Blog entries

This page contains all the blogs from the whole semester.


Yahoo Year In Review (2008 Edition)

by samooresamoore (03 Dec 2008 19:17)

Here is a summary from Yahoo about the year in search at the #2 search firm: Year in Review (at Yahoo).


Oil Consumption Search Engine

by roopakroopak (03 Dec 2008 15:46)

Introduction

A Google Custom Search Engine would be very useful for my project on oil consumption. New data comes out on a monthly basis or even more frequently on many sites. Also, trends in oil consumption tend to vary frequently and are hard to predict because they are so dependent on current events. Because of this, it would be important to have a means to search for the most up-to-date information. Below is my initial Oil Consumption Search Engine, which is linked to a few fact-based sites that are essentially databases for all statistics currently available about oil consumption.

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The Sites

Energy Information Administration
I chose the Energy Information Administration website because it has been my greatest source of facts and figures regarding oil consumption so far. It provides weekly oil consumption data, U.S. Imports by Country of Origin, and many other very useful types of data. I used the entire site in my custom search engine because some of the oil data is scattered outside of the Petroleum page on the site. It will be very useful to any user looking for the most up-to-date information because it will have weekly updates while the my wiki site and related blogs will tend to be based on some past data.

Nation Master
I chose Nation Master because it has visuals of all different types of oil consumption data. Though it is not as up-to-date as the EIA website, it provides a bar graph, pie chart, and map for each type of oil consumption statistic it features. As I noted in my blog about Image Search, such graphs and maps are necessary to digest all the numerical information about oil consumption.

BP Statistical Review 2008
I chose the BP website because its information is from a player in the industry. Since BP is an oil company, different types of statistics are presented than would be given by a disinterested source. Therefore, there is more information on methodologies, trade movements, and refineries than on the EIA website and Nation Master. Trade movements are very important in the discussion of how U.S. oil consumption relates the rest of the world. Methodologies and refinery information provide some insight into how oil consumption can be more efficient and the feasibility of alternative methods. The site also contains historical data about oil consumption for each country since 1965.

Though there is overlap between the three sites, each contributes a significant amount of unique information. Together, they provide a large pool of information that contains a large percentage of the useful statistics regarding oil consumption in the U.S. and the world.

Additional sites to be added in the future should be focused on experts' views on the current state of oil consumption. This could primarily come from blogs and news sources. Sites containing research papers on the topic would also be useful, but unfortunately many of these papers would be part of the Deep Web and therefore inaccessible through the custom search engine.

Conclusion

A custom search engine can help cut out many of the irrelevant sources that are found through a normal Google Search. For my topic, using the Oil Consumption Search Engine would help a searcher find relevant information much faster because it emphasizes results from the three sites above. It would be especially useful when used to find the up-to-date numbers for the statistics on my wiki, because these were the sources those statistics initially came from. Therefore, a custom search engine would be a great addition to my project and would make it a much more complete source of oil consumption information.


Ben Lewis: The (Google) Man

by roopakroopak (03 Dec 2008 15:45)

Introduction

I am a big fan of Google just like most college students. You can type in almost any subject in Google Search and get all the sources you need for a solid paper in less than 1 second. Also, with Image Search, Youtube, and Google Calendar, Google pretty much serves all of my time-wasting and organizational needs. Because of this, when I heard that a speaker from Google was coming to speak to the class, I was naturally excited. Ben Lewis was that speaker.

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What Ben Talked About

Ben was an interesting speaker who emphasized how Google was actually making its money from its products. He touched on the two most obvious ones (search and ads), but he also spoke to us about how Google Toolbar and Google Earth, as well as several other products, were also bringing in revenue. Perhaps more importantly, he specified the costs that are really associated with the products.

I was interested in the auctioning system Google uses for ad space. Ben went through a search for a video game and showed us the four ads that were displayed on the right side of the screen. He then explained the how the many advertisers submit bids for certain keywords and the few highest bidders get to have their ads displayed. While doing this, he talked about how Google prevents ads with excessive exclamation points and other nonsense from showing up and allows only relevant ads in its ad space.

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I have never used the Google Toolbar and never thought much about how toolbars could help make money. Ben explained that the toolbar is beneficial for two major reasons. First, it keeps the brand at the top of mind. This made clear sense to me. Second, it has a PageRank feature that indicates how important a web page is by using clicks as votes. This is a useful service and it allows Google to track user data. Tracking user data leads to better information. Better information leads to better services and greater revenue. Google Earth offers Google Toolbar when it is installed, so it also provides the same benefits indirectly.

The order of costs Ben mentioned were about what I had expected. For every product, servers and bandwidth were the highest cost. The costs of creation and maintenance varied with each product, but the variable costs per use by a consumer were very low. The biggest thing that I had not previously considered at all was the fact that Google is losing money with each search that does not involve clicking on an ad.

What I Learned

I had not previously considered the level of strategic thinking that goes into Google products. It had crossed my mind several times that it makes no sense for Google spend its money offering free products. Google Earth in particular had always seemed like a really cool program that was useless for Google's bottom line. The idea of adding Google Toolbar as an option when installing Google Earth is an incredibly smart idea. Google creates a lot of goodwill because of these products and gets a lot out of them at the same time!

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The support for creativity was something I had heard about on the news, but hearing it from a Google employee made it real in my mind. Ben said that Google does not put a cap on the amount of money that can be spent on a project. Ideas are funded as far as they can go! The fact that they allow creativity to work freely like this and that employees actually feel this freedom explained to me how a company can create such amazing things. Unfortunately, this freedom has become slightly limited recently due to the economic decline, but I feel that the culture that has been established at Google will continue to foster amazing new products.

On the flip side of this, I learned about the unsuccessful products Google has and the money it has lost in these products. Ben talked about Google Checkout and broke down how the fee it charges fails to cover the fees it must pay to credit cards and other related costs. He mentioned that there are actually a slew of products like this that turn out unsuccessful. Being the typical Google user, I had no idea about most of Google's products and only knew about the most popular, wildly successful ones.

