Sunday, October 26, 2008

Easy Webpage Maker Thanks to Google Labs

My mother wanted a site for her law practice that potential clients would find when they Googled her. My professor needed a place on the web where he could post assignments and readings for Psych 131. My friend Casey was excited about creating an online encyclopedia of Big Lebowski trivia.

All of them wanted simple web pages that looked great, but none of them wanted to take the time to learn HTML, wrangle with complex tools or shell out cash for a designer. They managed to cajole me, their nerdy technically-savvy friend, into becoming the neighborhood techie -- but what if you don't know one? Why isn't making a web page as fast and easy as using a word processor?

These frustrations stayed with me when I started working at a California company full of friendly neighborhood techies that encourages its employees to devote 20% of their time to scratching their intellectual itches. So I gathered a team of engineers and designers passionate about using their 20% time to make it easy to publish useful, attractive web pages.

After many months of focusing on designing a product that our friends and families would enjoy, and politely coaxing web browsers into doing things they were never meant to do, we're happy that "Google Page Creator" is now part of the Google Labs family. Labs is Google's technology playground, a place where we can experiment with new services that have us excited, but that aren't all grown up yet. We rely on constructive feedback from early users to help us nurture these experiments from intriguing ideas into mature products.

Google Page Creator is just a small step in helping people get their words, pictures and ideas on to the web. But it's nice to know that when my friends want to share their experiences from a Venetian monastery, or coworkers feel compelled to give their appropriately-named bowling team a web presence, I know where to point them.


Monday, October 13, 2008

Yahoo Search Helps You Find Cheep Gas

Driving across town to find gas that's a few percent less expensive may have seemed silly a few years ago, but nowadays it's becoming a lot more rational. With gas prices up 71% compared to last year and no relief in sight, we thought a Yahoo! Search shortcut to help users find the cheapest gas in their area was in order.

Starting today, if you search for [gas prices + city name/zip code] or [cheap gas + city name/zip code], you'll get a shortcut that gives you comprehensive information such as gas prices, locations and even maps without having to leave the search results page. And, if you don't happen to include a city name or zip code, don't fret. We'll do our best to determine the stations closest to you.

Gas Price DD

Gas prices can vary drastically in any given city - take Chicago for example, with a low of $3.54 and a high of $4.33 per gallon - so, do a quick search before you head out on the road.


Wednesday, October 8, 2008 with Better Answers went back to its roots and enhanced the snippets for search results if the query is a question. Snippets are usually excerpts that include your query, but replaced them with the actual answers, as you can see if you search for [how to tie a tie]:

"Presenting direct answers to your searches, front and center, has always been at the heart of the experience, and we push further down that path today with the introduction of three new answer technologies: DADS, DAFS, and AnswerFarm. These technologies take both structured and unstructured data, and - instead of delivering a title and description for each document - they deliver answers," explains Ask's blog. This is a clever idea, but only shows at most 2 results with enhanced snippets.

The new feature is part of a broader update that mixes specialized search results with organic web results, much like Google's universal search. goes one step further and almost eliminates standard, as you can see if you search for [Madonna]: in the top 10 results, you can find 4 web search results, one direct answer, image results, news results, event listings, video results and an encyclopedia result.


Sunday, October 5, 2008

Google is shopping for an Ad Agency of Record

An interesting artical about Google looking for an Ad Agency of Record.
-- Janet Meiners |

You don’t see a lot of traditional advertising from Google. Their philosophy is to build great products and develop amazing technology and let it sell (and support) itself. Their marketing strategy has relied mostly on word of mouth - and its worked well. It just may not be enough for a company their size.

That is slowly changing. Google looks to be shopping for an ad agency. They’ve looked at Madison Avenue agencies like Wieden + Kennedy and Taxi New York. They’ve hired an agency for a campaign in Japan called “100 Things You Can Do With Google.” However, unlike many top brands Google ads aren’t running on prime time.

Many people outside of geekdom don’t know about Google’s 411 phone service, Gmail, or other Google products. For example, do you know about or use Google’s text message search service? Text message a search query to 466453 (”GOOGLE” on most phones) and they text message back the search results. It’s been around since 1994. I use Goog411 but just heard about text searching last week.

What they have been doing to market though - is they blog. And they actively promote blog posts. And post quirky YouTube ads on creative ways to use their products. There is constant talk of new products, new uses for products, and about Google culture. And we (the online audience) eat it up.

For the most part Googlers are great evangelists for their company. But what about the people who aren’t online or who don’t read blogs? As Google branches into cell phones, regular phones, and other products, they’re competing in spaces with more serious competition. Sometimes Google’s products sound compelling but aren’t fully baked and are rarely supported.

When Google releases their G1 cellphone with Google Android as its backend, they are planning to advertise on billboards and TV ads. They are partnering with T-Mobile, a company already doing a lot of traditional advertising. This seems more Google’s style - letting another company take the lead or do much of the marketing for them.

