2009年2月26日 星期四

Does Google inspire sharing or not?

On the Net: Does Google inspire sharing or not?

The Associated Press
Thursday, February 19, 2009; 5:32 PM

-- The grand vision of the Internet is as a compendium of human knowledge (rather than, say, a good resource of pet videos, pornography and will.i.am).

In this view, the Internet is a kind of climax in human evolution. Long past the days of telling stories over camp fires, we are now much more efficiently gathering our information and learned wisdom in one place.

Google's stated mission, after all, is "to organize the world's information and make it universally accessible and useful."

This makes it seem like we've become much better at sharing. We share our music (as long as the Recording Industry Association of America doesn't sue us), we blog our thoughts, we pass videos to one another with the ease of a link.

But at the same time, we have no patience when it comes to sharing this information personally. The Internet has essentially made questions from one person to another beginning "Do you know ... ?" somewhat obsolete.

Who needs a smart buddy when you've got Google, the Internet Movie Database and (gulp) Wikipedia?

Exemplifying this is the site Let Me Google That For You:http://lmgtfy.com.

It describes itself as "for all those people that find it more convenient to bother you with their questions rather than google it for themselves."

It's a simple concept. Say a co-worker asks you what the capital of Vermont is. You might wonder how they missed third grade and sigh, "Montpelier, duh" (that is, if you still use decade-old slang _ which, hopefully, you do).

Or you might be annoyed that your co-worker didn't use the same amount of time to google the answer on their computer. So if you want to be coy about expressing this annoyance, you can plug the question in on lmgtfy.com.

The site generates a link that can be passed on as the answer. Opening the link, the recipient finds a copy of Google's home page, sees a cursor slowly move to the search box and watches "capital of Vermont" typed, letter by letter.

The cursor then clicks on "Google search" and the question "Was that so hard?" pops up. Then the site bounces to the Google results for the search, yielding a few thousand resources with the answer.

Lmgtfy.com was created by Jim Garvin, co-founder of the Web application Cubenot, and software engineer Ryan McGeary.

If you suggest the site to a friend, though, be prepared that they will surely one day ask you: "What was that Web site that made fun of obvious questions again?"


OSCAR BONUS: In honor of the Oscars on Sunday _ which amid the glitz will pay at least a little honor to the technical art of filmmaking _ it's worth pointing out the excellent ArtOfTheTitle.com. The site examines the particular, compact cinematic artistry behind movie opening title sequences. There are famous ones (Saul Bass's opening to "Vertigo," the long mountain drive of "The Shining") and more recent gems ("Catch Me if You Can," "Stranger Than Fiction"). The Academy Awards don't specifically honor title sequences, but perhaps they should. If they did, it would give "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button" director David Fincher a good chance of landing an award; his credits to "Se7en," "Fight Club" and even his less heralded "Panic Room" are all admired. It would also give those James Bond flicks a better chance on Oscar night, too.


EDITOR'S NOTE _ What's your favorite Web site? E-mail AP Entertainment Writer Jake Coyle at jcoyle(at)ap.org

Geniuses at Play, on the Job

State of the Art

Geniuses at Play, on the Job

Stuart Goldenberg

Published: February 25, 2009

Unless you’re just off the shuttle from Alpha Centauri, you’re already aware of the product that made Google famous: its Search box. It’s become the card catalog for the Internet (and a whopping moneymaker for Google).

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But any time you cram some 20,000 of the world’s smartest people into one company, you can expect to grow a garden of unrelated ideas. Especially when you give some of those geniuses one workday a week — Google’s famous “20 percent time”— to work on whatever projects fan their passions. And especially when you create Google Labs (labs.google.com), a Web site where the public can kick the tires on half-baked Google creations. Some Labs projects go on to become real Google services, and others are quietly snuffed out.

Such innovations — and a number of smart acquisitions — have led to hits like Google Earth, Gmail, Picasa, Google Docs, Blogger, YouTube, Google Calendar and others.

