Saturday, January 23, 2010

Google Highlights Answers in Search Results

Google has launched a new feature for search called "answer highlighting." This is based on Google Squared, Google's structured data project announced last year at the company's Searchology event. What it does is highlight answers to applicable queries within the search snippet.

For example, if the query is "empire state height," it will bold the actual answer for that, in addition to the words used in the query. Previously, it would have only bolded those words.

"Most information on the web is unstructured. For example, blogs integrate paragraphs of text, videos and images in ways that don't follow simple rules. Product review sites each have their own formats, rating scales and categories. Unstructured data is difficult for a computer to interpret, which means that we humans still have to do a fair amount of work to synthesize and understand information on the web," says Google. "Google Squared is one of our early efforts to automatically identify and extract structured data from across the Internet. We've been making progress, and today the research behind Google Squared is, for the first time, making search better for everyone with a new feature called 'answer highlighting.'"

Don't expect answer highlighting to be present in all search results, because in many cases, it just doesn't make sense. You are more likely to come across it when there are specific answers or data involved.

Google also launched rich snippets for events today. To learn more about the RDFa, which helps Google find content for rich snippets. Google has been using rich snippets for things like product reviews, and people information, but now events will sometimes utilize them. For example, if you search for a concert venue, you may see a few upcoming concerts listed.

Twitter Going To The Dogs

Toy maker Mattel said today it is set to roll out a new product in the fall called "Puppy Tweets" that will allow dogs to send tweets to their own Twitter account.

Puppy Tweets is a plastic tag with a sound and motion sensor that attaches to a dog collar and connects to a USB receiver in a computer. The pet owner creates a Twitter account for the dog and then can receive tweets on a smartphone or desktop.

The tag features a number of pre-recorded tweets that are activated by a dog's activities. If the dog is running around a tweet might read, "I finally caught that tail I've been chasing and OOUUCHH!" Everyone knows that if dogs could tweet that's how they would sound.

If the dog is resting it will tweet "Somedays it feels like my paw is permanently on the snooze button!" If the dog is barking it will tweet "Yahoooooo! Somedays you just gotta get your bark on."


"Puppy Tweets capitalizes on two popular trends - the use of social media and real time communication, as well as peoples' extreme love for their dogs," said Susan Russo, Mattel's director of marketing.

Puppy Tweets will be available at retailers in the fall for $29.99. No word yet if there will be a similar product for cats or if Puppy Tweets can alert dog owners if their pet is having an accident on the carpet. source from

Do Facebook and Twitter Threaten or Compliment the News Industry?

Five reporters from radio stations in in Canada, France, Belgium, and Switzerland are going to spend five days locked in a French farmhouse with only Twitter and Facebook to get their news. It's not a lame reality show, but an experiment looking at the quality of news from social media.

This experiment may be flawed from the start. One can almost imagine that people will purposely put out false information via Twitter and Facebook just to mess with these people (they can be followed on Twitter [updates in French]). Reporting on this story, AFP's Marie-Dominique Follain asks if social media is really a serious threat to established media.

It appears that the credibility of social media as a way to get news is what is coming into question (not that this is the first time that has happened). "People tweet about fake events. Social media is rife with hoaxes," people will say. Yes, that's true.

People do put out false information, but what seems to be overlooked is that Facebook and Twitter are just the platforms for people posting their updates. They often are accompanied by links to blogs and traditional news sources. While the group have agreed to only connect to the outside world through Facebook and Twitter, and no web surfing, they are reportedly still allowed to follow links to outside sites from these social networks. With the 140-character limit of Twitter in particular, linking out is often very necessary in getting the whole story across, or at least gaining access to that story from the reader's perspective.

Maybe I will be proven wrong, but I don't see any possible result coming from this experiment that indicates social media is not useful for finding news. I don't believe social media threatens traditional media. It compliments it, in a variety of ways.

