Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Link to a YouTube Comment

If you happen to find a YouTube comment that's really interesting and you want to share it with other people, mouse over the comment, click on the "Share" button and copy the link.

Each YouTube comment has a permalink, but it's not easy to notice that the comment is displayed below the video in a special section titled "Linked Comment".

You could also use this feature to annotate a video before sharing it with your friends. Post a comment, copy the link and use it to highlight your comment.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Spreading holiday cheer and regional cuisine through AdWords

When we here in the U.S. think of Thanksgiving, many of us think of our favorite foods: perhaps a fresh-from-the-oven pumpkin pie, a sweet glazed ham or a succulent turkey. But thanks to Charlie Hohorst III of Lafayette, La., tens of thousands of Americans dream instead of a turkey... stuffed with a duck... stuffed with a chicken.

For the past 15 years, Hohorst has run food shopping site Cajun Grocer, which specializes in more than 1,000 different authentic Louisianan foodstuffs and delicacies. The “turducken”—a Cajun dish consisting of a de-boned turkey filled with duck, chicken and stuffing—is “the bread and butter” of his business, says Hohorst. He can attest to their growing popularity as he ships an ever-increasing number of turduckens to cities all over the country, from Los Angeles to Boston.

Cajun Grocer’s business has grown hand-in-hand with the use of Google AdWords. Before starting AdWords campaigns in 2002, sales were fueled primarily by word of mouth, and reaching the right audience at an affordable price was a challenge. “With a specialty product like a turducken,” says Hohorst, “who do you target and how do you target them?” Using AdWords, Cajun Grocer can show off their products alongside relevant searches on Google and measure every penny spent on advertising.

The process of hand-crafting all eight types of turducken for the Thanksgiving rush starts in April and continues through packing and last-minute shipping as late as November 23.

Aside from their role in spreading the culinary influence of his native Louisiana, what Hohorst really loves about turduckens is that, much like the Thanksgiving holiday itself, they give people a reason to come together. “They’re a gathering item. Many people have heard of them, and when someone they know has one, it can bring in 10 or even 20 people.”/distance.xml

Friday, November 26, 2010

Google Maps Will No Longer Support Mapplets

Three years ago, Google introduced mapplets, a special flavor of gadgets that added new features to Google Maps. "Mapplets are Google Gadgets that are made especially so that they can be loaded by a user on maps.google.com, and have access to the main shared map. Users can load multiple Mapplets simultaneously for a quick and easy way to mashup content from multiple sources."

In May, Google announced the deprecation of mapplets, but only developers cared about that. Users could still go to the "My Maps" section from Google Maps and add a mapplet from the directory. Unfortunately, Google Geo Developers Blog informs us that the directory will be closed and all the links to mapplets will be removed.


As part of the deprecation plan for Mapplets we will shortly be switching from rendering Mapplets within Google Maps, to rendering them on a dedicated Mapplets page. (...) Bookmarks for existing Mapplets will continue to work. They will be automatically redirected to the new Mapplets page for the relevant Mapplet. (...) However because the Mapplets page is not part of the Google Maps application, Mapplets will no longer have access to Google Maps user profiles. (...) The above changes will be made on or shortly after Wednesday December 8th 2010.

Google Maps Directory includes 1550 mapplets that show crime information, weather data, information about population density, earthquakes, airports, hotels, golf courses and much more.

If you've added one or more mapplets to the "My Maps" section from Google Maps and you want to use them even after the links are removed, find them in the Google Maps Directory, convert their URLs and bookmark them. For example, replace:

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Gmail's Web Clips, Now With More Ads

I've never been a fan of Gmail's Web Clips, but I didn't disable this feature because it helped me keep up with news from popular sites without subscribing to them in Google Reader. The most annoying thing about Web Clips is that it mixes news headlines with contextual ads, but that still didn't make me disable this feature.

Gmail has recently started to only show ads in the Web Clips box if you don't click on the navigation arrows. If you only read your messages and don't interact with the Web Clips box, Gmail no longer shows headlines. Some of the ads are useful, but showing ads was just a way to monetize the box, not the main purpose of this feature.

Gmail's help center article explains that "Web Clips show you news headlines, blog posts, RSS and Atom feeds, and relevant sponsored links, right at the top of your inbox. Each clip displays the source from which it was received, how long ago the clip was published, and a link to access the entire story or page containing the clip. From your inbox, you can scroll through clips you've already seen by clicking the left arrow or see new clips by clicking the right arrow."

