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Plant trees for change with Nobel Prize winner Wangari Maathai

December 4, 2010 · 1 Comment
Filed under: Featured, General, Google 

In collaboration with Wangari Maathai’s Green Belt Movement and several other partners, the Google Earth Outreach team has created several narrated tours on the topic of climate change in preparation for the UNFCCC’s COP16 Climate Summit 2010 in Cancun, Mexico. Fly underwater to learn about the effects of ocean acidification on sea life with Oceana. Zoom around Mexican mangroves in 3D and learn about the importance of this biodiverse habitat… and what must be done to protect it for future generations. Visit google.com/landing/cop16/climatetours.html to experience these tours. -Ed.

Ask most people what trees mean to them and the first thing that comes to mind is the tree outside their bedroom window or the forest where they played as a child. Trees do occupy a powerful place in our emotions, but the most powerful argument to protect our world’s trees is not based on sentiment. There is a vital interdependency between communities and the trees they rely on for survival. Trees are our watersheds, protectors of the natural environment, and sources of food. Remove the trees from the equation and the community feels the impact.

I came to this realization in the 1970s in Kenya. I was talking to women in my community about their problems: hunger, access to water, poverty, wood fuel. I saw a link between their needs and the condition of the land and thought, “Why not plant trees to address these issues?” Trees hold the soil to the ground so that we can grow food in it, they protect watersheds and facilitate harvesting of rain water, fruits trees supplement food and trees give us domestic energy and wood with which to build our shelters. So while still working at the University of Nairobi, I established a tree nursery in my backyard, planted seven trees at a public park and founded the Green Belt Movement. The organization works to empower communities, to build their capacity to restore Africa’s forests and put an end to the problems that deforestation and other forms of environmental degradation cause. As a result of this idea, more than 40 million trees have been planted to restore the environment and improve the lives of the people who are linked to the land.

When we were offered a unique opportunity to partner with the Google Earth Outreach team on a project using new Google Earth technology to visualize trees in 3D, we were thrilled. For accuracy and integrity we worked very closely with Google, advising them on the modeling of unique African trees like the broad-leaved Croton, the Nile tulip tree and the East African Cordia. These tree models illustrate the biodiversity in our tree planting sites, especially in the forests, and how we carefully select trees that are indigenous and sustainable to the natural surroundings.

Broad-leaved Croton, the Nile tulip tree and the East African Cordia (from left to right)


We then used data from real planting locations to “plant” the tree models in Google Earth and create 3D visualizations. Now, for the first time in Google Earth, people from all over the world will be able to virtually visit these planting sites, explore the 3D trees and connect with the work that we are doing.




Green Belt Movement planting site in 3D on Google Earth


Tree planting is a simple activity with tangible results, and anyone can participate. It helps people come together to address common problems and work collectively towards community improvement and sustainability. I hope that seeing our beautiful tree planting sites in 3D on Google Earth will be a source of inspiration for people to engage, plant trees and organize planting activities in their own communities. Taking charge of our lives and the environment around us can help ensure a lasting legacy and healthy future for our children.

Learn more about the Green Belt Movement and support our work at http://www.greenbeltmovement.org.

Posted by Wangari Maathai

Google: Being bad to your customers is bad for business

December 3, 2010 · 1 Comment
Filed under: Featured, General 

A recent article by the New York Times related a disturbing story. By treating your customers badly, one merchant told the paper, you can generate complaints and negative reviews that translate to more links to your site; which, in turn, make it more prominent in search engines. The main premise of the article was that being bad on the web can be good for business.

We were horrified to read about Ms. Rodriguez’s dreadful experience. Even though our initial analysis pointed to this being an edge case and not a widespread problem in our search results, we immediately convened a team that looked carefully at the issue. That team developed an initial algorithmic solution, implemented it, and the solution is already live. I am here to tell you that being bad is, and hopefully will always be, bad for business in Google’s search results.

