March 2011 Archive
The New York Times reports on the NY court case that tossed out the "$125 million class-action settlement with authors and publishers, delivering a blow to the company's ambitious plan to build the world's largest digital library and bookstore." The court battles aren't over, but it will be interesting to see what Google's next moves will be. You can also read the decision if you'd like.
On a selfish test note, it will be interesting to see how long the above link to the NYT article will work and provide full text access to the article, given their decision to change access options. Supposedly, "Readers who come to Times articles through links from search, blogs and social media like Facebook and Twitter will be able to read those articles, even if they have reached their monthly reading limit." So I'll be checking the link after March 28 to see.
After several more days of searching Google while logged in and not seeing any option to block, I finally saw it today, once! As you can see from the screenshot below, a search on 'glog' gave me a "block all results from . . ." message for glogster, but none of the other sites listed had the block option. I've highlighted the one I saw and the spot the others should have been. This was in Firefox. I tried several more searches, and none of the results had the block option. When I went back to the 'glog' search, the block option was gone. So I've not had the chance to try clicking on the one block link I've seen so far, but maybe the next one. So is Google slowly moving towards implementing the block option to more users, or do I just get a teaser once in awhile?
While I am still not seeing the block sites option at Google when logged in to any of my accounts in any browser, there is a way to force Google to start blocking sites, even if you do not see the "Block all whatever.com results" link after a search result.Since I've not yet seen it, the example Google gives looks like this.
If you don't see that on your results, just go to the Manage Blocked Sites page once you are logged in. You can enter up to 500 sites into your personal block list. Google asks for a reason, but that can be left blank. After entering eHow, I tried a few searches and then found at the bottom of the results, the message letting me know that I blocked a result along with link for showing the blocked result and for managing my list.
I'm not sure how much I will use this, now that I have found a way to do so. First, I do not expect it to last for too long. Maybe Google will keep it for a few years at most, unless many searchers keep using it. Second, if it does last, a site that I block this year may well have very different content a few years hence, and I'll probably have forgotten that I've blocked it. In addition, at this point, the Manage Blocked Sites information is not linked from Search Settings or Account Settings, so I'll need to get a message like the one above to even remind me that it is there (or else I'll have to come back to this point and see if I still have blocked results).
Bing has been experimenting and making changes, some of which do not get announced (like the movement of the cached link). Here are a few changes that I've noticed recently: the addition of tiles, changes to Wikipedia results, and links to Academic Search.
First of all is the addition of Tiles to search results for certain sites. The graphic tile which shows up to the right are only for specific sites with which Bing has identified. The idea is that they can include quick information as well as being a visual tag for the search result to show that it comes from a known (presumably quality) web site. In this example of a search for a restaurant, the second and third hit are from OpenTable and Yelp. Not only are the logos displayed, but the review ratings are summarized and the number of reviews are included.
Try searching a movie or TV show to see Bing Tiles from the Internet Movie Database, Rotten Tomatoes, YouTube, TV Guide, and Flickster. Travel searches may show Tiles from Expedia, TripAdvisor, and Orbitz. Surprisingly, Wikipedia results have no tile. While Tiles are now live, Bing has yet to officially announce them. They are described first in a long interview at SEOmoz from about a month ago. In a later report about the Tiles from LiveSide.net, a Microsoft spokesperson confirmed that these are not sponsored (paid) listings, but that they are partnerships with known brands. They are also not supposed to impact ranking. That reports notes that "the initial partnerships with 45 authoritative sites would be expanded."
Speaking of the lack of Wikipedia Tiles, Bing has several times changed how Wikipedia results appear. Earlier on, there was a "Wikipedia on Bing" version of Wikipedia articles which was linked from Bing results. Called a Wikipedia vertical, Director of Bing, Stefan Weitz comments in the same long interview that "we removed the vertical due to low usage." Wikipedia results are still there, and rank high for many searches, but no Tile or vertical link highlights those links, at this time.
