Building Green is Building Naturally

No sane man in the hands of Nature can doubt the doubleness of his life. Soul and body receive separate nourishment and separate exercise, and speedily reach a stage of development wherein each is easily known apart from the other.

Living artificially we seldom see much of our real selves, our torpid souls are hopelessly entangled with our torpid bodies, and not only in there a confused mingling of our own souls with our own bodies, but we hardly possess a separate existence from our neighbors.

John Muir, John of the Mountains, p. 77

This week’s green post looks at a way of building that has become a life style for the people who practice it, and points out some green news and blog posts that I thought were worth sharing.

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How Google Sets Works

A tool from Google that is often overlooked is Google Sets (no longer available), which allows you to “automatically create sets of items from a few examples.”

Google Sets was one of the first applications in the Google Labs (no longer available) pages.

Those pages are “Google’s Technology Playground,” and contain a number of programs that may or may not be tomorrow’s useful applications from the search engine. As Google tells us,

Google labs showcases a few of our favorite ideas that aren’t quite ready for prime time. Your feedback can help us improve them. Please play with these prototypes and send your comments directly to the Googlers who developed them.

Google was granted a patent this week on the process behind Google Sets, and the patent document provides some details on how the program finds additional words based on “items from a set of things” that you enter.

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Using Anchor Text to Determine the Relevance of a Page

You go to a search engine, and type some query terms in the search box. A list of results is returned by the search engine, and you visit a link to one of the results that appears.

Looking through the page, you may not see your query terms on the page itself. Why would the search engine return that result to you?

Determining Relevance from Anchor Text

One reason might be that the search engine is looking at the anchor text in links pointing to the page to determine that the page is relevant for your query terms.

This can be very helpful when a page doesn’t have much text on it, such as a video or an audio file, or where the amount of text is very limited or is non-existent.

A patent application from Microsoft explores the use of anchor text to define the context of a page and terms that it might rank for that don’t appear upon that page.

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Add Some Green to Your Life

At the approach of spring the red squirrels got under my house, two at a time, directly under my feet as I sat reading or writing, and kept up the queerest chuckling and chirruping and vocal pirouetting and gurgling sounds that ever were heard; and when I stamped they only chirruped the louder, as if past all fear and respect in their mad pranks, defying humanity to stop them.

Red Squirrel

No, you don’t — chickaree — chickaree. They were wholly deaf to my arguments, or failed to perceive their force, and fell into a strain of invective that was irresistible.

– Henry David Thoreau, Walden, Spring.

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Incomplete and Wrong Data in Google Local Search

Google Local Search uses address information that it buys from data suppliers like telephone companies.

Sometimes street numbers or other location information for businesses are missing in the information provided by those data suppliers.

How might Google fill in the missing information? One way might be for Google to search the web to find more about those businesses.

A newly published patent application from Google explores how it might perform web searches with the incomplete location information that it does have for businesses, and look at the snippets returned for more address information about those businesses.

What if any of that information is wrong?

Mike Blumenthal recently discussed an interesting question related to local search in Google Plus Box – Where does the (wrong) data come from? It’s a very good question, and he has some interesting examples.

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Redefining Navigational Queries to Find Perfect Sites

A number of search engine researchers look at queries that searchers type into a search box, and break them down into three kinds of queries based upon the intent of those searchers – navigational, informational, and transactional. Navigational queries have been seen as searches where someone searching intended to find a specific known site.

Imagine instead considering a navigational query to be one where a perfect site exists that is an ideal one for a search engine to show to a searcher in response to that query, regardless of whether they knew about the site or not. A search engine might put that perfect site at the top of search results, and not worry too much about other results shown.

When is a query a navigational query, and when might a site be considered a perfect site for that query?

A recent patent application from Yahoo transforms the meaning of what a navigation query is, and finds a way to automate the process of determining whether a query is navigational, and whether a perfect page does exist for that query.

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Smarter Google Maps Would Add Movement and Templates for Tasks

Would you use an internet mapping system that could show you changes in distances to places that you’ve identified as you move around?

How about one where specific templates could be created to show you information about locations to help you with tasks such as home hunting or school hunting or vacationing?

Google explores those kinds of abilities in a new patent application titled Dynamic Exploration of Electronic Maps (US Patent Application 20080059205).

Google Electronic Map

The templates for different tasks could be created by Google or Google users or by both. The maps might use some technology like AJAX to update distances and other information on the fly.

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Yahoo Automates Usability Consulting

How much might the usability of a web page matter to a search engine? If that search engine were to look at an approximation of the layout of a web page, it could try to understand how good of a user experience visiting that page might be, and evaluate the page based upon certain characteristics that it finds upon the page.

A patent application from Yahoo provides a long list of factors that it might look at to determine how usable a web page might be.

So why would a search engine be interested in determining the usability of a web page?

The authors of the document tell us that:

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