But they have also cultivated a vast jungle of lesser-known features. Unfortunately, it’s so vast, you’d need a professional tour guide to help you find the gems.

Hello, my name is David. Keep hands and feet inside the tram at all times.

IGOOGLE Google.com became famous for its minimalist look. It loaded quickly in the days when dial-up modems ruled the earth.

Today, at iGoogle (google.com/ig), you can dress up all that white space with useful miniboxes containing additional info. Hundreds of useful displays are available: a clock, local weather, movie listings, incoming e-mail, news, daily horoscope, to-do list, Twitter updates and whatever-of-the-day (joke, vocabulary word, quotation, Bible verse and so on).

The best part: this stuff doesn’t slow you down. You can type in and execute a quick Google search before all those widgets have appeared.

GOOGLE READER Why spend your time finding and navigating to the Web sites that cover your favorite topics? They can all come to you — all nicely congregated on a single page, called Google Reader (reader.google.com).

Technically, Reader is what’s called an RSS feed reader, but you don’t need to know that. You type in a topic, inspect the search results, and click the Subscribe buttons that look interesting. After that, Reader displays the first paragraph from each site or blog; click to read more. Star items to read later, or pass along your favorites to friends. Fantastic.

FLU TRENDS One of Google’s geniuses figured out that whenever people get sick, they use Google to search for more information. By collating these searches, Google has created an early-warning system for flu outbreaks in your area, with color-coded graphs. Google says that Flu Trends (google.org/flutrends) has recognized outbreaks two weeks sooner than the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has.

GOOGLE MAPS It’s driving directions on steroids (maps.google.com). Choose the directions you want: by car, by public transit or on foot. Drag the path line with your mouse around construction sites or down interesting streets. View current traffic conditions. Turn on Street View to see actual photographs of your destination.

Way, way better than MapQuest.

GMAIL LABS Gmail is already the world’s best free Web-based e-mail service, with terrific organization tools and a superb spam blocker. But if you click Settings and then Labs, you find a huge list of on/off switches for cool enhancements.

There’s Text Message in Chat (send text messages to your friends’ cellphones from within Google Chat or Gmail); Offline Mail (work on Gmail when you’re not online); Canned Responses (build a menu of stock answers to your mail); Multiple Inboxes (manages mail by auto-creating multiple mail folders); and the delightful Send & Archive (one click sends your reply and removes the original from the list).

Here, too, is Mail Goggles, which is intended to avert the kind of personal disaster that can result when you send mail while drunk. During periods that you specify (for example, weekend nights from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m.), this feature prevents you from sending mail until you’ve answered five mental math problems in 60 seconds. (But those Google geniuses can probably do it even after a few pitchers of margaritas.)

QUICK SEARCH BOX Here’s a promising Google Labs project indeed (code.google.com/p/qsb-mac): a sweet, fast little Mac program that opens when you press the Command key twice. Opens programs, searches your Mac, searches the address book, searches the Web, looks up words or weather, and more. And since it’s open source, more people will add even more features.

TRANSLATOR Translate any text or Web page to or from 40 languages (translate.google.com). It’s not perfect, but you’ll get the gist of that spam from Russia.

800-GOOG-411 Possibly the best voice-recognition cellphone service in existence. Call the number, say what you’re looking for (“comedy clubs, Chicago” or “Domino’s Pizza, Cleveland”), and Google’s auto-voice reads off the closest eight matches. You can speak the number of the one you want, and he’ll connect your call automatically — no charge. You never know or care what the phone number was; it’s like having a personal secretary.

Or you can say “text message” at any time to have the address and phone number zapped to your cellphone in one second.

GOOGLE SMS Send a message to GOOGL (46645). In the body of the message, type the sort of information you want: weather report (“weather dallas”), stock quotes (“amzn”), movie showtimes (type “slumdog millionaire 44120”), definitions (“define schadenfreude”), directions (“miami fl to 60609”), unit conversions (“liters in 5 gallons”), currency conversions (“25 usd in euros”), and so on. Five seconds later, Google texts back the details.