The Point

Hearing from Ben was great because it gave me insight into the thinking that is behind the products I am familiar with. As an aspiring business professional, it was a good lesson in strategy and considering costs. The talk overall showed how Google uses its products to promote each other, and how it uses categorization to maximize its revenue, and how it grows through innovation.

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Image Search: Google vs. Flickr

by roopakroopak (03 Dec 2008 11:09)

Introduction

Since I am attempting to show the problem with oil consumption, pictures are necessary for my project. There are many numbers out there, but there are usually hard to digest. In my own research, the only way I have been able to really get a grasp on the problem is through numerous graphs and charts. I decided to take a close look at Google Image Search and Flickr to find out the strengths of each and how they can help me with my project. I used the query ["oil consumption"] for both.

Google Image Search

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Just like with all types of Google searches, I was happy with the way the results were displayed. Eighteen thumbnails were displayed in rows of 6 and I could see them all on my screen with no scrolling. A few words of description were under each thumbnail. Perfect!

The results showed graphs of many different varieties. There were even a few that I had never seen before. Below is a sampling of some of the different types of graphs I came across.

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This variety of types allows for a very clear illustration of how oil consumption in various countries has grown (line graph) and how much of the world oil consumption is accounted for by each major oil-consuming country (pie graph). The stacked graph also provides an illustration of the overall oil consumption broken down by region. Through the use of these graphs and others of this sort, almost all figures relating to oil consumption could be converted into an easily understandable form. Google Image Search proved very helpful in this sense.

The results also illustrated oil consumption in map form. A couple of examples are below.

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The first is a typical oil consumption map that simply uses a legend and different colors to illustrate where oil consumption is heavy and where it is light. This is perhaps the most clear way to break down oil consumption geographically. The second is a snapshot of a Google Earth visualization for oil consumption. This is amazing! You can get these 3D charts at the Google Earth Blog. These are easily the most unique depictions of oil consumption I have seen.

Overall, Google Image Search proved to be a great tool for images relating to oil consumption, and the results contained every type of visual that I had found so far in all of my research.

Flickr

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The display of the results in Flickr wasn't nearly as appealing as in Google Image Search. The images were in list form, requiring me to scroll down the page even to browse the first few. There was a large space next to each image for description, but there was only the date uploaded and some tags next to each image. There was no description!

The images were not nearly as relevant to my search as in Google. A couple of the results were wine classes and pictures of cars. Though the cars were consuming oil, this provided me no useful information. There was also some overlap with the images in Google Image Search, including the world map and the snapshot of the Google Earth visualization.

The relevant and non-overlapping images mostly consisted of line graphs. The only new type of information that was not available in Google Image Search was in the images shown below.

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The unique thing about these images is the focus on oil consumption in the United States. The first image provides an incredible depiction of how high U.S. oil consumption is compared to the rest of the world. The second provides a nice breakdown of consumption by state in map form. Though Flickr may lack in variety of graphs, this focus on the United States is very helpful in demonstrating the oil consumption problem.

Conclusion

After taking a close look at both Google Image Search and Flickr, I was able to conclude that there was something to be gained from using both. Though I would say Google Image Search is more useful and easier to use, Flickr does provide some unique images that are very useful for my oil consumption project. An important thing to note is that I learned more about the current state of oil consumption from looking at the images I found than by looking at numbers from sources like the Energy Information Administration website. The images reminded me of the necessity of providing visualizations for something as difficult to digest as the state of U.S. and world oil consumption and the problems which will arise in the future. Image search is certainly a very useful tool that should be utilized in any research project.


Christmas Price Index

by roopakroopak (03 Dec 2008 11:02)

I ran across the article below using Joongel. It's not very technology-related, but I found it interesting. It's from TheStreet.com. Take a look!

'12 Days of Christmas' Items up 11%

PITTSBURGH — Given the economic downturn, even the most romantic might balk at the $86,609 price tag for the items in the carol, "The Twelve Days of Christmas."

That's this year's cost, according to the annual "Christmas Price Index" compiled by PNC Wealth Management, which tallies the single partridge in a pear tree to the 12 drummers drumming, purchased repeatedly as the song suggests. The price is up $8,508, or 10.9%, from $78,100 last year.

PNC Financial (PNC Quote - Cramer on PNC - Stock Picks) checks jewelry stores, dance companies, pet stores and other sources to compile the list. While it is done humorously, PNC said its index mirrors actual economic trends.

Prices of items in song, according to PNC Wealth Management:

Partridge, $20 (last year: $15)

Pear Tree, $200 (last year: $150)

Two Turtle Doves, $55 (last year: $40)

Three French Hens, $30 (last year: $45)

Four Calling Birds (canaries), $600 (last year: same)

Five Gold Rings, $350 (last year: $395)

Six Geese a-Laying, $240 (last year: $360)

Seven Swans a-Swimming, $5,600 (last year: $4,200)

Eight Maids a-Milking, $52 (last year: $47)

Nine Ladies Dancing (per performance), $4,759 (last year: same)

10 Lords a-Leaping (per performance), $4,414 (last year: $4,285)

11 Pipers Piping (per performance), $2,285 (last year: $2,213)

12 Drummers Drumming (per performance), $2,475 (last year: $2,398)


Organize Your Life...Check This Out!

by BrianHeM10BrianHeM10 (02 Dec 2008 22:28)

Just found this amazing post on Mashable that features 100+ web applications that can help you organize every element of your life (literally). Very cool stuff.

Organize Your Life


Custom Search Engines

by (user deleted) (01 Dec 2008 17:46)

In today's blog I will discuss Google Custom Search Engines and how they can be used for my term project or other personal use.

Google Custom Search Engines

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I always find it convenient when a website has a search engine embedded on their page. This allows me to specifically search their site for the information I need. It's not surprising that most of these embedded search engines are "powered by Google." What Google Custom Search Engine does is allow you to input the sites you want Google to search, and then retrieves only results from those websites in addition to a search query you define. Here are some examples of custom search engines made through Google.

