Faster access to Google Hangouts If you find the process of setting up a Google Hangout a bit confusing, this will make it a bit easier for you. Simply click on the button to start and then you're pretty much there.
Faster access to Google Hangouts If you find the process of setting up a Google Hangout a bit confusing, this will make it a bit easier for you. Simply click on the button to start and then you're pretty much there.
If you're looking at Google Maps and thinking 'WTF?' you're not alone. It's only just appeared in the last couple of weeks for me, so you may not even have seen it yet, but if you're like me, you may be less than impressed. Of course if you like it, dismiss the rest of this blog posting! Luckily, you can revert to the older version, but I don't know how long it will remain, so make the most of it while it's there.
Go to Google maps at https://www.google.com/maps
In the bottom right hand side of the screen click on the floating ? symbol and you'll get a dialogue box thus:
Click on the last option, and Google will switch back for you, and will also ask for your feedback.
The law that couldn't work is already fundamentally flawed. I've previously written about the insanity of being forgotten in a previous blog entry, and the results, now that we're seeing them in action are even more laughable than I was expecting. The short version is: it doesn't work. The longer version:
Google is attempting to work out when someone searches for a name, and when it finds what it thinks is one, in the .co.uk version we're seeing a message at the bottom of the results page which says "Some results may have been removed under data protection law in Europe." The first problem is that Google doesn't know what is a person's name, and what isn't. Take for example 'Gay Summer'. It's a perfectly acceptable name of a person, but Google has decided that it isn't, so it doesn't trigger the message. Even if I re-word it as "Gaye Summer", we still don't see it. Apparently therefore as far as Google is concerned it seems that 'Gay' or 'Gaye' isn't a first name. Neither is 'Mary Christmas', although 'Mary Jones' is regarded as a name. "Bradley Brown" is a name, but "Brown Bradley" isn't. "Phil Bradley" is a name, but "Bradley Phil" isn't. More appropriate, a Scottish referee, whose name triggers the warning, "Dougie McDonald" doesn't get triggered if you search for "McDonald Dougie" Now, admittedly that last example is a slight stretch since newspapers are not in the habit of writing surname, first name, but it still indicates a level of inconsistency with search functionality that's annoying, or amusing, depending on your viewpoint.
However, the really big flaw, which I can't actually believe is true, but I've checked it now dozens of times, is that this only works if you search for a name "in double quotes as a phrase". Here's an example of what I see when searching for "Phil Bradley" in quotes:
Without quotes - no warning message. I'm not sure if it's just me who sees this; please try it yourself and let me know in the comments - are you seeing a difference between names in quotes and without?
Now, let's turn to the next element - if I do a search with quotes and one without, does it actually change the results that I get? In other words, has the right to be forgotten worked and it's only the message warning that's not been tripped. Let's try with the referee. These are the ten results with the name in quotes and the warning message:
Using the same browser (Firefox) and the same IP address, the results for the name without quotes and no warning message are:
There is a slight difference in results, but nothing spectacular. So what happens if I run the same search on Google.com and see what we get? Once again, the results are really not that different.
The issue gets more and more confusing. The Daily Mail is complaining that Google.co.uk has taken down some results including one titled 'Scottish referee Dougie McDonald quits with a stinging blash at the SFA and his critics'. Looks a bit similar to a couple of articles that are already up there. This gets even more messy because you can follow the link to the DM site and the article is slightly different. A search on the Mail site brings up the article but under an entirely different title - 'Out with a bang! Ref McDonald quits with a stinging blast at the SFA'
I then ran a search for the guys name over on DuckDuckGo, and although the results were different, which you'd expect, there was a link to the DM article, and no mention of any Guardian articles, which they have been complaining about as being blocked. Now, one of these is entitled 'Referee at centre of Celtic penalty incident escapes with...'. If I do a search for the name it's perfectly true that the article doesn't appear in the Google index. However, if I instead search on "referee at centre of celtic penalty incident" the Guardian article is the very first one listed. (Click on the link and try it yourself).
