Tag Archives: Google

Testing Google Image Search

When tasked with the adventure of trying to find new spinning light flashers (subject items on hand), words simply fail.

Light Chaser

Across the Twitterverse, I’ve heard rumor of the image search capabilities Google is expanding and slowly deploying.  Other apps, like Leafsnap, let you take care of taking a picture (in this case plant-life) so you can do a search via image.  Google Image allows you to search by words, by uploading an image, or by providing the URL for an image to help you with your search.  So, can Google Image Search with its Search by Image function save the day?

Google Search by Image interface

Well, my technological swiss army knife (my iPhone) could photograph the image, could connect to Google Image, but the Javascript camera icon failed to offer any search options other than via text.  Even my iPad lacks the option to complete the search by image. Okay, so let me try and upload my image to Flickr (since it was taken with my phone) as a public image so I can try and paste a URL.  Nope – “The URL doesn’t refer to an image, or the image is not publicly accessible.”  Alright, so let me download the image to my computer and then upload/drag-and-drop the file.  So, did all of this hard work pay off with successful search results?

Google Image search results via Image upload
Google Image search results via Image upload

I have to say not.  Dear Google – keep working on it but I very much look forward to your awesome results.

Advertisements

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.

Google’s eBookstore and Humanities 2.0

Google, the elephant in every room right now, is starting to see the rewards of its large-scale digitization project. First, the Google bookstore has opened up, fostering a potential rivalry with Amazon. From the minimal spot checking I’ve done of titles and price comparisons, Google and Amazon seem about evenly matched at about $9.99 a digital book. The main differences are the method of reading and accessing your works and what devices will or will not work with your new eBook. Amazon likes to have you download your work with the option of syncing information back to its cloud; Google wants you to read in the cloud and download only if necessary. Either way, both are designed for multi-platform reading so you can start your book on your iPad but then continue right where you left off in the book on your iPhone when stuck waiting at a doctor’s appointment, for example. In short, no more clunky carrying. However, the differences between the two remain in the platform accessibility. Google works with a lot of resources, but not some of the major players like Blackberries (WTF?!) and Amazon’s Kindle (less of shock here). Amazon’s establishment in the market and Google’s non-development of a hardware device still make Amazon the ubiquitous eBookstore. Further research TBDAG (To be done after grading).

The other, less flashy Google news is the growing use of the scanned Google books to develop what the New York Times calls Humanities 2.0 or the statistical analysis of work usage over time within works. Below is a sample of what you can do with such statistical analysis:

Having been a literature person, this trend actually isn’t that new. Pawing through concordances of Dante’s Commedia, such as Terrill Shepard’s, are still common in literary analysis these days. Through these methods, scholars have identified trends in word usage, such as having Inferno, Purgatorio, and Paradiso all end with the word stelle (the Italian plural for stars). What a lovely way to end a poem about a religious epic? (And what a lovely name for a girl…). However, for works that have not be read millions of times after seven centuries, Google’s ability to digitize both major and minor works from the Victorian age and allow similar linguistic analysis has a vast potential with revolutionizing the world of literary research. However, I think the “Handle with Care” concept is also useful to make sure we don’t lose the art of literary analysis and criticism since statistics are only part of accessing a culture, a time, and a psyche of a character and author.   I’m intrigued to see how this vast plethora of information will continue to transform literature and what we think of as research today. What are your thoughts?  Is all of this a boon or a bust?

11/14/10 Sunday reading

As part of my random smattering of eclectic news, here’s what I’ve found on this Sunday morning…..

1) Newsflash! Latinos now make up over 50% of students enrolled in California!

General response, duh….

As a native southern Californian and even as a migrant to the north of the state, I can only say that I am NOT surprised by this finding, as it was an inevitable reality.  Exponential growth, continuous migration, and generations continuing to settle here is no new information.  However, the article frames the statistic nicely in the political/educational debate of what the future of California will be.  Bilingual education for whites as well as Latinos?  Parental political involvement in these schools to increase or will the disenfranchised parents remain silent on the educational decisions for their American citizen children?

2) Facebook v Google

In one of Wired’s themes for the week, they’ve begun to analyze the new potential face-off between Facebook and Google.  With rumors of some sort of Facebook email swirl and the competition for ads heats up, the small skirmishes between Microsoft and Yahoo! now seem small contests for Google.