Lastly, if you've not looked at Microsoft Academic Search for awhile, it is worth noting that work on this beta search product continues and seems to have moved beyond its early computer science focus. I came across links to it from Bing when I searched for my friend Gary Price. At the bottom of the search results page is a link to extensive information from Academic Search including number of papers, number of citations, and latest papers, all with links. In that example, it was a different Gary, but take a look at a search like one on the author John Fryxell and note the links at the bottom into Microsoft Academic Search.
I think I'll be taking a closer look at Academic Search in the near future.
Over the past week has come news of Bing and Google using whitelists, speculations of blacklists, Google's announcement of site blocking by signed in users, and the disappearance of the bookmarking stars which replaced SearchWiki. Just to confuse matters further, depending on which Google version you use, browser version, and apparently the toss of the dice, you may or may not be able to even see some of these changes.
So I'll try to summarize my understanding. First, Danny reports that at the SMX West conference last week, "both Google and Bing said they have "exception lists" for sites that might get hit by some algorithm signals." In other words, some of the spam identification algorithms that find and demote lots of sites in the rankings may also demote sites that were not supposed to have gotten hit. Those sites get put in the whitelist for that particular algorithm. An article from The Register claims that this contradicts statements from Google in certain lawsuits and continues with examples of similar actions that look like site blacklisting.
Most searchers can hope that the blacklisting and whitelisting improves search results and removes irrelevant hits, but if we don't know what has been listed, it is hard to determine how true that is. On the same day, Google announced a new ability for logged-in searchers to block results from specific domains. Don't like see so many eHow results? Just block them all. Or so the the theory goes. Not only must you be logged in to a Google account to have the option, but you have to use Google.com in English with the right browser. According to the announcement on 3/10/11, "The new feature is rolling out today and tomorrow on google.com in
English for people using Chrome 9+, IE8+ and Firefox 3.5+, and we'll be
expanding to new regions, languages and browsers soon."
Maybe. Karen has some screenshots in her post from a few days later, but I have been trying since the announcement, using the right Google in the right language with several supported browsers and different accounts. Here in Montana, I still can't see it almost a week later. I've turned Instant on and off. I've tried from home and on campus. Still no luck. Comments on Karen's post also note both that others can't see it and that it may go away. On top of that, the stars have been turned off that allowed signed in users to star (bookmark) certain results so that they'd come back at the top of results pages later. The bookmarked pages remain bookmarked, but for now at least, the ability to star new ones has vanished. Or as Barry puts it, you "You Can Hate (Block) But No Longer Love (Star) Google's Search Results." For me, that means I can now neither star or block results.
My March 2011 Online On the Net "Blekko: A New Search Approach" is up and is even freely available on the Online site. Bear in mind that this was written a few months ago, but I will say that Blekko surprised me, both for the reasons I found to use it and the reasons not to. To summarize, rather than using Blekko as a general web search engine, I really like the ability to use Blekko to research the web itself, exploring link patterns, ranking the data, and even searching my Facebook friends' likes (see yesterday's post). The amount of data that Blekko makes available from the seo link that points to search engine optimization data is impressive, plus Blekko has its own cache and link searches. So if you would like to read more, take a look at "Blekko: A New Search Approach."
In the past few weeks, both Bing and Google have announced changes to their social searching. With Blekko also having social searching via Facebook connect, I thought I'd compare how successful and useful I found each of the three, and explore the new announcements in a bit more depth. First though, for more searchers, social search may be a waste of time. If you do not have a large Facebook network of friends (or don't use Facebook), avoid Twitter, and have not built a social network, there is nothing to search. Or if you have a large Facebook or Twitter network of friends and family, but you want to search professional topics that are not of interest to those friends and family, the social search results will offer little but amusement, if you even see them.
But if you do have a social network and are interested in searching the "likes" of Facebook friends, Tweets, or posts in Google Reader, read on to see what's new and how to find the social results.