Mar 31, 2008

Google HotSpot - find free wifi hotspots

This was an April Fool's Joke, as Google never released a service as the one mentioned below.
Google recently launched Google HotSpot, a new service to search for free wireless access points (wi-fi) from your computer or phone. With an interface similar with Google Maps, not only it lets you find free wi-fi hotspots (and give directions on how to get there), but you can also save their location (for future use) or even add ones that you have found and used. The best part about this is that it's not limited to US only, so you can search for hotspots in other countries too. Though it gave me a couple of 404 errors while trying it, I managed to take a screenshot:

You can access this service here: Google HotSpot (if you get a 404 page try later, it seems to be overloaded now. Anyway, until they'll be providing free wi-fi all over the world (not only in the city of Mountain View via Google WiFi), you can still use other free wifi hotspots indexed by Google.

Google Suggest already default in Russia

It seems that already starts with the Google Suggest feature enabled, so when you start typing suggestions based on popularity are shown.

It's a sign that this will become a default feature soon on the main website. This is already a default feature on Yahoo's search engine, though the system they're using is somehow slower than Google's.

Since we're talking about features that are available on international versions of Google, maybe the default theme for iGoogle will also change given the example of iGoogle Taiwan that uses what it seems a handmade drawing of Taiwan landscape:

Using Google Maps or Google Earth screenshots?

If you have a blog or website and you included in there a screenshot from Google Maps or Google Earth without asking for permission then you are violating the Google Permissions, that state:
You must get written permission from us to reuse any images from these two products [Google Maps and Google Earth], because we do not own the copyright to all of the imagery or information supplied on these platforms. In order to make use of any images associated with either Google Maps or Google Earth, please read the Guidelines and send in the Permission Request form.

A simple Image search for Google Maps reveals more than 3.5 million results, so I wonder how many of the websites that posted these images have received a permission (I know I breached this guideline too, but I'll try to avoid this in the future). I guess the best way to post an image about Google Maps is to actually embed that location in your website (using the Link to this page option). Since it's not mentioned, I assume using Google Sky screenshots is permitted (or maybe they didn't update that page yet).

Gogle is it?

Seems Google has a small branding error. Whenever you do a search on Google you'll see at the bottom of the page the Goooooooooogle text (A "G" followed by up to 10 "o" and then by "gle"). Each "o" in that text is actually a link to a specific search results page (for instance the second "o" would link to the second page for your particular search) and normally it starts from two "o" (Google) until it reaches ten "o" (Gooooooooooogle) for results that return more than 10 result pages.

However, even if when there's only one result page they don't display this text, there's a case when Gogle (with a single "o") is shown, and that is when you search directly beyond the 1000 results limit. Try this: , and you can see the Gogle text being shown:

Mar 30, 2008

Google April Fool's joke in 2008

[Update] Actually there were multiple Google April Fool's jokes this year:

  • Google AdWords adds FrankRank - Frank the hand turkey will be the official mascot of Google AdWords and also a key part in the new ad ranking technology and algorithm called FrankRank.

  • Google AdSense for conversations - AdSense team is joining Google's list of April fools' jokes by adding a service to let you you display ads relevant to the topics you're discussing, in a screen above your head.

  • Virgle - April Fool's day 2008 - Virgin air and Google announced a project to create an establishment on Mars by 2014, you can apply for this project but I tell you the questionnaire to fill is quite difficult.

  • Google Weblogs - Announced by Blogger, this lets you post content directly into Google's search results, this way you don't have to worry about pagerank because you'll have your page anywhere you want.

  • Google Talkabout - Starting with Earth Day (April 22nd) Google Talk will start sending your messages without any vowels in words, in an effort to reduce the carbon footprint - less characters, less energy consumed.

  • Capturing a book's smell - Google Book Search now allows you to capture a book's smell by using scratch-and-sniff technology.

  • Google Wake Up Kit - Google launched their a calendar notification option that would send aggressive alerts, starting with an SMS message and ending with a bucket of water dumped on you.

  • YouTube Rickrolled everybody - YouTube users were Rickrolled when all of the featured videos from the main page were linked to a video of Rick Astley's "Never Gonna Give You Up".

  • Gmail Custom Time - An April Fool's joke (in US this time) that allows people to date stamp their emails in the past, so you could send an email today but with a date before the current one.

  • Google Dialect Translation - In Korea, Google announced a service that translates regional dialects of Korean to and from Standard Korean.

  • gDay - In Australia a new search technology was launched that will search web pages 24 hours before they are created.