As always, we learned a lot from this experience, and we wanted to share some of that with you. Consider the obvious responses we could have tried to fix the problem:

  • Block the particular offender. That would be easy and might solve the immediate problem for that specific business, but it wouldn’t solve the larger issue in a general way. Our first reaction in search quality is to look for ways to solve problems algorithmically.
  • Use sentiment analysis to identify negative remarks and turn negative comments into negative votes. While this proposal initially sounds promising, it turns out to be based on a misconception. First off, the terrible merchant in the story wasn’t really ranking because of links from customer complaint websites. In fact, many consumer community sites such as Get Satisfaction added a simple attribute called rel=nofollow to their links. The rel=nofollow attribute is a general mechanism that allows websites to tell search engines not to give weight to specific links, and it’s perfect for the situation when you want to link to a site without endorsing it. Ironically, some of the most reputable links to Decor My Eyes came from mainstream news websites such as the New York Times and Bloomberg. The Bloomberg article was about someone suing the company behind Decor My Eyes, but the language of the article was neutral, so sentiment analysis wouldn’t have helped here either.

    As it turns out, Google has a world-class sentiment analysis system (Large-Scale Sentiment Analysis for News and Blogs). But if we demoted web pages that have negative comments against them, you might not be able to find information about many elected officials, not to mention a lot of important but controversial concepts. So far we have not found an effective way to significantly improve search using sentiment analysis. Of course, we will continue trying.

  • Yet another option is to expose user reviews and ratings for various merchants alongside their results. Though still on the table, this would not demote poor quality merchants in our results and could still lead users to their websites.

Instead, in the last few days we developed an algorithmic solution which detects the merchant from the Times article along with hundreds of other merchants that, in our opinion, provide an extremely poor user experience. The algorithm we incorporated into our search rankings represents an initial solution to this issue, and Google users are now getting a better experience as a result.

We can’t say for sure that no one will ever find a loophole in our ranking algorithms in the future. We know that people will keep trying: attempts to game Google’s ranking, like the ones mentioned in the article, go on 24 hours a day, every single day. That’s why we cannot reveal the details of our solution—the underlying signals, data sources, and how we combined them to improve our rankings—beyond what we’ve already said. We can say with reasonable confidence that being bad to customers is bad for business on Google. And we will continue to work hard towards a better search.

Posted by Amit Singhal

Announcing the Panoramio Photo Contest

November 2, 2010 · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Featured, General 

The Panoramio community enables you to share your photos and explore them on Google Earth, Google Maps and other places. If you’ve never geo-tagged a photo, watch this video to learn how easy it is to add photos to the Panoramio layer in Google Earth.

Now you can add some excitement to your photo project and enter your photos to the monthly Panoramio Geotagged Photo Contest! Starting this month, we’ll be giving away the new Casio Hybrid-GPS camera EX-H20G to the winner of each category (Scenery, Heritage, Travel and Unusual Location). The Panoramio community reviews all of the submissions and votes for what they consider to be the best each month.


Casio’s new Hybrid-GPS camera combines a GPS engine with autonomic positioning made possible by a motion sensor. This makes geotagging easy—both outdoors and indoors.


If you haven’t joined the Panoramio community yet, try it out and don’t forget to participate in our monthly contest. To enter your photo, click on “Submit to the contest” and choose a category. Good luck and we can’t wait to see your photos!

Posted by Gerard Sanz

Google Buys SocialDeck

September 1, 2010 · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Featured, General, Google 

Google acquired yet another social gaming company: SocialDeck. The start-up had an interesting idea: creating a platform for playing games on any device. “SocialDeck was founded in 2008 with the vision of enabling ‘anywhere, anytime, anyone’ gaming. The company has launched several titles for the iPhone, Facebook, and BlackBerry using its social gaming platform technology, which enables simultaneous game play across multiple mobile devices and social networks,” explains SocialDeck’s site.

It should be obvious that Google doesn’t buy companies like SocialDeck to develop games. Most likely, Google wants to create a platform for social gaming that will enable users to play the same game on an Android device, on an iPhone, on a computer, on a Chrome OS tablet, in Google Me or any other social network that uses Google’s platform.

