AOL Top AIM Developer Joins Google

Steve Bryant broke the news yesterday that Google has just hired AOL’s top instant messaging developer, Justin Uberti. (Hat tip to Barry Schwartz).

Steve tells us that Justin was involved in AOL’s Open AIM Initiative. He also notes that this hiring is interesting in light of a December agreement between AOL and Google to have their instant messaging programs able to communicate with each other.

Curious about some of the efforts that Justin Uberti worked upon while at America Online, I searched for some of the patents that he was involved in filing on behalf of the company. The patent applications he co-invented include integration of email with instant messaging, sharing folders and files across an IM system, providing secure messaging, and implementing a number of personalization features for IM systems. There may be others pending publication.

The following have been assigned to America Online unless otherwise noted.

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Research on Travel Related Search Queries

Last Wednesday, I pointed to a paper jointly written by researchers from Stanford and Cornell on How Task Types and Gender May Influence How People Google. That paper looked at how a small group of people interacted with the search engine. Collecting data about how people search on a larger scale can be problematic.

We saw that with the controversy over a release of user queries from AOL a couple of months ago, which raised many concerns over the privacy of the people who submitted those searches. A few reports about the release of that data noted that user query data from some other search engines had been shared with researchers on a smaller scale in the past, including data from Excite.

One of the researchers from that paper, Bing Pan, co-authored a paper for a presentation this year in front of the The Travel and Tourism Research Association. This research examined user query data from the Excite search engine from searches conducted in the year 2001.

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Google Personalization Methods

This last week, Google published six new patent applications that look at personalization, and provide a system for collecting information from a searcher that may make it easier for the search engine to deliver search results to them that more closely match what they may be looking for than from a non-personalized search. Here are links to those documents:

15 New Google Patent Applications

I’m busy trying to make my way through a number of Google patent filings that focus upon personalized search.

There were six of those that came out this past week, with another nine USPTO patent applications published in total from Google. I’ve posted brief summaries of most of those at the Search Engine Watch blog in a post titled: New Search Patent Applications: October 6, 2006 – Google Takes Over the Patent Office

I’ve written about one of those patents in more detail on Thursday which points out some fine details about a process very similar to the query refinement suggestions that Google sometimes shows on results pages, including the mid-page queries that they offer for some results.

The personalization patents look at aspects of personalized search at a fairly deep level of detail – hopefully I can reduce some of the particulars down to easier reading.

Yahoo on Interface Design in a Web 2.0 World

Yahoo! held a Yahoo Developer Day, aka Yahoo Hack Day, on September 29th, where a number of presentations were held on best practices for development and design.

I really enjoyed the presentation from Matt Sweeney, Senior Engineer on the Yahoo! User Interface Library team at Yahoo!, on “Web 2.0: Getting It Right the Second Time.” If you work on web sites, a video presentation of the talk has been made available on Yahoo! Video. I’ve embedded a copy here.

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Of Train Man and Demon Wife: The Popularity of Blogging and Bulletin Boards in Japan

A friend sent me a link to a Wall Street Journal (WSJ) article this morning, telling the tale of How Demon Wife Became a Media Star And Other Tales of the ‘Blook’ in Japan.

I thanked my friend in a reply, and mentioned that I would like to link to the article, but the page is only available to the public for a short number of days. My friend replied with a link to a blog post that told the tale of Oni Yome–Demon Wife, and the suggestion that information wants to be free, and can get beyond the gated walls of the WSJ.

Blogging is big in Japan. More popular than in the United States, and the blog that tells the tale of the Demon Wife and the tortures she inflicts upon her husband has gotten over 3.2 million hits in the last 2 and 1/2 years. Books based upon blogs, or “Blooks” as they have become to be known, are also very popular, and television and the cinema haven’t ignored the lure of the blog.

The WSJ notes that “since January 2004, more than 300 books based on blogs, personal home pages, and bulletin boards have been published in Japan, about three times as many as in English.” An irony noted in the tale of the Demon Wife blog is that the blogger who writes about his relationship with his wife is closer to her now than before he started blogging about their relationship.

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Google’s Query Rank, and Query Revisions on Search Result Pages

You may have noticed that sometimes when you perform a search in Google, there are a set of query refinements offered in the middle of the first ten results for your search. Not much has been said about those by Google, but a patent application published this morning provides some insight into how those refined queries may be displayed, and how they may be found.

This patent application may have some implications for keyword research, which I discuss briefly in the conclusion to this post.

Query revision using known highly-ranked queries
Invented by David R. Bailey, Alexis J. Battle, David Ariel Cohn, Barbara Engelhardt, and P. Pandurang Nayak
US Patent Application 20060224554
Published October 5, 2006
Filed: November 22, 2005

Abstract

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How Tasks and Gender May Influence How People Google

Do men and women use search engines differently?

How might the kind of activity you are engaged in affect the way you would interact with search results?

Researchers from Cornell and Stanford University put out a paper last year that has some intriguing statistics in it – The Influence of Task and Gender on Search and Evaluation Behavior Using Google (pdf). I haven’t seen much on the Web that cites this paper, so I thought it might be worth pointing out. Here’s a snippet from the introduction:

Using eye tracking, we extend this understanding by analyzing the sequences and patterns with which users evaluate query result abstracts returned to them when using Google. We find that the query result abstracts are viewed in the order of their ranking in only about one fifth of the cases, and only an average of about three abstracts per result page are viewed at all*.

*My emphasis

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