Google and the Two Continent Squish

March 31, 2011

My grandfather had a vice. He explained that I could put a piece of wood in the jaws and turn the lever. If I turned the lever too much, I would ruin the wood. If I turned the lever too little, the wood would slip. One had to adjust the jaws of the vice to hold the wood without damage. Easy to explain until I learned that different types of wood had different characteristics. The “just right” part took my seven year old hands some experimentation to get right.

Now the Google is a piece of wood. The vice consists of two jaw components.

One component is reported (accurately I presume) in “China Report Claims Google-Linked Firms Broke Tax Rules.” The headline conveys the substance of the news story. However, this sentence is somewhat interesting:

Even if the report is unfounded or embellished, it could bring fresh headaches in China for Google, which has gone through difficult times there since early last year when it quarreled with the one-party government over Internet censorship and hacking attacks.

The other jaw is “Adding our Voice to Concerns about Search in Europe.” Now the source is Microsoft, a company with some modest first-hand experience with allegations of monopolistic practices.

Google may not have its hands on the vice’s levers as I did. As a result, the force applied could leave Google with room to move, hold Google “just right”, or compress Google. If Google is in some way held tight or damaged, will Google be able to operate as it did prior to getting squished?

That’s an interesting question and one that warrants consideration once the present “jaws” complete their traversal. Companies have considerable power. However, countries and legal commissions have power and the ability to impose penalties, change the rules, and make pressure operate through time.

Stephen E Arnold, March 31, 2011


Habits of Medical Doctors Thwart Paid Listing Efforts

March 31, 2011

Health Care IT News reports “Most Doctors Ignore Paid Search to Access Health Content: comScore.” Ah, more bad news for Google and others basing their business on charging health professionals for content.

Because we patients search for general terms, we will often explore the paid results. Doctors get a lot more specific, and those definitive parameters are best addressed with the organic, not paid, results. Physicians are also less likely to spend time browsing on their topic; they get what they need and get out. Furthermore, doctors tend to trust government content for its authoritative and exhaustive content. As the article concludes,

With doctors searching in an organic way, rather than using paid search, the research shows that companies need to build brand awareness and effective SEO strategies to attract physicians to their Websites, comScore reports.

The idea of pay walls is interesting but making money online is still a difficult task for many organizations. Stephen E Arnold, owner of this blog, collected some of his writings about online in this PDF. The pricing observations remain valid—20 years after summarizing some of the challenges of online.

Cynthia Murrell March 31, 2011


Google Refinements Counter Bing Advances

March 31, 2011

Google Refines Search Results to Counter Microsoft,” notes Digital Trends. Since Microsoft introduced new search refinements and their snazzy new name, Google has responded in kind.

For example, you can now narrow results to news and blogs as well as to videos, forums, reviews, or books. Also, results can be limited to that which was indexed within the past hour. You can also specify whether you want more or fewer shopping-related results.

The article informs us:

Google said its latest changes were driven by the shifting demands of its audience. ‘Our users are asking more and more from search engines,’ said Nundu Janaki Ram, an associate product manager for the Mountain View-based company. ‘They have questions that we didn’t even dream they would be asking a few years ago.’

Naturally, all this competition is good for the rest of us. Let the battle continue!

Cynthia Murrell March 31, 2011


Spot Solr in a New Book

March 31, 2011

At Slashdot, you can find a review of Solr 1.4 Enterprise Search Server by David Smiley and Eric Pugh. If you already have a working knowledge of Solr but want to go deeper, this may be for you. The review’s author does emphasize that that this is not a tomb for beginners.

The review outlines the concepts covered in each set of chapters. It concludes:

On the whole this is a very thorough, detailed book and it is clear that the authors have a lot of experience with Solr and how it is used in practice. . . . . The fact that the writing is concise and to the point means one doesn’t have to wade through pages of flowery text before getting to the good bits. If you’re seriously thinking about using Solr or are already using it and want to know more so you can take full advantage of it, I would definitely recommend this book.

Sounds like it’s worth spotting Solr via a review.

Cynthia Murrell March 31, 2011

Newspaper Chart Raises Goose Bumps on Beyond Search Geese

March 31, 2011

Not much scares the geese and goslings at Beyond Search. We are unflappable and mostly goose bump free. Note “mostly.” But Business Insider’s “Chart of the Day: Why the Newspaper Industry Collapsed” presents a very striking picture, created by Marc Cenedella of If it is correct, hello Titanic!

We all know newspapers have been struggling since folks started getting their news online. We should also consider how being able to find each other over the Web impacts the papers.

This chart shows how badly they’re doing in classified ad revenue, a key part of most newspapers’ bottom line:

[Cendella] shows ad revenue from help wanted classifieds dropping 92% in last 10 years, hitting $723 million last year, down from $8.7 billion in 2000. Once that easy money left the newspaper industry it was a lot harder to earn as much profit.

Cendella believes the papers only have themselves to blame, and I agree. Oh, well, at least this is good news for the trees. More goose bumps for newspapers? Yep.

Cynthia Murrell March 31, 2011


Search without Search: The Saga Continues

March 31, 2011

I am not sure what third rate college I attended but in one of them I had to read the Elder Edda. No Cliff Notes for that puppy. Although the details have been lost to me, I do recall that certain themes kept popping up. After reading “In Schmidt’s Vision, Google Will Search before You Even Ask,” it was an Elder Edda moment.

iPad apps search without search. I fired up Pulse on the train from Manhattan, capital of the new third world, and saw information of interest to me. No search required, thank you. My deeply flawed BlackBerry showed me where I was on the zoo ride branded as Amtrak. Again: no search required. Google, if the write up is accurate, is recycling the “search without search” mantra as it prepares to undergo a sixth grade type of scrutiny for its privacy behavior.

