Google published a patent application this week that details the user card interface Google is using for applications such as Google Now. The “invention” described in the patent enables people to share the things they want to experience, or experiences that they have gone through. The patent filing is a detailed walkthrough of how a data card interface might work, but it also details a set of social features that are unique and may be engaging enough to be adopted by a wide range of people.
See someone behaving abnormally at a nearby wharf? Share it on an experience card with others who might be within your circles, with an even broader audience, or even the public. Have a desire to eat a gourmet meal and imbibe a bottle of wine in a cafe in Paris? Post the experience, and share it with others.
Will Google Plus morph into a social version of eBay, where people can post things for sale, write reviews of their belongings and show them off to their circles?
A few days ago, the Google File System Blog reported upon a new application from Google, which it referred to by the name Google Mine (as in, “it’s mine,” rather than as in Google mining more information about your life). The post also mentions a version for Android on Google’s internal Play store. The post tells us that the app allows you to be pretty active about posting your belongings.
As you can see, the service lets you enter a lot of information about your objects. For example, you can change the status of an object to “lent”, “given away”, “got it back”, “lost it”, “had in the past”. You can post videos about the object, write reviews, add it to a wishlist and maybe others can buy it using Google Shopping. You can also check popular items and the items others have shared.
When you search at Google, in addition to search results, Google often returns a set of search suggestions that might be related to your query. Last month, I wrote about how some of those suggested query refinements might be created follow a method invented in part by Ori Allon, in the post How Google is Generating Query Refinements the Orion Way. But that’s probably not the only source of search suggestions. A Google patent granted this week looks at how Google could grab additional refinements from very recent sources.
For example, the following search for “North Korea” shows a couple of very recent earthquake listings:
I originally wrote the following article 6 years ago, and it was published on Search Engine Land on February 9th, 2007. At the time, I wasn’t sure if we would ever see Google find a way to meld together ranking signals from PageRank and Information Retrieval with relevance signals from authors and publishers and commentators and editors and advertisers.
There’s been a lot of discussion recently about something being referred to as Author Rank with the launch of Google Plus. The Agent Rank patent itself was granted by the USPTO on July 21, 2009. Two continuation versions of the patent were also filed by Google since then, with one stressing the portability of reputation scores for agents, and the other pointing out that not all endorsements from Agents are equal.
I hope that we never do see an “Author Rank,” but would prefer the Agent Rank described in the first patent, where the reputation scores of all of the people who put together the content of a page played a role in the ranking of that page.
If you’re interested in discussing Agent Rank today, I’m one of the moderators in the Google Plus Community Google Authorship & Author Rank. Stop on by, join if you’d like, and become part of the community.
Are Google’s query-based social circles the answer to Facebook’s Graph Search?
Not too long ago, Facebook launched its Graph Search, which enables people to search for things like “My Friends who live in San Francisco,” and My Friends who like Surfing,’ and “Places my Friends like.”
Imagine if Google Plus allowed you to perform searches such as, “People who take the same bus as me into the city,” or “People who like to eat at the Red Truck Bakery,” or “People attending the Dave Matthews Band Concert next Friday,” and creates in response a social network circle that other people might be invited to join, even temporarily, or who could join anonymously. Or Google Plus may dynamically create such a query-based social circle which it may recommend that you share through as you create a post about a music festival you’re going to, or a meal you’re reviewing from a local hotel.
The image above from the patent filing shows a query-based circle for a “Music Festival” and a query-based circle for a “Grand Hotel,” as well as a button to only display query-based circles in the interface.
How active is Google Plus? How active do you want it to be? One of the criticisms of the site is that its a ghost town, where nothing ever goes on. I can’t say that’s been my experience, but I can see how people can make those claims.
Would you like to see an activity stream that tells you when people you are connected to endorses something, makes a comment somewhere, downloads a song. installs a program or watches a video? Presently we see things that people want to share, but there’s potentially a lot of activity that goes on with the people we connect to that isn’t being reported. I’m not really convinced that I want to see a message everytime someone uploads pictures or downloads an electronic book.
A pending patent application from Google does describe such an activity stream, and I hope that if it’s something offered at Google plus that’s it’s easy to opt out of. I’ve seen enough of this kind of sharing at Facebook, and it reminded me of the kinds of activities I’ve seen there in the past.
Will Google Plus show advertisements one day? If they do, how will they decide upon the ads to show different users of the social network? A 2010 paper, AdHeat: An Influence-based Diffusion Model for Propagating Hints to Match Ads (PDF), described one method of advertising on a social network that was actually tested on Google’s world wide (except for the US) set of Q&A type sites with the code name of Confucius. It also incorporated the Confucius User Rank into displaying those ads. The user rank approach to reputation scoring for Confucius, and for choosing advertisements for users of the system appears to be an method that would work well in deciding upon reputation scores for users at Google Plus.
A Google patent granted in early December, 2012, provides a different approach for showing advertisements and other content items to users of a social network like Google Plus. The patent makes it clear that while the approach described within it might be used for advertisements, it might also be used to show other content as well.
Can social networking rankings influence which users profiles and interactions get crawled and then indexed first by a search engine crawling program? A Microsoft patent application asks and answers that question. Is it something that Bing is using, or will use?
Importance Metrics for Prioritizing Crawls
Back in the early days of Google, PageRank wasn’t just a way of ranking pages based upon the quality and quantity of links pointed to your pages. Google also used PageRank as one of the importance metrics used to decide which pages to prioritize when they had to choose which URLs to crawl first. The paper, Efficient Crawling Through URL Ordering (pdf), co-authored by Google Founder Lawrence Page pointed to a few other metrics that were used to decide which URLs to visit first on a crawl, including PageRank. Another of those looked at how close a page is to the root directory of a site. The idea behind that one is that it’s better to index a million different home pages than it is to index a million pages on one site.
With the growth of social networks and an incredible amount of user generated content that comes with them, there’s a lot less reliance upon links, and yet search engines want to crawl and index as much content from those types of sites as well. The lack of links to those means that something like PageRank is out of the question – and probably would be if we were talking about Google, too. Search engines don’t just want to crawl and then index user profiles, but also the things users of those networks post and the conversations that they have. Why not focus upon crawling content from people who are more active on those social networks?
Social networking content should be relevant and recent when shown in search results. But the ranking of that social content is an area that fairly new to social networks, and something that there’s really no established methods for. A search engine can grab a crawl list from a social network, with the URLs of pages and posts and pictures to crawl, but where should it start? Such a crawl list can even be easy to retrieve, especially in cases like when a social network like Twitter might turn over an XML feed to a search engine. But again, where to begin?