  • Dajare - Google seems to have launched Dajare in Japan, a service with the goal of "organizing the world's laughter."

  • Google Calendar with I'm Feeling Lucky button - Google added the "I'm Feeling Lucky" button to its calendar feature.

  • Google Docs Paper Airplane - When you click the file menu you'll see directly under New document a "New Airplane" option which adds a Google branded paper airplane.

[Original post]What will it be this year? Maybe they'll take a break and not have any hoaxes prepared for this year's April Fool's day, though this seems unlikely (given they've done this for the last 4 consecutive years), or maybe it will be something very simple, like an announcement to acquire Yahoo! (as a response to Microsoft's reall announcement).
This was just a wild guess, because knowing Google if they do a prank it's going to be something more elaborated. Why? Well, take a look at all the April Fool's Day hoaxes Google had over the years:

  1. Google MentalPlex - April Fool's day 2000 - a service that reads user's mind to determine what he wants to search

  2. PigeonRank - April Fool's day 2002 - this is supposed to be the technology behind the PageRank

  3. Google Lunar (Copernicus Center) - April Fool's day 2004 - job openings for a research center on the moon

  4. Google Gulp - April Fool's day 2005 - fictious drink to increase your intelligence

  5. Google Romance - April Fool's day 2006 - fictious dating service from Google

  6. Gmail Paper and Google TiSP - April Fool's day 2007 - print your Gmail emails to paper and have them mailed to you

  7. [Update - they've added this years April Fool's joke] Virgle - April Fool's day 2008 - Virgin air and Google announced a project to create an establishment on Mars by 2014, you can apply for this project but I tell you the questionnaire to fill is quite difficult

So if there's going to be a hoax this year it's going to be more than a simple announcement, most likely a new product or service but related to one of their existing products (this way that gets to be promoted too, clever isn't it?). I know what it is (me and Larry we're practially best friends) but don't want to spoil the fun, so I'll post that on Tuesday.

Strange though is that for Tuesday Microsoft announced an outage of about 3 hours for the Live website, are they preparing something too?

Why Digg doesn't have a Google section?

Since forever in the Technology section there's one especially for Microsoft, but none for Google. It would make sense to add one for Google too because stories related to Google products/services are as popular as Microsoft's (even more popular if we would have to consider the number of searches returned by Digg) and they're all Technology related.

There are lots of speculations about a possible acquisition of DIGG by either Microsoft or Google, and plus DIGG already has an advertising partnership with Microsoft, so maybe there's something here I'm missing but it would seem Microsoft is favoured somehow.

Mar 29, 2008

Gmail Commercials in Romania and Russia

Google started promoting the Gmail service in Romania, following the same path they did with the Gmail commercials in Russia about a month ago. While the Gmail ad done for Russia is a bit more professional (in my opinion, maybe because it was created by Saatchi & Saatchi Russia), the one for the Romanian market is a bit childish.
Gmail Art (for the Russian market):

Gmail Romania:

So why does Google promote the Gmail service in these countries considering that it is a free service? Maybe it hopes to gain more business customers for Google Apps, or because that if their Gmail user database increases they'll deliver more ads - or simply for increasing the brand awareness. Guess this is going to be followed by other similar campaigns in other countries where Google wants to increase its market share for the email client. Just as a note, I use Gmail and like it better than others (Yahoo/Hotmail), hope they'll keep improving it.

From the streets, into the sky with Google

Google Earth, launched back in 2005 (ages in internet time), went through lots of improvements and exceeded the limits of our world, literally. Using it, not only you can travel virtually to almost any place of this world, but you can also explore the sky. Launched back in 2007, this option allows you to Switch to Sky (from Google Earth's View menu option), and start exploring constellations, images from the Hubble Telescope, the Moon or other planets for which there are images.

With images provided by its partners too (NASA/Space Telescope Institute, Sloan Digital, Sky Survey Digital, Sky Survey Consortium) you can enjoy a quick browse around galaxies and nebulae millions of light years from Earth, watch movements of the planets, create your own views and why not, listen to podcasts from expert astronomy sources. A good educational source for astronomy - if you haven't tried it yet be sure to do so by downloading it here: Google Earth.
Google Sky is also available as a web service starting March 13, 2008 and can be accessed here: Google Sky.

