The Google Rank-Modifying Spammers Patent

Google’s Webmaster Guidelines highlight a number of practices that the search engine warns against, that someone might engage in if they were to try to boost their rankings in the search engine in ways intended to mislead it. The guidelines start with the following warning:

Even if you choose not to implement any of these suggestions, we strongly encourage you to pay very close attention to the “Quality Guidelines,” which outline some of the illicit practices that may lead to a site being removed entirely from the Google index or otherwise impacted by an algorithmic or manual spam action. If a site has been affected by a spam action, it may no longer show up in results on Google.com or on any of Google’s partner sites.

A Google patent granted this week describes a few ways in which the search engine might respond when it believes there’s a possibility that such practices might be taking place on a page, where they might lead to the rankings of pages being improved in those search results. The following image from the patent shows how search results might be reordered based upon such rank modifying spam:

An image from the patent showing rankings of pages before and after the impact of rank modifying spam, with the search results being reordered.

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Indexing Recent Content in Search Engines

For many search queries, very recent search results (such as from the last 6-12 hours) are preferred over older and more stale results that might rank well based upon popularity signals, including significant past user traffic that might cause them to have been assigned a high ranking. That may work fine if you think of search engines as a repository of pages that might be relevant as references, like a library.

But with the Web becoming a place where people frequently tweet social networking updates, with news sources striving to be the first to publish about breaking topics, bloggers publishing on new topics, merchants offering new products and discounting old ones, and other content online appearing with an emphasis on freshness, search engines are becoming increasingly a near real-time monitor of the World around us.

An old Linotype type setting machine that had possibly more moving parts when it was built than anything else.

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Google Beefs Up Patent Portfolio with Wireless Patents from Proxim

With Google Fiber, Android Operating Systems, and Motorola Phones, the business of Google is becoming as much about moving data across networks as it is in sending search data across networks. I noticed in Google’s patent assignments today a new entry which shows more movement in this direction.

Google acquired 58 patents from Proxim Wireless Corporation in an assignment noted by the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) as having been executed on July 9th, 2012, and recorded on August 7th, 2012. The USPTO doesn’t include any of the financial details of the transaction. Proxim Wireless still has a number of patents left in their portfolio, and the Proxim Wireless website is still online.

According to a press release for Proxim, the company has been engaged in the following types of business:

Using a combination of WLAN, Wi-Fi Mesh and Point-to-Point backhaul technologies, Proxim enables a wide variety of fixed and mobile applications, including: Continue reading

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Google Post to Social Networks by Voice Patent Filing Published

Egypt in late January, 2011, was a place of protests where people wanted and needed to be able to communicate as effectively as possible, and the use of social networks like Twitter had been filling that role. But what if there was no access to the Web to do so? Or internet access into or out of the country?

A blog post on the Official Google blog told us of Some weekend work that will (hopefully) enable more Egyptians to be heard. In the press on February 1st, 2011, we learned that Google and Twitter launch service enabling Egyptians to tweet by phone.

A screenshot from the patent filing show a phone conversation with someone calling in messages to twitter.

One of the co-authors of that Google blog post was Ujjwal Singh. He was the founder of Saynow, a company we learned a week or so before had been acquired by Google. He’s listed as the co-author of a patent application published this week that describes a way to post to social networks by voice. The patent filing is:

Posting to Social Networks by Voice
Invented by Steve Crossan, and Ujjwal Singh
Assigned to Google
US Patent Application 20120201362
Published August 9, 2012
Filed: February 3, 2012

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Google to Crowdsource Recommendations?

In the past few weeks, Google has introduced a recommendation bar to Google Plus, and Facebook has introduced their own recommendation bar as well. The Facebook recommendation bar appears like it will only show up when you’re on Facebook at this point, but the Google Recommendation Bar will appear when you hover over a “g +1″ button on a site that you’re visiting, and will show you recommendations from that site.

A Google patent application that came out last week showed a different variation of a recommendation bar, and a screenshot from the patent filing shows what could have been, or might be sometime in the future. Here’s a glimpse:

A screenshot from the patent showing an interface displaying recommendations that you can vote upon for content on the site you're visiting and for related content on the Web.

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Google Acquires Mangosoft’s Distributed Directory Service Patents for $3.2 Million

mangosoft logo

One of the biggest names in peer to peer technology is Skype. In 2008, Skype settled with Mangosoft Technologies in a patent infringement case over a patent apparently related to “dynamic directory service”. Mangosoft’s victory in the case wasn’t enough to keep the company thriving and in May, Mango Capital announced that their subsidiary, MangoSoft Intellectual Property, Inc., sold all of its patent rights for $3.2 million.

While Google used peer-to-peer technology in GMail video, the company blogged a couple of days ago that that video communication service would be replaced with Google Hangouts and no longer rely upon peer-to-peer technology.

Google was assigned 9 granted patents and 4 pending patents from Mangosoft Intellectual Property Inc., as noted in an assignment executed on May 1, 2012 and recorded on July 31, 2012. Among the patent filings is a granted patent and 2 pending patents titled “Dynamic Directory Service.” This directory service “maintains a directory in which is stored both (1) directory information and (2) the physical layout of the directory itself” over the network itself rather than in a centralized location.

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On Materiality and Search Engines

Search engines look at Relevance and its dynamic nature in ranking web pages. But there’s another element that’s important to consider when looking at how pages are ranked and ordered.

Materiality and Evidence

When evidence is introduced into a civil or criminal case, a judge not only weighs how relevant that evidence might be before it’s turned over to a jury, or before he or she considers it. The judge also decides how material that evidence might be.

For example, a defense attorney might try to introduce good character reference testimony in a case while defending a 30 year-old accused of murder. The testimony is relevant because it’s about the defendent. It goes to show something about him that a finder of facts might find useful. But, what if the person being offered to testify is the defendant’s kindergarden teacher? What if the teachers testimony is about how the defendant would always take his naps on time, played well with the other kids, and never showed signs of anger. While relevant, the testimony just really isn’t material. As testimony about the defendent from around 25 years earlier, it just isn’t that important.

A judge may also look at other factors in deciding whether evidence is material or important enough to enter into a case. One of these is called judicial economy. As an example, let’s say that our accused murderer from the last paragraph committed his crime in the middle of the infield at Yankee stadium in front of a crowd of 50,000 baseball fans. Almost everyone in attendence witnessed the crime. But you won’t see all 50,000 being summons to appear in court to testify. Their testimony is relevant, and material, but it doesn’t serve the best interests of justice to have that many people testifying if they are all going to give substantially the same testimony.

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On Relevance and Search Engines

Relevance matters to each of us on a daily basis. It enables us to focus upon the things that are important in our lives. It’s something that each of us learns about everyday, and have been since around the time that we first learned to crawl, but not necessarily consciously.

Relevance and Evidence

I first began purposefully studying relevance a number of years ago, but not to help websites show up in search engines. My introduction to relevance as something I needed to learn, and needed to learn well, came in law school, in classes like Evidence and Criminal and Civil Procedure. In Evidence, we spend the class learning about the rules of evidence. The test for relevance under the Federal Rules of Evidence is:

(a) it has any tendency to make a fact more or less probable than it would be without the evidence; and

(b) the fact is of consequence in determining the action.

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Getting Information about Search, SEO, and the Semantic Web Directly from the Search Engines