Here’s an overview of SocialDeck’s gaming platform:

{ via Inside Social Games }

A joint policy proposal for an open Internet

August 10, 2010 · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Featured, General, Technology News 

Today, Eric Schmidt and Ivan Seidenberg, Chairman and CEO of Verizon, will announce a joint proposal for an open Internet. We’ve been working with Verizon to find common ground on the issue of net neutrality for nearly a year—last October we released a shared statement of principles, and in January, we made a joint filing to the FCC. We hope today’s proposal, a suggested legislative framework for consideration by lawmakers, helps to advance the debate over open Internet rules in Washington. We also believe that it is best for users and for the web.

For more information, read the full post on our Public Policy blog.

Posted by Karen Wickre

Free PDF and XPS Add in from Microsoft

June 17, 2010 · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Featured, General, Microsoft, Technology News 

2007 Microsoft Office Add-in: Microsoft Save as PDF or XPS

Instructions

To install this download:

  1. Download the file by clicking the Download button (above) and saving the file to your hard disk.
  2. Double-click the SaveAsPDFandXPS.exe program file on your hard disk to start the Setup program.
  3. Follow the instructions on the screen to complete the installation.

Instructions for use:

After you install this download open the document you want to publish and then, depending on the program you are using, select Save or Publish to PDF or XPS from the Office or File menu.

For more information, search Office Help for “Save a file in PDF format” or “Save a file in XPS format”.

Download from Microsoft site from here

2007 Microsoft Office Add-in: Microsoft Save as PDF

Overview

This download allows you to export and save to the PDF format in eight 2007 Microsoft Office programs. It also allows you to send files as e-mail attachments in the PDF format in a subset of these programs. Specific features vary by program.

This Microsoft Save as PDF Add-in for 2007 Microsoft Office programs supplements and is subject to the license terms for the 2007 Microsoft Office system software. You may not use this supplement if you do not have a license for the software.

System Requirements

  • Supported Operating Systems: Windows Server 2003; Windows Vista; Windows XP Service Pack 2
  • This download works with the following Office programs:
    • Microsoft Office Access 2007
    • Microsoft Office Excel 2007
    • Microsoft Office InfoPath 2007
    • Microsoft Office OneNote 2007
    • Microsoft Office PowerPoint 2007
    • Microsoft Office Publisher 2007
    • Microsoft Office Visio 2007
    • Microsoft Office Word 2007

Instructions

To install this download:

  1. Download the file by clicking the Download button (above) and saving the file to your hard disk.
  2. Double-click the SaveAsPDF.exe program file on your hard disk to start the Setup program.
  3. Follow the instructions on the screen to complete the installation.

Instructions for use:

After you install this download open the document you want to publish and then, depending on the program you are using, select Save to PDF from the Office or File menu.

For more information, search Office Help for “Save a file in PDF format”.

Download from from here

New icelandic volcano Images and videos

April 18, 2010 · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Featured, General 

This photos from a user baldvinh(Flickr) from his flight over Eyjafjallajökull (Glacier) to look closely at the volcanic eruption that is affecting Iceland and all of Europe in profound ways. They flew as close as was allowed and the view was magnificent, to say the least. The ash and steam extends 20000ft up in the air and on the ground the view is less than 30ft in the ash cloud. Check here the complete set

Volcanic Eruption in Eyjafjallajökull by baldvinh.

Volcanic Eruption in Eyjafjallajökull by baldvinh.

Embedded below is new video of ash coming from the volcano, posted on YouTube on Saturday by The A.P.

More video of the continuing eruption can be seen on the Web site of RUV, the Icelandic broadcaster. Here is a sort of music video showing the volcano erupting from the YouTube channel of a user named martzata who said the images in it were shot on Friday at sunset:

New video shows ash coming from the Eyjafjallajokull volcano in Iceland that has grounded flights across Europe.