That was the sky, bug Google also offers a service integrated into Google Maps that lets you explore certain US cities as you would see them from your car. Service is called StreetView, and you can see it while exploring Google Maps by clicking on the, well, Street View button:

While the list of cities keeps expanding (Google officially says there are about 32 current cities where the Street View service is available, but the actual number is up to 48 cities), I'm sure it will surpass the borders of US and soon you'll be able to see your house too (if you live near a road). Also, in an effort to increase its popularity, Street View also offers an API now, which in its most basic form means that you can copy and paste a Street View location right in your website from where you can explore live the streets - see the example below:

View Larger Map

Of course that the API is more complex and allows creating applications that use this service, an option to watch for in the future.

Anyway, while this raises a privacy concern (if Google has the ability to make such features available for the public, what monitoring tools does the NSA use?), it's yet another interesting service especially for those that don't travel much (though drivers can benefit from it too).

Mar 28, 2008

Googling for porn - Idiot's Guide

If you're one of those users that as soon as they read the title of this post already thought of 4 websites where they could find the PORN, then go away (and you should be ashamed, you little walking porn database). This post is for that bored guy that sits in front of the office computer on a Friday afternoon with 2 more hours to go until he can go home, and nothing else to do - you've read all DIGG posts (even those from the Offbeat section with only 20 diggs) and you simply cannot make the time pass by faster. I have a suggestion for you. Google for porn. Why not, you've thought many times about doing it, but always was affraid of someone noticing what you did. Don't be afraid to do that now, as I've prepared a small guide on how to do that without anyone else finding out. Of course, I've gathered these ideas from some of my friends that google for pornographic expressions, as I never searched for these types of words (never ever, hillary's scout's honor). So here we go:

  1. Rule no 1, make sure that SafeSearch is set to No Filtering. What's the purpose of searching for porn when Google removes those pages from your searches?. It's like searching on Google for "paris hilton's neurons" - no result! So, to make sure SafeSearch is disabled open google (oh come on,, click on the Advanced Search hyperlink, scroll and click on Date, usage rights, numeric range, and more and make sure SafeSearch is set to OFF.

  2. Good. Now remember you're still at work, someone could come in and catch you looking at unappropriate sites. So you have to be prepared to hide everything you're doing fast. This can be done with a good browser, and with a magic key called the "Boss Key". When this combination is pressed the browser disappears instantly, and pressing that combination again will show it back. So, use a browser that has that. I'm using Maxthon2 and simply pressing Ctrl+' ... sorry I pressed it, I was saying that simply pressing it will hide the browser instantly. Of course that FireFox has a boss key too, but you need to install an extension called Panic - this is better than Maxthon's because it doesn't hide the browser, but it kills all the tabs and opens one that searches Google for productivity.

  3. Wait, wait, not yet. You've covered your back, made sure that results will show, but what about protection ... what do you mean protection, I'm just watching ... wrong, problem is that some (towards many) pornographic sites will try to infect your computer with spyware, so that when you'll be in the middle of an important presentation a red window will pop-up and tell everyone you have a small penis and that you need to buy some pills. Do you really want that? I didn't think so either. So, you need some real-time anti-spyware protection. Enter Spybot Search and Destroy's Resident TeaTimer, a plug-in of Spybot that monitors in real-time and alerts you if some program wants to change your registry settings, your browser settings and so on. So go, download Spybot, install it and activate TeaTimer.

  4. Now your computer is protected too. Good. We're almost there. Now all you have to do is think what you'll search for. What do you mean "porn"? You cannot do such a simple and general search, has to be something ellaborated, something that you might have thought about a couple of times, something like a combination between sex and, off the top of my head, jessica alba. Now we're getting somewhere. But, in the last minute you got a bit of a remorse because you like jessica alba and sex/porn is humiliating for women, and you wouldn't want her to find out you searched for that when she'll dump that other guy and come to you (you'll get over the fact that she got pregnant in between). So you should search for something artistic but in the same time that still shows you something you had wanted to see in the first place, something like pornography. That's it Pinky! This is what we'll search for.

  5. Nothing left than to write that word and press the Search button (Tip: Save time by hitting the return key instead of clicking on "search" - dam you google for making me learn all your messages). Wait, wouldn't it be good now to use that I'm feeling lucky button that you've never used but always wanted to? Yes it would, what that button does is open automatically the first page from the results pages. Go ahead, write pornography in that Search field and press the I'm Feeling Lucky button

  6. Yes, something is loading, loading .... wtf ... wait, how did you ... this cannot be ... I don't have a Pornography addiction.

    This is wrong, totally wrong. Thank you Google for ruining this searh for me, I know you have a lot of algorithms in place, but do you really think that by searching this word I wanted to read a wikipedia page about it? Do you really think that ... hey, I searched for porn in this left search wikipedia window and now on this new page there's a movie, yes a movie with a striptease sequence ... well, it's better than nothing though.