Sometimes stories break there before they are reported by a traditional source...that's a source for that traditional channel. It could just as easily come from someone saying something in a crowded bar. If it's newsworthy, it might be worth covering, but it might be a lie, and facts are worth checking. It's just that with channels like Facebook and Twitter, those bars are as big as the entire world, and the patrons aren't all there to relax, drink, and have a good time (though some of them certainly are).
Not all news breaks on social media (although the ever-increasing accessibility to social media through mobile seems to be greatly narrowing the margin), but social media is always there for open discussion about the news, which tends to make for a more rounded outlook on any particular event. It doesn't eliminate the bias, but it provides a means for all biases to come together to form a more complete view of the story. Open discussion allows for points to be made that wouldn't necessarily be made by a traditional news outlet because maybe that outlet does have some kind of bias, even if it strives not to. Some say everyone has some bias.

The fact that people do turn to social media for news emphasizes the fact that they do want a look at the whole picture, and do want to have open discussion on matters. True, some of that is pointless noise, but strewn throughout that are often important facts and otherwise unconsidered viewpoints.
source from :

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Google States Case for Online News in WSJ

Original Article: Google has created a new web crawler specifically for Google News. What this means is that publishers who do not want Google News to index their content can more easily control that. That also applies to publishers who don't wish to completely cut out indexing, but wish to limit/restrict certain elements of their content from being indexed.

Google offers this new crawler at a time when Google's relationship with online news is a heavy focus of discussion throughout the industry, with the FTC's meeting of the media minds taking place. This week Google already announced some changes to how it handles paid content (by offering a five-article limit for the "first click free" plan). Now the company appears to be further extending its olive branch to concerned publishers (whether or not that will be enough is another discussion).

In the past, publishers have been able to block Google from content via robots.txt and the Robots Extension Protocol (REP). They have also been able to keep content out of Google News and stay in Google Search, by using a contact form provided by Google. Now, Google is making it so publishers don't even have to contact them.

"Now, with the news-specific crawler, if a publisher wants to opt out of Google News, they don't even have to contact us - they can put instructions just for user-agent Googlebot-News in the same robots.txt file they have today," says Google News Senior Business Product Manager Josh Cohen. "In addition, once this change is fully in place, it will allow publishers to do more than just allow/disallow access to Google News. They'll also be able to apply the full range of REP directives just to Google News. Want to block images from Google News, but not from Web Search? Go ahead. Want to include snippets in Google News, but not in Web Search? Feel free. All this will soon be possible with the same standard protocol that is REP."

"While this means even more control for publishers, the effect of opting out of News is the same as it's always been," says Cohen. "It means that content won't be in Google News or in the parts of Google that are powered by the News index. For example, if a publisher opts out of Google News, but stays in Web Search, their content will still show up as natural web search results, but they won't appear in the block of news results that sometimes shows up in Web Search, called Universal search, since those come from the Google News index."

Cohen says Google News users shouldn't notice any difference in their experience with the service. It will be interesting to see the reaction from disgruntled publishers, and whether or not this will make any significant difference in how they view Google News.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

LinkedIn, Microsoft Outlook To Forge Ties

Heavy users of LinkedIn and Microsoft Outlook will soon have to do a lot less tab-toggling. Microsoft has introduced something called the Outlook Social Connector, and early next year, LinkedIn will become the first networking site to support it.

As you'll see in a moment, the Outlook Social Connector is an accurately named offering. A post on the LinkedIn Blog explained that, with it, a user will be able to "[k]eep up with LinkedIn connections right from your email inbox." You can see a picture of what that'll look like below.

Then comes click-saver number two: the ability to email LinkedIn contacts straight from Outlook. The Outlook Social Connector will create an Outlook Contacts folder with all of their info, and automatically fill in "to" fields when users start to type out people's names.

Finally, while using Outlook, it'll become easier to forge new connections. The post suggested, "Just click a button next to any e-mail you receive and instantly send an invitation to connect to the e-mail's sender."

We'll admit: there may not be a huge market for this sort of thing. But in certain sectors (HR, PR, etc.), the Outlook Social Connector's tie-up with LinkedIn should come in handy, and will likely increase the profiles of both entities.