June 30, 2005

Yahoo also provides Map API and A9 creates their own Maps

An update to my previous post and more map info:

Looks like Yahoo released their Maps API one day after google did. Seems almost like a battle to increase usage/adoption between the two mapping providers. Yahoo’s seems easier to incorporate as all you have to do is create an XML file and pass it in as a parameter rather than having to know all the javascript required for google maps. Yahoo’s ease of use also means that they get to control look & feel along with traffic since it is a page hosted on their servers and maintained by them (and with their own ads)…but Google’s API is adding attribution & a link in the bottom left-hand side (but they too have plans to add advertisements onto the maps).

Also, A9 has launched a map product (though no API yet I am aware of). It integrates block view and has a pretty interesting UI. You can drag a box in a small map which reloads a large map representing the area bound within the original box. Then you can click on the map to get a magnifying glass and drag it around to reload the blockview images.

I don’t think this was a case of one company trying to outdo another…I think all 3 of these companies were planning to have something to show at Where 2.0 but whereas A9 and Yahoo timed their releases on the day of, Google did it the day before…and, BTW, Radar is giving some good coverage.

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June 29, 2005

Google Maps API here!

Google has finally released an API for maps, just like I told you.

Good thing, too…since it appears as if they made some changes late yesterday that broke my existing sites using maps so I’ll have to update them.

The only thing that sucks about them is that they reserve the right to display ads on them in the future. :-(

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Yahoo and Google take different approaches to improving search results

Yesterday, Google launched personalized search (more) within Google Labs. Basically, when you are logged in, your search history information is used to personalize your search results.

I can’t seem to find differences between being logged in and using personalized search versus no being logged in and using regular search.

On the Yahoo front, they are turning to a different type of personalization…personalization based on social networks…a so-called “social search” engine. It apparently uses the people in your Yahoo 360 account to attempt to make your searches more relevant.

Unfortunately, it seems as if nobody in my network has saved any pages. They also are adding tagging. Tagging should allow the results to be more relevant since they basically add structure (categorization) to unstructured data (web pages). So, until I get wider adoption (or add many more people which may decrease relevance of results), I will not be able to realize the benefits of this system. I wonder if yahoo intends to use this data to apply it to their algorithmic search across the board.

Yahoo’s take on personalization of results is reminiscent of Eurekster. Eurekster basically allows you to choose a community (i.e. C++ programming). You do this by signing up and becoming a member of that community (not creating a community based on who you know but creating a community based on what you know or your interests). Then they increase relelvance of those results clicked on by other users in your community based on their search history.

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June 28, 2005

Yahoo Mail becoming more like desktop app

Silicon Beat has an article on how Yahoo Mail will, like Google Mail (formerly GMail), will be more desktop-like…basically implying the use of javascript (esp through AJAX-like technologies).

oddpost mail: new yahoo mail?

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Google Earth (was Keynote) Now Free

Google Earth is now free (with paid versions providing more features).

I found some good coverage with screenshots.

Basically, it shows images of the 3D rendering, 45-degree renderings, the ability to personalize and share your maps, integration with local search, and more.

google earth annotated

UPDATE: Downloaded and been playing around with it. Not only can you pan,zoom, etc…but you can also tilt the 3D maps…It is better than MSN’s virtual earth because of this ability to move anywhere and view anything from any angle where MSN’s virtual earth is better at showing youactual appearance of the buildings since they are actual photographs and not just 3D renderings (or at least I’ll have to wait and see). Not all buildings are in 3D…mostly well-known tall buildings only…I had a hard time finding some. In some cases, there were a bunch of gray 3D renders that were interspersed in major cities that just looked like a child’s set of blocks standing up on top of flat images.

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June 27, 2005

Google now indexing Flash files

flash insider is reporting that google is indexing flash files. What does that mean? Well, they state that the plain text contents of the flash file are being displayed in the description fields (the linked text)…here is an example I found:
flash search
It shows the actual text from the flash where you usually see the “loading…” messages.

I also tried out a few tests and noticed that they also allow “.fla” searches but flag it is “File Format: Unrecognized - View as HTML” and the HTML version is empty.

As with file types that don’t have metadata nor parseable text, I wonder how much information comes from the HTML surrounding the movies (i.e. the page in which it is embedded), etc. My preliminary searches show that all of words are coming out of the actual file itself.

