Posts tagged "google"

Weather maps

Module which displays a weather forcast on the map, fully customisable by the backend.

-Based on Google maps V3
-No API key needed
-Map select(Roadmap,Tarrain,Satellite,Hybrid)
-Position based on address
-Position based Latitude and Longitude
-Google Street View
-Red Marker, Bubble with Text or don`t show Marker
-Supports image in Bubble
-Show weather
-Search on Map
-Get Directions
-Set Address/Directions field size
-Auto-completion for Directions/Address field
-Support

A Week in Google: Surviving the Algorithm Change and Updating Chrome OS

How Websites Can Survive the Latest Google Crunch

Late last month, the great Google significantly tweaked its mysterious search algorithms in an attempt to lower the rankings of low-quality, SEO'd-out-the-wazoo content aggregator sites.  

Though the change obviously targets content farms, practically anyone can be negatively affected — even sites that use legitimate optimization methods. So, we asked: What is a quality website? What is quality content? Does your webpage need perfect grammar, diction, punctuation and spelling to qualify as good content? Or, is it the discussions and the subject that matter?

In the end, our own J. Angelo Racoma boiled down surviving Google's algorithm change to three tips: 

  1. Focus on loyalty
  2. Watch your link neighborhood
  3. Write for people

Check these out in full detail here

Google Fudges Up Gmail Accounts, Messages go AWOL

Last weekend, 150,000 Gmail users came face to face with a nightmare to end all nightmares: Their inboxes were wiped clean. No e-mails, no themes, no folders, no labels. Nothing. Said Google:

…a very small number of users started having difficulty accessing their Gmail accounts, and in some cases once they got in, trouble viewing e-mails," a company spokesperson said in an e-mailed statement. "This is affecting less than 0.08% of our Gmail user base, and we've already fixed the problem for some individuals. Our engineers are working as quickly as possible and we hope to have everything back to normal soon. We're very sorry for the inconvenience to our customers.

Yes, Gmail is a free service and yes the affected percentage was fairly low, but the crash still doesn't bode well for the company's hopes of becoming a viable competitor in the enterprise space. "Well—what if the cloud fails?" asked one user. "If, ultimately, Google does not make this right in a timely way and I lose the main record of the last seven years of my life …that will forever affect how I view trusting an anonymous server farm somewhere with my critical or even not-so-critical data." 

Chrome OS Updates

Chrome OS version 0.10.156.46 is here, and primary tweaks include better trackpad functionality for Google's pilot programme Cr-48 notebook. Now quality testers can test the user experience with added control settings and sensitivity before Google releases the hardware, which it's been touting since December of last year. 

General updates include:

  • 3G modem activation fixes
  • 3G connection to the carrier fixes
  • Wi-Fi connectivity/Out of the Box fixes
  • Auto update engine and debugging improvements
  • Power optimizations
  • GTalk video/chat optimizations
  • Audio CPU utilization improvements
  • Improved on screen indicators: brightness, network status, update icon

If you own a CR-48 Chrome Notebook, let us know what you think about the updates in the comments below.

Facebook Chat Now Available in Hotmail Inboxes Everywhere

When it was first announced that Hotmail would offer Facebook chat access from within the inbox, it was only available to six different regions.This week the Hotmail team has expanded the feature to reach customers worldwide.

Dick Craddock, Group Program Manager for Windows Live Hotmail, fully admits that Gmail beat them to bringing chat to the inbox, but Hotmail hopes to earn some kudos back by offering the integration of Facebook chat as well.

If you're a Hotmail user and you want to try it out, first connect your Facebook account to Windows Live and confirm that the “Chat with my Facebook friends in Messenger” box is checked. Once the two accounts have been linked you can start a chat from Hotmail by clicking on the name of a Facebook contact.

Says Hotmail's official announcement

Since announcing the availability of Facebook chat in Messenger worldwide two weeks ago, nearly 2.5 million more people connected their Facebook accounts to Windows Live, bringing the total to over 20 million customers. And with three out of four Hotmail customers using Facebook, we expect that many more people will want to take advantage of this feature, now that it’s available from your Hotmail inbox.

