Thursday, November 30, 2006

Paging Dr. Google...

This post on the Google Blog reminded me of this Op-Ed piece in the Chicago Tribune a couple months ago. Seems Google is trying to keep the health care industry off its mounting list of industries who have a bone to pick with the Internet giant.

Google is a natural choice these for initially finding information, and as the Google Blog post mentions, Google has modified its search results to include a list of other options like "treatment," "symptoms," "causes/risks" etc. That's all fine and dandy, and as with anything related to the Internet, there is a wealth of information from websites that are created solely for a particular issue or ailment, like depression.

But Google hasn't refined its medical term search quite as well as medical search engine websites like WebMD. Even Google displays results from WebMD. Google "sore knee" for example, and the first result is from WebMD. Has to do with home treatment, and that makes me wonder why not just start with a medical search engine like WebMD which gives your results that relate to sore knees and not knee injuries of college athletes?

WebMD is a start in the right direction, and my guess is Google will try to trump it and add the organization of health care information to its list of "do no evil" deeds. Does that include medical records?

It's one thing to organize medical information for research or educational purposes, but organizing individual medical information, medical records, is creepy. I don't want Google to have my medical history, list of ailments, medications or any sort of test results.

So it will be interesting to see if Google manages to cut through the health care red tape and make everyone's medical information free to all, as long as you have a Google account.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Google and Global Warming, and Maryland Court to Launch Webcasting Plan

Google is really making itself known in every faucet of society. And being the company that it is, and realizing (on some level) that is has an impact on anything and everything, it has taken on the issue of Global Warming. And what an issue, but what better way to tackle it than using the young, tech-savvy crowd who uses your products as if there is nothing else?

Shocking they used Google Docs & Spreadsheets (heck, I do too!) but what is rather impressive is the convergence of this tech giant with "old school" media: the newspaper. Google has taken out an ad in USA Today, no doubt as part of their test with various newspapers around the country. Google is reaching out to the masses, the every day people who still physically pick up and read a newspaper. Now there really isn't anywhere you can turn and not find something Google hasn't touched. It's very much like Wal-Mart in that respect, except what it touches is more visible.

Another interesting article I saw this morning is from the Chicago Tribune (yes, I read plenty of other sources than just the Google Blog) about the Maryland Court getting ready to launch its Web casting program. I've always considered the government a bit technologically adverse, except for perhaps agencies like the CIA and FBI, and the military. So it is interesting to see a state high court embrace technology, and pave the way for the Internet equivalent of C-SPAN.

And what better topic than gay marriage, a touchy, hot button political issue that cost some an election.

Wonder if it will start a political discourse among the young, tech-savvy crowd that hasn't seemed very interested in fuddy-duddy politics....

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Weighing in on Click Fraud

There is an article in The Economist discussing click fraud. For anyone in the online marketing industry, click fraud is a problem, both in terms of it actually occurring and in terms of making your way through the maze of required documentation search engines like Google and Yahoo! need to review before considering granting a refund for click fraud.

Google has discussed click fraud on its official blog, especially in regard to the Lane's Gifts lawsuit. Surprise, surprise, they settled that one. And there are posts on the AdWords blog about click fraud, and one that suggests fundamental flaws in third party click fraud auditing. Always nice to see that the company that stands to make the most money out of pay-per-click advertising finds flaws in third party audits. Like there aren't flaws in their own analysis.

But that's all beside the point. There is talk, now, of standards. And setting up an independent auditing system. About time! Except it isn't quite that simple. "Independent" really means that the audits won't be conducted directly by a search engine or a third party that doesn't have something to gain, either by working to bring down a search behemoth or becoming a household name as a clever scam artist, bilking advertisers out of millions of dollars, millions of dollars that might have gone to search engines instead.

Then there is the question of data sharing. Online marketing advertisers as well as search engines know the value of data, of user information and tracking that information from first click to subsequent bounces until the visitor leaves the website all together. How willing, really, are search engines going to be in sharing the massive amount of data they collect on every user, with an independent auditing system they didn't hand pick?

Google has shown great reluctance to share information with the US government, what would make an independent auditing system different?

Until there are actual rules in place, rules for sharing all data, rules to still protect the data and even an oversight, governing body, click fraud standards, or Internet standards for that matter, aren't going to be of much use.

Friday, November 24, 2006

Google Law...err...Google and...err...Laws

There is this post on the Google Blog that talks about giving more control to news organizations. The poster, Mr. Nathan Stoll, says that "they want greater control and visibility into the process by which their content gets included in Google News." We should acknowledge the fact that Mr. Stoll does an excellent job of avoiding the pitfall of ending such a sentence with a preposition. Yay for someone who follows the rules of grammar in this day and age when we don't even teach grammar anymore. But I digress.

It was interesting to read this post only to find an article in the Chicago Tribune about Google settling its copyright dispute with Belgium media groups. How curious Google is settling a case on one side of the world while proclaiming, on the other side of the world, to give the ability to control content served up on Google News. And if the robots.txt file is the simple solution, why does information that Google crawlers are not supposed to search, per the robots.txt file, appear in search results? An error in the robots.txt file? Or do Google crawlers just crawl everywhere first and later sift out the information it isn't supposed to find? After all, it does take more than five minutes for something to drop out of search listings, right?

And then there is this whole settling business. The Google way seems to be not to go to court. Google settles. One could argue that Google pushes the boundaries until it gets a slap on the wrist and then pays the punisher a handsome sum to stop. Sounds a little bit like a bribe, doesn't it? A backhanded way of striking a deal, as it were. And deals will be struck, especially with the acquisition of YouTube. YouTube was wise to start some before it got acquired, but it probably won't be enough. Many believe lawsuits will come out of the woodwork now that YouTube has the deep pockets of Google, and Google seems quite weary of that fact as well.

So what does all this settling do, really, in the end? Cases don't go to court. Law isn't set, except the law of how much Google is willing to pay and how often. At some point the law of averages needs to kick in, and it will be a drain on Google resources to keep fighting legal battles on so many fronts. Google News. Google Books. Google Book Search. Google Video.

And how will a Democratic Congress impact Google and the Internet industry. Will a Democratic Congress put Net Neutrality back on the table?

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Google Earth is Everywhere

Google Earth seems to becoming ever more popular. There are two links on the Google Blog, one that talks about knowing where you are, which promotes Geography Awareness Week 2006 so we can all get to know the planet Earth a little better.

There is also the post on historic maps now on Google Earth, merging the old world with Google Earth as the title of the post proclaims. The post reminded me of a little known book called The Island of Lost Maps: A True Story of Cartographic Crime by Miles Harvey. The story is about the stealing of ancient, old-world maps, and seeing the merging of technology and cartography makes me wonder if there is a new kind of theft going on, or is it really in the name of freedom of information and knowledge? Curious. Very curious.

And just when Google Earth doesn't seem to be enough places, I haven't seen a map of something on a news channel, local or cable, that doesn't have the words "Google Earth" in one of the corners. I do admit, however, that the use of Google Earth by news organizations makes for more interesting viewing of the topography of far off places where people do live. Visual representation of places you might not otherwise see, vs. reading about it in books, which I do anyway.

Nice to have a picture to go with the words though, isn't it?