  7. Ok. You've played enought times that movie, now it's time to clean-up and go home. What do I mean clean-up? Well, your browser recorded the fact that you visited this page, and Google itself also recorded the fact that you did this search. You'll have to clear your browser's cache (assuming you're not that "smart" to have enabled Google's Web Search History at work). In FireFox, do that by going to Tools and select Options | Click the Advanced icon and click the Network tab | Click Clear Now under the Cache section | Click Ok. In Maxthon/IE, go to Tools-Internet Options-Browsing History-Delete.

I'm sure that this guide helped you a lot, and also taught you a lesson - it's always easier and safer to sneak a peek at a magazine's cover in your way home, than going through all this to search for pornography.

Google Analytics adds custom search

This gotta' be new since I'm using Analytics daily and haven't noticed it, but on the main Google Analytics page you can now see in the top right corner a Google Custom Search box. It's created using the Custom Search Engine feature, and apparently searches through the google analytics website (help content), through the official Analytics blog and some official Analytics user groups.

I could bet that this is just the beginning, they'll add a custom search engine on Google Adwords, Google Webmaster tools, ... Thing is that it makes sense, I mean if you landed on the Analytics page you probably are looking for information about Analytics, so there's no need to search the whole web.

Google privacy, ever read it?

Did you know for instance that if you're under 18 you're not allowed to use any Google services - at least in the US, Google says you're not allowed to use their services if you don't have the legal age to form a binding contract, and in US that legal age is 18. Or that when you use Google Talk they record whom you're talking with, and what files you're exchanging?

Well, Google seems to be structuring lately their privacy policies, and now they've groupped them for easy access. Plus, they seem easier to read too. Below are some links to the privacy policies, as well as small excerpts about what they record when you're using that particular service, parts that I considered to be interesting.

Google Talk Privacy Policy
"When you use Google Talk, we may record information about your usage, such as when you use Google Talk, the size of your contact list and the contacts you communicate with, and the frequency and size of data transfers. Information displayed or clicked on in the Google Talk interface (including UI elements, settings, and other information) is also recorded."

Google Desktop Privacy Policy
"Your copy of Google Desktop includes a unique application number. When you install Google Desktop, this number and a message indicating whether the installation succeeded are sent back to Google. Also, when Google Desktop automatically checks to see if a new version is available, the current version number and the unique application number are sent to Google." "...If you choose to enable Search Across Computers, Google will securely transmit copies of your indexed files to Google servers in order to provide the feature."

Google Privacy (main)
"Like most Web sites, our servers automatically record the page requests made when users visit our sites. These "server logs" typically include your web request, Internet Protocol address, browser type, browser language, the date and time of your request and one or more cookies that may uniquely identify your browser."

Google Docs Privacy Policy
"Google's servers automatically record certain information about your use of Google Docs. Similar to other web services, Google records information such as account activity (e.g., storage usage, number of log-ins, actions taken), data displayed or clicked on (e.g., UI elements, links)." "...Google Docs stores, processes and maintains your documents and previous versions of those documents in order to provide the service to you."

Google Gmail Privacy Policy
"Google scans the text of Gmail messages in order to filter spam and detect viruses, just as all major webmail services do. Google also uses this scanning technology to deliver targeted text ads and other related information. This is completely automated and involves no humans." "...Google keeps multiple backup copies of users' emails so that we can recover messages and restore accounts in case of errors or system failure, for some limited periods of time. Even if a message has been deleted or an account is no longer active, messages may remain on our backup systems for some limited period of time."

Google Ads Privacy Policy
"If you have a DoubleClick cookie in your Cookies folder, it is most likely a DART cookie. The DoubleClick DART cookie helps marketers learn how well their Internet advertising campaigns or paid search listings perform. Many marketers and Internet websites use DoubleClick’s DART technology to deliver and serve their advertisements or manage their paid search listings. DoubleClick’s DART products set or recognize a unique, persistent cookie when an ad is displayed or a paid listing is selected. The information that the DART cookie helps to give marketers includes the number of unique users their advertisements were displayed to, how many users clicked on their Internet ads or paid listings, and which ads or paid listings they clicked on."

Google Apps Privacy Policy
"...your domain administrator may: Access or retain information stored as part of your account, including your email, contacts and other information..."

Blogger Privacy Policy
"Google stores and maintains your account information and copies of your weblog posts and comments, including drafts, in order to provide the service."

