Remove Lady Gaga from Google And Other Search Tips

search engines

Search Better!

It can be very frustrating to click through page after page of results on Google to to find the result you were searching for.

Contrary to belief of many “non-geek” types the issue is not with Googles result but rather with how we search for them. A lot of us search for just one word when we search, I know I do, and the differences between searching for “car”,  “honda”, “red car” and “red honda civic” are substantive.

If you tried searching Google for the terms above I’m sure you’ve already figured out that the more descriptive you are the better the results will be, but being descriptive is not the “end all and be all” of efficient searching.

Google (and most other search engines) accept a lot of search commands, or operators, which you can employ to further narrow the results.

For example, earlier today Sara was searching for “romance” while researching material for Everyday Love Stories. Much to her chagrin she kept getting results involving Lady Gaga, so I suggested using the “minus” operator to remove Lady Gaga from the results (now if only that would work from the air waves).

romance -“lady gaga”

There are a lot of operators which work on most of the major search engines such as: wildcard (*), OR, phrase search (“phrase”) etc…

If you you want to make your searching more efficient and by extension your day more productive a good place to start is Google Search Basics help page which lists a lot of the operators and explains their usage.

Happy searching.

Google Is Just Saber Rattling And Won’t Pull Out Of China

Google China

All talk?

David Drummond, SVP of Corporate Development and Chief Legal Officer for Google, just dropped a very provocative post over on the official Google blog.

Normally a post of this nature would go pretty much unnoticed (except by the tin-foil hat wearing security freaks) as it details an attempted attack on Google and a number of other companies operating within China.

What makes this post truly interesting however is the tone of the post, which, to my mind at least insinuates that the Chinese government were themselves responsible (or at least played a part), without ever coming out and actually making that accusation.

While that was provocative enough, the real sensationalism was to be found in this bold statement:

We have decided we are no longer willing to continue censoring our results on Google.cn, and so over the next few weeks we will be discussing with the Chinese government the basis on which we could operate an unfiltered search engine within the law, if at all. We recognize that this may well mean having to shut down Google.cn, and potentially our offices in China.

Wow, it sounds like Google is going to pull out of China. After all we know the Chinese government won’t back down, so what choice will they have?

To be honest, it’s all saber rattling. Google is trying to put pressure on the Chinese government, a regime that it knows doesn’t even generally bow to the massive weight of global political and public opinion.

In fact, Google is so aware of this that they provided themselves with a back door within their statement:

and so over the next few weeks we will be discussing with the Chinese government the basis on which we could operate an unfiltered search engine within the law

I’m confident that the settlement will come, one way or the other, and there are a number of reasons for it.

First and foremost there is the financial situation. Simply put, the amount of money Google will lose.

In Q2 of 2009 there were 338 million internet users in China and Google was the search engine of choice for 23.7% (about 80 million) of those users in Q3. That’s more users than North America which had 246.8 million users.

Add that to the fact that the Chinese market is growing rapidly as internet penetration is only 26.9% (or 1 in 4 people are online) compared to the saturated US market which has 74.2% (or 3 out of 4 online) penetration.

It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see that there is too much at stake to walk away and too much potential for growth.

Could Google really walk away from that? Could they honestly allow their market share in China to be eaten up by Baidu (the number 1 search engine in China) or to allow Ballmer to walk Microsoft in there and expand their market share? Or even better have Ballmer cut some sort of a deal with the Chinese government?

Sara, Steven Hodson and others have pointed out that Ballmer wouldn’t walk into that hornets nest. I think he would. What is there to lose?

Microsoft already operates Bing in China so it won’t be as if they can be demonized for pushing into the territory.

The digiratti may get up in arms about it, but who in the real world listens to them? Once they leave the geek twitter/blogosphere they have no real influence over the masses, no matter how they may delude themselves. Lets make it very clear-being famous in the blogosphere is nothing but an ego trip. It comes with no power and you won’t be recognized if you walk into the average pub.

Mainstream media will pick up on the story, but they’ll likely focus on the fact that Google is pulling out and not who is staying in. Even if they did, you can be sure Microsoft would have an army of PR experts ready to be on the tube and tell everybody how they’re trying to do the right thing, by sticking it out and fighting for the Chinese peoples right by providing them a service, working with the government and trying to affect change. Not like childish Google who couldn’t take the heat so took their toys home to play in their room alone.

The number of activists who may give out about Microsoft (and others) staying in China will be many, they will be loud, rant and rave on twitter, get their backs up and shout from atop their high horses, but very few of them will do anything about it.