My Custom Search Engine

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Using this intuition, you would expect me to define my wikidot site as the URL, but considering the limited amount of specific information on my wiki, that would be an ineffective web search. Instead, I inputed different mortgage and real estate-related sites from several realms. I included the real estate section of a popular business site (Market Watch), a message board dedicated to the mortgage crisis (Topix), and a website dedicated to mortgage news (Mortgage News Daily). This diverse range of sources of information will allow a visitor of my web page to search my custom engine to obtain the information they need quickly without searching each of these sites in particular.

Functionality

One of the more interesting aspects of Google CSE is the ability to define some "key words" for the search engine. This allows Google to only find the most relevant information on the sites you defined. The best part about this feature if you find that your Google CSE has become ineffective, you can easily edit the key words to be more or less specific. I feel custom search engines (as with most of the stuff we have learned in this class) are all about trial and error. I have defined my search engine key words and relevant URLs, but until I consistently use the CSE to obtain specific information, it is hard to gauge its accuracy. As this semester progresses, I know I will change the sites I use along with the search engine query.

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Another great feature of Google CSE is the fact you can embed it in a website or blog. Of the other custom search engines (Topicle, Swicki, and Rollyo), only Google CSE allowed me to embed it on my site. Currently, my custom search engine is right on the homepage, conveniently allowing visitors to search for mortgage industry news first (of course the location of the Google CSE is bound to change throughout my project).

Overall

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I love Google custom search engine. Far too often my Google searches have results from sites irrelevant to my query and I may consider making a Google custom search engine for my own personal use or to narrow my desired results. I think this feature will add a necessary tool to my site and allow the person who takes over my job a place to start his research. Moreover, as my site develops and I add more content, I will probably add a custom search engine to search within my site. As I mentioned above, most of the sites I visit have this function and will only make the site more functional.


Google Analytics

by Eric BrackmannEric Brackmann (01 Dec 2008 17:26)

As a self proclaimed 'webmaster,' Google Analytics is one of my favorite tools. The depth of information that you can collect about your users using this FREE service is really amazing. Some of my favorite features include site usage statics, the map overlay and traffic sources overview.

Site Usage Statics

The site usage statics provide a quick summary of the traffic your website. You can see the number of visits, pages views, pages per visit, average time on your site, percent of new visits and so on…. It really lets you know how you’re doing and allows you to analyze the data in different time segments and compare the data to different time periods. For example, you can compare the number of visits from 3-4 PM yesterday to the number of visits from 3-4 PM someday three months ago.

Map Overlay

The map overview is a really cool feature. It allows you to see where your visitors are located, down to the actual city. This feature is particularly useful when you are trying to optimize a site for a particular country or region or for example, when you are working on an retail website with the goal of driving in-store as well as online traffic.

Traffic Sources Overview

The traffic sources overview lets you know how your visitors find your site. You can find out if they typed your domain name into their browser, clicked on link on anther site (and what sites have links to site) or found you using a search engine (and what search engine and what they typed into the search bar). It allows to know what your users are looking for and provides a good insight into how to begin optimizing your site.

I’m Watching You

Just to let you know (and to tie this back to the project), I installed Google Analytics on this website. Don't do anything too crazy…

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Everything Images

by Eric BrackmannEric Brackmann (01 Dec 2008 17:25)

So, I've been using the various image search engines we explored in BIT 330 over the last few days and thought that I would create a table to compare a handful of engines on their search features.

Image Search Engines
Search by Google Images Ask Images Yahoo Images Exalead Images
Size x x x x
File Type x x
Color x x x
Content (faces) x x
Orientation x

It seems the engine that provides the best package of search features is Exalead Images. The service also allows you to save your images on a free a online account; making it an all around winner in image search.

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Using Tineye

I’ve also found Tineye to be a great tool. I do a little bit of graphic design work every now and then and am always in need of high quality photos. Most the time I use stock photography (StockXchng is my favorite), but I can never find product logos. For example, this weekend I was designing a postcard for a local retailer and could not find a decent Rocky Brands logo. I could find a really bad one on Google Images, so I put it into TinEye and, like magic, I had what I needed.

For the Project

I’ve also decided that the homepage of my project needed more (and better) pictures. FYI, I searched for [Biofuels], [Geothermal Power], [Solar Energy], [Wind Energy], [Hydroelectric Power] and [Nuclear Energy] (respectively) in Exalead Images and Google Images.


Searching for Apple Images

by dpnickdpnick (01 Dec 2008 16:58)

For my BIT 330 class, I am doing my term project on Apple Inc. For this, I must analyze every aspect of the company and all of its products. I like to include pictures of their products, and therefore today's class about image search was very helpful. Given that I must constantly update information for my project (which takes a ton of time), searching for good images is the least of my worries and is therefore something that I don't want to have to spend a lot of time on.

New Aluminum MacBook

One recent news article that I covered was Apple's media event October 14th, when Apple announced their new MacBook family. I wrote a big piece on this event, and I found myself looking for pictures of the new laptops. However, searching Google Images I couldn't find any. All of the images were of the old MacBooks or some other Apple product. I tried a couple different searches, such as "Macbook aluminum" and "new MacBook". I literally found 2 pictures (neither very good) after 15 minutes of searching. Even now (nearly 3 weeks after the event) there still aren't any new MacBook pictures from these searches.

Flickr

Flickr is an excellent resources for high-quality user-generated pictures. Using Flickr, I did an image search for "new MacBook aluminum" and almost every result that came back was some variation of the new MacBook. Of the first 24 results, 18 were of the new MacBook aluminum and I found 8 that could be useful for my project. This is compared to Google finding 0 images of the new MacBook. Another thing to note is the quality of Flickr images is much, much better than those of Google.

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Google News Search

Both Google News and Yahoo News provide pictures with their news updates. This can be beneficial if you are searching for images of something related to the news. Given that I wanted pictures from Apple's media event, this was the perfect tool for me. One thing to note is that while Flickr provides user-generated images, the images produced by Google News are much more formulaic. I did a Google News Search for "MacBook Aluminum" which brought back 250 results, many of which were awesome:

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A Pixolu Search

Now that I had found a bunch of useful new MacBook pictures, I decided to search for some generally useful pictures of Apple Inc. I did this using Pixolu, which is the coolest image search feature I've ever seen. One quick note: When you do an image search in Pixolu, the web address does not change, so therefore I cannot provide you with links of the specific searches I did (you will have to do them yourself).

