Archives for December 2009

What charities do you donate to?

Every year I like to ask what charities people are leaning toward.

So here we go: what organizations, charities, or good causes are you supporting this year? Lately I’ve been interested in transparency and reform in government, so organizations like the Sunlight Foundation, MAPLight (Money and Politics), and Change Congress are on my list. I’m also looking at Free Press and the Electronic Frontier Foundation.

I’d also be interested in hearing about 501(c)(3) organizations that support open-source software, ideally with very low administrative costs. Does anyone know of good groups in that area?

Finally, is there a charity or group that wants to make videos of college journalism classes? Right now if a blogger wanted to take an online journalism class, I’m not aware of many resources in that area. I found a good book called Electronic Media Law that I like, but it would be nice if people around the world could learn the basics of journalism by watching a series of college lectures on video.

Okay, now it’s your turn. What charities would you like to mention, support, or call out?

Perfect Italian Hoagie?

When I was a kid and we visited family in New Jersey, I loved getting hoagie sandwiches. I’ve been looking for the best recipe of Italian hoagie for years. Here’s one that’s very good:

3 slices Provolone
4 slices Genoa salami
4 slices cooked salami
4 slices pepperoni
4 slices Capicola ham
Lettuce, tomato, onion
Salt, pepper, and oregano
Oil and vinegar
Sweet peppers (or hot peppers)

Anybody want to chime in with their formula for the perfect Italian hoagie?

Blogging the Google Search event, December 2009

I’m not going to do a full live-blog, because it’s going to be well-covered by:
Danny Sullivan
Jason Kinkaid
Kara Swisher
among others. You can also register and watch the event as a webcast.

Search by Voice

Marissa Mayer did a brief intro, then brought up Vic Gundotra. Vic is going to show a series of mobile demos emphasizing that phones have senses (ears, voice, eyes) via their sensors. He showed the progress on Google’s mobile app by doing “pictures of barack obama at g8 summit” as a voice query and it nailed it. Then Vic did the query for [mcdonalds in beijing]–and it nailed it. Announcement: support for Google Voice in Japanese. In 2010, many more languages will be supported. Vic showed a demo of “talk in English, run voice recognition, translate into Spanish, then do voice synthesis in Spanish.” So basically a Babel fish. 🙂


Vic showed customized suggest in Mobile. With a location of Boston, Massachusetts, [re] gives [red sox], [red sox schedule], and [restaurant week boston] as suggestions. In San Francisco, [re] suggests [rei] instead. Demos are coming fast and furious now. Vic just demoed “products in stock near me” on a mobile phone. Now Vic is demoing “Near me now” at search pagethat tells you interesting stuff. I know this neighborhood and it nailed the nearby businesses. A new version of Google Mobile Maps for Android is coming out today and if you long-press on a map, it will offer to show you stuff near you (businesses, the Computer History Museum, etc.).

Search by Sight

Vic is announcing Google Goggles. You can take pictures of physical landmarks, bottles of wine, CD covers, bar codes, a bunch of different things. It looks like it tries to recognize (do OCR) on text in images. Vic took a picture of a landmark from Japan and it told the name of the shrine.

Marissa is back up and introduces Amit Singhal.

Real-time search

Amit is talking about how information used to spread. In old days, people would ask their elders “Are these berries safe to eat?” The childen who listened to their elders would grow up to be grandparents themselves. 🙂 The printing press changed the communication from one-to-one to one-to-many. The web brings it to many-to-many. Google is announcing real-time search today. Amit is emphasizing that relevance matters a bunch. He makes the strong point that Google has 11 years of experience with ranking based on relevance, not just based on sort-by-date.

Woohoo, my tweet about real-time search showed up in the results. 🙂

To get to real-time search, you’ll click the “Show options” link above the search results. Then you’ll see a “Latest” option. Looks like there’s also an “Updates” link to restrict it to updates from sites like Twitter, FriendFeed, etc. Example of see that a vaccine was out from a tweet a few seconds ago.

Realt-time search works on mobile (iPhone, Android) too. Google will add really-hot topics to the Hot Trends page to see these real-time updates.

Amit is talking about the infrastructure–lots of stuff has to happen to index this stuff and rank it well. Amit says Google is processing “over a billion documents a day” from the real-time web.

Amit talks about the four pillars of search: comprehensiveness, relevance, user experience, and speed/freshness. Amit is re-emphasizing that relevance matters and that speed/freshness is really one of Google’s strengths. We’ve worked on increasing our freshness

Amit closed with: “Light can travel around the world in 1/10th of a second, and we won’t rest until the speed of light is the only barrier to getting good search results to you.”

Marissa: two new partner announcements. Facebook is providing some updates. MySpace is also providing updates.

Q: Face recognition in Google Goggles?
A: Not doing facial recognition

Q: Advertising opportunity in real-time search?
A: Amit is answering. Twitter and others have added tremendous value to the web (ski conditions in Truckee, traffic in Bangalore). He believes there will be opportunities there for everyone over time, but isn’t too concerned right now.

Q: Sources in real-time search?
A: Over 1B pages a day are being processed. Not just Twitter, but a fresh press release or a blog post. Twitter, FriendFeed, Jaiku, etc.–looking to add MySpace and Facebook

Q: Availability in non-English?
A: First launch in English (Canada, India, US, UK). In Q1 2010 the plan is to add many new languages.