GOOGLE ALERTS Keep tabs on what the world is saying about you, your company or your interests. At Google.com/alerts, type the search phrase (like your name), and specify which channels you want to monitor (blogs, Web pages, discussion groups and so on). When someone mentions you online, you hear about it in an e-mail alert. It’s a personal clipping service — no charge.

GOOGLE SETS At labs.google.com/sets, type in several items in a series (like “cleveland browns” and “dallas cowboys”); Google fleshes out the list with others like it (all the other football teams). Great when something’s on the tip of your tongue (a kind of fruit, president, car, holiday, currency) but can remember only something like it.

SECRETS OF THE SEARCH BOX Usually, whatever you type into Google’s Search box is treated as a quest for Web pages. Certain kinds of information, however, get special treatment.

For example, you can type in an equation (like “23*9/3.4+234”); press Enter to see the answer.

Think of Google, too, for conversions. For example, type “83 yards in inches,” “500 euros in dollars,” or “grams in 3.2 pounds”; then press Enter.

Google is also a dictionary (type “define:ersatz”), package tracker (type your FedEx or U.P.S. tracking number), global Yellow Pages (“phonebook:home depot norwalk ct”), meteorologist (“weather san diego”), flight tracker (“AA 15”), stock ticker (“AAPL” or “MSFT”), and the world’s best movie-listings site (type “movies:10024,” or whatever your ZIP code is).

Oh, dear, look at that — the end of the column is approaching, and we haven’t even mentioned Sketchup (free 3-D software), Scholar (search all published academic papers at once), Books (search inside millions of books — see a snippet of the text), Sync (two-way wireless synching of your Google calendar/address book with your iPhone, BlackBerry or another smartphone); GrandCentral (unify your phone numbers and voice mail systems), and all of their friends.

But that’s all right. Already, that’s enough good free stuff to last you a lifetime. Or at least 20 percent of one.

E-mail: pogue@nytimes.com

2009年2月22日 星期日

Everyone Loves Google, Until It’s Too Big

2008年 Google 出賣 Yahoo 的Yang 就表示Google 自覺它會打輸官司

Everyone Loves Google, Until It’s Too Big

Digital Domain

Published: February 21, 2009

THE popularity of Google’s search engine in the United States just grows and grows. In the past three years, its market share gains have even been accelerating, making some people wonder whether the company will eventually obliterate what remains of its competition in search.

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Stuart Goldenberg

Certainly, antitrust scrutiny is a growing worry at the Googleplex. Last year, the company abandoned a proposed advertising pact with Yahoo when the Justice Department said it would file an antitrust lawsuit to block the deal. Last week, a small Web site operator, TradeComet.com, filed an antitrust suit against Google, accusing it of unfairly manipulating its advertising system to harm a potential competitor.

And when I asked to speak with Google’s chief economist about why Google’s market share gains were accelerating, Google’s press office also gave me, unrequested, a second, separate appointment with Dana Wagner, the company’s “competition counsel” — that is, its point person on antitrust issues.

Google maintains that its lead in the Web search market is tenuous, saying that with a simple click of a mouse, a user’s loyalty could evaporate at any moment.

But consider this: As recently as July 2005, Google was ahead of Yahoo in market share by just six percentage points, at 36.5 percent to 30.5 percent, according to comScore, the market research company. Today, however, that advantage is much wider, at 63 percent to 21 percent.

“You almost feel sorry for Google,” said Danny Sullivan, editor in chief of Search Engine Land. “They’re doing a good job and people are turning to them. But when they pass 70 percent share, people are going to be uncomfortable about Google becoming a monopoly.”

Google does not register gains every month. The comScore numbers for January reflect a 0.5 percent drop in its share from December and a 0.5 percent gain for Yahoo. But according to Hitwise, another online measurement service, Google has already surpassed the 70 percent benchmark. It estimates that Google has 72 percent of the United States market, versus 17.9 percent for Yahoo. Microsoft’s two search services, MSN and Live.com, constitute a distant third, at a combined 5.4 percent.