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Start by going to Pixolu.de. On the home page, you can tell Pixolu how many images you want (ranging from 100 to 300) and where you want it to search (Google, Flickr, and Yahoo). After you enter your initial search into Pixolu (I searched "Apple computer"), it brings up all the images on one page. One nice thing that Pixolu does for you is it organizes your results by color. For my image search on Apple, it put all the white background images up top and grouped the other images by section (red background, dark background). From here, you can zoom in and scroll through the images. This is another neat feature because all of your images are on one page, and therefore instead of hitting next to see more images, you can easily move around the page zooming in and out.

What makes Pixolu stand out from the rest of image search engines is that Pixolu will specialize your search further for you. If you want to find additional images, you can select and drag the images on the screen which are most applicable for your search. Then hit the NEXT button and Pixolu will search for "semantically similar" images. This is an amazing feature, and offers a lot of potential! For my Apple search, I selected images of Apple's logo (the apple symbol) and hit NEXT. It worked flawlessly, bringing back all kinds of different Apple logos.

While my second search worked well, sometimes Pixolu has difficult refining the search for you. This is because Pixolu is still in the beta version and therefore does have technical difficulties. When we did this exercise in class, no one could get their semantic search to work because the site was having trouble loading it. Currently, the home page for Pixolu says:

Unfortunately, due to the high number of request we receive, Pixolu may be very slow and may not be able to return semantically similar images. Please come back in a few days.

Regardless, it seems that the inital search always works and therefore Pixolu is a very helpful resource.


Video Search and my Wiki Page

by thauckthauck (01 Dec 2008 16:49)

Who would have thought that video search would be a useful tool for the topic of my wiki? Since I am preparing a transition for a new SEMCOG transit panel, I imagined most of my material would be of an informative nature: transit plans, transit system, important regional news, etc… I never really considered the fact that I might be able to add a little something extra to my site by incorporating video clips that bring all of the material to life… that is until we talked about video search in BIT 330.

In order to make this blog entry a little bit more interesting, I am going to talk about results I got using a less well-known video search that I really like called blinkx. According to its own website, “blinkx has built a reputation as the Remote Control for the Video Web.” This basically boils down to the fact that blinkx uses all sorts of technology to search videos: traditional text/tag based searching, speech recognition, and even video analysis. Cool, right? Blinkx takes your query and then searches across the web on video hosting sites to bring you some really good results.

Video Search and my Wiki Page

For the purpose of my project, I really only had to run one simple query ([Detroit transit]) to return exactly what I was looking for.

The most relevant result that I returned was a video that basically is a simulation of the proposed Woodward Light Rail system. I had seen this video before on the project’s website, but it was a large Quicktime file. I never considered that I might search for it elsewhere on the Internet, mostly because I assumed no one would probably take the time to post this sort of video on another site. The video really brings an important part of my project to life. You can try to imagine what this system would be like and how it would fit into the City of Detroit by the information I provided and the sites I link to, but the video makes the project even that much more tangible.

The second video I chose to take away from video search and incorporate into my wiki was a historical video that talks about problems with the Detroit Department of Transportation bus system, one of the systems I highlight in my Current Transit Systems section. What I like about this video is that I think it makes some problems with Detroit bus transit glaringly obvious, even though it is so old. Some things never change.

So, as far as my project is concerned, my next big challenge will be to figure out exactly how I want to go about incorporating these videos. I did toss around the idea of having a dedicated video section on my page at first, but have since decided against it. As far as I am concerned, these videos act better as a tool to highlight information already contained on the page. I will most likely be adding the video of the new Woodward Light Rail system on my Current Transit Plans page under the Woodward Light Rail description. As far as the old video of the DDOT bus system problems is concerned, I think I will add it to my background section and discuss the fact that many of the problems that the video highlights still exist today, and really use it as a call to action for the person I am transitioning.

Final Thoughts

Overall, video search is a really cool tool and I am just so surprised that it actually ended up being useful for my project. What is really stunning is just how much material is now available on the Internet. To think I could have a topic as boring as public transportation in Southeast Michigan and am able to find relevant videos to make it more interesting is really cool!


Election Night and a Custom Search

by thauckthauck (01 Dec 2008 16:47)

After learning about custom search engines, I thought I would try out a popular tool called RollYO. Basically, it allows its users to create any search engine they’d like or use search engines created by other RollYO users. One feature that I found particularly cool as a Firefox user is that you can create custom RollYO’s and use them in the search box of your Firefox browser! I know that I use that little box to search all the time, so the idea of being able to make it even more efficient by making more exact search engines is pretty cool.

So, just for fun and in the spirit of election night, I thought I would make a RollYO to search for Barack Obama. But, to make things more interesting, I am not going to put any news sites in it. When I run my search, it will only be on blogging websites I know a lot of young people use so that I can see what the general population has to say about the election.

Looking for Something Different

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This is the list of sites I gave it to search:

www.livejournal.com
www.blurty.com
www.blogger.com
www.blogspot.com

Basically, those are the only blogging sites that I know a ton about. Additionally, I know they are used by a ton of random people, hopefully leading to more interesting results.

So, I enter my search… “Barack Obama”

Drumroll please…

HA! Yes! Just what I was looking for! I doubt a blog called “Is Barack Obama the Messiah” would be the first return of a general search for Barack Obama on Google.

Sing for Change chronicles a recent Sunday afternoon, when 22 children, ages 5-12, gathered to sing original songs in the belief that their singing would lift up our communities for the coming election. Light, hope, courage and love shine through these nonvoting children who believe that their very best contribution to the Obama campaign is to sing.

Yup. This is definitely interesting. What else is there?

OH WOW! What do you know? Just one site above, Barack Obama was the Messiah… Now? He’s the Anti-Christ.

Well, like I said before… These definitely are not the typical things I have been seeing about America’s newest President on sites like CNN.