Here’s the snippet in the write up that caught my attention:

Autonomous search would take your past experiences, likes and dislikes and use them, along with geolocation information, to give you information about things that might interest you wherever you might be.


Is automatic ubiquitous search good for me? Maybe. Is it good for Google ad revenues? I think so. An advertiser bids on a word. Google runs searches without search, sticks them in front of me, and on my mobile or other computing device I click away. Each click is good for Google. Is the click good for the advertiser? I think that some advertisers will be happy. I think other advertisers may wonder what the heck happened to their money. As people move away from Web sites to apps, to consider this example, the click may not have the same payoff as in the good old days of desktop computers. Do advertisers offer mobile friendly landing pages? Some do. Some don’t. If I click on an ad, I expect an offer that matches my device. If not, I don’t linger. I disappear along with the advertiser’s money.

Google wants search without search. As I said, the Elder Eddas again.

Stephen E Arnold, March 31, 2011


Protected: Attivio Rises to the Challenge of the Cloud

March 31, 2011

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The FTC, Google and the Buzz

March 30, 2011

I read “Google Will Face Privacy Audits For The Next 20 Long Years.” The Federal Trade Commission has under its umbrella the mechanism to trigger privacy audits of Google’s practices for the next 20 years. Okay. Two decades. The matter fired off the launch pad in February 2010 and, if the story is spot on, landed with a ruling in March 2011. Here’s the passage that caught my attention:

As the FTC put it, “Although Google led Gmail users to believe that they could choose whether or not they wanted to join the network, the options for declining or leaving the social network were ineffective.”

I think this means that Google’s judgment was found lacking. The notion of just doing something and apologizing if that something goes wrong works in some sectors. The method did not seem to work in this particular situation, however.

I noted this passage in the article:

Google has formally apologized for the whole mess, saying “The launch of Google Buzz. fell short of our usual standards for transparency and user control—letting our users and Google down.”

Yep. Apologies. More about those at the Google blog. Here’s the passage of Google speak I found fascinating:

User trust really matters to Google.

For sure. No, really. You know. Really. Absolutely.

I am not sure I have an opinion about this type of “decision”. What strikes me is that if a company cannot do exactly what it wants, that company may be hampered to some degree. On the other hand, a government agency which requires a year to make a decision seems to be operating at an interesting level of efficiency.

What about the users? Well, does either of the parties to this legal matter think about the user? My hunch is that Google wants to get back to the business of selling ads. The FTC wants to move on to weightier matter. The user will continue with behaviors that fascinate economists and social scientists.

In a larger frame, other players move forward creating value. Web indexing, ads, and US government intervention may ultimately have minimal impact at a 12 month remove. Would faster, more stringent action made a more significant difference? Probably but not now.

Maybe Google and the FTC will take Britney Spears’s advice:

“My mum said that when you have a bad day, eat ice-cream. That’s the best advice,”

A modern day Li Kui for sure. For sure. No, really.

Stephen E Arnold, March 30, 2011

Freebie unlike some of life’s activities

Updated Google Search App for iPhone

March 30, 2011

Out with the old and in with the new according to “Google Search App for iPhone – a New Name and a New Look”.  The former Google Mobile App has been replaced by the redesigned Google Search app.

Naturally the interface has changed.  An Apps button is included at the bottom of the screen to quickly interact with other Google products.  There is also a toolbar for filtering results to make sure you only get what you are looking for, i.e. images, news etc.  They’ve also included a way to hang on to former searches so you can pick up where you left off should you temporarily walk away from the process.  And that’s not nearly all. The blog post asserts:

… there are a number of improvements we’ve made to everything else you love in the app, including Google Goggles, Voice Search, Search with My Location, Gmail unread counts and more.  There’s a lot in the app, so we’ve added a simple help feature to let you explore it.  Access this by tapping the question mark above the Google logo.

Good updates, but it looks as though the Google app for iPhone has surpassed the app for Android.  Based on the litany of comments to the post, I’m not the only one who’s noticed Google is catering to iPhone users over patrons of its own platform.  Wonder when we can expect the same treatment for Android?

Sarah Rogers, March 30, 2011


Is SharePoint the Answer to the Social Question?

March 30, 2011

I recently read a post which opened with “Technology is about expansion.”  I am sure that is on a banner somewhere, or one of those posters meant to inspire the drones.  While true, the reality is even among those who are adept in all things tech, experiences like social trends are subjective.  If you don’t believe this, engage two IT gurus in a conversation, slip that query in and sit down.  You will likely be there for a minute.

SharePoint: not the Social Answer” is a relevant opinion piece.  The author is a former pastor at the church of SharePoint (SP); I say former because he has since converted to what he deems to be a more reliable tool.  While his new ‘faith’ is a topic for another time, his experiences with SP are well worth a review.  This passage clearly shows his view:

Getting users to understand and adopt social software can be hard in general, but SharePoint has so many options and options within options that users are literally scared of using it.  I saw the glazed-over stare of users time and time again when they attempted to use SharePoint.  Generally, users would have a specific idea in mind and would attempt to click around hoping the answer would appear.  This resulted in one of two things: they would give up or the very persistent would ask IT to walk them through it.

There is a comment for this post that sums up this perspective even more succinctly:

It’s often difficult to explain what’s wrong with SharePoint, because quantitatively speaking, it has it all. It’s the immeasurable stuff that makes it suck.

I was left wondering how widespread this view of SharePoint actually is because I’ve definitely heard the opposite.  Where is a good Pew poll when you need it?

Ken Toth, March 30, 2011


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