Q: from Dave McClure: Can I prioritize based on my friends?
A: Amit: localization, personalization, and social search can absolutely improve search quality.

Q: Facebook vs. MySpace?
A: Marissa: MySpace sending all public updates. Facebook will start by sending updates from Facebook Pages.

Q: What if you didn’t have a partnership with someone?
A: Marissa: Our goal is always comprehensiveness. We’d always look

Q: Danny: Can you clarify any financial terms?
A: Marissa: We can’t disclose any financial terms.
Q: Danny follow-up: Murdoch seems to have strong opinions. Are you sure you can’t say anything about the terms?
A: We can’t confirm.

Q: Any sources not allowed?
A: We’re happy to get any source of real-time and let the algorithms decide which updates are relevant.
Q: Same relevancy algorithms applied, just faster, or are they different?
A: At least a dozen new technologies to make real-time search as well as it does. Not exactly the same algorithms, but many of the same insights apply. Experience helps.

Q: As Android takes off,
A: Our desire is to reach our customers on whatever platform they’re on.

Q: Will real-time search be the death of journalism? Does that make Google the most powerful company in the world?
A: Amit: Journalism has its role and it will always have that role. There will always be a need for insight and the value that is added by journalists. Regarding the second point, our goal has always been to bring timely, relevant, useful results to users. It’s about user empowerment.
A: Marissa: We want to get people off our site and to the native source of information on the web.
A: Gabriel Stricker: Yet another channel to drive traffic to news and web sites.

Q: Philosophy of universal search?
A: Users don’t want the mental overhead of remembering “Oh, I have a image-y query, I’ll go to” We want them to be able to type anything into the search box and Google will return relevant results.

Q: Ryan Singel: You mentioned getting people off of Google quickly. Other companies (Yahoo/MSFT) seem to want to create pages based on the information and keep people on-site.
A: Marissa: The web thrives on openness and we want to encourage that. The exception might be entities where you want to tell people about that entity. But we want the web to prosper.

Q: Stephen Shankland: Any way to put truth into the equation, not just relevancy?
A: Amit: This is a really tough problem. We emphasize quality and relevance, which often brings the truth out.

Q: We host real-time information on our site. How can we talk to you?
A: Catch the PM after the event, but the general answer might involve an API down the road. Seemed more like speculation by Marissa than a promise.

Q: How does PageRank factor in?
A: Amit: PageRank is one of over 200 signals that we use in ranking. Lots of new technologies (e.g. language modelling) also developed for real-time search. Marissa: PageRank is about authoritativeness. There are similar signals (retweets, replies) in the update space.

Q: Someone wants to turn off scrolling in real-time updates?
A: Amit: They added a pause button based on dogfooding feedback. They continue to experiment and could change the UI in the future. [Personal note: Real-time search won’t trigger for a ton of queries, only when it’s believe to be helpful. That was one of the technologies they had to invent (when does a search deserve the freshness of latest-search). So scrolling makes sense to me because it emphasizes the hotness of the search.] Marissa: they may tweak it over time.

Q: Niall Kennedy: Geo? Will Galileo change things?
A: Vic: Depends on the source of the data. Fallback from GPS can be cell tower or A-GPS.
Q: Niall: Good coverage internationally?
A: Vic: Coverage has increased by an order of magnitude over the last year.

Q: Support in Google APIs?
A: Too soon to say.

Q: When will this be live?
A: Vic: Japanese live today. Google Goggle already available now. Coming weeks: “Near me now” on mobile home page. Product search: a few weeks beyond that. Demo of real-time translation: more like Q1.
A: Amit: Real-time search begins roll-out today, finishes over the next few days. Go to and click on “Hot Topics” panel on the left.

Q: Technology behind Google Goggles? How do you decide when a picture really is the Empire State Building.
A: Hartmut: Uses unsupervised learning as a reflection of what’s on the web.

Q: Not just text and status updates?
A: Amit: Excited about expanding quickly beyond just status updates toward relevant real-time results.
A: Marissa: MySpace already looking at non-real

Q: Real-time product inventory? (questioner works on similar idea)
A: Sometime in Q1. Current partners are Best Buy and Sears?

Q: Ryan Singel: How different is web index from real-time index.
A: Amit: Our web index can be updated in minutes or seconds quite easily. New tech is update receiving and real-time merging into the index. Amit seems to be saying that the intent is for everything to be as unified as possible under the hood.

Google has posted a video about realtime search too:

Submit video questions for December 2009

It’s that time again! Tomorrow afternoon I’ll record some new videos. I created a Google Moderator page where you can post questions or suggestions and vote topics up and down. I won’t be able to answer every single question, but I’ll tackle several popular questions plus a few interesting questions. Please ask questions that lots of people would be interested in, not just questions about a specific site. If you can ask about a topic that requires more in-depth answers, that would probably make the videos more interesting too.

The suggestions for videos don’t have to be about search/SEO. I really enjoyed doing the barcode scanning video, for example. So I’d love to tackle a few more general questions like “Do you have power tips for crunching through email quickly?” or “What Chrome extension would you like to see?” I’m happy to tackle some broad questions like “Do you have any predictions for 2010?” Post some interesting topics and we’ll see which ones we can tackle. Thanks!

Please leave your question on the Google Moderator page, not in the comments here.