You can disable Web Clips from the settings page, but it's too bad that the feature is a lot less useful.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Google's Thanksgiving Doodle

Google's doodles were special because they linked to search results pages, instead of linking to handpicked pages. Some doodles promoted Google services, so they sent users to special landing pages, but all the other doodles linked to regular results pages. That's nhttp://www.blogger.com/img/blank.gifot the case for Google's Thanksgiving doodle, which promotes a Google page with Thanksgiving recipes from Ina Garten.

"This Thanksgiving holiday, we are grateful for many things: family, friends, and of course, food. Just in time for the big day, beloved cookbook author and TV chef Ina Garten offers everyone six simple yet delicious recipes to make one of the year's biggest dinner parties as easy as, well, pumpkin pie. Happy Thanksgiving, and Happy Cooking!"

Barry Schwartz notes that "it is uncommon for Google to offer pre-holiday logos" and that "the logo promotes a person without that person celebrating a birthday or anniversary".

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Google's Guide to the Web

Google Chrome's comic book was a great way to introduce to the world a new browser, but not everyone knew what's an URL or a web app. "20 Things I Learned About Browsers and the Web" is a guidebook created by the Google Chrome team that tries to address this issue by explaining complicated terms like "Internet", "cloud computing", "JavaScript", "HTML5", "cookies", "URL", "IP address" using illustrations and real life analogies. Here's an example:

"An IP address is a series of numbers that tells us where a particular device is on the Internet network, be it the google.com server or your computer. It's a bit like mom's phone number: just as the phone number tells an operator which house to route a call to so it reaches your mom, an IP address tells your computer which other device on the Internet to communicate with — to send data to and get data from."

The guidebook is actually a great example of an HTML5 web application that works offline and Google recommends to read it in "Chrome or any up-to-date, HTML5-compliant modern browser". Most of the examples from the book are about Google Chrome and that's what makes it look like a Chrome ad.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Germany's Blurry Street View

Google has finally added street level imagery for some of the biggest cities from Germany: Berlin, Hamburg, Frankfurt, Munich and 16 other cities. Unfortunately, many of the images are blurred because of privacy concerns. According to Spiegel, the launch has been delayed for several years.

In contrast to other countries, the launch of Street View was met with considerable resistance from politicians and privacy protection advocates in Germany, including the country's consumer protection minister, Isle Aigner of the conservative Christian Social Union, who criticized the service as an incursion on people's privacy. (... )

As was widely expected, one doesn't have to look very far in Street View to find homes that have been blurred out. Prior to the introduction of the service, more than 244,000 households in the first 20 cities to be placed online submitted requests to have their homes blurred out. Google claims the figure represents only 3 percent of households. (...)

Nevertheless, there are considerable obstructed images in the German version of Street View. In any instance where an apartment renter asked to have their flat pixilated, Google blurred out the entire building they live in. Data protection authorities believe that up to a million households across the country have been blurred out by the company.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

You Can't Search for Android from an Android Phone

This is a really a strange bug. If you use Google to search for the [android], [android market] or [android phone] from an Android phone, you won't get any result. Google only shows ads related to your query and a standard message: "Your search did not match any documents".

It's not clear if this is an Android bug or a Google search bug, but it's certainly not an Easter egg. If you don't have an Android phone, try this page to use the Android-optimized interface.

Update: it seems that the same bug affects Google's iPhone interface and there are many other queries that don't return any result. "When signed into the mobile site, I see some search results, but not for all queries. I'm on a Nexus One. In the classic interface, everything works fine," says a Google user. "I'm having the same issue on an iPhone 4. No results for super common terms, but images and location searches are unaffected," confirms another user.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Google Goggles-Enabled Ads

Google tests a way to monetize Goggles, the mobile application for a visual search. "A year ago, Google introduced a smartphone application that lets users take photos of objects and get search results in return. The company will take that capability into the world of marketing with an experiment allowing five [US] brands to use the application in their promotional materials". Here are the five brands that are part of the experiment: Buick, Delta, Diageo, Disney and T-Mobile.

Android and iPhone users in the US will be able to scan the magazine ads for Buick Regal, T-Mobile G2 and the movie posters for Disney's "Tron: Legacy" to find more information from the official sites.

Michael Slinger, Google's head of mobile search advertising sales in North America, says that "it's a learning experiment for us more than an opportunity to make money," but it could be another reason to use Google Goggles.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Improvements to Product Search for this holiday season

Every year retailers start the holiday shopping season earlier and earlier—and still I procrastinate until late December before getting started. This year I've already made my list and I’m ready to go.

I usually get my holiday shopping done in two ways: online (e-commerce) and offline (“brick and mortar” stores). I’ve found that shopping online is best when you know what you're looking for—you can search for specific items, research multiple brands or compare reviews. On the other hand, shopping offline makes it easier to explore products in person and sometimes discover things that you didn’t know existed. Plus, it’s usually the only way to take your purchase home the same day.