Google's Soft Spots

It's a fairly clever move on Hotmail's part. Consider the alleged battle between Google and Facebook, which was most recently highlighted when the social network nabbed the Internet giant's place as the most-visited website in the United States.

Spokespersons from both sides of the fence will tell you that there's no real competition here, as the companies are inherently different. These claims haven't quelled speculation in the slightest, of course, and we would personally be scratching our heads in wonder if the Facebook chat functionality suddenly appeared in Gmail.

Hotmail's addition further supports the idea that Google might want to watch its back when it comes to Zuck's kingdom, as well as the social media movement as a whole (something Google seems continually unable to latch onto). 

At the same time, it's also a feature that could bring some life back to both Hotmail and Messenger if it's successful. If Facebook chat within Hotmail is something you plan on trying, let us know in the comments below how it turns out, and whether or not you think it has a lot of pull.

DotNetNuke 5.6: Enhanced Workflows, Search, Google Analytics

Open source web content management vendor DotNetNuke (news, site) keeps to pace with the release of v5.6 of its Professional and Enterprise editions that include better search functionality, enhanced Google analytics support and new workflow enhancements. 

While these enhancements are restricted to the two editions mentioned above, it has also introduced a number of new enhancements for the community editions — databse optimization, new configuration management and improved search.

DotNetNuke v5.6, Professional, Enterprise Editions

This is the first upgrade since August when the company shelved the Elite edition and replaced it with the Enterprise Edition.

Elite Edition made its first appearance in September 2009 with two editions: Regular and Premier, both comprised the code from the Professional Edition with added support. The new Enterprise Edition included the Professional Edition plus Elite Support, and a new key feature — content staging.

Now, only a matter of months later both the Professional and Enterprise have been upgraded with a list of new enhancements that contain three principal upgrades. They include:

  • Site Search: Now enabled by a new engine that speeds up the process of locating files and pages across a site. Along with support for Boolean searches, phrase searches and even relevance searches, the engine includes rich query syntax. Its new true web spider can index any site —DotNetNuke or not.
  • Enhanced Analytics Support: Enhanced support for Google analytics includes upgrades to its integration abilities and now enables tracking of sub-domains as a single entity as well as five segmentation rules per page. The enhanced analytics is available in both the Enterprise and Professional Editions.
  • Content Approval Workflow Enhancements: Upgrades to the content approval workflow enables content managers to configure approvals at site, page and module levels, while users who will be impacted by the content changes will be able to view the changes before anything is published.

It also comes with content locking to prevent workflow conflicts as well as business rules that enable workflows with an unlimited number of states or reviews.

Community Edition

But the upgrades are not limited to these two editions. The Community Edition also got some attention and has three major upgrades. They include:

  • Search: Upgraded search includes enhanced indexing, enabling standard core search features to index page names, tag attributes and other metadata
  • Performance enhancements: Optimized database architecture and handling of web analytics tracking codes.
  • Configuration Manager: Offers better access and control over website configuration files without users having to access the files directly.

DotNetNuke is also offering a perpetual license option for existing Professional and Enterprise Editions subscription customers. Current DotNetNuke Corp. subscription customers may purchase a perpetual license to use the DotNetNuke Professional or Enterprise Edition version they are running on their production servers.

Whatever it’s doing, it must be doing it right. The company says that over the past year its annual revenue growth has jumped by 300% and added 1000 new subscribers to its business. Nice for the times we’re living in!

Novell Rivals Google with Real-time Enterprise Collaboration

novell_pulse_logo_2010.JPG

Betting that Google Wave would've fared better had it been released for business folk rather than consumers, an enterprise software company called Novell recently announced their own real-time collaboration mashup platform. Because it uses the Wave Federation Protocol, Novell Pulse is essentially Google Wave with a greater emphasis on security and management.

In a Nutshell…

Novell's angle is serious. "We include features that the business consumers want, but also the security and controls the enterprise demands," said Ken Muir, CTO for Novell WorkGroup.