So let's now try and put the two together - and what do we get? Why the self same article in #1 spot as you can see:
So what happens when I try and play around with the search? Removing the double quotes around both name and phrase - same result (with no warning message). Name in double quotes - same result as #1 but with the warning message at the bottom. Reducing my search to "Dougie McDonald" penalty incident still brings up the apparently unlisted article:
Also interestingly we've still got the Daily Mail article that they claim has been taken out of the Google index; clearly it hasn't. Now, in the Guardian article, they're claiming that their story, entitled "Referee at centre of Celtic penalty incident escapes with a warning" has been removed from the Google index, and they're showing a screenshot of this, and comparing it to the results that you get in Google.com. Now, if I do the same search that they did "Dougie McDonald" guardian, they're quite right - the article doesn't appear. However, if I'm slightly more subtle and do a search for "Dougie McDonald" site:theguardian.com then the article comes straight back.
So what are we to make of all of this? It seems clear that Google isn't actually removing articles from its index at all. I tried the search with the Daily Mail article as well, and it's still readily available.
The Guardian says that you can find the article 'Doubie McDonald penalty saga exposes need for SFA' in the .com version, but not in the .co.uk version. Indeed, over at .com it's the 2nd result. In .co.uk it's not available - UNTIL I re-run the search with site:theguardian.com when it reappears as the 4th result.
In summary then, my conclusion is that Google is NOT removing results; they are not being removed from the index - just made harder to find. Except that all you need to do is to remove the double quotes from the name, and perhaps add in some more terms:
This really isn't quite the same as removing links from their index at all! The only thing that's required is a bit of search savvy, there's no problem. That's to say nothing of the fact that you can of course go straight across to Google.com.
It's also interesting to see that Google is contacting the mass media to tell them when an article has been removed, because that then becomes a new story in its own right as we've seen, and it's something that they can write about, and then get indexed. So I'm guessing that Mr McDonald is going to be having a fine old time going back to Google to get THOSE articles removed from the index as well, which continues the insane merry go round.
[EDITED TO ADD] Another thought struck me - if you search for the name of the referee, and the newspaper, then look at the image results, not the web page results, it's possible to pull up the supposed un-indexed articles using that method. The Guardian says that this article "Dougie McDonald penalty saga exposes need for SFA transparency" has 'been swept clean' when it is actually still there. Try this search and click on the first link, then go to the page, and voila! There it is.
I'd welcome comments and observations - are you seeing things similar to me? Or are your results totally different, and if so, how?
New Google functionality makes it easier to search for hashtag content on Twitter and Facebook. But not every time, because that would make life too easy. If you include a hashtag Google provides new search options that it's keeping fairly out of the way. Over in the right hand menu you may see something like this:
You can then click on the appropriate link (Google+, Twitter or Facebook) and get taken directly to the site to run a search. What's particularly noteworthy is that you're running the search on Google, it's actually ON Facebook/Twitter. In this respect Google is almost acting like a traditional multi search engine, giving you different options that you can run a search on.
Of course, it's not that simple. I didn't consistently get the option coming up; the second time I tried #ipad as a search I was playing with, there was nothing to see. If you add in other terms (hashtags or not), this feature doesn't seem to appear. Just adding in a hashtag didn't always work - my #CILIP search didn't give me anything extra. So - another useful idea from Google, badly let down by their usual incompetent and slipshod approach.
The European Court of Justice has just told the world that they are clueless, inept and embarassingly short of knowledge on how the internet works. As you're almost certainly aware, they have ruled that Google is a data controller” under the 19-year-old European law on data protection, and as such could be required not to display links to information that is “inadequate, irrelevant...or excessive”.
There is no world in which any of this makes sense at all. However, let's break it down into various elements, because it's more fun that way.
