Google Blogoscoped

Tuesday, January 18, 2005

Norvig on the Semantic Web

Peter Norvig, director of search quality at Google, discusses Semantic Web Ontologies: What Works and What Doesn’t [via Schockwellenreiter]:

“[There are] four individual challenges. First is a chicken-and-egg problem: How do we build this information, because what’s the point of building the tools unless you got the information, and what’s the point of putting the information in there unless you have tools. A friend of mine just asked can I send him all the URLs on the web that have dot-RDF, dot-OWL, and a couple other extensions on them; he couldn’t find them all. I looked, and it turns out there’s only around 200,000 of them. That’s about 0.005% of the web. We’ve got a ways to go.”

Peter Norvig goes on to describe the problems of meta-data if it would be applied to Google News:

“This is a Google News page from last night, and what we’ve done here is apply clustering technology to put the news stories together in categories, so you see the top story there about Blair, and there’re 658 related stories that we’ve clustered together.

Now imagine what it would be like if instead of using our algorithms we relied on the news suppliers to put in all the right metadata and label their stories the way they wanted to. “Is my story a story that’s going to be buried on page 20, or is it a top story? I’ll put my metadata in. Are the people I’m talking about terrorists or freedom fighters? What’s the definition of patriot? What’s the definition of marriage?”

Just defining these kinds of ontologies when you’re talking about these kinds of political questions rather than about part numbers; this becomes a political statement. People get killed over less than this.”

Peter outlines a statistical approach to “finding the truth"; just match statements (like “water flows downhill” vs “water flows uphill”). I favor this approach myself and believe it can lead to real intelligence coming out of the web. Peter says:

“Essentially what we’re doing here is using the power of masses of untrained people who you aren’t paying to do all your work for you, as opposed to trying to get trained people to use a well-defined formalism and write text in that formalism and let’s just use the stuff that’s already out there. I’m all for this idea of harvesting this “unskilled labor” and trying to put it to use using statistical techniques over masses of large data and filtering through that yourself, rather than trying to closely define it on your own.”

Last not least: people lie...

Justin’s Breakdown (Video)

He might be the blogger who’s been around the longest – Justin Hall has been publishing on for over a decade. Like many of us, he scours Google for his faith and posts his prayers online, and that’s what’s become his life and meaning... looking for people he can relate to, multiplying pieces of his soul through the web. Now he “sort of had a breakdown in January 2005” [MOV]. This is very personal and very public at the same time. [Via Waxy.]

Screen-Reader Accessibility

What do you have to keep in mind when developing web pages for text-to-speech readers, like for blind users? “Guidelines for Accessible and Usable Web Sites: Observing Users Who Work With Screen Readers” has answers. I found this remark from a screen-reader user interesting, and it’s one more argument against creating “special” pages (like Google does) instead of integrating accessibility right into the same web page:

“I never trust screen reader versions because the text version is never updated.”

GM Viral Marketing

“GM is posting one-word billboards across the country from San Francisco to New York City. The words form a message when they’re strung together. What does it all mean? Find out on January 31, 2005.”
GM – Find the Message

Sat1 & Google

The shockwaves a recent TV show by Sat1 made in German blogspace can be felt over at Google too. In general, I was amazed by the speed Google picked up the new keywords and rankings. One specific entry on Planetopia by Schockwellenreiter was in the Google top ten just one day after being published – so a day after the show aired, you could google it (usually, we need Technorati for that). More specifically, as German Blogging for Compliments noted, the Google Blogoscoped entry jumped into the top ten for “Sat1” (the name of the TV station).


Googlefone is a phone search engine riding on top of Google’s ability to look up phone numbers. “This feature is somewhat hidden,” says Googlefone creator Jonathan Rentzsch, “so I created a website to help bring this great functionality into the open.”

Picasa 2

Google-powered image management software Picasa is now available in version 2. [Via InsideGoogle.]


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