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Google Toolbar: Translate word-by-word on Google Translate

April 15, 2010 · 1 Comment
Filed under: Featured, General, Google, Google API, Technology News 

Today, we’re taking another step to make automatic translation easier. Now, if Google Toolbar’s default language is set to one of our supported languages, you can use our new Word Translator feature to hover over a word with your mouse and get an automatic instant translation. If you want Toolbar to translate into a different language, you can change it in the Toolbar Options menu.

Entire page translations are great if you have little knowledge of a given language. However, if you’re a multi-lingual user who just needs certain words translated, hovering is a lot quicker than searching word-by-word on Google Translate.

Here is an example of the word “vitesse” (speed) translated from French to German:

The new Word Translator feature is available for Internet Explorer and Firefox. And if you use Google Chrome, automatic page translation is already built in, and we’re working to build more Translate features.

We hope this helps you browse pages in non-native languages faster, regardless of your language proficiency. Install the latest Toolbar version and give it a try!

Posted by Dmitry Gozman, Software Engineer

Google PowerMeter API introduced for device manufacturers

March 9, 2010 · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Featured, General, Google API 

Today we’re excited to introduce the Google PowerMeter API on code.google.com, for developers interested in integrating with Google PowerMeter. This API will allow device manufacturers to build home energy monitoring devices that work with Google PowerMeter. We’re launching this API in order to help build the ecosystem of innovative developers working towards making energy information more widely available to consumers.

google_powermeter_logo

In today’s launch of the API on code.google.com we are highlighting the core design principles towards integrating with Google PowerMeter. In particular we outline the underlying data model and the accompanying protocols to ensure that Google PowerMeter provides consumers access to their energy consumption with utmost care in maintaining the user’s privacy and control on access to the information. We also highlight, with code samples and client implementations, how to easily start building your PowerMeter-compatible device.

Tune into our blog and subscribe to our notification list for announcements on upcoming developments. We are thrilled to bring together a rich framework to help more developers integrate with Google PowerMeter with our open, standards-based API. We are looking to expose expanded features of this framework to the developer community in the coming months.

Finally, we want your feedback! Ask questions, suggest topics, and share your stories. You can do this at the Developer Lounge section of the Google PowerMeter forum.

We hope you join us for the ride ahead.

Posted by Srikanth Rajagopalan, Product Manager

BookRenter Opens Up Textbook Rentals To Campus Bookstores And Other Partners

March 4, 2010 · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Featured, General, Technology News 

Anyone who has bought a textbook, whether during college or graduate school, understands how expensive they can be. College textbook rental startup BookRenter is trying to make the process of buying textbooks more affordable through its online site which loans books to students for a fixed duration. Today, the startup is opening up its platform to other sites to allow any college or business to launch its own online textbook rental store. Competitors Chegg and Barnes & Noble College are pursuing similar partnerships.

Partners, such as universities or campus bookstores, will be able to use BookRenter to set up a virtual store on their sites. Partners have access to the same selection of textbooks available on BookRenter’s site (which are electronically sourced from the largest textbook supplier)s. Partners can also use BookRenter’s dynamic pricing engine, which updates textbook prices in real time by responding to shifts in market supply and demand, as well as its customer service support. And BookRenter offers partners analytics platform and on-demand reporting capabilities, to give them intelligence on what’s selling.

BookRenter allows partners to take 8% of the rental price. The site currently has 3 million titles and and promises to rent books for 75% off the list price of the textbook. The expansion of BookRenter’s platform to other sites makes sense for the startup to expand its userbase. But, 8% is a low cut for a partner and many campus bookstores may see the rental platform as competition for their own textbook sales.

BookRenter, which just raised $6 million in funding, faces competition from Barnes and Noble, Chegg, a heavily-funded player in the space (Chegg offers an affiliate API to partners). But BookRenter claims a competitive advantage over Chegg and others by offering more flexible loan schedules and faster delivery (they offer next-day delivery on many titles, and use UPS). Chegg and BookRenter recently got into a tussle over a trademark to the phrase “#1 In Textbook Rentals.”

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