Do people have a right to be forgotten? There's plenty of material out there on people which is less than complimentary, and much of it is also wrong. A lot of that data is also historical in nature, but unlike incorrect information that just sits inactive in a book or journal, this information can still remain very active. Take the example of Max Mosley, who was involved in a scandal some time back. For most of us, that particular episode is already forgotten, but if you do a search on Google you may (and I stress the word may) see that Google is giving you auto suggest options which relate to the incident. I'm not seeing them on my searches as you can see:
However, other people may. Now, there's not an awful lot that Google can do about that, since Google reflects what the rest of the world does, and if lots of people write about a particular issue, it's going to pick up on that. The real issue is that the content is already out there and will continue to remain out there, whatever Google does. Does Mr Mosley have a right to some sort of protection? Sure he does, but that protection needs to come from him talking to the original publishers of content, not the people who are providing it. Besides, when I see that material, I can also read the entire story and make up my own mind. So whose rights are more important - his to try and make it more difficult for me to find publically available information on him, or mine, to allow me to easily find that information? You may well have some sympathy with the man, which is fine. How about when we look at other people who are requesting that information about them is removed from Google's indexes, such as people with a criminal past, drunk drivers, sex abusers and so on. Do they have the right to be forgotten, or do I have the right to know that they might be living across the road from me? A lot of the people requesting the 'right to be forgotten' are doing so because of their criminal convictions. In the course of every day life many of those people will have the right to have their conviction 'spent' under current UK law, but that's a rather different issue. So the first point - who has the stronger right?
The 'right to be forgotten' isn't a right at all - since they are NOT being forgotten, just not indexed by Google. It would perhaps be more sensible to call it a 'right to censor material about me that I don't like without actually contacting the original publishers of the data'. Moreover, Google intends to indicate in search results if material has been removed as a result of this requirement. Now - if you do a search for 'Phil Bradley' and Google tells you that it has been required to remove material, isn't the first thing you do going to be to go to another search engine? Or if you can't be bothered to do that, go from google.co.uk to google.com since the ruling only applies to the UK version of the search engine.
Why just Google? As we all know, there are plenty of other search engines out there (and if you need them, I've got a list of over 200 search engines), and although Bing is attempting to create a right to be forgotten feature, that's 2 down, 198 to go. And what about new search engines? Who is going to monitor those? No-one, as far as I can tell. So the ruling doesn't actually work on these grounds either.
Next up - who makes the decision on what is in the public interest, as opposed to an invasion of privacy? It's not going to be the courts. Google is going to create a panel who will sift through these requests, and it's got a number of high profile people on it, but they're not going to be wasting their valuable time doing it day after day. It's going to get passed onto some lowly Google employee who makes decisions based on... well, I'm really not sure. Who is going to represent the public interest? What is the 'court of appeal' over this? Deafening silence.
So we've reached a stage when the European Court of Justice is handing over control of information (or at least partial control) to an American corporate. In what world does this make any sense at all?
So there isn't a single sensible reason for this ruling. This will not protect people, either the ones who want to be forgotten, or anyone else. It's ineffective because it doesn't appear to relate to all search engines, and it doesn't even cover all Google search engine variants. It's an abrogation of control to an unaccountable, unelected body. Insane.
You may have heard of the Google Chromecast gadget - I got one the other day and wanted to do a quick write up. However, if you haven't heard of this little tool, let's back up slightly. It's essentially a little gadget that you plug into the back of your (newish) television - you have to have an HDMI (High-Definition Multimedia Interface) connection available, and you plug it in. You then go to the appropriate website on your desktop/laptop/tablet/smartphone and follow the onscreen instructions. When you've done all of that you can then 'cast' what you're seeing on the device directly onto your television. Consequently it's great for watching YouTube videos on a nice television sized screen, or watching films and so on. There are a bunch of apps in the Chrome store that work with the device, and you can add these to your laptop etc.
The installation was very easy. It really was just a question of following the onscreen instructions - it look longer to download the software than it did anything else. The gadget configured itself and the wi-fi connection - all that you need to know is your Router password details, and that's just about it. Once you're all set you see a cheery little icon sitting on your Chrome browser, or in your YouTube application etc which looks a little like this:
Make sure that you're on the correct tv channel for the HDMI port and you'll then see your screen being displayed on the television. Anything that you now do on your laptop etc. will appear on the television.
Libraries can use this in a variety of different ways. It's now really easy to cast your screen onto a television and you don't need to have an expensive projector - though I do readily concede that you need an expensive - or at least newish - television. It's going to be excellent to display presentations, training materials, videos, photographs and so on. A super little training tool in fact, as well as a promotional resource. If you only have a smartphone (Android or Apple) you can still show what's on the small screen onto something much larger.
