By Susan KennedySusan Kennedy (1223427115|%a, %b %e at %I:%M%p)


Google Helps You Not Make Huge Mistakes

Wednesday, October 8th, 2008

There is a new feature in Gmail, which allows you to solve math problems during certain times of the day before you send out mail. This is designed to prevent you from sending mail that you might regret, such as angry letters to your boss, accidentally forwarded something you shouldn't (or worse spamming something you shouldn't), and love confessions to your best friend.

This feature can be added like this:

  • opt in via Settings
  • -> Labs
  • -> Mail Goggles
  • -> Enable

I think this is sooo funny and such a great idea. I can't tell you how many time I have sent something and later wished I would have waited a while to think before I wrote it. Its funny that Google is becoming so personable and that they are so in touch with their consumers. I am kind of surprised that in the wake of all this communication technology that their isn't more of an industry that is designed to protect humans from themselves.

Google Looks at Search Patterns Following the Debates

Wednesday, October 8th, 2008

After last night, Google's Official Blog analyzed all of the search trends following the debates. Some of the hot queries where morass, commodity, junket, cynicism, croyism, Meg Whitman, and Warren Buffet.

On the whole, from swing states, McCain had the largest spike in queries, while Obama had the generated the greatest volume of queries. On the whole, the VP candidates generated far more queries, with Biden having the highest peak, but Palin having the highest volume.

To follow these kind of trends during the election, you can use Google Hot Trends and Google Election Trends.

I think this is really cool. It just gives you an idea of what the rest of the nation is thinking, which can sometimes be distorted with polls done by the media. One of the most disturbing thing about democratic elections is how much the nation is influenced by the media. Tools on the web, which are facilitated by Google but (apparently) not with any kind of other agenda besides providing information inspires me to believe in a true democracy.


Google Uses Knol to Get Involved in the Debates

Tuesday, October 7th, 2008

Google's new tool Knol, which is peer reviewed encyclopedia, is being used to host its own debates from experts. The in depth opinions are designed give voters a better understanding so that they can make a more informed decision.

The first debate is on the economy, which features economists from the Cato Institute and the Economic Policy Institute. The opening arguments can be found here. There articles are meant to get readers involved. Readers can rate, comment, respond to, and suggest edits by making changes right in the Knol.

There is also a forum where you can suggest topics for Google's new tool, Google Moderator. Up until the election, there will continue to be debates from think-tank experts from Cato, EPI, Center for American Progress Fund, and the Heritage Foundation.

I personally think this is AWESOME. When I was in Washington DC last semester I had easy access to countless presentations like this. This allows me benefit from experts like these from anywhere in the US. It is also amazing to get the viewpoints of experts, not just newspaper journalists. It also seems like a better way to unbiased information, or at least as unbiased as possible. I wish I would have found out about this sooner!

The only thing I would change about it, even though it would be really to do, would for them to have made these debates via webcam or any kind video display system. That would make the whole thing much easier for views, like me, to appreciate. Likewise, live chats between the experts that viewers could look would be REALLY cool so that it really does seem like a debate. Its not nearly as dramatic when you just read their opening statements and analyze!

Google Releases A New Book

Monday, October 6th, 2008

A new book by Randall Stross just came out called "Planet Google". It covers their how they got started as well as current issues. It is mainly a company biography but seems to do a good job of not oversimplifying patterns that seem observable to outsiders. Here are some interesting clips:

  • Google has been determined to “organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful” since June 1999 … Until then, Google had used a modest statement of company mission that the founders had hastily put on Google’s Web site at the time the site was launched: “To make it easier to find high-quality information on the web.”
  • Google hired human evaluators to judge the relative quality of results produces by variations of algorithmic tweaks – in 2007, Google used ten thousand contractors around the world as “quality raters.”
  • In looking back, [Google’s Brian Rakowski] marveled at the public’s focus on the scanning for matching ads [in Gmail], while ignoring much more serious privacy issues, such as the increased risk that e-mail on centralized servers could easily be subpoenaed or personal information in e-mail messages could be shared with advertisers. “Nobody was talking about those privacy issues and the few things we were doing to protect users’ privacy,” he said.

Although in all honesty, I will not be reading this book now or in the near future, I really can't help but marvel at what Google has been able to do. It is truly amazing. I would like to read a book like this about ten years from now to see if they really can deliver on some of their larger goals. Google has some extremely ambitious goals. Even though they have come a long way, I would like to know just how far they are able to go. For this reason, I almost think they are a bit premature in writing a company biography.

New Google Spreadsheets Design Live

Monday, October 6th, 2008


Last week Google announced a new spreadsheet design, which was released this week. The style change was in addition to the updated styles they have already added to the presentation and document features within Google Docs. Google has made the following adjustments:

  • A new set menus for the spreadsheet features
  • Shortcuts have been added to the tool bar in order formating easier, faster
  • Added a new share menu (a blue button) has all the tools needed to invite other doc users to work together, publish together, or share information
  • Other subtle differences:
    • While form is active, the menu shows total responses
    • Easier to insert formulas, switch between number and date formats, or access help content

I personally had never used Google Docs and I took me a while to explore all it had to offer. I then started to realize what kind of advantages having a spreadsheet via the web would be over an excel sheet. For one, it is nice to use a web spreed because there is no variance between a Mac and PC computer. I had always found it annoying to switch between my personal computer and my work computer and to have all of my Excel formating get distorted.

I also found the interface to be extremely easy to use and seemed slightly simpler than Excel. This is very beneficial for my purposes, which tend to very primitive spreadsheets. I greatly appreciated how strait forward the tools were and that they were seemingly more practical for "everyday" users. That being said, I do not know how this tool compares to users with more complicated needs.

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