Evaluation of the Tools

To be perfectly honest, when I heard about custom search engines I was not really sure what good they were. I mean, can’t I just customize my search query in Google? Then I thought about it some more and realized that if I had known about these tools before election week, I could have created a RollYO to search interesting blogs all along. Typing in site:www.livejournal.com site:www.blurty.com site:www.blogger.com site:www.blogspot.com every time I want to run this search is a lot less convenient than just setting up a custom search to use continuously.

Overall, I give the genre a big "thumbs up". For the avid web surfer, especially someone that focuses in on a specific topic or type of website, I'd say setting up a custom search engine can make your life, like, at least 100 times easier, more accurate, and maybe even more fun.


Tag Based Sites

by dylanbdylanb (01 Dec 2008 16:46)

The huge influx of tag based sites has effected my website, UMHoops.com, and also has a lot of effects on the industry I'm investigation as well as being helpful in finding new information my project. Tag based sites fall very much in line with the web 2.0 and social networking revolution that is the back bone of the current age of internet start ups.

When I write a blog entry on my real blog and I think it is an especially good one, or one I want to get the word out about I will often send it to digg and other news sites. My site like many also has a "Share This" option which allows the user to submit it to many different social tag based sites. While I do this frequently, I have had very few posts actually generate much traffic from digg.

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There are two of these sites which we didn't talk about in class that play a big part in my website. They are both "digg type" sites that are targeted toward sports. These sites are YardBarker and BallHype. YardBarker is the more successful of the 2 and actually just acquired $6 million dollars in funding. As we saw in class the list of these sites is very large and a surprising number of them are successful. Personally I was shocked to see so many similar sites have relative success. YardBarker clocks in around Slashdot in terms of size according to Quantcast numbers (YB & SD). This is pretty respectable for a sports targeted website.

The intriguing part of YardBarker is that they launched their own advertising network. This is a genius way of bringing two services together. Yardbarker relies on having user submitted content from independent sports blogs for the most part. By offering advertising deals with these blogs and requiring the independent bloggers to autosubmit their articles YardBarker makes money off the blogosphere and also pushes their content system.

So is the future in tag based sites generic sites or targeted sites? Clearly digg is the category leader and targeted sites will never have the type of traffic that digg has. However I look at some of these targeted sites (YardBarker is only an example of one such site) and I think they might be better if you know what your looking for. The top headlines on digg from the sports category (link) are all from national main stream media publications while the top headlines on YardBarker (link) are mostly from blogs and independent resources.

Because of the focus of this class on finding resources on the internet, targeted social tagging sites provide a very good alternative for extra information. They also give an inherent ranking of quality that allows you to get the best alternative resources. If there is a site like YardBarker for a specific topic it's probably worth checking out. One thing I can't help but notice is that there was talk about Google adding a thumbs up/thumbs down for results, essential turning into digg-style format.


Youtube Podcasts And More

by dylanbdylanb (01 Dec 2008 16:46)

YouTube is a cultural phenomenon, the service that revolutionized video search technologies on the internet. But I was not sure how good of a research tool it was. Running a blog I end up using video search quite a bit and my first instinct is always to goto YouTube first. This is of course natural because it's the biggest but I've had lots of success with other tools.

However for my research project I felt like I needed a different angle than YouTube. YouTube in my mind is generally more of an entertainment based collection of videos. While of course there are some videos that are educational for the most part it's main goal is entertainment. I didn't expect to find much about venture capital on YouTube. One thing I did find somewhat useful on YouTube were elevator pitches and videos about making elevator pitches. This is one of the most visual things involved with my topic so I expected the best results.

Because I couldn't think of many other videos that I would be able to find relating to my topic, or even what type of video to look for I decided I would look in another direction. An area that I have always been interested in learning more about more were podcasts. I have always heard podcasts mentioned and used them occasionally just to listen to radio recordings or interviews but had never really looked into them. I thought that podcasts might be a great place to look for some substantial content more so than just a video.

I found a couple of intriguing results from using a couple of the podcast tools from class.

My favorite tool was Pod-o-matic - with Pod-o-Matic I found a couple interesting results but there was also a lot of junk. The most interesting podcast I found on pod o matic was about connecting entrepreneurs and investors. I am a huge proponent of blogs and giving individual people a voice but I feel like a lot of these podcast tools have really been swamped with advertising-style podcasts and it's just hard to get through the mess of garbage that can sometimes result. And frankly there are just some people who don't need to be heard all over the internet.

I also found some interesting results on VideoSurf including Donald Trump's thoughts on entrepreneurs. VideoSurf is really the favorite tool I found in this lecture, it just has a very nice search interface that isn't found on most video search tools. In a field that is starting to get very saturated I think VideoSurf definitely has a chance at success.

Overall I think multimedia search is still limited in a lot of ways. It is great to send around funny videos, political ads, or other viral content but I just don't think it has become a good enough tool for educational or even just informational use. I think a lot of this is because the first people to push videos on the internet ended up being the entertainment industry because it was so vital for their use. Having ran a website that used videos before the broadband era really started to become so widespread it's remarkable how much easier video sharing on the internet has gotten since the early 2000s when streaming video was something only the biggest of websites could perform. I think the online multimedia industry will continue to grow but also continue to hit snags for copyright and other issues. Eventually it will be possible to stream hi def video easily over the internet in a way that will probably make it worthless to even have hard copies of media.


Salamanca in Pictures

by thauckthauck (01 Dec 2008 16:46)

WOW! I wish I would have known about half of the photo search engines we talked about in my BIT 330 class before I left for Salamanca, Spain this summer.

Background

Sometime around March 30, I made the split decision to apply to a seven week home-stay and study abroad program in Salamanca, Spain. I knew absolutely no one going on the trip and knew almost nothing about Salamanca. I am a very visually oriented person, so naturally I turned to the internet to search for any and all pictures I could find about Salamanca. Salamanca is a mid-sized college town not unlike Ann Arbor, so I assumed that it would be pretty similar in terms of shopping, food, and nightlife. However, when I searched for images of Salamanca using the tools I knew about at that time, a lot of what I found was of very touristy stuff in the city like the cathedral. I was getting pretty discouraged and a little afraid I was about to spend my seven weeks in a boring, historical city.