There are some limitations - you have to have the Google Chrome browser on your computer/tablet/etc but that's only to be expected. In theory you can only cast stuff that you have available on the browser screen, but you can get around that, since there are apps that let you see more than a browser window - so the Chrome remote desktop app is great here - just allow your computer and laptop to talk to each other, and you can then take over the computer and cast what you're seeing onto the television. You could therefore show a game, the basics of another program; just about anything that you can see or use on your desktop can then be shown on the television. I did find that if you have a dual screen/monitor setup this particular app would show both, but that's easy enough to fix.
The price of this gadget is the princely sum of £30.00 and you can buy it from Amazon or all good technical stores, and probably some supermarkets as well now. Set up time from start to finish, for my laptop and tablet (iPad Air) was about 15 minutes, and most of that was just twiddling thumbs waiting for things to download or configure. It's such a cheap price for a really handy little gadget it's just worth getting for even occasional use.
Image search isn't top of most people's lists when it comes to searching, but when you do need images, you need images! Bing produced a blog post the other day which was talking about a comparision of Bing and Google image search functions and thought I'd take a look myself. Is Bing better than Google when it comes to search?
High quality images. In the blog post, Bing claims that they have higher quality images than Google, and have used the example “photos of yunnan” and show screenshots from both sets of searches. It's certainly true that Bing has very good quality material, but equally I found the material from Google image search to be just as useful; a key point is that BOTH engines produced very different sets of images for me to look through. Bing makes the point in their blog and screenshot that Google images primarily show maps. This only happens however when you remove the phrase search option, and just search on photos of yunnan. It's absolutely true at that point that Google provides a lot of mapped images, but there's also a fair smattering of maps in the Bing results as well. I'm therefore in two minds over this claim; a good searcher will get good results, a novice searcher, not so much. However, a search for "photos of birmingham" with or without the double quotes produced good quality images with bosth search engines - but again, very different results. The point that I'd make here then is if you're looking for images, you want to search BOTH Bing and Google, and not rely on one or the other.
Understanding objects. Bing says "Historically, search engines have relied on information provided in the surrounding text of an image or on the corresponding web page to assess what is being captured in a given image." That's perfectly true, and they're making the claim that they can now isolate the image from the rest of the photograph, and work out what it is. However in my 'jet' search (one of the Bing examples) Bing and Google were as good as each other. The main difference is that Bing gives a variety of suggested options at the top of the screen in text form, Google gives them in image format, but fewer of them. I'm really not convinced by Bing's claim here to be honest, and once again my advice is 'search both'.
Understanding colour. Here the claim by Bing is that their image search engine has a better understanding of colour. So if I search for a pink car, that's what I'll get - not a white car on a pink background. It's perfectly true - BUT if I do the same search on Google, I get very similar results. Searching by colour is very useful; both Bing and Google do it well, and I absolutely would reject Bing's claim that they are doing it better than Google.
Filtering Image Characteristics is the next item that Bing covers. They say "Using image understanding we let you filter your search by size, color, layout, date and even license (e.g. Creative Commons)." They use an example of George Clooney, but with Google I was able to do a black and white search just as quickly, with as good results. Yet again, no difference in quality of search, but different results - search both for more comprehensive results. To be fair however, while both engines have the ability to filter by 'face', Bing has the option for 'just faces' or 'head and shoulders'. However to counter that, Google is providing the search with a series of options at the top of the results for 'movies', 'young', 'girlfriend' and so on - which I'd say is just as useful, if not more so.
Image styles. I'd agree with Bing that it's important to limit to image style, so 'clip art' is a really important option. But Google has exactly the same choice as well. However, if we compare the 'type' option in both search engines Google provides us with Face, photo, clip art, line drawing, animated, while Bing only gives us photograph, clip art, line drawing - which isn't as helpful.
'Smart cropping'. This is something that Bing says is quite important - showing us the key element of the photograph, while getting rid of the rest. They use the example of a particular actress and I'd agree - the results are good; clear and centred on her face. Once again, I don't really see that much difference with the same search on Google.
Thumbnails. Bing tries to make the point that if you do a search (and why oh why do they always have to use actresses? It's tedious, tiresome and quite frankly in this day and age, boring) you get some thumbnail images in the default search box, (rather than images) which are better than Google's. At this point I think there is serious straw clutching going on. It's a thumbnail! I really don't care that much about the quality at that point - that becomes important when I look at the quality of images themselves.
