with even more on the way. We've received countless comments and kept an eye on our stats: some of these experimental features were adopted by millions and others trickled along with little usage. A couple have already graduated from Labs and we've already retired one: Tasks was the first to become a regular part of Gmail, Right-side Labels was retired when we updated the way labels work, and Offline Gmail graduated a couple months back. Today, true to the original intent of Gmail Labs, we're graduating six more features and retiring five.

  1. Search Autocomplete
  2. Go To Label
  3. Forgotten Attachment Detector
  4. YouTube Previews
  5. Custom Label Colors
  6. Vacation Dates
  1. Muzzle
  2. Fixed Width Font
  3. Email Addict
  4. Location in Signature
  5. Random Signature

These decisions were made based based mainly on usage, taking feature polish and your feedback into account. We've also tweaked some of the graduating features to improve them before making them default Gmail features. For example, we've combined Go To Label with Search Autocomplete, making it easier than ever for you to find what you're looking for.

Search Autocomplete and Go To Label
Start typing in the Gmail search box (English only for now), and Gmail suggests terms that might help you find what you're looking for — from contact names to labels and advanced search operators.

We've integrated Go To Label into this search box as well. If you have keyboard shortcuts turned on, type "g" then "l" and instead of getting the old "Go to label" pop-up, you'll be in the search box with the "label:" operator filled in for you. Start typing the label you want to go to, and autocomplete will take it from there. All you have to do is hit enter. If you want to send your cursor to the blank search field, the keyboard shortcut "/" will do it.

Forgotten Attachment Detector
From time to time, we all forget to attach a file and sheepishly send another email with the forgotten attachment. To help save you from that embarrassment, Gmail looks for phrases in your email that suggest you meant to attach a file and alerts you if it looks like you forgot an attachment.

YouTube Previews
If you're like me, your friends probably often email you links to YouTube videos. Instead of having to clicking on the link and wait for a new window to load before you can watch the video, Gmail now shows YouTube previews right below the message. All you have to do is click the play button and enjoy.

Custom Label Colors
Why settle for a restrictive palette when you can choose from over 4000 possible color combinations to help distinguish and organize your labels? Just click on "Add custom color" from the regular labels interface.

Vacation Dates
If you specify which dates you'll be away in advance, you won't have to remember to turn on the vacation responder when when you're actually on vacation. Set your dates in advance, and let Gmail do the rest.

Retiring features is always a tough decision — we invest in building and maintaining them and we realize some of you are probably fans of some of Gmail's lesser-used features. But Labs are experimental features, and from time to time they may break (that's why there's a quick way to disable them), or even disappear. Over the next few days, you'll see Muzzle, Fixed Width Font, Email Addict, Location in Signature, and Random Signature stop working and disappear from the Labs tab.

We'll keep working on new Labs to help make your Gmail experience even better, and we'll continue to graduate successful features and retire the ones that don’t work out to make room for new ones. Thank you to all the engineers who have worked on Labs features — especially Bruce, Darick, Jon (the intern), Ibrahim, Chris, Keith, Chad, Michael, and Marco! Please continue to send us feedback and remember that you vote for your favorite Labs features by using them and leaving comments.

[G] Upcoming System Upgrade for Greater Scalability & Reliability

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Google Analytics Blog: ​Upcoming System Upgrade for Greater Scalability & Reliability

​Within the next two weeks, Google Analytics will be performing a system upgrade. This upgrade is to further increase the scalability and reliability of Google Analytics to meet the demand of an increasing number of enterprises using Google Analytics. Rest assured your website traffic data will be unaffected and there will be no interruption to data collection or processing. All reports will be available and accessible to users. However, for some limited hours, users will not be able to perform administrative account actions such as opening new accounts, creating or modifying profiles, setting up filters and goals, managing user access, etc. The specific system upgrade times will be posted in the Google Analytics administrative interface. If you anticipate a need to make account changes during the next two weeks we encourage you to make them as soon as possible to ensure smooth operations during the system upgrade.

We are proud to see the continued growth in Google Analytics and are committed to delivering the unparalled reliability and scalability that users have come to expect from products running on Google’s globally renowned infrastructure.

P.S. Google Website Optimizer will also be undergoing a system upgrade. All running experiments will continue to run and collect data. However users will be unable to create or modify experiments. Read more on the Website Optimizer blog.

Posted by Trevor Claiborne, Google Analytics Team

[G] Website Optimizer system upgrade coming soon

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Official Google Website Optimizer Blog: Website Optimizer system upgrade coming soon

​Within the next two weeks, Google Website Optimizer will undergo a system upgrade. During this upgrade, Website Optimizer will be in maintenance mode. Your experiments will continue to run and collect data, and you’ll be able to view your reports. However, you will not be able to create or modify experiments. This includes launching, pausing, or stopping an experiment.

We’ll notify you of the exact timing of this upgrade both here on the blog and with a message inside your Website Optimizer account. Thanks for bearing with us as we continue to make Website Optmizer better.

If you also use Google Analytics you should know that they’ll be undergoing a similar upgrade, which you can read about on the Google Analytics blog.

Posted by Trevor Claiborne, Website Optimizer team

[G] Go Mobile! Series: Join us for a free mobile webinar

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Inside AdWords: Go Mobile! Series: Join us for a free mobile webinar

The Internet is going mobile. Every week, tens of millions of people search on Google from their mobile phones and generate hundreds of millions of searches. Using mobile ads, you can reach these consumers while they're on-the-go.

Please join us for an upcoming webinar about what we're seeing in the mobile ad space and how you can incorporate mobile advertising into your marketing strategy.

Specifically, we'll cover how you can:

* Understand mobile trends and what they mean for your business
* Drive consumer action online and in the store
* Optimize your strategy for the mobile platform

Register here for the webinar to be held on March 2, 2010 at 11:00am PST / 1:00pm CST / 2:00pm EST.

Posted by Katrina Kurnit, Inside AdWords crew

[G] 3D Buildings get smart

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Google LatLong: 3D Buildings get smart

The 3D buildings in Google Earth are a great way to understand an area visually, and they just got better at conveying information about the place itself. Currently, you can click on model that was created by 3D modelers using tools like Google SketchUp and Google Building Maker to open a balloon.

Today, we've added two new sections to those balloons: Photos of nearby places and Nearby places.

Not only can you learn more about the place from the balloon, but you can also dig deeper by following the links. Want to see more nearby photos and places? What to learn about the Ferry Building listed as a nearby place? Click the links in the balloon to explore further.

Next time you're exploring a city with 3D buildings, watch for the familiar glow as you hover over a building, and give it a click. You might learn something new about the place.

Posted by Mark Limber, Product Manager