Time Perspectives and Decision Making

We often take time for granted, and how our perspectives of our past, present, and future can shape our lives.

How we plan for the future, how creative we are in the present, and how our past can influence our moods and attitudes are topics covered in a book on the psychology of time that was published in August of this year.

The book, The Time Paradox, by Philip Zimbardo and John Boyd, helps to explain such things as why the D.A.R.E. “Just Say No To Drugs” effort to educate teens on drug abuse was a failure – it focused upon a small percentage of students who are future oriented rather than the many who are present oriented. (Perhaps the New D.A.R.E. will fare better.)

The authors of the book gave a presentation at Google on the topic, and it’s one of the best videos I’ve seen this year. I’m running out to get a copy of the book it’s based upon in a few minutes.

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How a Search Engine Might Find Synonyms to Use to Expand Search Queries

Search for the word “automobile” at Google, and the search engine might expand your search to include results for the word “car” as well, since it is a synonym of the word automobile. Accidentally misspell the word as “automoble” and Google might automatically correct your spelling error and search for “automobile.”

Follow that up with a search for the word “driving” and Google could expand your query by using a process called stemming to look at the root of the word (driv-) and adding common endings to it, to come up with, and include in the search, such words as “driving,” and “driver.”

This kind of query expansion is aimed at providing searchers with better search results. This method of expanding queries might not happen yet (though it sometimes appears to for spelling corrections at least), and it might not happen in all searches.

Typical approaches to query expansion include: Continue reading

Social Responsibility And The Small Business

I originally posted this at Search Engine Land this past summer for the “Small is Beautiful” column. I’m hoping that more businesses embrace the idea of social responsibility in the new year to come, and I am adding a small business category to SEO by the Sea, with this as the first post.

In the profit-centered business, customer happiness is merely a means to an end: maximizing profits. In the customer-centered business, customer happiness is an end in itself, and will be pursued with greater interest, passion, and empathy than the profit-centered business is capable of.

Putting Customers Ahead of Investors, John Mackey, founder and CEO of Whole Foods

A couple of weeks ago, a shopping mall near my home announced that they would start checking the IDs of teenagers at entrances to the mall after 5:00 pm on Friday and Saturday nights, and not allow anyone under 18 to enter the mall unless they are accompanied by a parent or supervising adult over the age of 21.

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Green New Year’s Resolutions

I’ve been working upon and considering some of the things that I might do to lessen my environmental impact upon the Earth and others, and thought that it might be worth sharing those here.

I’ve written them in the form of New Year’s resolutions that people could follow, but we don’t have to wait until the new year to start doing what we can to benefit the environment.

There are many steps that we can take to help us live in a greener, and more environmentally friendly world which can also help us save money and energy, be healthier, benefit local economies, and help others in our communities. Starting to be informed on environmental issues is a good beginning. Taking actions like the ones that I’ve listed can have a big impact if many people get involved.

1. Stop using plastic bags from where you shop. I’ve been carrying environmentally friendly reusable shopping bags in my car, and I need to start remembering to carry them with me into the grocery stores.

2. Cut back on your car usage – walk or bike more, consolidate trips and errands so that you can drive less, and investigate telecommuting and public transportation opportunities – even carpooling or taking public transportation one day a week can make a difference.

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Images in Search Engine Results

When a search engine presents the results of a search to you, it will often show you the title of a page, a short snippet from the page or a meta description, and the URL of the page. While that information can help searchers choose which pages to visit, showing images from the pages listed may provide a helpful clue about what those pages are about.

But if a search engine started including pictures from web pages in search results, how would it go about deciding which image to show to searchers?

Choosing Pictures for Search Results

If you publish pages on the web, do you include pictures on those pages? How meaningful are those images by themselves, out of the context of your web page?

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Search Trails: Destinations, Interactive Hubs, and Way Stations

We use search engines to find information about the world around us. In return, search engines are working on using information about how we search, and how we browse web pages to try to provide us with information that we want to find.

A search engine might gather information from search engine log files as we search, to see which terms we us to search with, and which pages we select in search results. If we use a toolbar from the search engine that collects information about where we go on the Web, the search engine may also track where we browse when we are looking at pages related to our searches.

How does a search engine use this information about how we search and browse on the Web? What kinds of assumptions are they making about the behaviors of searchers, what searchers might find valuable on web sites, and the best ways to get searchers to pages that those searchers might be interested in finding?

A recent patent application from Microsoft gives us some insights, and describes search trails, destination pages, interactive hubs, and way stations, which are all defined below.

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Trust, Skepticism, and Corporate Blogging

A short rant

I try not to hate, but sometimes it’s hard not to hate about some things. I hate being lied to. I hate being lied about. I hate being gossipped about. I hate someone making false assumptions about me based upon a scant modicum of information or even a lack of information. I hate being blamed for being the messenger. I hate being blamed for the words or actions of someone else.

I hate when people refuse to listen. I hate when people refuse to engage in an actual conversation. I hate when people see the world in black and white, and ignore the possibility of gray. I hate when people are so caught up in themselves that they forget about the feelings of others. I hate when people blame others for something without considering their own part, or taking responsibility for it. I hate when someone tries to manipulate me.

I hate when people who have been working and publishing online for a while look down on newcomers, and don’t cut them some slack for mistakes that they might make. I hate when online newcomers look down on those who have been online for a while, and don’t cut them some slack for mistakes that they have made.

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How Burstiness of Search Queries Could Increase Page Rankings

In 2002, Jon Kleinberg wrote a paper about looking at how frequently terms and phrases might appear in the emails he received or the news articles he read, and how some terms would suddenly become popular over hours or days, and then lose that popularity.

For example, as a professor, he would receive a lot more emails that contained the word “prelim” in the few days before midterm exams.

The paper is Bursty and Hierarchical Structure in Streams, and paying attention to bursts of activity related to certain terms, like those described in the paper might tell us something interesting about the times that certain buzzwords became more popular.

Imagine taking this idea of the burstiness of phrases appearing in emails or news articles, and instead looked for burstiness of phrases appearing in search queries at a search engine. Would pages that include phrases that have suddenly become more popular in searches, over a short period of time, be pages that searchers might be more interested in seeing?

When people search for different query terms, a search engine can keep track of how frequently those terms are searched for in search logs which record the number of searches at the search engine for different terms. If there has been an increase or decrease in the frequency of searches for that query term, that increase or decrease in popularity could be noted.

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