Building hero image experiences. Trust me, that's Bing's terminology, not mine. The idea is that the key image that comes up first is bigger in size, up in the left hand corner, so that people can see it more easily. That may well be the case in the United States, but it's not the case elsewhere. I was seeing all of the images displayed with equal weight. So it's one of those 'the Americans need it, the rest of the world can go whistle' things. In fact, when doing the searches (for giraffes) I found the Google option of different sets of images which are displayed AS images far more useful than the text alternatives that Bing was offering me.
In summary, I simply do not see Bing's claims being born out in experience. Yours may of course be different, and probably will be. However, if you're going to make claims, make sure that they stack up, because Bing's just don't.
If you prefer to use the UK version of Google rather than the .com version you may already have seen 'in depth' articles in your search results. For those people who use google.com this is something that we've seen for some time. Basically Google will provide you with 3 articles related to your keyword, and you'll find them towards the bottom of the page of results. The idea is that you'll continue to use Google as a self contained ready reference tool, but unfortunately as my screenshot shows, I'd have to question the value of the articles that they find.
Does Google seriously think that articles written in 2009, 2011 and 2012 are going to be the most helpful ones out there? A search for surveillance also gave me articles from 2012. How is this helpful? In comparison, Silobreaker gave me a huge wealth of material, both current and archival, with video, images, in focus pieces, networks, blogged material, quotes, press releases and a whole host more. Google can't lay a glove on a resource as comprehensive, authoritative and current as that. Too little, too late Google.
Originally launched last year, Google has provided more functionality to their nutritional database, and you can get the information that you need without leaving the search engine. Simply do a search to compare two different foods, or use "vs" instead. (You need the double quote marks). Here's a comparison of crisps and apples:
The pulldown option is worth noting, since it gives a huge number of different comparisons, such as vitamins, sugars, proteins and fats. Unfortunately it will only compare two different things at once, but it's still a valuable tool if you're into nutrition.
I got asked a couple of questions about Google and their results on Twitter today - it's not easy to answer in 140 characters, so I've embedded the tweets and will then attempt an answer.
The same search on Google brings back different numbers of results. Why? Any idea @Philbradley— (@mumwastheword) March 21, 2014
Also using the minus sign to exclude words. Results go up. Google questions! @Philbradley— (@mumwastheword) March 21, 2014
This happens on a regular basis, and there are a lot of reasons for this. To take the first question first. Google is constantly updating their results, finding more information and bringing it back, so it's possible that if the count is off by a small number, it's simply because Google added or deleted content from the database. However it could also mean that because Google uses different data centres the first query went to one data centre that had one count, and the second search went to a different data centre that had another count. Because they're not absolutely in sync, it's a possible answer.
That's the kind explanation. The other explanation is that Google doesn't actually care about the number of results - it's simply a rough estimate. Google is, in effect, bone idle, and doesn't carry out a proper search for you. I asked Amit Singhal, a leading Google engineer this exact question once and he said to me that I shouldn't worry about the counts - they weren't that important. If you think about it - unless you do a very precise search Google will give a very round neat number; it's meant to simply be an indication of how many results exist. It's also a fairly moot point, since Google knows that you're not going to look at thousands of results anyway. So regard the number of results that you see merely as a guideline, not an accurate figure.
Now, when you do your search again, adding in more filters, excluding words/phrases and so on, Google actually has to do some work, and I always think of it a little bit like a stroppy teenager giving a deep sigh before getting up to do the chores. Google thinks 'oh right, this is a real request' and it actually works a bit harder in an attempt to give a slightly more accurate figure - and again this is the explanation that I got from Amit on his visit to Google in London a year or so ago. You can see this time and time again - when excluding a word from a search you often get more, not less hits because the hit count the first time is very rough - sometimes by millions. An example that I often use is this one: "man on the moon" and then "man on the moon" -hoax.
Which is a difference of an impressive 8,060,000! It makes something of a mockery of Google search results, but they really don't care that much, and I've got this straight from the horse's mouth as it were.