How Google Might Generate Snippets for Search Results

When you perform a search at Google, and you have a set of search results in front of you, how do you decide what to click upon? How do you judge the page titles, the snippets, and the URLs that you see. How does Google decide what to show you? A little more than a year ago, Google Webmaster Trends Analyst Pierre Far wrote on the Google Webmaster Central Blog a post titled Better page titles in search results. There he told us that Google might sometimes rewrite the titles for web pages when showing them in search results. The post told us that Google might do some changing of titles when those had generic titles such as “home”, or no title at all, or:

We use many signals to decide which title to show to users, primarily the <title> tag if the webmaster specified one. But for some pages, a single title might not be the best one to show for all queries, and so we have algorithms that generate alternative titles to make it easier for our users to recognize relevant pages.

Before we consider how Google might decide when and how to change page titles (in a follow up post to this one), there’s another question about search results that needs some exploration.

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The Traditional News Agency is Dead (On Google News)

Neither The Nation or Computerworld should write about patents. Period. Never. In the past couple of days Computerworld posted a “breaking news” story about the publication of a Google patent application from 9 months ago (not breaking news). The Nation wrote a followup story on Computerworld‘s story, and made the same mistake.

Both saw optimism when they should have instead felt fear.

They weren’t publishing information about a 9 month old patent, but rather a ten year old patent. They would have known that if they ever wrote about patents. :)

It was an easy enough mistake to make, and one that most journalists will make if they don’t know much about patents, or don’t ask for the help of someone who does. It’s a story about how Google ranks stories in Google News, and what signals they might look at when deciding which source to feature out of a cluster of similar stories about similar topics.

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Inside the Google House of Ideas: 2 Lens Glass, Google Robots, and Smartwatches

There are rumors that Google will be opening retail stores sometime in the near future (some rumors point to next year). The question rises though, what will Google feature in those storefronts? Will Chromebooks be a kiosk filler item? Will we see Android based phones? Are Google Glass wearable eye glasses still somewhat far off? Might self-driving cars still face changes in state legislation? Google TV might be a possibility. Home entertainment systems running on Android Hardware could also be shelf stuffers. Or will Google pull out some surprises for us?

Some recent patent filings from Google provide some possible hints at what we might see in Googleshops (or whatever they might be called) at some point, if Google does indeed open retail shops.

A look at how 2 lens glasses might be calibrated from the patent.

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Google to Introduce a Searchable History of your Life Experiences?

Imagine recording your life, so that you can search through it, and play it back later. Things that you record through audio and video might be sent to your own personal search database where pictures you take might be processed. Images of faces may go through facial recognition software. Landmarks and objects might also be recognized as well. You might be able to write or speak queries like the following:

  • What was the playlist of songs at the party last night?
  • What were the paintings I saw when I was on vacation in Paris
  • Who were the people at the business lunch this afternoon?
  • How many books did I read in May?

It’s possible that you might be able to collect information like this, and have it associated with both your user ID and a digital signature to keep it from others, unless you decided to join with a group such as a family, or fire fighters, or co-workers, to create a shared data base for one or more events.

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Google Patents Identifying User Location Spam

Google collects information about where you compute from, and provides location based services based upon where you travel. To protect this information, and to use it to protect people from spam and scrapers, Google might follow processes to protect that information and to analyze it.

Post a review from Germany about a restaurant, and then 15 minutes later from Hawaii about another restaurant, it’s spam. Drive down a highway where the cell towers collecting information about your journey are located in the middle of Lake Michigan, it’s likely spam. If GPS says you’re in NYC, and you then connect via Wifi in Wisconsin a few minutes later, spam. This information may not even come from you, but rather from others that might impersonate you.

A Union soldier pointing out a location on a map of Virginia.

Google was granted a patent last week which explores how they could use location based data to identify spammers and scrapers. It would also put user location information in a quarantine, and possibly hide starting and/or ending points for journeys from mobile devices to protect privacy for users, and to explore whether or not the information is spam. The location information could be used by the search engine, and that detailed information about locations to keep some information from being used in location based services, or other services that Google might offer.

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Google Patent Granted on Mobile Location Detection

Google has a lot invested in knowing where you are. The future of search, and many of the services that Google offers is going to rely upon it being accurate, too. It can’t be off by 30 meters, like it might be with cell tower triangulation. It can’t rely upon a GPS system initially built for aircraft with multiple antennas. It needs to be able to work indoors as well as outdoors. Unlike the electronic navigation device below, it also needs to be really small.

An electronical navigation device with a propeller, from a wood engraving between 1880 and 1900, library of Congress.

The purpose behind a Global Positioning System, or GPS, is a satellite-based navigation system helping to overcome problems with previous navigation systems. We know that Google has used GPS in mobile devices to make it possible for a number of location based services to function.

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Google Patent for Touch Screen Keyboard

I remember 10th grade keyboarding class in high school, which was a required course for everyone. I’ve typed a lot more characters than I ever expected in the days since, but I’ve been wondering how much longer people would be typing, or at least typing on a physical device intended just for typing. I’ve tried the “sliding” method of typing on my phone, with limited results. Hunt and peck still seems to work better for me, and I’m getting less “big finger” errors on my phone’s small virtual keyboard.

The Library of Congress calls this picture one of the first typewriter.

The picture above is from the “Bain Collection” at the US Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Reading Room. I’m not sure if it’s really the very first typewriter, but that’s what’s printed on the image, and that’s what the Library of Congress is calling it. The Bain Collection contains images from one of the earliest news picture agencies. While looking through the pending patents from this week, I came across this patent filing for a touch screen keyboard, from Google. Are we seeing the last days of physical keyboards approaching?

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More Project Glass Patents, Part 2

In the first part of this series, Google Glass Hardware Patents, Part 1, I looked at 5 patent filings from Google published over the past couple of weeks, about Project Glass. Those included (1) a closer look at the optical systems that Google Glass might use, (2) how a bone conducting system might provide audio to wearers, (3) enhancing a person’s vision in real time to do things like zoom on objects that might be hard to see, (4) using input from other devices such as a phone or laptop to run Google Glasses, and (5) a patent filing about speech input for commands and queries that you can run on your glasses.

One of the things someone joked about in a comment from one of my earlier posts about Project Glass would be running up to someone wearing the device, and triggering a search by voice command on the glasses. The last patent filing I mentioned above told us that the glasses would ignore commands from others. It’s good to see that someone at Google anticipated that potential problem. I’m surprised at how thorough the patent filings about Project Glass have been. I’m also impressed by the volume of patent filings that have been published by Google for these heads-up displays. The Google Glass Foundry workshops for developers started yesterday – I’m guessing that the developers who participated probably had a lot to see and discuss.

An old drawing of a pair of horn rimmed spectacles and a telescope from around the 1870s.

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