The line between online and offline shopping is starting to blur: According to a study by Forrester while 93 percent of retail purchases today happen in a store, more than 46 percent of those in-store purchases are influenced by online research. Not to mention that shoppers can access the web from anywhere at anytime—including from their mobile phones when browsing the aisles of a local store.

All of this got our team thinking about how we could help further bridge the gap between online and offline shopping. This week, we’re introducing several new features to Product Search that start doing just that.

Local availability on Google Product Search: We’ve partnered with more than 70 retail brands—including national retailers like Best Buy and Williams-Sonoma, as well as software manufacturers like JDA, Epicor and Oracle—to connect shoppers searching online with local stores that have the items they’re are looking for in-stock. For example, if you’re looking online to get your son that new Wii video game he’s been wanting, you can click on the “nearby stores” link to see where it’s in stock nearby. (If you’re a retailer who’s interested in taking part, you can learn more on the Google Retail Blog.)

Google Shopper 1.3: Our mobile shopping app helps shoppers on the go research items and find the best place to buy them either online or in a nearby store—and it already has more than 2.5 million downloads. This version includes new search filters like “price” and “brand” to help refine your search. And, you’ll still get features like Local Availability, voice search and rapid continuous barcode scanning (so you can point your phone at a product and get information from the web).

“Popular products” and “aisles”: We’ve borrowed an idea from successful brick and mortar stores and in the coming weeks, we'll roll-out two features called “popular products” and “aisles” to help people learn about and discover new products. When you search for a category of products such as “camera lenses,” our new popular products feature helps you get started by showing you the lenses other people are viewing online. “Aisles” helps you browse and discover products by organizing results into sub-categories that others have found helpful. For example, if you’re looking for a new TV, you can choose between display types like LCD and plasma. If you’re interested in camera lenses for that brand new SLR, you can shop by the aperture of the lens.

We hope these features make it easier for you to get your shopping done this holiday season—whether it’s online, offline or in the new space in between.

Happy shopping!

Monday, November 15, 2010

Google Removes 3 Advanced Search Options

Google has recently removed three useful options from the advanced search sidebar. You can longer restrict the results to shopping-related pages or remove shopping sites from the results.

Another option that has been removed is page previews, which displayed a longer snippet and a thumbnail for each search result. This feature has been replaced by Instant Preview, but you can no longer see all the thumbnails next to the search results.

When Google launched the sidebar, back in May 2009, it was the first time when powerful features like restricting the results to recent pages didn't require to visit the advanced search page. "We think of the Search Options panel as a tool belt that gives you new ways to interact with Google Search, and we plan to fill it with more innovative and useful features in the future."

Saturday, November 13, 2010

This week in search 11/12/10

This is one of a regular series of posts on search experience updates. Look for the label This week in search and subscribe to the series. - Ed.

We’re always excited by the diversity of the search features and enhancements that we make in any given week. Each week we try to release a diverse set of search feature and enhancement to help you find what you’re looking for, faster. From getting sports information instantly, to making it even easier for you to find the right webpage, this week’s round up includes a slew of new changes.

NHL Live Result

Many of you are sports fans, and we’re always delighted to make improvements that help you find those scores, stats and recaps. We partnered with our friends at NHL.com to provide rich information in the snippets of the NHL.com results. These include real-time scores, schedules and team standings. They also include links for quick access to game previews, live streams, recaps and video highlights of completed games making it super-easy to keep up to date on the latest NHL action.

Example searches: [nhl], [rangers]

Help for those who need it

In times of crisis, it's especially important to find the crucial information you're looking for—and find it fast. After receiving positive feedback for poison control and suicide prevention special search features in the U.S., this week we launched one or more emergency search features in 13 countries: Australia, Belgium, France, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and the U.K. For certain queries, the feature displays the phone number to call for poison emergencies, suicide prevention or general emergency services.

Instant Previews

This week we were excited to take the speed of Google Instant even further with the launch of Instant Previews in almost all languages and domains. Instant Previews is a new, interactive feature that helps you select the right results by showing you a preview of each page and highlighting the most relevant sections for your query. You can activate the feature with a single click on the magnifying glass next to the result title. The tool is fast and interactive, with the average preview appearing in under a tenth of a second.

Learn more about Instant Previews here.

We hope you enjoyed this week’s updates. You can check out some of the top searches of the week on our latest edition of Google Beat—stay tuned for more!

