Archive for January 2011

Google Search   Leave a comment

Google search has taken yet another step by adding an extra bar at the left of the search results page. It tends to focus on an evolutionary model to bring in more users. Results are now available with an extra column of tools to drill deeper into information. A query can be quickly and easily refined to show results only from shopping sites or the output from images alone or the latest updates.

The most crucial factor about this new development is –Google now reckons. In other words, it now knows the kind of things you are looking for. So, the options change according to each specific search. The new design refreshes and streamlines the look, feel and functionality of Google, making it easier to pinpoint what you are looking for. It is quite powerful, yet simple.

Whatever you search on Google is actually a horizontal search, which means you search everything all over the Web. Now, Google provides vertical search options, so that you may search within a specific category like books, images, blogs, news or search data from filed patents. Many of us are still unaware of several verticals that Google offers; users normally do a horizontal search or, at the most, go for an image search. So, Google has introduced a ‘Universal Search’, which searches internally across all verticals and shows the most relevant combo results within
the horizontal search itself.

According to Google, the new infrastructure of its next-gen architecture, code-named as ‘Google’s Caffeine’, sits ‘under the hood’ of Google’s search engine. It means that most users won’t notice a difference in search results. However, web developers and power searchers may do so.

Real-time Search for effective results

With the social media gaining in strength and popularity, Google has shifted its focus to real-time search results. Search for some famous personalities like Matt Cutts or Barack Obama and you will find a couple of pages from Twitter, Facebook or other social networking sites. These pages often get updated and provide real-time information. Apart from social media, Google bots also crawl web pages from news sites and other similar web hubs to get real-time results for fresh content and latest happenings across the globe.

Do you want to know more about a particular incident that happened minutes ago? Just Google your search and click on the latest results or select ‘latest’ from the search option menu. Now, you can see live updates and tweets about any incident, brought to you from different sources like Twitter, FriendFeed, news sites, blog posts and other web content resources. But all these would not have been possible without the support of Google’s partners including Facebook, MySpace, FriendFeed, Jaiku, Identi.ca and, of course, Twitter that allow Google to access updates instantly.

The results that you get are live ones and they get updated automatically with fresh information. So, there is no need to refresh those pages manually – Google does it for you. Just stay tuned and get notified, it is that simple. You need not worry about spam either, as the information you get is highly relevant.

You can further narrow down the real-time results – so that they will only show status updates and filter out news reports and other web pages. Currently, Google does not have a dedicated web page to show real-time search results and just displays a couple of results on its regular search page. But, if you are too keen to try real-time search, visit http://www.google.com/webhp?esrch=RTSearch. This will take you to the experimental Google Labs page to search real-time facts and results.

There are several benefits of real-time search; but in this world, every good thing comes with a shade of grey. If someone is searching for your firm or even your profile in real time, information and updates are bound to come up. Although this may help establish your credibility in the professional world, your competitors may cash in on this trend and tweet complaints about inferior service or company mismanagement. Worse still, you may fall victim of professional rivalry if your former boss/colleagues make unwholesome comments about your skills or excellence and your dream companyfinds that out during a background check on the Web. In other words, no one can stop another from playing dirty, as there is no way to track who owns a Twitter account. So, you may soon find yourself spending a lot of time and efforts – trying to stop and/or remove bogus complaints and derogatory comments from appearing on social networking sites.

However, Google is not just changing its search mechanism; it is also taking effective measures to improve the Web
experience. Moreover, the search giant is incorporating site speed as one of the ranking parameters. This will force web masters to create fast sites that will load instantly and ensure speedy operations. However, it is not the only parameter on which ranking will depend – in fact, it will affect even less than one per cent of search queries. But statistically speaking, even one per cent of millions of web pages is a big factor that web masters need to take care of. And they need to include this factor while optimising any site for search engines.

Get personalized search results

After every modification carried out by Google, web masters find it more difficult to propel their websites at the top of the search results page. And the introduction of personalised search by Google will make things even tougher. Thanks to this new feature , Google will now provide you with the most relevant results possible. But in order to get those results, you need to provide some data. Hey, don’t worry. You won’t have to fill in forms or take surveys. Instead, Google will record your searching habits and track the links that you often click. Based on this information,
you will get the results that best suit your requirements.

For instance, let us suppose that you often search the Net to find local information abouta city and its suburbs. And you mostly go tospecific sites  to find relevant data. So the next time you search for some related terms, you will see these sites listed at the top of the results page.
In case you do not like the idea of your searches being recorded, you can easily turn it off. Go to ‘My Account’ on Google and click on ‘Web History’. From there, you can enable or disable the personalised search. Even now, Google uses cookies to store the data of signed-out users for 180 days. But those users may also disable this feature by clicking on ‘Web History’ at the top right corner of search results pages.

Google has already grouped personalised results on a country-by-country basis and then on a region-by-region
basis. Therefore, those in the UK have long seen results slightly different than those in the USA. Using the data in this way makes plenty of sense and it will definitely help you get better search results. However, regional personalisation is one thing while behaviour personalisation adds a completely different dimension. Although it seems that Google is making these changes to enhance user experience, it may still be the company’s strategy to earn extra revenue. This feature will undoubtedly force web masters to opt for PPC (Pay- Per-Click) to get their websites listed at the top of search engine results page. It may be a good idea for Google or for users, but web masters won’t be too happy to embrace the new paradigm.

I will continue this article in the next post.

Map your Data   Leave a comment

Are you connecting your data to a map? to map your data.  Many organizations are discovering the power of geographic information systems to incorporate location-specific data into effective visual presentations.

Government users pioneered GIS for monitoring lot boundaries, water run-off, population movements and more. GIS is widely used to coordinate evacuations and emergency supplies and monitor the spread of diseases, among other things. On the business side, distribution companies have used GIS to monitor and manage their fleets for years. Energy companies have used seismic data to determine drilling locations. And for consumers, mapping software has been combined with location-based information to create easily understood maps that can show everything from the air quality in certain areas to the locations of public restrooms, high-crime zones or Kentucky’s bourbon distilleries — the possibilities are endless.

GIS increases IT demand. GIS will enable new capabilities in most industries. Examples abound. The American Printing House for the Blind is developing an in-home GPS for blind people. And as users comprehend the power of GIS, they demand more GIS-related services.

Data volumes grow rapidly. GIS requires a location tag for each data point. Many organizations start with ZIP codes, but GIS usually demands more precise locations: longitude, latitude and elevation. Many GIS applications also require time stamps for every measurement.

New expertise is required. I always thought longitude and latitude were constant. They are, as long as you know which type you’re using. There are literally thousands of mapping approaches; a GIS needs to specify the data standard used. Moreover, the widely used World Geodetic System is updated periodically, so data must specify a version: WGS 1984, WGS 1972, etc. State and local governments typically use the much simpler State Plane Coordinate System, which ignores the curvature of the Earth but is accurate for local use. GIS programmers must learn geospatial concepts and choose among specialized development environments and spatial data management systems.

GIS can be expensive. You need new data, tools and skills. Open-source tools and free geospatial data are adequate for creating a Google Maps mashup or for piloting business projects. But most organizations find that effective GIS requires more granular (and often expensive) data. Finally, GIS programming is highly specialized. A developer typically requires significant training to become productive. It’s easy to plan for tomorrow’s weather by watching The Weather Channel’s progressive weather map. Businesses will soon use similar maps to analyze and predict where their customers live, work, shop and travel. Your competitors will use GIS soon. Don’t be the last company to adopt this valuable technology.

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