Those features include:

  • Security: Provisioning, sign-on and permissions leverage enterprise identity and access management systems, directory servers and audit tools to integrate with established processes, keep data safe and support compliance requirements.
  • Real-time collaboration: Collaborative editing and document sharing enables users to get work done with other users in real-time, from co-editable online documents to the ability to share and comment on traditional office documents in real time.
  • Unified Inbox: A single interface allows users to see, sort and filter all their personal and professional content from various social messaging services, email, Wave, etc. all in one place.
  • Enterprise social messaging: Social Blog allows users to share, follow and comment on topics and ideas.
  • Real-time awareness and chat: Allows users to know exactly when their colleagues are available via people, group and message activity monitoring

“Novell Pulse is the first enterprise class, real-time collaboration platform that unites communication, authoring and social messaging tools. Novell Pulse helps drive enterprise productivity and innovation by making it easier to communicate digitally, generate ideas and share information,” said the Novell team in a recent statement.

Don't Call it Wave

Who knows what upcoming versions of Wave will include (Google is scheduled to release a business-y version the the collaboration platform later this year), but for now, it looks like Novell is attempting to fill in the Google gaps. In addition to being able to collaborate with Wave users and offering what Wave is known for, Pulse provides social-networking features like profiles as well as the option install the tool locally. Local installations do not rely on Google for any of these features

Moreover, the security features are a big deal, and certainly a must for any enterprise customer.

Microsoft Betters Bing with New Design and foursquare

In addition to some sunshine, the next few months are going to see interesting updates from Bing. Microsoft previewed several new features for their search engine at the Search Engine Strategies 2010 Conference in New York this week, highlighting foursquare integration and new design concepts.

Better Looking Bing

The self-proclaimed "decision engine" has always had roots in the visual side of things. For instance, unlike the simple Google interface, Bing results include a list of links for enhancing your search. Dubbed Quick Tabs, the left-side column of links offers drilled-down suggestions based on your initial query. For example, if I search the word 'sheep', in addition to the regular top results, my Quick Tabs will list links for sheep facts, sheep breeds, cute sheep pictures and raising sheep:

bing_search_results.JPG

Bing search results

It looks a bit busy, doesn't it? In order to remedy that, Microsoft is moving the results to the top of the page (we're not sure whether or not they'll be hidden, but it would be nice).

"We have a vision for Bing to serve as a vital assistant to your online decision-making," said Jeff Henshaw, GPM of Bing's user experience team. "In these latest designs, you’ll see a lighter, cleaner presentation of results that highlight key actions that will efficiently guide you toward your goal."

Fun with foursquare 

Microsoft will also be incorporating foursquare's popular location-based data for a real-time experience with Bing Maps.

"The foursquare map app is a powerful combination of the spatial canvas that Bing Maps provides, combined with foursquare’s user reputation service … making it easier to explore any city in the world as if you were a local," Schwartz continued. "It's like an interactive day planner, designed to help find the best things to do in the area."

Additionally, Microsoft plans to involve Bing with everyday activities as well. Recent focus has been on the world of real-time, and partners include big names like Twitter. Microsoft hopes to incorporate much more significant data into the Bing search experience—an effort you can already see being tested. For example, when you search for a publication like New York Times, Bing now gives you both access to specific sections of the destination website, and the most popular shared links from that publication.

Users can expect all of these updates to be rolled out before the weather goes bad again, and our best guess is they're interesting enough to gain the search engine a few more fans.

Google Analytics Now Tracks Silverlight Content

How would you all—including non-techies—like to be able to track how users interact with your Silverlight content? Well, now you can. Google Analytics has officially integrated into the Microsoft Silverlight Analytics Framework.  

Drag and Drop

It sounds fairly simple. Using the Google Analytics component, designers will be able to drag and drop icons for tracking the number of interactions on a design element. Then, within Google Analytics, they can segment and compare the difference in behavior between users who interacted and those who didn’t.

Tracking features supported include event tracking, pageview tracking and custom variables.

Why Google Analytics?

“One of the core principles of Google Analytics has been to democratize the utility of the web analytics tool, and to open up the platform with an API,” wrote Nick Mihailovski of the Google Analytics API Ttam on their official blog page. “This enables developers to innovate new uses of Google Analytics to help analysts, marketers, and executives make better data-driven decisions. Since we launched Google Analytics, developers have extended the product to track Flash/Flex and recently Android and iPhone Devices.”