Mr. Sullivan said that while Yahoo’s search engine benefits from traffic from Yahoo Mail and other Yahoo sites, its ability to pull in search engine users from outside its own borders is relatively weak.

Many Web site owners who track where their visitors come from report that Google’s search engine now refers 80 to 90 percent of their visitors. For instance, almost all visitors sent by search engines to Stack Overflow — a community of software developers raising and answering programming questions — are from Google. In January, Stack Overflow received more than three million visits referred by 22 search engines. Of those, 99.34 percent were from Google.

Jeff Atwood, a co-founder of Stack Overflow, said: “I have no beef with Google. I like Google. But I’m concerned. If you project this trend forward four years, just follow the graph. A world in which there is no competition strikes me as unhealthy.”

At Google, Hal Varian, its chief economist, and Mr. Wagner said that the public was not blindly loyal to any one search engine. They cited a recent survey by Forrester Research in which 55 percent of the adults polled used more than one search engine every week.

“You buy a car, use it for four years, and then you’ll look around at your choices,” Mr. Varian said. “But for search, we’re competing on a click-by-click basis.” If more users are going to Google, he said, it’s because they are concluding that Google’s product is superior.

Mr. Sullivan, who has been studying search engines since 1995, said that similar surveys have been done for many years — and that they always fail to reflect that most people have a primary attachment to a single search engine. When users try an alternative, he said, they “don’t go into active taste-testing mode”; afterward, they revert to their favorite. “Google is a habit,” he said, “and habits are very hard to break.”

Both Yahoo and Microsoft contend that their search engines’ results have achieved parity in quality with Google’s, based on internal statistical measurements that they do not disclose publicly. But that matters little.

“Whether we’re slightly ahead or slightly behind Google in core relevance is not a game changer in search,” said Prabhakar Raghavan, Yahoo’s chief search strategist.

Yahoo’s best opportunity, Mr. Raghavan said, is to offer radically new ways of presenting information that will help users finish whatever it is they started before the search, like finding a job or buying a plane ticket. “People don’t want to search; it’s a digression,” he said. “They want to complete a task.”

What Yahoo and Microsoft haven’t been able to attain, however, is parity with the Google brand, which had become a formally recognized verb by 2002. Mr. Raghavan said he recognizes that Google is “synonymous with search.”

I asked Mr. Sullivan if we should deliberately spread our searches across several engines, doing our own small part to help keep competition alive. He said that such a campaign would not be sustainable. “I’m probably going to continue to use the thing that I have a good relationship with, which is Google,” he said. “If you suggest that someone should go use Microsoft search, it’s like saying ‘You should go get a new best friend.’”

Randall Stross is an author based in Silicon Valley and a professor of business at San Jose State University. E-mail: stross@nytimes.com.

2009年2月10日 星期二

谷歌 與奧巴馬 的 科技計劃

奧巴馬科技計劃 谷歌將唱重頭戲


週﹐一批企業領袖到白宮與奧巴馬(Barack Obama)總統討論刺激計劃時﹐人們不難找到谷歌(
Google)首席執行長施密特(Eric Schmidt)的身影﹐他就坐在新任總統左手邊的一個主位上。

Associated Press





反過來﹐美國電話電報公司(AT&T Inc.)眼下正資助一個名為“隱私論壇的未來”(Future of Privacy Forum)的智庫﹐著重於提高互聯網隱私、促使華盛頓對這個問題的關注。

隱私權捍衛者已經對白宮使用谷歌的YouTube服務感到不安﹐這項服務通過電子cookie跟蹤訪問者。消費者隱私權組織數位民主中心(Center for Digital Democracy)創始人切斯特(Jeff Chester)說﹐考慮到施密特與總統競選的關係﹐我認為人們有這樣切實的擔憂:在谷歌及其目標與奧巴馬政府之間﹐存在著人員在企業和影響所處行業的政府部門之間輪流任職的問題。