More evidence that Google is doing more traditional advertising is that they hired Andy Berndt, a former co-president of WPP Group’s Ogilvy & Mather in New York. He is director of a new group called Google Creative Lab where they develop marketing and branding strategies (in true Google style there are quirky contests that reward innovation).

Google may need to invest more in marketing as their growth rate slows (it’s still amazing though - 39% in its second quarter, which was 58% last year). TNS Media Intelligence says Google’s offline ad spending is at about $20 million a year.

While Google is almost synonymous with “search” they are much less well-known for their other products. Mostly I want to see Google’s authentic brand and style in the offline world. Have you seen examples of their ad efforts offline? I’d like to hear about it.


Thursday, October 2, 2008

The Ten Commandments of Blogging

Blogsessive - Obsessed with Blogging has defined the 10 Commandments of Blogging. I love the list! Please feel free to add your thoughts.

I’m no modern Moses, but when it comes to blogging there are some things that we should all respect. Some of them I’ve learned from others, some from my own experience, but put together, here are the ten commandments of blogging that I follow by the book.

1. Promise and deliver
Whenever you make a promise focus on delivering. If something goes wrong, make sure you inform people and tell them you’re going to be a little late on delivering, but silence is not an answer.

2. Be helpful
It’s not all about getting paid. Actually most successful bloggers have made a name for themselves by helping other people find their path. The more helpful you are, the more people you’ll attract. The bigger your authority, the better are the chances to transform that authority into income.

3. Never steal
Inspiration is something we all look for, but stealing is not a method of getting inspired. Don’t worry if your first blogging experiments are not as great as those of more popular bloggers. Focus on evolution, on learning, and you’ll get there, in time.

4. Allow yourself time for research
Sometimes, even a 5 minute research can turn a simple blog post into a great post. If your post will manage to provide information on all/most of the topic’s aspects, it is likely to be much more appreciated by your readers.

5. Provide insight, but leave space for reaction
As I said at number 4, it’s better to touch all aspects of a topic, even if not in an in-depth way. At least, you’re giving people a starting point from where they can start looking for more information. Also, by leaving a few blank spots, you encourage reaction and communication.

6. Choose role-models, not idols
If a blogger has become successful, it’s mostly because he/she has found his/her own path. It’s nice to admire people for their qualities and focus. Whenever you turn to them for inspiration, rather look at their strategies than their actual actions. Most times, your own set of actions is more likely to be the successful ones.

7. Don’t lose focus
I know that sometimes it’s tough. Sometimes, you just feel less inspired or consider that there are no more things that you could approach in your main topic. Rather than letting you blog go, look for topics tangent to those you usually write about.

A small change is like a fresh mouth of air in the morning. Afterward, you’ll see how ideas will start to shape up.

8. Be good and be proud
If you’re good at what you’re doing, there’s no point in not letting people know it. Don’t expect to be discovered in that mass of millions of blogs out there. Promote yourself, your ideas and you accomplishments. There’s no shame in that. Also, a good sense of modesty is helpful, but don’t confuse being modest with being shy.

9. When you point fingers, make sure you’re entitled to
Although I never encourage anyone to stick their nose in someone else’s business, I know that sometimes, people feel the need to point at other people’s mistakes. If you’re going to do that, make sure you’re 100% right. Unsupported allegations will most likely turn against you.

10. Never expect less than you can achieve.
It’s always important that you know what your limits are. Once you’ve come to know them, always aim higher. That way, it’s easier to level them or even go beyond.

Most of the times, the human nature makes as lazier or less interested the closer we get to our goals, but by aiming higher, we’ll have an edge. This last rule is more of a life rule than a blogging commandment, but still, I find it highly important.
Share your set of rules with me

Sure, you can always go beyond the above set of rules and add more standards to blog by, like keeping a schedule, trying to be more communicative and so one, but these are the ones that guide my blogging path.

Tell me, what’s your set of rules?


Browse what the world is saying on Blog Search

Did you know that millions of bloggers around the world write new posts each week? If you're like me, you probably read only a tiny fraction of these in Google Reader. What's everybody else writing about? Our Blog Search team thought this was an interesting enough question to look into. What Google found was a massive mix: entertaining items about celebrities, personal perspectives on political figures, cutting-edge (and sometimes unverified) news stories, and a range of niche topics often ignored by the mainstream media.

Yesterday, Google launched a new homepage for Google Blog Search so that you too can browse and discover the most interesting stories in the blogosphere. Adapting some of the technology pioneered by Google News, Google is now showing categories on the left side of the website and organizing the blog posts within those categories into clusters, which are groupings of posts about the same story or event. Grouping them in clusters lets you see the best posts on a story or get a variety of perspectives. When you look within a cluster, you'll find a collection of the most interesting and recent posts on the topic, along with a timeline graph that shows you how the story is gaining momentum in the blogosphere.

In this example, the green "64 blogs" link takes you inside the cluster and shows you all the blog posts for a story.

Google had a great time building the new homepage and they hope you enjoy using it. Please give it a try and let Google know if you have comments or suggestions. They launched in English only, but plan to add new features and support for more languages in the coming months, so stay tuned.