The announcement was made at this year’s MIX10 conference, which saw a lot of focus on the new Analytics Framework for Microsoft's RIA technology in general. Designed to support data collection modules online or off, the framework parties with more than just Google, too.

"We also wanted to support multiple analytics services simultaneously," said Michael Scherotter, principal architect of the framework. “Multiple analytics vendors hooking into an application using different mechanisms can interfere with performance and appear as glitches to end users,” he explained.

We're not surprised to see Google at the front of the line for a next-generation solution such as this, and we expect similar announcement from companies like Webtrends and Omniture in the near future.

#SXSW: Don't Worry, Privacy is Alive! (But Tech is Stupid)

We’ve certainly heard plenty from CEOs about privacy being dead and all, but considering the heat coming from related debates, perhaps it’s time to hear from the opposing team.

Danah Boyd, social media researcher for Microsoft, took the stage at this year’s SXSW conference, and with her 10+ years in the social realm, claimed privacy is alive (but not well), and schooled us on the intricacies of screw-ups from some of the biggest names out there: Google and Facebook.

Where Google Went Wrong

It was such huge news that even if you’re not big on Internet life, chances are you’re aware that the blogosphere virtually bitch-slapped Google Buzz back to the laboratory. The arguments mainly revolved around privacy flaws—even Google has admitted to releasing the tool much too early—but Boyd made an interesting point: Nothing the Buzz team did was technologically wrong—it was just stupid.

What does that mean? It means Google tripped up on a personal expectation level. After all, regardless of how difficult it was to find them, the options to opt out of all the things that sent users into conniption fits were available since day one.

Here’s a look at Google’s non-technical mistakes, according to Boyd:

Google launched a public-facing service within a very private one. That is, the outspoken Buzz set up shop within Gmail. For many tech geeks it was a logical move on Google’s part simply because Gmail is used regularly by a ton of people. But the integration of opposing natures confused a lot of non-tech users, and caused them to believe their e-mails were being made publicly accessible

Google assumed that people would opt-out of Buzz if they didn't want to participate. “I'm going to give them the benefit of the doubt on this one because a more insidious framing would be to say that they wanted to force people into opting-in because this makes the service more viral and more monetizable,” said Boyd. “While I'm trying not to let conspiracy theories cloud my analysis, I can't help but notice that more and more companies are opting people in and waiting until they flip out to adjust privacy settings.”

Where Facebook Went Wrong

Perhaps you remember Facebook's changes in December? The world's favorite social network asked users to reconsider their privacy settings via popup. Unfortunately, tons of users bypassed the popup as if it were an ad because they just wanted to get to Facebook itself. Problem is, if the popup wasn’t addressed, Facebook automatically changed all of the "negligent" user’s settings to public.

This from a platform  that built its reputation on being a closed network—something users have always valued in a big way. 

“By continuously arguing that Privacy is Dead, technologists justify their efforts to make publicly available data more public,” continued Boyd. “But there's a big difference between something being publicly available and being publicized. I worry about how others are going to publicize this publicly available Facebook data and, more importantly, who will get hurt in the cross-fire.”

Ass [Out of] U [and] Me

Do you see a pattern here? It looks like networks are assuming what users want rather than asking them. Unfortunately, that logic would only work if everyone thought like a technologist and loved the idea of optimizing absolutely everything.

"What's at stake here is often not about whether or not something is public or private, but how public or private it is,” explained Boyd. “People are not used to having the paparazzi trail after them every time they leave their house. Yet, when we argue that there's nothing wrong with making something that happens in public more public, we are basically arguing that we have the right to sick the paparazzi on everyone, to turn anyone into a public figure."

The point? We’re a fickle bunch. Just because we put material in public places doesn’t mean we want it aggregated. And just because something is publically accessible doesn’t mean we want it publicized. And using information in unexpected ways is a recipe for disastrous media coverage.

What Hath We Wrought?

And so, what to do? Boyd says there's no magical formula for understanding privacy and publicity (rats). But she left us with some valuable words to chew on:

Wanting privacy is not about needing something to hide. It’s about wanting to maintain control. Often, privacy isn't about hiding; it's about creating space to open up. If you remember that privacy is about maintaining a sense of control, you can understand why Privacy is Not Dead. There are good reasons to engage in public; there always have been. But wanting to be in public doesn’t mean wanting to lose control.