3) The US Budget puzzle

Although this is not really an article to read, I thought the NY Times Budget Puzzle is a great interactive way for people to learn about the US budget and evaluate how funds are spent and estimate how you would reduce spending.  If I was a government teacher, I would SO use this as part of my class project.  I may still make an argument for it my own course yet…..

Flash v HTML5

As part of a new side project (like I didn’t have enough going on), I’m being strongly urged to update and revamp a website.   So far we’ve tried drafting up a mock site with Silverlight only to have it fail to appear on about 90% of our other reviewers’ computers.  And, although I liked the built-in comment editing, we have yet to figure out how to send/export such said comments back to our web guy.  Previously, we’ve dealt with basic HTML/CSS/Javascript sites and have dabbled a bit in Flash.  Given the frequent flogging of Flash, I’m not inclined to pursue such a graphically rich but incredibly buggy software for a site I want to only create once.  Furthermore, optimistically speaking, it’d be nice to have our tech friendly patrons be able to access the site from an iPhone or iPad, as well.  So, what about HTML5….

Well, Wired’s WebMonkey has done a pretty excellent post reviewing the complicated relationship we as developers and users have with both Flash and HTML5.

Key points are:

  • Browsers need to agree on a *single* codec for video file formats and stick with it; currently, the contenders are Ogg, MPEG’s H.264, and possibly also VP8 –>hopefully, it won’t be quite as drawn out of a decision as  VHS vs Beta (I still ❤ my old Beta, all the same) or HD DVD vs Blu-ray
  • IE9 (Internet Explorer) will include HTML5 support….in late 2010/early 2011.  According to the latest statistics at W3 schools, about 33% of people are still using some sort of IE as their web browser.  This would be a HUGE chunk of the population to miss.
  • Since Flash is private, although it may not dominate the video field, it doesn’t have the same slow revision and adoption process that an open standard like HTML5 does.  Therefore, Flash could develop itself into other niche components of the web long before HTML5 can get there.

While this hasn’t exactly cleared the field with one obvious option, at least I make a smart decision based on my imagined client’s needs.  To take a peek at what people have been doing with HTML5 so far here are a few suggestions.

HTML5 is certainly pretty as this Belgian site has been able to create a lovely rolling slideshow of products and TMMD has a nice sleek video and image layout.  Google is pushing the standard quite hard and has even experimented with HTML5 in YouTube (again, could you imagine having a iPhone that couldn’t play YouTube videos?). But, no matter how good the tools are, the graphically design challenged (not that I did much better in my web design class) can still make a webpage ugly.  I’ll keep you updated on the adventure that will be website redesign….

Gmail: Friend or foe?

UPDATE: Well, having Google’s Calendar go down unexpectedly for the day is definitely one reason not to work with Google.

For awhile, libraries have been struggling with the relationship that is, that was, and that will be with Google.  The books project has been the major source of library controversy, but even now Gmail is facing scrutiny by larger government and academic institutions.  For example, UC Davis has decided to NOT use Gmail or the related Google applications over privacy and data security concerns.  This follows after the hold Yale placed on a similar transfer to Gmail as the school’s email platform while the City of Los Angeles did go full-throttle with the deal.    One of the main sticking points and concerns even for LA was the location of Google’s cloud servers for their email system.  Given the hack UC Berkeley experienced from China a year ago, location, location, location is becoming a prominent factor in Google’s functionality.  Even Google’s own problems with China and hackers haven’t gone unnoticed in the early part of 2010.  Using Gmail as a student, an instructor, and an employee has been quite easy as I an chat with my students within my email, schedule meetings with myself and other co-workers, and even track and graph course feedback without manual creation of graphs and data plotting.  As an undergrad, my school’s email system was hardly searchable and lacked integration with other resources, such as course pages, calendars, or documents.  Graduate school had a similar system which led me to rely on Gmail for collaborating on virtual group projects, papers, and presentations. Just as Microsoft’s Internet Explorer contains security vulnerabilities, I suspect Microsoft’s ability to provide a comparable and more secure email product.  Furthermore, logical access and usability design has not been Microsoft’s current strength in its product line (ahem, still having to explain how to use Microsoft Word 2007 in 2010, anyone?).  Even now, I am dabbling with Microsoft’s SharePoint and find myself endlessly frustrated with odd configurations; even for simple tasks like adding an anchor link to another part of the same webpage, I have to manually set the anchor in the HTML since there is no Rich Text method.  What have your experiences been with university email systems? Would Gmail be an improvement or a setback?