公佈的籌款數據顯示﹐在奧巴馬的總統競選活動中﹐谷歌的員工是其第四大企業競選資金來源。據過渡班子公佈的數據﹐選舉結束後﹐包括施密特、YouTube創始人之一赫爾利(Chad Hurley)和法律事務主管德魯蒙德(David Drummond)在內的15位谷歌高管共為就職典禮捐贈了16.6萬美元。谷歌還允許高管請假幫助奧巴馬過渡班子進行政策規劃。


白宮發言人沙派羅(Nick Shapiro)說﹐奧巴馬已經保證﹐禁止這些過渡時期的志願人士在未來的一年內就他們曾負重要責任的具體事務接觸各相關機構和部門。

Amy Schatz / Jessica E. Vascellaro / Brody Mullins


Google Taking a Step Into Power Metering

Tech On! (会員登録)
米Google Inc.は2009年3月3日,米国議会に対して「スマート・グリッド」の構築において非独占的な標準規格の採用を求める証言を行なった。Google社のAdvanced Projects Program ManagerであるEdward Lu氏が,米上院のSenate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources ...

Google Taking a Step Into Power Metering
Published: February 9, 2009

SAN FRANCISCO — Google will announce its entry Tuesday into the small but growing business of "smart grid," digital technologies that seek to both keep the electrical system on an even keel and reduce electrical energy consumption.

Google is one of a number of companies devising ways to control the demand for electric power as an alternative to building more power plants. The company has developed a free Web service called PowerMeter that consumers can use to track energy use in their house or business as it is consumed.

Google is counting on others to build devices to feed data into PowerMeter technology. While it hopes to begin introducing the service in the next few months, it has not yet lined up hardware manufacturers.

"We can't build this product all by ourselves," said Kirsten Olsen Cahill, a program manager at Google.org, the company's corporate philanthropy arm. "We depend on a whole ecosystem of utilities, device makers and policies that would allow consumers to have detailed access to their home energy use and make smarter energy decisions."

"Smart grid" is the new buzz phrase in the electric business, encompassing a variety of approaches that involve more communication between utility operators and components of the grid, including transformers, power lines, customer meters and even home appliances like dishwashers.

"They've been putting a chip in your dishwasher for a long time that would allow you to run it any time you want," said Rick Sergel, chief executive of the North American Electric Reliability Corporation, an industry group that sets operating standards for the grid.

If the utility could "talk" to the dishwasher, it might tell the machine to run at 2 a.m. and not 2 p.m., or it might tell the homeowner how much money would be saved by running the dishwasher at a different hour.

"It provides an opportunity to create dancing partners that will help the system balance itself," he said.

It also might be useful for plug-in hybrid cars, which will draw significant amounts of energy, perhaps doubling the electric demand of a small household. A smart grid would recognize the car wherever it was plugged in, the way a cellphone network recognizes a mobile phone when it is turned on.

The grid could bill the owner of the car for recharging the battery no matter where the car was plugged in. It would charge the owner a rate based on the time of day or night. If the car were left plugged in, the grid could decide when to charge it at the lowest rate.

The stimulus bill now going to a House-Senate conference committee has allocated $4.4 billion for "smart" technologies, including four million of these next-generation monitors, called smart meters. Proponents say that could make more effective use of existing power lines and generate employment.

"You can hire a lot of people to install smart meters," said James Hoecker, a former chairman of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, which has some jurisdiction over transmission lines.

2009年2月1日 星期日

Millions of Books, but No Card Catalog

Link By Link

Millions of Books, but No Card Catalog

Published: February 1, 2009

IN 2002, Google began to drink the milkshakes of the book world.

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Carlos Osorio/Associated Press

A rare Bible that is centuries old was among the books being scanned last spring for Google Book Search, in Ann Arbor, Mich.


Google Hopes to Open a Trove of Little-Seen Books (January 5, 2009)

Times Topics: Google Inc.

Carlos Osorio/Associated Press

Some of the books being scanned last spring for Google Book Search, in Ann Arbor, Mich.

