Archives for January 2010

Follow @googlewmc on Twitter

Okay, we’re starting to release new webmaster videos. Normally you could follow me on Twitter to find out about each new video, but I’m on a Twitter diet until the end of January. So if you want to hear when new webmaster videos or webmaster blog posts come out, go follow @googlewmc on Twitter (that’s the official account for Google Webmaster Central).

I’ll embed the first video in the new series below (it’s about how PageRank flows from Twitter and Facebook in our web search rankings):

But usually I won’t blog about each new video. Instead make sure you follow @googlewmc . That way you’ll always find out first when new webmaster videos come out.

Ways to help Haiti

Lots of people are thinking about ways to help Haiti after their horrible 7.0 earthquake.

Google recently introduced a page with a large number of resources for the Haiti earthquake, including the ability to donate money.

Also, a bunch of Googlers have worked to bring updated satellite imagery to Google Earth. You can also click to see the earthquake’s aftermath on Google Maps.

Finally, it turns out that Google’s Map Maker (which allows regular users to contribute to maps) can help with this disaster. Google added support for Map Maker in Haiti last year after Haiti suffered through Hurricanes Gustav and Ike. In less than a year, Google Map Maker has become one of the most accurate maps of Haiti, and Google is sharing the raw data with the UN. The Google Maps API provides the latest Map Maker info as a map tile set. You can read more in the blog post.

How can you help? I’d start with Google’s resource page for the quake or this page on CNN.

Update, Jan 16, 2010: Google has created (with help from the U.S. State Department) a Person Finder for the Haiti Earthquake that you can embed on your website, too:

Update, Jan 21, 2010: Google also gathered 15cm imagery (much higher quality) and just pushed that live on Google Maps.

Important blog post on Google blog

This is an important blog post. Go read it from the source.

Update: David Drummond from Google appears on CNBC to discuss the situation more.

Also, Google just made it so that Gmail defaults to https. This means that even if you use a public wifi hotspot, you’ll have an encrypted tunnel for the communication between your browser and Google. This makes your email much more secure against sniffing or snooping.

Giving up Twitter for three more weeks

Quick summary: I’m giving up Twitter for 30 days. I normally tweet about the webmaster videos that we make. Please follow googlewmc on Twitter if you want to find out about new webmaster videos.

For the last few months I’ve been doing 30 day challenges:

– In May 2009, I walked 10,000 steps a day.
– For June 2009, I didn’t watch television for 30 days.
– For July 2009, I biked to work.
– In August 2009, I tried to read 15 books in 30 days. I only made it to twelve that month, but I knocked out three more later.
– For October 2009, I stopped using Microsoft software (both Windows and Office). That went so well that I’ve switched to Linux as my primary operating system.
– For November 2009, I needed something easy to do. I unsubscribed to Robert Scoble on both Twitter and FriendFeed. Robert is a fantastic guide to what’s new (and I like him personally)–if you’re just starting out there, he’s like training wheels to show you cool things. But back then he was going on about Twitter’s lists feature. It’s a fine feature, but I find talking about it as dry as dust, so I went Scoble-free.
– In December 2009, I went off caffeine.

So the question is: what to do for January 2010? Well, I’ve already been off Twitter for a week. I think I’m going to stay off Twitter/Facebook/FriendFeed for the rest of January.

Do you have suggestions for other 30 day challenges I should try? If so, leave me a suggestion.

P.S. We have some new webmaster videos almost ready. Normally I tweet about those instead of blogging them. So if you want to hear when those videos are released, follow googlewmc on Twitter.

A short note about real-time search

This is just a quick blog post to share some info about Google’s real-time search based on the earthquake that shook the Bay Area this morning. I didn’t feel the earthquake myself, but the real-time folks looked at how we did. Here’s what they found:

Overall, realtime search triggered in under two minutes from the earthquake happening and within a minute of the first tweets appearing. The rough timeline (in Pacific time) is

~10:10 – An earthquake happened. (The USGS says the earthquake happened at 10:09:35 a.m.)
10:11 – The USGS government web site started to track the earthquake, with a “?” magnitude.
10:12 – Google’s realtime onebox triggers.
10:13 – USGS web site marked the magnitude as 4.1.
10:20 – USGS site updates their feed.
~10:25 – Google’s earthquake onebox gets updated earthquake info.

All in all, not too shabby, but still a perfect opportunity to identify ways to do better. For example, Stephen Shankland said it took about six minutes for him to see realtime results trigger, adding “which struck me as fairly impressive for such a mammoth operation as Google search.” We looked into it, and it looks like a data center timeout meant that a few people didn’t see the realtime results for a few extra minutes. Nothing to be ashamed of, but something we’ll look at improving in the future. Most searchers did see the realtime results trigger within a minute or two on Google.

Greg Sterling showed a screenshot (taken by Danny Sullivan) over on Search Engine Land that showed an earthquake onebox with stale info. It looks like that happened because the feed we were using from the USGS took ~10 minutes to update. Going forward, I’m sure we’ll check whether we could do anything differently on this, but if a feed has older info for a few minutes, there’s little we can do about that.

Overall though, I think Google acquitted itself quite well on this earthquake. Realtime search triggered quickly and accurately for the vast majority of people. And Google’s realtime search was able to pull in not only tweets, but relevant blogs and news articles. The search quality team will keep working to make sure that the triggering speed/thresholds, relevance, freshness and comprehensiveness of real-time search matches the high expectations that people already bring to Google’s web search results.

One last thing: I love that many Google employees’ first instinct when they feel an earthquake is to start searching on Google to see how well our real-time search works. 🙂

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