A Hint of What Google’s Social Network Might Look Like?

Google is becoming more social on a number of levels, but really doesn’t have a central hub where those social interactions can all be seen at once. That may change in the future, and a new patent application from Google shows an example interface that such a system might use. I couldn’t help but be reminded of Twitter seeing this screenshot from the patent filing:

A screenshot from the patent showing messages, snippets, and updates from a number of people in a twitter like view

Another look shows icons that indicate a wider range of status updates and snippets and notifications that might be available:

The same view as in the image above, except a number of icons indicating different messaging options is revealed

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Turning Fireworks into Submarine Horns

The Washington Nationals no longer set off fireworks after someone hits a homerun at one of their games or when the team wins, and I think it’s great. Instead you hear three blasts from a submarine horn. The team is creating its own unique identity.

Nationals Park is located next to the Navy Yard in Washington DC, and many of the teams fans are from the military. According to Dan Steinberg at the Washington Post, who wrote about How the Nats went from fireworks to a submarine horn this morning, the team visited the Navy Yard looking for alternatives, and found one with the sub horn.

The hope is to have something unique, distinctive, and appropriate to the team, its location, and its fan base. If you were switching channels on TV without necessarily watching the screen, and heard three blasts from the horn, you should be able to recognize that a Nationals game is on, and either the team just won, or someone hit a home run.

My last post inquired about web site quality, and exactly what “quality” might mean. The Panda updates from Google seem to focus upon the quality of pages found in the search engines index, and boosting pages in search results based upon quality signals. Something that might be tempting to web site owners is to emulate or imitate quality sites. Perhaps too much. A thoughtful article from Dr. Jakob Nielsen last year, Should You Copy a Famous Site’s Design? points out a number of reasons why that might not be such a good idea. Perhaps the most important is knowing your audience, and focusing upon who they are.

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Just What is Web Site Quality?

How credible is your website? How likely are people to believe what they find on your pages, or contact you to learn more about what you offer, or conduct a transaction on your site? Would you consider your site to contain high quality content? How do you measure the quality of the content on your pages?

Search engines seem to be placing more emphasis on the quality of web pages, such as with the recent Panda updates at Google, as described in a couple of blog posts on the Official Google Blog:

If Google is now looking at the quality of content on pages as part of what they consider when showing pages in search results, just how do they calculate the quality of pages?

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Google Self Driving Cars Get Jumpstart from IBM Patents

This past October, an Official Google Blog post, What we’re driving at, introduced Google’s efforts to bring self driving cars to the world. The post told us:

So we have developed technology for cars that can drive themselves. Our automated cars, manned by trained operators, just drove from our Mountain View campus to our Santa Monica office and on to Hollywood Boulevard.

They’ve driven down Lombard Street, crossed the Golden Gate bridge, navigated the Pacific Coast Highway, and even made it all the way around Lake Tahoe.

All in all, our self-driving cars have logged over 140,000 miles. We think this is a first in robotics research.

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Just What User Behavior Data Does Google Use to Influence Search Rankings?

In a blog post at the Official Google Webmaster Central Blog on Monday, High-quality sites algorithm goes global, incorporates user feedback, Google Fellow Amit Singhal announced some changes to the way that Google ranks web pages, including the spreading of the Panda update to all English language Google users, and the incorporation of data into search results about sites that have been blocked by users in those results.

The announcement also noted that “we’ve also incorporated new user feedback signals to help people find better search results,” but it didn’t provide details on which actual user-behavior signals those might be.

I’ve seen a number of references in the past to information about user behavior data in Google patents, and some descriptions about how that information might be used by Google when they rank pages in search results. I thought I would look through some of them and see what they had to say about how Google might incorporate user behavior data into search. I have no doubt that this list is very incomplete, but I thought it was worth sharing.

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Time to Add Query Breadth to Your SEO Glossary?

Do the keywords in page titles on a Google search for [Digital Camera] carry more weight than the keywords in titles on a search for [Canon Rebel Digital Camera]? It’s a possibility.

How much weight do the keywords in your page title carry in search rankings? Or anchor text in a link pointing to that page? If I told you that the weight carried by different ranking signals can vary based upon a number of circumstances, that might be a little frustrating unless I could point out a good example of how a search engine might devalue the impact of some ranking signals, and in doing so boost other ones.

A Google patent granted today explains how something called “query breadth” can influence the weight of popularity-based ranking signals, and in doing so alter how much weight relevance-based signals might carry.

Ranking Signals and Search Engines

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Google Acquires Swimming Goggle Patent

Somewhat of an odd acquisition for Google, I noticed in the USPTO assignment database a recording of a granted patent for a Multi-function display apparatus, invented by Harry Linden, which was granted back in 1996. The abstract for the patent tells us that the patent covers:

A display apparatus secured to a temple or bridge contacting portion of an eyewear, the apparatus including means for monitoring the wearer’s heart rate, lap position, laps completed, time elapsed, etc. An image of the collected data is transmitted into the wearer’s field of view by means of a fiber optic element and projected at a focal point within the focusing range of the wearer’s eyes.

a screen shot from the patent showing someone wearing the swimming goggles, with a cut-out closeup of the monitoring apparatus in one of the goggle lenses.

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Google’s First Bid on Nortel Patents a Transformative Moment?

In a blog post on the Official Google Blog yesterday, Google’s Kent Walker, Senior Vice President & General Counsel, announced that Google had been bidding on Nortel’s remaining patent portfolio and Google’s bid was selected by Nortel as the “stalking Horse bid” in an auction that is tenatively scheduled to take place in June of this year.

A stalking horse bid is an initial bid on the assets of a bankrupt company chosen by the company as a starting point for competing bids from other potential buyers of the company’s assets. The selection of Google’s bid as this starting point doesn’t mean that Google will end up with Nortel’s patents, but it does indicate that the search giant is pretty serious about acquiring them.

Nortel also issued a press release announcing the Stalking Horse Sale Agreement with Google, and we’re told in that annoucement that:

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