And finally, for all the techies out there:

You are shaping the future. How you handle these challenging issues will affect a generation. Make sure you're creating the future you want to live in.

Open Graph API Extends Facebook's Tentacles

facebook-leader.jpg

It's hard to absorb the rest of the web experience if all you have to offer is a walled garden. Facebook's (site) solution? Spread itself out onto the web like vines (or is it weeds?) over the wall through a new API.

The Open Graph API

Part of Facebook's proposed mechanism for integrating itself into the rest of the Web is the Open Graph API. Through this API, page creators can embed various Facebook widgets and API calls into their own sites.

An example of how this new API might be used involves a site's developer embedding a Facebook Fan Box into their main site page. Then, when a user clicks the "Become a Fan" button, this action is sent to Facebook, which records the change (a feature that of course already exists). The difference is that from that point on, content from the site can be pushed to the user's stream. 

Where Is This Going?

The Open Graph API is still under discussion and isn't available for use yet. According to the roadmap, the initial versions are expected in the second quarter of 2010.

More importantly, the Open Graph API is just one prong in a broader movement. As Nick O'Neill at All Facebook discussed in mid-2009, "Mark Zuckerberg has said on a number of instances that the future of Facebook does not exist on Facebook.com."

Instead, says O'Neill, the folks at Facebook are working toward seeing their brand as an "identity platform" that focuses around an ever-expanding Facebook Connect. For businesses, he sees the extension of Facebook Pages out onto the web as another step in the evolution of customer relations.

"One thing that’s changing is the way that customers communicate with businesses," he says. "On Twitter we now regularly see people complain about their Comcast cable experience because they have learned that Comcast will respond. It gives them an outlet for their frustration and a platform for immediate satisfaction. This is a fundamental shift in consumer behavior."

As consumers get used to this level of interaction, his theory is that people will come to demand it. Right now, people complain through whatever social media platform the company appears to listen to. So providing companies with better ways to integrate their presence with Facebook increases the chances that people will use Facebook to complain about the product — and so, to be heard.

And if your platform is the one where people get heard, your platform is the one with the power. It also gives them yet more data for delivering targeted ads and services, just as Google (site) has all of its data from its many properties to do the same. 

So Who Really Wins Here?

Well, if sites adopt the new APIs, companies can win if they use the platform to genuinely interact with their customers and build brand interest, buzz, and loyalty. Consumers might win if they manage to be heard and get results.

But ultimately it's Facebook who needs the rest of the web in order to remain relevant, let alone generate revenue. In the fickle world of social networking, it's all too easy to become a "might have been." Given the drive to evolve through projects such as these, they might yet avoid becoming the Internet version of a ghost town.

Google Dresses Up RSS Feeds in Google Reader Play

In what looks like an attempt to make RSS more fun, Google has released a little tool called Google Reader Play. The Google Reader alternative allows users to browse headlines one at a time in an image-heavy environment, rather than wade through streams of text. 

Google Reader Play

The new tool is an experimental Google Labs project, meaning anyone can start using it right this second. Using Recommended Items technology, Google presents stories one by one with enlarged photos and auto-playing videos in lieu of text. Like the OG Google Reader, users can define categories and star, like or share stories:

 google_reader_play.JPGGoogle Reader Play screen shot

However, Google Reader Play does not display your existing feeds. Instead, it filters in content from the aggregate recommendations of other Google Reader users. Translation? It reveals a lot of geeky stuff you might not've come across otherwise.

Open to All

You don't need a login to use the tool, but you do need Google credentials if you want it to learn your browsing behavior. Also, logging in allows users the option to share their favorite posts within their Buzzupdates. 

Overall, Google Reader Play is entertaining, and it seems like it would be a great way to pass the time on a tablet computer. In fact, that it was launched shortly after Apple's iPad is probably no coincidence. It’s also not bad to look at, but whether or not that's enough to attract some serious attention remains to be seen. (Obviously the tool isn't built for speedy searching or anything like that.) 

Check it out here and decide for yourself.