Monthly Archives: February 2011

The evolution of web searching

As part of some early Sunday morning reading, I’ve stumbled across a set of intriguing changes in the web searching field.

First, Google has decided to alter its algorithm to improve its search results by filtering out spam or content farm sites, reported the Wall Street Journal. With an article title as catching as “Google Revamps to Fight Cheaters,” I couldn’t resist reading the article to see what they were doing and what I could pass on to my students.  Overall, the content farms like eHow are part of the target meant to be banished from search results.  Also, abuses by companies like Overstock.com who rigged results in their favor and J.C. Penny who gamed holiday season search results for as many things possible.  Beyond this, new search engine companies like Blekko are giving users greater control to provide feedback, flag spam, and develop human-based results to provide higher quality results.

So what are the effects of this recent change?  Well, Search Engine Land blog has done some extensive work documenting and analyzing the stats of who has lost in the new Google ranking and by how much.  Looking at their results, I see many culprits of past student search results appear…

  • ezinearticles.com
  • yourdictionary.com
  • associatedcontent.com
  • brothersoft.com

So, it’ll be an interesting comparison what sorts of search results I get in this semester and quarter in comparison to previous ones and if the algorithmic changes make a large impact on quality web searching.

ePeriodicals

Last Christmas, in the midst of grading an insanely large number of papers, I also had to deal with creating a birthday/Christmas list.  In my family, the art of surprise is replaced with the protocol of lists and guides to gift giving.  At the time, I wanted to have some subscriptions added to my iPad so I then could avoid the papery middle-man and find more awesome things like Wired’s Perfect Pitch example.   As part of some serendipitous digital exploration, I found that the Wired segment is not really an article but a user-controlled interactive multimedia component that allows the user to drag a finger across the iPad’s screen to control the motions of the skeleton figure, with key descriptions and definitions of each movement.  However, there was no simple solution or set of instructions on how I could ask for Wired as an eSubscription; in December, only individual copies could be purchased ($3.99 each) and downloaded.  On a side note, Amazon does have some magazines available for monthly subscriptions, but many are only for the Kindle device, not other eReaders with Kindle apps.  Besides, they also don’t have a gifting option for the magazine subscriptions.  So the cheaper, paper edition still continues to come.

Yesterday, Apple announced an eSubscription model. Here are the Cliffs notes:

  • Digital content sold within the iTunes app=30% cut for Apple
  • Digital content offers outside of the iTunes app have to also be available within the iTunes app
  • May ask to share your name, zip code, and email  info with providers
  • Auto-renew feature kicks off in case of subscription price increase
  • Subscription prices are non-refundable
  • Subscriptions charged no more than 24-hours prior to renewal
Elle magazine iPad subscription options
Elle magazine iPad subscription options

In a test case, I choose to evaluate just what some publishers are doing with this new opportunity.  As of right now, Elle magazine is offering a one-year print subscription for $8 and the print subscription provides access to the iTunes edition for free.  Through iTunes, a one-year iPad subscription is $18.99.  Granted, the iTunes subscription is better than the individual $3.99 per issue cost, but why would I get the iTunes edition when I can get print and iTunes for $10 less?  For those really interested in Elle (Wired has not announced a subscription rate yet), strike while the iron is hot because most likely this model will change, as I’m sure I’m not the only one noting this price difference loop hole.

Not to be left behind, Google has now also announced their One Pass system for managing and controlling digital content access such as newspapers and magazines.

  • One Pass – allows purchases of subscriptions, individual issues, and individual articles
  • Google takes 10%
  • Google shares end-user info (email, name, zip code) unless you explicitly opt-out
  • Allows vendors to sell subscriptions outside of One Pass

The vendor focus matches similar collaborations Google has taken with various side projects like FastFlip and Living Stories (Dec. 2009- Feb. 2010), so consumers will probably just start seeing this crop up as they browse through familiar online resources.  Instead of paying money directly to an online newspaper or magazine, you’ll take the Google side trip.  As of now, no clear examples are readily found online, since the main partnerships are either with German-language publications or don’t seem to obviously exist in the English-language publications.  For example, Popular Science appears to be in both the Apple and Google One Pass camp (according to Google’s blog post).  On the Popular Science site, the iPad edition is advertised everywhere, with a $14.99/year iPad subscription available, beating out the $19.99/year standard print subscription rate.  As for Google One Pass, I have honestly no idea how its connected and will be intrigued if this idea survives the Google new project curse or dies a premature death like Living Stories and Wave.

So, now armed with knowledge, go explore and report back your experiences with these new ePeriodicals.