So, flash forward to late June when my bus pulled onto Gran Via, the main drag of Salamanca. I could NOT believe my eyes. Salamanca was a bustling city that reminded me more of a much larger city than Ann Arbor. There were hundreds of bars and restaurants, all sorts of shopping, and an overall awesome vibe on the streets. My attempt to predict what life in Salamanca would be like using image searches couldn't have been more of a failure.

Using New Search Tools

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I naturally I thought about this search tool failure as Professor Moore went over all of the different search tools for images. A couple of them caught my eye, so I thought I would try my Salamanca search again and see if I could yield results that were more representative of the city as a whole. I started with CompFight, a site that searches the public image site Flickr. I used the following query:

Salamanca Spain

To be honest, I did get a lot of the historical stuff, but that really is Salamanca. What is important is that CompFight eliminated the "boring" from the "boring, historical city" I imagined before. CompFight, for lack of a better word, returned a lot of "artsy" photos. So, the material is similar in content to what I saw before, but the types of emotions the images invoke are way different. I think that I would have been much more excited about my trip had I seen these pictures.

Knowing what I know now about Salamanca, I'd say the picture to the left is about as good as a picture as I could have seen before I left. It might be a little bit non-business school student of me to say this, but what I retrieved before I left were often just pictures of the environment, and this time the images I yielded were more of people interacting with their environment.

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I then decided to use Exalead because it is a search engine based out of Europe. I used the same query i used on CompFight and got some really interesting results. See, Salamanca is most famous for its Plaza (pictured above) and so when I search for it, I almost always get a ton of picture results of the Plaza Mayor. However, on Exalead, if the top 12 results there was only one picture of the plaza.

I believe the result I included on this page is of the city as seen from the top of the cathedral. It really is a beautiful place!!

Conclusion

Basically, I learned that image searching can be a lot more fun than just Google Image. I have used that tool almost exclusively for years, but now I know that I was missing out on a TON of what is out there on the web. What I found particularly interesting about using other image search tools, is that I feel like they all have their own type of personality. CompFight, for instance, searches personal images that people post onto Flickr so those results are often a lot more "artsy" looking and I really enjoyed the types of results I yielded.


Apple Custom Search Engine

by dpnickdpnick (01 Dec 2008 16:45)

One awesome online resource is custom search engines. You can actually group your own list of websites and create a search engine that will search just those sites. While this may not sound helpful at first, it truly is when you consider its potential. It allows you to specify websites you want to search instead of searching the billions of pages in the Web. This can be very helpful if you have a specific group of websites that you know work well and will contain the information you need. In this blog, I will discuss the custom search engines I created for my term project on Apple.

Google Custom Search

I created a Google Custom Search for Apple. Creating a custom search engine is very easy (takes a few simple steps) and takes all of 10 minutes. The most important thing (and maybe difficult) is picking the right websites to add. I was very careful in this process. Listed below are a few of my 18 feeds, and an explanation for why I chose them. The first 4 websites are from my Bloglines account and the final 2 are not.

  1. http://www.macnn.com: Provides every bit of news on Apple (even the smallest things), and therefore has a very impressive archive to search.
  2. http://www.apple.com: Has very detailed descriptions of Apple's products, and has a lot of other useful information such as press releases.
  3. http://www.seekingalpha.com: This provides great financial analysis of Apple (along with several other sites, such as MarketWatch).
  4. http://www.alleyinsider.com/: This site contains a ridiculous amount of technology news, including Apple. Has an excellent archive of news.
  5. http://news.google.com/news/section?ned=us&topic=t: This is the web address for Google News Technology. It provides tons of information about the technology sector (similar to AlleyInsider). However, it provides way too many sources to use in my blogroll.
  6. http://www.newyorktimes.com: Offers interesting articles about Apple and has a history archive dating back to the start of Apple (try an advanced search for news on Apple from the early 1980's, it's very cool)!

Listed below is my Apple Custom Search Engine. Try searching for anything involving Apple: one of its products, financial news (stock price, revenue, growth), who their Senior Vice President of Industrial Design is, or anything!

How well does it work?

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To test how effective my Apple Custom Search Engine is, I decided to try some searches:

First, I tried a search to find out Apple's iPhone sales from the last quarter. This is something I would realistically search for. Searching for "iPhone sales" in my Google Custom Search worked perfectly, bringing back 433 results. A normal Google search for this query brings back 31,100,000 results (half of which are useless).

I decided to try another search, this time using more difficult criteria. The goal of this search was to find the colors of the new iPod Nano. I searched for "iPod nano colors". Again, perfection! This search brought back 180 results, more than enough to find my answer. A Google Search brought back 7,310,000 results (many of the results in the top 30 were not helpful).

As it stands right now, my custom search engine works very well! And as I come across more sites, I can add them to my search engine!

Topicle

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I also created my Apple search engine in Topicle, which is almost identical to my Google Custom Search above. Topicle offers a nicer homepage for the search. As well, it is easier to customize and add new websites. However, it doesn't sync with your Google account (which Google Custom Search does), which, for me, gives Google Custom Search the edge.

Repeating my search for "iPhone sales" found me 659 results. Given that the two search engines are practically identical (Topicle uses Google Custom Search), I do not understand why this number is so much different than the 433 results from before. Regardless, the Topicle results were applicable as well!

My conclusion

Custom search engines are amazing! The best part is that as I work more and more on my term project, I can continue to add useful websites (just like my blogroll). I am absolutely certain that you personally can use this resource to your advantage. For instance, after my work on my Apple Custom Search, I created another for Health and Fitness. I am a frequent reader of Men's Health and I exercise 3-4 days a week, so I like to do a lot of research to stay healthy. I like to change all of my exercise routines every month, so I normally do a lot of web searching. I created this to use whenever I have questions regarding anything in this area. Instead of searching Google and receiving millions of answers (which requires time to filter through), I can search the sites that I love and that I know have the answers I want. Try it out!