Friday, November 12, 2010

Gmail's Context-Sensitive Help Link

If you click on Gmail's "Help" link at the top of the page, you'll be sent to an appropriate section from the Gmail Help Center. Instead of always linking to the help center's homepage, Gmail links to the priority inbox section if you're using Gmail's smarter inbox, it shows the articles about filters if you're trying to create a filter and the articles about contacts if you're using Gmail's contact manager.

It's a small change that makes it easy to find useful information about the Gmail feature you're currently without having to type a query. Hopefully, Google will add this feature to other services, just like the interactive bug reporting tool, which is now available in Gmail, YouTube and AdSense.


Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Keyboard Shortcuts for Google Instant Previews

You don't need to use your mouse to enable Google's visual previews for search results. Just press the right arrow key to show a small screen shot for the currently selected search result. You can navigate using the up/down arrow keys to highlight a different result and use the left arrow key to hide the previews.

Google Instant Previews can't be disabled from the settings page and, despite having a similar name, it's not related to Google Instant. If you disable Google Instant, you'll still see the magnifying glasses next to the search results, but the keyboard shortcuts are no longer available.

This feature is not yet available to everyone, but you can try it using this special page or by adding &esrch=instantpreviews to the URL of a search results page.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

New Gmail Themes

There are many Gmail themes to choose from, but few of them are actually usable. Gmail added 5 new themes: Basic Black, Basic White, Tree Tops, Marker and Android.

Even if you're not an Android fan or you don't have an Android phone, you should really try the Android theme. It's simple, stylish and you can still read your messages.

If you're looking for a minimalist theme, Basic White is a good alternative to Minimalist, an already existing theme. It looks a little bit unfinished, but Google says it's the Gmail interface stripped "to the bare bones".

Monday, November 8, 2010

Gmail Tests Call Recording

Andrew Banchich spotted a new Gmail feature that lets you record calls. I don't see the call record button in my account, so it's probably an experimental feature that's not yet widely available.

It's similar to the call recording feature from Google Voice. "In order to record your call, simply press 4. You can do it when you first accept a call, or any time after it's started. To stop the recording, press 4 again or hang up. Your recordings are saved online and you can access them just like you do with voicemail." Instead of pressing 4, you click the record button.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Coming Soon in Google Docs: Third Party Apps, Cloud Printing and Sync

Google Docs' source code includes a message that reveals some important upcoming features: "Coming soon: Third party applications, cloud printers, and sync devices".

Cloud printing is a project that will enable applications on any device to print documents. "This goal is accomplished through the use of a cloud print service. Apps no longer rely on the local operating system (and drivers) to print. Instead, apps (whether they be a native desktop/mobile app or a web app) use Google Cloud Print to submit and manage print jobs." Google says that printers "are treated in much the same way as documents are in Google Docs". Cloud Print will be implemented in Google Chrome and Google Chrome OS, so it will probably launched in the coming weeks.

If you can synchronize your calendar, your contacts or your mail, why not synchronize the documents stored in Google Docs? That's one of the most important missing features from Google Docs. Google already offers some APIs for uploading and downloading files, but they're limited to documents, spreadsheets and presentations if you don't use Google Apps Premier Edition.

Google Docs has applications for editing documents, spreadsheets, presentations and for viewing PDF files, but what about other file types? There's no photo editor, no video editor, no application for editing PDF files or for extracting files from archives. Third party applications could solve some of these issues and make Google Docs even more useful.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Web Clipboard Extension for Google Chrome

Google released a Chrome extension for Web Clipboard, the Google Docs feature that lets you save and quickly retrieve text from the Web. The extension could be used to paste HTML content saved in Google Docs, to save some text you need to use on another computer or to copy multiple items to the clipboard.

"Content you copy to the server clipboard is stored on Google's servers and remains there until 30 days have passed since you last took action on (for example, copied) a given content selection," informs a help center article.

For some reason, the Web Clipboard from Google Docs doesn't show the items saved using the extension, but this is probably a bug. The extension doesn't support keyboard shortcuts, there's no contextual menu entry for copy or paste and you can't preview the text before pasting.

I still don't understand why Google Notebook was discontinued. It could've been a much better Web Clipboard.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Go to the Next Gmail Message After Archiving or Deleting

What happens when you archive or delete a conversation from your inbox in Gmail? Google goes back to the inbox and you need to select the next conversation.

If you enable "Auto-advance" in Gmail Labs, you can change this behavior. The default option is to go to the older conversation, but you can also ask Gmail to send you to the newer conversation if you usually read the oldest messages first.

Gmail automatically advances to the next conversation after archiving, deleting, flagging as spam, moving or muting a conversation.

Gmail's blog reminds us that there are two useful shortcuts for archiving and going to the next/previous conversation: ] and [, but they're difficult to remember and not many people use keyboard shortcuts.