Customizing Travel Directions with Google

I remember when one of my co-workers once asked me if I would help her plot out a map, and driving directions, so that she could go on a roadtrip to two of the largest shopping malls in the area.

I’m not always very happy with the driving directions that I get from one of the mapping services on the web, and this was something of a challenge, because the trip would pretty much be a big triangle – Point A to Point B (Plymouth Meeting Mall) to Point C (King of Prussia Mall) to Point A.

I pretty much had to plot three sets of courses, and try it in at least three mapping programs, until I got some directions that seemed like they would work best. At some point it went from challenging to painful.

I guess I’m not the only one who wished that driving directions could be a little more customizable.

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Google Book Search Patent Application

There’s a newly published patent application from Google, and on its face, it looks like a good match for the way books could be displayed in Google’s Book Search.

Parts of it do appear to be included in what Google has developed, but I don’t see them using the “image distortion” described in the document.

If you haven’t spent any time with Google book search, you may not have seen how they handle some sources differently than others. For a few books, it appears that you can look at a number of pages that include your query terms. For other books, where the search terms may appear on a lot of pages, you need to log into Google to look at some of the pages, so that they can track how much of the book you’ve seen.

For shorter works, instead of providing full pages, it seems that Google’s Book Search only delivers snippets of relevant text. This is where the patent application seems to point to the use of a full page with the parts that aren’t relevant appearing distorted and even unreadable.

It may be worth skimming over the patent application if you are interested in seeing a detailed description on how to handle the issues that the process described within it was intended to address.

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Microsoft and localized media delivery based upon site location

One approach to providing advertisements on a website is to try to gauge the subject matter of a page, and provide advertising related to that content. But many advertisers are interested in delivering advertising that will go to an audience in a certain area or region.

Ads based upon content can be targeted to specific geographical locations by looking at the IP address of a visitor, though that approach often results in serving the visitor with advertisements based upon the location of the owner of the IP address. One problem with doing that would be when a visitor uses a large ISP located a distance away from where he or she is viewing a site from.

An alternative would be to attempt to collect some geographical location information from the visitor, relying upon a user of a personalized web service to supply that information, such as a phone number, or zip code, or something else that can tell where they are at. But people don’t always provide that type of information, or may supply it to get something like information about local weather and then move and not change the information that they supplied.

A different way of delivering ads based upon location would be to attempt to understand the location of the site, if it has one associated with it, and serve yellow pages styled ads on that page. A patent application assigned to Microsoft, and released this week explores ways to display ads related to what it believes is the location of a site.

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IBM tackles multilingual web searching

I’ve been enjoying visiting a number of sites that are written in languages other than English, such as Google.Dirson.com and Référencement, Design et Cie, and others. I often rely on some of the translation services available online to read those sites, but I have trouble when searching the web in finding some information that isn’t written in English.

It would be nice to have a way to search non-English sites without having to try to translate queries into other languages first.

IBM has a patent filing, published as a patent application last week, which tries to help people find sites in other languages that are relevant to their searches, and might be authority sites on those subjects.

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Google Transit Trip Planner in Toronto?

Angie McKaig writes about the possible expansion of Google’s Transit Trip Planner service to Toronto.

At the time that I orginally write this post, the service was only available in the Portland, Oregon, area according to the Google Transit FAQ at that time, but that page told us that they “plan to expand to cities throughout the United States and around the world.” Look at the Google Maps Transit page to see where it’s now available.

Ms. McKaig noted an article in this morning’s Metro News on the creation of such a service. The article reports that the City was considering creating its own online service with transit information which would have cost more than $2 million. They also note that there are no estimates of a cost involving partnering with Google, nor has a time frame been established if they move forward together.

Union Depot, Toronto, circa 1890 and 1901, via Library of Congress, reproduction number LC-D4-12741

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Yahoo patents bringing people together

Helping people fall in love, easier searching in social networks, and storing XML are the subjects of some newly published documents at the US Patent and Trademark office assigned to Yahoo!

Yesterday, a patent on preprocessing some of the connections between members of a social network was granted for Yahoo!

Method and system for finding related nodes in a social network
Inventors: Varun Vasudev and Bipin Suresh
Assigned to Yahoo! Inc.
US Patent 7,016,307
Granted March 21, 2006
Filed: March 11, 2004

Abstract

A process for reducing the resources employed in real time to communicate a message between related nodes that are separated by multiple degrees of separation in a social network. At least a portion of the shortest path for the multiple degrees of separation between at least two related nodes in a social network is determined out of band prior to the initiation of a process to communicate between the related nodes. By pre-processing at least a portion of the degrees of separation for the shortest path between the nodes, the actual resources employed in real time to calculate the entire shortest path can be reduced. Typically, approximately fifty percent or more of the shortest paths for the degrees of separation between related nodes in the social network are pre-processed. Since the amount of resources for determining the shortest path for each degree of separation can exponentially increase with each degree, the pre-processing of a portion of the degrees of separation along a shortest path can significantly reduce the resources required in real time to complete the determination of the shortest path. Also, if a common intermediate node is identified in the pre-processing of the shortest paths for two nodes in the social network, the intermediate shortest paths can be stored for reuse as a complete shortest path between these two nodes.

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Online Newspaper Popularity

What’s the most popular newspaper in the United States?

A decade ago, that might have been easy to figure out. You just look at the circulation of the papers. That’s not true today. Many folks are reading their news online.

So, I thought it would be interesting to look at circulations numbers today, and try to find some other figure that might be used go consider online popularity.

The following numbers are from the nonprofit Audit Bureau of Circulations, and are a ranking of newspapers by largest reported circulation as of September 30, 2005:

1. USA Today – 2,590,695

2. The Wall Street Journal – 2,100,760

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The future is local

I’ve been spending part of today setting up a local blog, focusing upon the small college town I live within.

Many of the things I find myself wanting to post to a blog are about local events, local history, small town politics, and mundane happenings around where I live. Those just don’t seem to fit here, but I don’t see too many other folks covering those topics.

Living in Delaware, about an hour north of Baltimore, and an hour south of Philadelphia, the major news media really doesn’t have the State on their radar. There is one Philly channel that has a satellite office in Wilmington, but news reports about the area are meager at best, and more commonly nonexistent.

There is one state-wide newspaper, but it focuses more upon Wilmington and Dover than it does the little town between them. A weekly paper provides some interesting news, but often gets scooped by the paper written by University of Delaware students, published twice a week during the school year, and once a week during winter and summer sessions.

While the school newspaper can be fun, and informative, the editors and writers know their audience is the student body of the university, and they rarely write in detail about issues that don’t involve students.

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