Video Searching for Movie Trailers

by Susan KennedySusan Kennedy (01 Dec 2008 16:45)

Moving Away From You Tube

For following current events of Disney Pictures, it is really helpful to look at the trailers of upcoming films. However, some of the trailers that you would find on You Tube are not that great of quality. Sometimes, the film is not clear, choppy, and the audio makes it hard to understand. For this reason I strongly suggest moving away from You Tube for the purposes of this project.

In the same way, I have also been less than thrilled with the videos I have gotten from Google Video. For one, the query needs to be really, really specific in order to find something you can use. Then the retrievals are blend of useful and non-useful and rarely gives you any materials that encourage you to learn more about a subject you are unfamiliar with.

Even though You Tube and Google Video can be fine for recreational searching and the occasional exploration, in order to make your research on Disney Pictures as amazing as possible I want to present the most amazing search tool I have found yet….

Truveo

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Truveo is a video-specific search tool, however, it can give you suggestions for PodCasts as well. Because users cannot upload videos themselves, the content that you get tends to be high quality. The
The Wall Street Journal calls it:

"…the best Web-wide video-search engine I've seen"

Even though I am not an expert, I completely agree. On my first visit, I entered the query Walt Disney Pictures. Thats not a very unique or specific query, but I wasn't quite sure what I wanted. Already, Truveo returned with a whole page of options. All of the retrievals were useful or interesting. And they were all trailers. While with You Tube, most of the retrievals were random useless stuff that users had uploaded. And what was awesome was that a lot of these trailers were for movies that I hadn't heard of yet that were coming out in 2009, 2010, or 2011.

The interface really has some phenomenal features:

  • You can explore the videos based on "top ranked,"most visited," "most recent….
  • You can RSS the video search
  • It also shows you IMDb video options on the right hand side (which can also be RSSed)
  • There are podcast and additional video options under "featured channels" at the bottom of the page
  • Under "more channels" it has tons of other videos from over ten other sites and shows you how many retrievals per site (showing how transparent Truveo is :) )

In the Future

Truveo isn't just a great way to find trailers. You can use it for finding professional and credible information as well. And almost all of it is at least a credible video, even if it isn't particularly useful. You never will feel like you are wasting your time at Truveo. In the future, I strongly recommend using Truveo for nearly all your media-related needs.


Search Interface

by dylanbdylanb (01 Dec 2008 16:45)

Because of my experience with web design I was very interested to see some of the interfaces that these other search tools used. A lot of tools use Google results or some other search engines results but where they excel is in the way they display data. Often times this can be most important and at the very least very cool.

Search Me

The first I found intriguing was SearchMe. SearchMe uses the "cover flow" look that has made its way just about everyone on the internet. I have actually used a cover flow interface before. I thought it was interesting in this regard because it was pictures but I don't think it works very well for Search Me. With SearchMe I found that the thumbnails used in the cover flow were often out dated and hard to see, making them relatively worthless. This coupled with lackluster search results make SearchMe basically a cool looking gadget rather than a worthwhile search tool.

Cool Iris

Cool Iris is definitely cool but does it end up in the same boat as SearchMe? Little substance and lots of pretty bells and whistles? I think it does to an extent but not as much. The idea behind Cool Iris is different, it's a browser plugin that highlights exploring. If you type in a topic you are likely to find something that you may not be looking for but that's cool. That is really the point behind Cool Iris. I don't think it's worth a browser plugin spot as I'm not really a fan of browser plugins to begin with except for the absolutely necessary. But it's definitely a cool looking tool that has a revolutionary interface.

Viewzi

Viewzi is one of my favorite tools just because of all the different views it supplies. These are all beautiful interfaces and rely on other technology. It's basically a viewer for all the different search engines, some are very revolutionary unique ideas. I think Viewzi is a perfect example of a site mixing just enough different technology. In many regards Viewzi is just a playground for interface design tests and I'm sure they collect data on which is best.

The Tag Cloud

One internet phenomenon that I'm not a fan of is the "tag cloud". I noticed a lot of searches (Quintara, Search Cloud, and Sense Bot) used the tag cloud and I wasn't a fan of these services. The idea is for free flowing thought but I just don't think they are efficient for the way I think.

Where Does Search Go Next?

With all these unique interfaces the question is does one of them catch on in the main stream. Looking at some innovative web design let's anyone see that there are thousands of designers who have brilliant ideas that could be applied to search. The issue is finding something that is both unique and also very functional.

I think the next wave of useful search engine interfaces could be for specialized fields. With general results that can span into any category it's hard to create a specific interface. If you are just searching for places, or people, or athletes or something like that it makes a lot more sense to have a customized interface because results are going to have similar formats. This is why I think a lot of "big" search engines don't have anything more distinguished about their results. However you can kind of see Google going in this direction with their mini results for things like weather.

It's unlikely that Google will ever experiment with a dramatic new interface but I could see a trailing competitor like Ask or Live experimenting with things like this as some kind of last ditch effort. The one thing that I think probably holds a lot of these big companies back from experimenting with interface design is the fact that a lot of the more complicated designs are not nearly as accessible. There techniques implemented on many websites that cater toward people with disabilities and allow sites to be browsed in different browsers that can translate pages a whole new way. When you start adding lots of graphics and complicated javascripts required to make a pretty interface web accessibility is usually the first thing to go.


Lexxxxxe

by dpnickdpnick (01 Dec 2008 16:44)

We covered a lot of different search sites in class this past week, and I found a bunch that I really liked. My favorite is Lexxe. Lexxe is new to the industry (it was formed in 2006 by an Australian techie) and it's still only in its Alpha version.

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I have had a lot of fun using Lexxe's unique features. It claims it uses "advanced natural language technology." From what I have learned, this means it's a semantic search engine: it is a system that interprets search queries using algorithms that work very similar to the human brain. In other words, it tries to decipher your search queries using human intelligence to understand what you are looking for (something every search engine should do)

Questions

I decided to ask Lexxe some questions relating to my term project on Apple Inc. My first question was "What was Apple's 2007 net income?" The answer it gives is wrong: "apple bank highlights in 2007 include: net income of $75.2 million", which comes from the first result. After seeing this, I was a bit discouraged that it got something so easy wrong. However, while the first result wasn't even about Apple Inc. (it was about Apple Bank), 8 of the top 10 results gave me my answer. This was pretty impressive in my opinion, and indicated that it was just a weird mistake because Lexxe confused Apple and Apple Bank (something I could've prevented by specifying my search further).

