Human Friendly Driving Directions From Google?

I need landmarks when I get driving directions. I get lost without them.

The last time I took a long trip by car, I used a couple of different online mapping programs to get me to where I was going. Or at least most of the way there. The directions worked fine the first 320 miles, until I had less than a couple of miles to go.

Then I drove around for 40 minutes, in the middle of Massachusetts, trying to find a hotel that I had made reservations at.

I wish that there was something better.

Yep, I didn’t ask directions. I should have. A couple of good landmarks would have helped.

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A Time Capsule: Looking at a Four Year Old Vision of Paid Search

Back before there was Yahoo! Search Marketing, and prior to Overture, there was changed its name to Overture in September of 2001, and was purchased by Yahoo! a little over two years later for the small sum of $ 1.6 billion.

goto logo

John Battelle’s book, The Search paints an interesting picture of what this search engine was like, and he posted an excerpt on his site this summer, to give you a glimpse: The Sugar Daddy: It’s All About Arbitrage.

A couple of posts ago, I noted that I was surprised by seeing Stephen Jobs name listed as an inventor of one of the patent applications I looked at. I was even more startled to see listed as the assignee in another patent application this morning. This one was originally filed back before the October 2001 name change, and wasn’t published for the public to get a gander at until today.

In many ways, coming across it was a little like unearthing a time capsule. You have to look in the internet archive to get a first hand taste of what it was like, and be reminded that it has an even longer history under an older name. In How We Got To GoTo, we are told that the site’s original name was the World Wide Web Worm, and before it was acquired, it was one of the first searchable sites that automatically indexed the web with its own web crawler.

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Yahoo! Acquisitions since Overture

Yahoo! has a history of looking for, and acquiring companies and their technology and hiring employees from those businesses. I focused upon the most recent companies with this post, and will followup sometime in the near future with the rest that I can uncover. Here are a number of the Yahoo! acquisitions since October 2003:

3721 Network Software Co.

3721 Network Software Co. (November 2003) 3721 NSC is a Hong Kong based language keyword search engines and real name address system. This company owned the Chinese company, Beijing 3721 Technology Co. Ltd (aka 3721). There’s a nice illustration on the Beijing page on how their real names translation (Chinese keywords are typed in the browser address bar instead of a URL) from English to Chinese works.

I’m not certain if the Beijing branch was sold to Yahoo! in the purchase. I’ve seen a couple of conflicting reports on that part of the acquisition.


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Can Google Read Your Mind? Processing Predictive Queries

A new patent application published this morning doesn’t involve ESP, but it does attempt to anticipate what searchers are looking for. The document has the names of some prominent Google employees on it.

Anticipated query generation and processing in a search engine
United States Patent Application 20050283468
Published: December 22, 2005
Filed: June 22, 2004

The focus of this document is on returning search results quicker, and enabling personalization to make those results more relevant for the person searching.

In my recent Google Acquisition post, one of the companies I mentioned, Kaltix, specialized in personalization and speeding up search results. I also linked to a patent application there, assigned to Kaltix, which covered those types of issues.

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Textrank and Google Book Search?

One of the challenges of the Google Book Search project has been to find a way to index all of the books included within the project.

We don’t know the details of the technology used to index those books. A little research uncovers some interesting information.

A post at Search Science this November involved the award of a grant of $107,112 by Google to Rada Mihalcea. Xan Porter noted there that Professor Mihalcea’s research involving “automatic extraction methods to retrieve significant information in books stored in electronic format” is what likely interested Google in getting her help for Google Print, or Google Book Search, as it is known now.

As a co-inventor of textrank, she seems to have been the ideal candidate for Bringing Order into Texts.

It’s impossible to tell whether or not textrank is what is being used to index those books.

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Google Acquisitions

With all of the recent acquisitions by Yahoo! and Google, I decided to take a closer look at some of the companies that Google has purchased. I’m glad I did. I came across a couple of papers I hadn’t seen before, and learned a little more about some of Google’s employees that I didn’t know.


Grand Central Communications
Zenter, Inc.
Peakstream Inc.
Green Border Technologies
Marratech AB’s Video Conferencing Software
Tonic Systems
Gapminder’s Trendalyzer Software
Adscape Media


Jotspot, Inc.
YouTube, Inc.
Neven Vision
@Last Software
Measure Map
dMarc Broadcasting
Reqwireless, Inc.
Transformic, Inc.

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Designing with Profiles Inspired by Inuit Art

There are many different approaches you can take when developing the content for a web site. An interesting article from User Interface Engineering describes a method inspired by the Inuit.

The Inuit create works of art that often resemble people, out of stones found near where they are making these statues. These markers can tell later viewers something about the place, or the builder’s experiences there.

Is that something that can help give us ideas which inspire us when we design? It’s inspiring me.

Reassuring Users with Inukshuk Content describes a university site that decided to show what a student’s experience might be like at their school by using more than 40 detailed profiles of people who may have been students, or are associated with the school in some manner.

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Secure Conversion Tracking at Google

Search engine optimization and paid search advertising both share a similar goal. While both try to get the right visitors to web sites, even more important is that a visitor performs some action while there that fulfills some goal of a site’s owner.

The meeting of one of these objectives by a visitor is often referred to as a conversion, and can include viewing a specific page, buying something, downloading a file, signing up for a membership or newsletter, or another action as defined by the owner of the site.

In paid search, it can be difficult to tell how effective your campaign has been. Conversion tracking is an approach that can be taken by search engines like Google to help an advertiser understand how well their advertising is working. There’s a nice summary of how conversion tracking works in the O’Reilly article Understanding Google’s Conversion-Tracking Mechanism.

A deeper look into how it works is described on the Google AdWordsTM: Conversion Tracking Guide (pdf)

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