Back then, according to the company’s official history, it began a “secret ‘books’ project.” Today, that project is known as Google Book Search and, aided by a recent class-action settlement, it promises to transform the way information is collected: who controls the most books; who gets access to those books; how access will be sold and attained. There will be blood, in other words.

Like the oil barons in the late 19th century, Google is thirsty for a vital raw material — digital content. As Daniel J. Clancy, the engineering director for Google Book Search, put it, “our core business is about search and discovery, and search and discovery improves with more content.”

He can even sound like a prospector when he says Google began its effort to scan millions of books “because there is a ridiculous amount of information out there,” he said, later adding, “and we didn’t see anyone else doing it.”

But there is a crucial difference. Unlike Daniel Plainview, the antihero of “There Will Be Blood,” played by Daniel Day-Lewis, who cackles when describing how his rigs can suck the oil underneath other peoples’ property — drink their milkshakes, if you will — when Google copies a book the original remains.

Instead, the “property” being taken is represented by copyrights and other kinds of ownership. There will be lawsuits.

In the latest issue of The New York Review of Books, Robert Darnton, the head of the Harvard library system, writes about the Google class-action agreement with the passion of a Progressive Era muckraker.

“Google will enjoy what can only be called a monopoly — a monopoly of a new kind, not of railroads or steel but of access to information,” Mr. Darnton writes. “Google has no serious competitors.”

He adds, “Google alone has the wealth to digitize on a massive scale. And having settled with the authors and publishers, it can exploit its financial power from within a protective legal barrier; for the class action suit covers the entire class of authors and publishers.”

Google is certainly solidifying a dominant position in the world of books by digitizing the great collections of the world. It relies on a basic mathematical principle: no matter how many volumes Harvard or Oxford may have, each can’t have more than Oxford plus Harvard plus Michigan, and so on.

The class-action settlement (which a judge must still approve), Mr. Darnton writes, “will give Google control over the digitizing of virtually all books covered by copyright in the United States.”

As long as Google has a set of millions of books that it uniquely can offer to the public, he argues, it has a monopoly it can exploit. You want that 1953 treatise on German state planning? You’ll have to pay. Or, more seriously, your library wants unfettered access to these millions of books? You’ll have to subscribe.

While Harvard has allowed Google to digitize its public domain holdings, it has thus far not agreed to the settlement. “Contrary to many reports, Harvard has not rejected the settlement,” Mr. Darnton wrote in an e-mail message, in which he said his essay was “not meant as an attack on Google.” “It is studying the situation as the proposed accord makes its way through the court.”

To professors who track the fast-changing nature of content on the Internet, not to mention Google officials, the idea of Google as a robber baron is fanciful. Google has no interest in controlling content, Mr. Clancy said, and in the few cases where it does create its own content — maps or financial information, for instance — it tries to make it available free.

Eben Moglen, a law professor at Columbia and a free-culture advocate, puts it this way: if the fight over digitization of books is like horse-and-buggy makers against car manufacturers, Google wants to be the road.

To those who write about the significance of Google Book Search — and a bit of a cottage industry has formed online in a few months — it is not Google’s role as the owner of content that preoccupies them. Rather it is the digitization itself: the centralization — and homogenization — of information.

To Thomas Augst, an English professor at New York University who has studied the history of libraries, including those in the past that were run as businesses, what is significant is that the digitization of books is ending the distinction between circulating libraries, meant for public readers, and research libraries, meant for scholars. It’s not as if anyone from the public can walk into the Harvard library.

“A positive way to look at what Google is doing,” he said, “is that it is advancing the circulating of books and leveling these distinctions.”

In a final twist, however, the digital-rights class-action agreement has the potential to make physical libraries newly relevant. Each public library will have one computer with complete access to Google Book Search, a service that normally would come as part of a paid subscription.

One of Mr. Darnton’s concerns is that a single computer may not be enough to meet public demand. But Mr. Augst already can see a great benefit.

Google is “creating a new reason to go to public libraries, which I think is fantastic,” he said. “Public libraries have a communal function, a symbolic function that can only happen if people are there.”