I don’t know why they didn’t start this sooner…there are plenty of libraries available to at leats get them started (they could simply build on it the same way they will build on top of VLC for their video search (there is a “Install the Google Video Viewer” link on that page).

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Ebay versus Google and Keeping top tech talent

Managing top technical talent can, at times, be a challenge. You need to balance the “getting things done, “which sometimes means the “boring stuff, ” with the “cool” or “interesting” projects. The top tech talents want the challenge and the satisfactions that comes with conquering it.

One important thing to be able to do is to embrace innovation and even promote it with all of your technical staff (this can be parallelled to any department but my experiences have been mostly technical). Google not only does that with Louis Monier (leaving Director of Advanced Technology at Ebay to go work for Google) where Monier, in an interview, says he’s leaving to enjoy more innovation and criticizes Ebay for its inability to embrace it. Google does, however, take it to an extreme when he was offered to go work there and do “Whatever [he] want[s].” Now that sounds like fun! :-)

(Couple this with an employee’s blog on how she found a dead frog in her salad at the ebay cafeteria, with pictures and all, and ebay is getting a bad reputation here.)

Anyway, I can’t emphasize enough how important it is to keep all your talent. It is those people who build and improve your products that get your company to the next level.

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June 25, 2005

YP Listings on a Google Map

Well, Michael asked for it. So, to prove my point, I went ahead and put it together.

Read on to find out more or just go there know by testing out a search for: Dinner and a movie…then fix your car. :-)

Please forgive the UI (I noticed it looks ok in Mozilla on Mac but looks a bit funky in IE on Windows). I’m much more of a backend developer than a javascript & CSS developer so please be forgiving and forward on your comments/help if this client-side stuff looks funky or doesn’t work. Feel free to also post your feature requests here.

Basically, it is using Yahoo’s Local API to grab YP data and using Google Maps.

I am asking for zipcode as an input as I can always geocode/parse that. Since Yahoo doesn’t provide a lat/long as an output for each listing, I geocode on the fly using a number of different geocoders, weighted based on their response times and accuracy. They include Geocoder.us (perl modules), former google programming contest winner, “Geographic Search (which, if you’ll remember, preceded their announcement of “local search” by 1-2 years), etc. I have also downloaded the entire Tiger data from the Census. The geocoding, of course, is what takes all the time so please be a bit patient when you’ve submitted the form/clicked on the link. Searching against multiple keywords also take some time as Yahoo’s API requires a separate call for each one (and we must traverse the Internet to grab it each time we request it, then parse it, etc).

Additionally, I’ve added javascript functionality that reloads the locations as you move across the map…but, again, be patient for the content to load because of all the geocoding…This feature was for you, Ask (geourl). Currently, I check how far you’ve moved the map (whether it is due to opening one of those information bubbles or you panned, etc) and decide whether to redo your search…this saves on my bandwidth (for both requesting the listings & geocoding) as well as saves the user from having to wait for this info to get remapped.

Well, you probably don’t care about all the gory details of what I did and how I did it so, if you’re ready, head on over to Local Search Maps.

For an example on how to handle multiple overlayed searches, try searching for Dinner and a movie. Basically, enter a zipcode for your location and enter a comma-separated list for your query of all items you’d like mapped. I’ve limited the list of items to the first 3 since I don’t want to hang things up on my end trying to download all the location data then geocode them all. …and in case you didn’t read the details above, please remember that it may take a bit for the data/map to show up since I have to download all the YP data and geocode it in realtime.

TODO:
1) figure out a good UI mechanism to allow people to “add” to their list rather than keep re-entering a comma-separated list.
2) UI enhancements as mentioned above
3) test UI and javascript in multiple browsers (I expect you guys to help me with this one by posting any errors or unexpected behaviors you get).

…and, BTW, you might see the registrar’s page instead of mine…at least until DNS sufficiently propogates (sorry…out of my hands).

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June 24, 2005

Ever hear of Theo Jansen?

I cam across this site about Theo Jansen.

He builds multi-ton machines that move with the aid of wind. Pretty cool.

More movies.

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June 23, 2005

The Google Song

This seems to be making the rounds this morning. :-)

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