Only a very minute percentage will actually bother to stop using Bing, or to not buy a Microsoft product and even their outrage will be short lived before they go back to their old habits.

Most will forget what they were angry about after a few days, and the real world will have forgotten about it within 24 hours of the mainstream media miking it.

The bottom line to a company like Microsoft would be an increase in revenue from the Chinese market that would far, far outweigh any potential loss or fall out from the few malcontents who actually do something about it rather than just rant on twitter and blow hot air on their blogs.

Public opinion can be a wonderful thing, but it only works as long as the public pays attention. In this day an age the public has an attention span that can be measured in minutes. The next time Angelina and Brad adopt, that Madonna farts or Obama stares at a girls ass, it will all be forgotten about.

The Chinese government has a stubborn streak and disregard for international opinion that is beyond legendary and Microsoft are definitely not above doing something that may not immediately be popular in order to gain a long term advantage and the public is too wrapped up in dealing with their own economic woes and miserable lives to really care who is providing search results to the Chinese.

Finally and above all, Google is not a public service. They are a business and their primary responsibility is not to their users but to their shareholders. Leaving China would not be in their shareholders best interest.

Google are testing the waters to see if they can get a concession. It would take some serious brass balls to pull out of the Chinese market and give their foothold over to competitors. Brass balls, which for all Google has done in the past, I think are more like two rolled up socks stuffed down the underpants.

They may look impressive from afar, but they don’t hold up to scrutiny.

Service Lets You TuneIn To Twitter

TuneIn Alpha

TuneIn to Twitter

I’ve spent the last few minutes checking out TuneIn a cool new web based Twitter client that has some great new features such as separating the media out from you stream so your can see it more easily (see the screenshot below) and allowing you to make lists of people you follow and have them all available on your page. Here’s my page if you want to check it out.

Perhaps the coolest feature of the service that I’ve discovered so far is the ability to search within the tweets of the people you are following. Normally when you do a search for something on Twitter it searches within the entire twitterverse, but searching on TuneIn, you can limit to search to only the people you are following which is very cool indeed.

Below is a screenshot of TuneIn and a video  the presentation and real-time demo from CrunchUp 2009.

The service is still in alpha stages of development but it looks like it could have a bright future ahead. May be worth keeping an eye on.

The TuneIn Interface

The TuneIn Interface

Google to Newspapers: Take your toys and go home!

I’m constantly amazed but never shocked by the constant departures into utter idiocy undertaken by main stream media, in this case a number of European newspapers who have become signatories of the “Hamburg Declaration”. (Scroll down to the “Note to Editors” to see the declaration).

The following extract is the piece that got my attention, and Google’s apparently.

Universal access to websites does not necessarily mean access at no cost. We disagree with those who maintain that freedom of information is only established when everything is available at no cost.

Universal access to our services should be available, but going forward we no longer wish to be forced to give away property without having granted permission.

Essentially this says in about as simple terms as I can make it: “Don’t crawl our content without paying us for it.

Now I suspect that all the major search engines will have some sort of response lined up to this but my hat goes off to Josh Cohen, Google’s Senior Business Product Manager for his response:

For more than a decade, search engines have routinely checked for permissions before fetching pages from a web site. Millions of webmasters around the world, including news publishers, use a technical standard known as the Robots Exclusion Protocol (REP) to tell search engines whether or not their sites, or even just a particular web page, can be crawled. Webmasters who do not wish their sites to be indexed can and do use the following two lines to deny permission:

User-agent: *
Disallow: /

If a webmaster wants to stop us from crawling a specific page, he or she can do so by adding ‘<meta name=”googlebot” content=”noindex”>‘ to the page. In short, if you don’t want to show up in Google search results, it doesn’t require more than one or two lines of code. And REP isn’t specific to Google; all major search engines honor its commands.

To paraphrase Josh’s well written post into more everyday talk: “Nobody’s asking you to play. If you don’t like it, quit your whining, pick up your toys and go home. You’ve always been able to, so put up or shut up. Let’s see how long you last without us!”

Bravo! About time Google!

Google playing with music search again?

I’d almost forgotten that Google has a search operator “music:” that when put in front of a query will bring up information about the artists, songs and albums you’re searching for.

However, what did surprise me today, was getting the same results as searching for “music: Nickelback” simply by searching for Nickelback on Google.com.

Check out the screen shots below to see what I mean.

1. The results I normally when I search from Google.com just for “nickelback” (click on the image for a larger view).

Music-search

2. The results I get when I search on Google.com with the operator “music: nickelback” (click on the image for a larger view).

