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Saturday, June 28, 2003

New York Times Asks: Is Google God?

Google God

Thomas L. Friedman in the New York Times asks: Is Google God?

“In the past three years, Google has gone from processing 100 million searches per day to over 200 million searches per day. And get this: only one-third come from inside the U.S. The rest are in 88 other languages. ’The rate of the adoption of the Internet in all its forms is increasing, not decreasing,’ says Eric Schmidt, Google’s C.E.O. ’The fact that many [Internet companies] are in a terrible state does not correlate with users not using their products.’ (...)

Says Alan Cohen, a V.P. of Airespace, a new Wi-Fi provider: ’If I can operate Google, I can find anything. And with wireless, it means I will be able to find anything, anywhere, anytime. Which is why I say that Google, combined with Wi-Fi, is a little bit like God. God is wireless, God is everywhere and God sees and knows everything. Throughout history, people connected to God without wires. Now, for many questions in the world, you ask Google, and increasingly, you can do it without wires, too.’”
– Thomas L. Friedman, Is Google God? (New York Times), June 29, 2003

Also see: The Church of Google.

Linking to Video Segments and the Limitations of Meta-Data

Linking to Movie Segment

The Age in “Cut to the chase” (by By Nicole Manktelow, June 28 2003) reports that researchers from Australia developed methods for browsing and searching online video content.
With the CSIRO team’s Continuous Media Markup Language (CMML), producers can mark specific sequences for easier browsing and searching: “If embraced by the likes of Google or AltaVista, internet users will be able to search online audio and video just as they search web pages and images.”

As with all approaches of making meta-data (data about data) work in the Real Web, there’s some inherent problems with it. According to Cory Doctorow:

However, not all meta-data is bad:

“Certain kinds of implicit metadata is awfully useful, in fact. Google exploits metadata about the structure of the World Wide Web: by examining the number of links pointing at a page (and the number of links pointing at each linker), Google can derive statistics about the number of Web-authors who believe that that page is important enough to link to, and hence make extremely reliable guesses about how reputable the information on that page is.

This sort of observational metadata is far more reliable than the stuff that human beings create for the purposes of having their documents found. It cuts through the marketing [spam], the self-delusion, and the vocabulary collisions.”
– Cory Doctorow, Metacrap: Putting the torch to seven straw-men of the meta-utopia, 26 August 2001

German Google News

The German Abakus Search Engine weblog reports on the new, German-language Google news: “Although the search function is still in English, it seems to be almost ready to go online. There are currently 629 german news sources from Germany, Austria and Switzerland feeding the portal.” German is the biggest non-English language used to access Google (followed by Japanese, Spanish, French, Chinese and Italian), as is shown in the Google Zeitgeist:

Languages Used to Access Google
March 2001 - May 2003
Google Zeitgeist Languages
(Information from Google Zeitgeist is free for use. Image by Google Inc.)

Former Google Answers Researcher in American Libraries

A new article from Jessamyn Charity West compares librarians to Google Answers Researchers, and investigates on a librarians need to use Google Answers. Note that Seattle-based Jessamy West, who has a Masters in Librarianship from the University of Washington, was once a Google Answers Researcher for a month in 2002. (About the time she wanted to resign, she was let off from the service.)

“In the early months after Google Answers’ launch, many librarians were scratching their heads and wondering why people might want to pay for answers if they could get them for free at the library. As time went on and the service became more popular, the question became why people were happily paying for questions to be answered by faceless researchers instead of their public librarians. My conclusions, based on conversations I had with question-askers as well as with several friends (not librarians) who used the service were:

1. You can ask a faceless researcher anything you want and you don’t have to worry about running into them at the supermarket: “Oh Mr. Smith, I hope you found that offshore Viagra dealer you were looking for!”

2. Paying even a small amount for research makes you the customer and hence in charge of the interaction. At a library, especially a public library, you need to acknowledge that you are one small part of “the public” and must use the time of the librarian accordingly. If you do not remember this, the librarian will often remind you.

3. No one can reprimand you or make you feel stupid in the fee-based environment, because they probably won’t get paid. (...)

Google’s odd assertion notwithstanding, and speaking as someone who has worked in both environments, I believe the library and Google Answers provide very different services and experiences”
– Jessamyn West, “Google answers is not the answer: a veteran librarian has questions about Google’s fee-based reference service”, American Libraries, June-July 2003 v34 i6 p54(3).

(She’s right there. As opposed to a Google Answers Researcher, a librarian could never show you photos of Jessamyn’s bedroom.)


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