My next question was "When was Apple founded?" This brought back the correct answer (April 1, 1976). 6 of the first 10 and 14 of first 20 results provided the right answer. The results that didn't have the right answer was because Lexxe was looking at a different company (Apple Bank, Green Apple, caramel apples, etc.) Therefore, I decided to refine my search a little bit and search for "When was Apple Inc. founded?" and WOW! The first 12 results all have the correct date, 1976, in the description! I don't even have to open up the link to find my answer! This is very awesome.

Check out the Lexxe Help feature to learn more about Lexxe's search language.

The Cluster feature

When you create a search, there is a sweet feature called Cluster. Cluster provides similar key words that Lexxe found in your results. For instance, in my last search "When was Apple Inc. founded?", it offers a bunch of alternatives, such as: 1976 Apple Inc. (provides the answer right there), 1976, AAPL stock, Steve Jobs, Apple Computer Company and more. This is a spectacular feature, because it makes refining your search A LOT easier. If for some reason your search doesn't provide the results you are looking for, you can look at the Cluster options and polish your search. Who knows, you may even find your answer in Cluster like I did.

Yuck

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Lexxe does have some major downfalls. One big problem is that it's slow. A Google search for "When was Apple Inc. founded?" took 0.23 seconds, compared to Lexxe which took about 8 seconds. As well, Lexxe only provided 83 results for this search, whereas Google found over 800,000. However, after analyzing the results, it's amazing to say that Lexxe actually provided better results even though it took a few seconds longer. I don't know about you, but I have a few extra seconds to spare for better results. Who needs 800,000 results anyways?

Also, as discussed above it doesn't always provide the right answer. I searched for "How old is the United States?" and it gave me an answer of 5 years. For this search, Lexxe failed miserably. Researching forums online, I found some interesting stories from Lexxe. For example, asking "How old is Martha Stewart?" provides the answer "old" (haha). This illustrates that while Lexxe can be useful, it is in ALPHA version, and therefore is not perfect. This is especially true for questions asking the age of something (it's much easier to provide a date, than giving the age) as witnessed with my two examples.

Consensus

Even though the answer it provides is not always right, I found that the results are almost always very accurate. My advice: Try using Lexxe (with caution) and keep your eye out for the Beta version!


blog:Google and Money

by jenstanjenstan (01 Dec 2008 16:42)

Have you ever thought about how Google makes money? Or why they let everyone in the world use their extensive resources for free? If you are like me, then you haven't. It never even crossed my mind once. I always just took it for granted, like the rest of the web resources out there. Little did I know that behind the scenes at Google are thousands of technicians and engineers working like Santa's little elves to keep everything up and running. Who then pays for all this??

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Ben Lewis, product manager at Google, came to our class on Monday, November 25 and gave a presentation to us. I wasn't really sure what to expect. However, I definitely did not expect the presentation to be all about how Google makes its money to keep the websites running. Although everything in the presentation tied back to the costs and revenues from each of Google's products, the lecture was really relevant and interactive to the class. The main projects Ben talked about included Ads & Search, Google Toolbar, iGoogle, Gmail, Google Enterprise, and Google Earth. So any idea which one of these is the most profitable?? Da Da Dum….GOOGLE TOOLBAR!!!

Google Toolbar

Google Toolbar is one of the most profitable projects for Google. Google has deals with many other companies such as Dell and HP to include the toolbar by default on new computers or download it when the user downloads another program. Also, other Google projects download the toolbar in conjunction with the project such as Google Earth.

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So Why Does Google Pay Companies to use Google Toolbar?

  • More Searches using Google versus other search engines (ties to Search & Ads)
  • Marketing for other Google Products
  • Branding
  • Page Rank

Costs

  • Distribution Cost
  • Bandwidth Cost
  • Paying the Engineering Team

This was shocking to me. I now see those boxes on top of my internet explorers but I don't think I've ever used them once. First of all, I didn't knowingly download them so I wasn't totally aware of their existence up there. Also, my homepage has always been Google as well so all I have to do is hit the Home button and it brings up the search box.

Gmail

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My first guess for Google's main source of revenue would have been Gmail. While I personally do not use it on a regular basis and only made an account for the first time through this class for email and page alerts, I know many people who do. If fact, they even have their school (umich) email forwarded to gmail. However, as I found out through this presentation, Gmail is the least profitable site for Google. Here are some key aspects of Gmail:

  • Google makes some money from the ads at the top of the page.
    • However, not many people click on these ads because the content in their email is much more important than the content in the ads.
  • The main costs to maintain Gmail, which are very high, are servers and bandwidth costs.
    • What offsets this high cost is that Gmail brings people to Google and they are more likely to use Google to search, increasing revenue from Search & Ads.

Everything Ties Back to Search & Ads

While the other Google projects and sites do bring in some of their own revenue, most of them are profitable for the company to maintain because they indirectly increase the profitability of Search & Ads. How this works is that companies bid for ads that appear when users search for specific keywords. When a user clicks on the ad, the company has to pay Google whatever they bid per click. Again, as do all of the other Google Projects, Search & Ads have some variable costs such as servers and bandwidth cost, operations costs, and sales cost, but the revenue generated by it far exceeds these costs.

My Concluding Thoughts

After hearing all of this plus much more, I really can't look at Google the same anymore. I now give it way more credit for its power and complexity than before. One of the first things I learned in this class is that we shouldn't always go to Google Search Engine whenever we need to find something. There is an never-ending supply of custom search tools that may be better to find what we are looking for. However, after hearing Ben's presentation, I feel kind of feel bad for Google. The employees put so much thought and effort into their projects and really believe in them. As much as I will try, I know I will never stop going to Google as my first stop when searching for information on the internet.

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