Music-search-1

3. The results I got earlier today using just “nickelback” from Google.com (click on the image for a larger view).

Music-search-2

As you can see searches 2 and 3 show identical results even thought the search query URLs are very different!.

So, is Google trying something new with their music search? We know they have rolled out free music links to users in China, might we see the same or something similar in Europe or the US? Doubtful, but we can hope :)

First The Pirate Bay, next Google?

You might think I’m taking the piss but I assure you that I’m not. I’ve just read the AP piece about the 4 guys from The Pirate Bay getting convicted for facilitating users to illegally download music, movies and video games.

Now, while I fully believe that this ruling will be overturned by the higher Swedish courts, I find myself asking what happens if it isn’t? Who will be the next target, and as I look at the extract from the ruling by Judge Tomas Norstrom quoted in the piece I can’t help think that the next target will be any and every reasonably functional search engine.

The court found the defendants guilty of helping users commit copyright violations by providing a Web site with "sophisticated search functions, simple download and storage capabilities, and through the tracker linked to the Web site."

So, the pirate bay boyos provided a website with:

  • sophisticated search functions – Google et all.
  • simple download – Just do a search for an mp3 or video on Google and see how easy it is to download one.
  • storage capabilities – Gmail on it’s own gives you almost 7GB, through extensions (GSpace) and other apps (Gmail Drive & Gmail FS). Not to mention the fact that you can send up to 20mb as an attachment making it ridiculously easy to email that downloaded song to all your friends.
  • Tracker – okay, Google doesn’t have a tracker but then again it doesn’t need one, it’s got the most comprehensive index of the internet in existence.
    Okay maybe I am jumping the gun a little, but I really don’t think so. The entertainment industry is a monolithic conglomeration of companies that would rather litigate than innovate and have proven time and time again that the pursuit of money and protecting their outdated business model is all that matters to them. What better direction to take than to go after those with the deepest pockets? Especially now that they have a precedent ruling against what is essentially just a search engine.

4 steps to the ultimate Google search

Ultimate-Google There’s nothing like a quick Google search for bringing information from all over the web to your eyeballs in an instant.  However as great as Google is, it doesn’t always give you the complete picture.

Help is at hand and with this collections of greasemonkey scripts and Firefox plugins, I’ll show you how to have the latest Twitter, Wikipedia, Flickr and YouTube results displayed every time you do a Google search.

Okay, first things first, scoot your ass on over to the Firefox addons page and download “CustomizeGoogle”.

CustomizeGoogle is one seriously cool extension that allows you to add a lot of extra information (like links to Yahoo, Ask.com, MSN etc) to the search results as well as allowing to to remove unwanted stuff like ads.

There are literally hundreds of options and tweaks for most of Google’s services available in this extension, but to be honest, unless you want to go turning off the ads on the sites then the extension is pretty much configured perfectly out of the box.

Next up you’ll want to download and install the Greasemonkey extension.

For those of you unfamiliar with Greasemonkey, the extension allows you to run small scripts (bits of code) automatically when you visit certain websites and can be used to do everything from tweaking the appearance of a site to adding new functionality.

Once you have Greasemonkey installed (and your browser restarted) you’ll be able to choose from literally 1000’s of available scripts over on UserScripts.org but today we’re only going to be looking at 2 of them.

First up is “Google Search Sidebar with YouTube, Wikipedia, Dictionary.com and Flickr Results”.

This über imaginatively named script does exactly what it says on the tin. Every time you do a search using Google the results will come up as usual but now you’ll also be treated to an extra sidebar on the right hand side displaying the associate Wikipedia entry, Flickr image and YouTube video results for that query as well as a Dictionary.com definition (if you happen to have used a single definable word).

To install the script simply click the big black “install” button on the top right of your screen and click install on the resulting Firefox popup. To test the script in action just head off and do a Google search..

Finally we want to install the equally functionally titled “Twitter Search Results on Google” script.

This little baby displays the 5 most recent Twitter search results for the query just above the Google search results, allowing you to have both real-time Twitter and indexed Google results on the same page. Awesome.

Again, install the script and head off and do a Google Search but before you hit that search button be prepared for the instant information overload you’re about to subject yourself to!!

(Massive thanks have to go to Sara for introducing me to the two Greasemonkey scripts mentioned in this post! Thanks darling!)

Maybe I’m stupid but…

twitter logoWhy doesn’t the @replies button on Twitter show all tweets that contain @pauloflaherty?

At the moment it shows only the ones that have @pauloflaherty at the start of the tweet. If it’s at the middle or at the end then it doesn’t show.

I know I can search for tweets that have @pauloflaherty in them, but isn’t that just a little too much work?