Google Calendar Privacy Policy
"We may record information about your usage of Google Calendar, such as when and for how long you use the service, the frequency and size of data transfers, and the number of events and calendars you create. Information displayed or clicked on in your Google Calendar account (including UI elements, ads, links, and other information) is also recorded for the purposes described below. Every ninety days, if not more frequently, we permanently delete usage statistics associated with your use of Google Calendar. We retain this information beyond 90 days in aggregate form only." "...You can create multiple calendars, each of which contain events. The events on each calendar and all content associated with an event — including but not limited to information such as comments, guest responses, and descriptions — are stored and maintained on Google servers."

FireFox Extensions Privacy Policy
"When you use the Google Send to Phone Extension, Google will log the IP address where the message originated, the carrier name and the phone number. We do this to operate, develop and improve our services. We also occasionally log the text that is sent, in order to investigate and correct technical problems."

Google Groups Privacy Policy
"Google collects and maintains information about your account activity, including the groups that you join or manage, lists of other members or invitees in the groups, messages or topics you track, custom pages you create or edit, ratings you make, and your preferred settings when using Google Groups."

iGoogle Privacy Policy
"Some iGoogle sections are provided by third parties, who may receive and process your requests and preference settings for that section in order to provide their service. In some cases, other information including one or more of your Google cookies may also be technically available to the third party, although third parties are prohibited by contract from accessing your Google cookies or other information unrelated to the section they provide. When you add one of these sections to your page, we will let you know. Use of your information by these third parties is not governed by this Privacy Policy." "...We may share aggregate statistics about iGoogle usage with our business partners. We will not share personally identifying information with these partners or any third parties, without your consent, except under the narrow circumstances described in the Google Privacy Policy."

Google Ads Privacy Policy (additional info)
"Google will record some limited information each time you view an ad. An example of such a record looks like this:
time: 0x431d2c87beb40
ad_placement_id: 105
ad_id: 1003
userid: 0x11da016337ba6232
client_ip: 0x480ee301
referral_url: "

Google Toolbar Privacy Policy
"Nearly all versions of the Google Toolbar (except for Google Toolbar for Internet Explorer versions lower than 4.0) include one or more unique application numbers. These unique application numbers are required for Google Toolbar to work and cannot be disabled. When you install or uninstall Google Toolbar, the numbers and a message indicating whether the operation succeeded are sent back to Google. In addition, the Google Toolbar periodically contacts our servers to request automatic updates to the latest version, and as part of this request sends the unique application numbers along with optional Toolbar usage and configuration statistics."

Google Video Privacy Policy
"Google takes steps to protect copyrighted content by embedding the Google Account information of the person who downloads each copy-protected video, in encrypted form, in the video itself. When you play a copy-protected video, the Player will send this encrypted information to Google, including the identity of the video, to confirm that the copy is authorized."

Youtube Privacy Policy
"We use both your personally identifiable information and certain non-personally-identifiable information (such as anonymous user usage data, cookies, IP addresses, browser type, clickstream data, etc.) to improve the quality and design of the YouTube Sites and to create new features, promotions, functionality, and services by storing, tracking, analyzing, and processing user preferences and trends, as well as user activity and communications."

They do store a lot of information, most intriguing part being the fact that they use ip geotagging so that they display ads based on your location, but also based on your preferences gathered from your online behavior. So, be careful what you search for.

Mar 27, 2008

YouTube Insights, with a small hack

Are you an Youtube uploader or only a viewer? Well, if you have an account with them and have uploaded at least one video to Youtube in the past years, you can play with their new tool called YouTube Insight.

This is a partial integration of Google Analytics into Youtube, that lets you view details about how many views your video has had in the past 5 days, 3/6/12 months or the maximum view period.

About that small hack mention, since the parameter to show the number of views (if you're not into technical details skip this part) is added in this form #viewcount-world--xxxxx-x, there's a small hack to see the popularity of your uploaded video for the past 2, 3 or 4 days by simply replacing the parameter in the url for the Youtube Insight video details to:

  • #viewcount-world--13963-2 (2 days popularity)

  • #viewcount-world--13962-3 (3 days popularity)

  • #viewcount-world--13961-4 (4 days popularity)

Back to Youtube Insight, to access it you have to:

  • Login to Youtube, click on My Account and select Videos, Favorites and Playlists

  • A list of your previously uploaded videos is shown, click on the About this video button to start Youtube Insight

That's it, now the analytics of your video are loaded. By default you'll see the number of views it had over the last week to the left, with a visual of where do the visitors come from to the right:

Also, you can see particular details as where the visitors came from by country. For instance if you select USA you'll be able to see from which state you had more visitors, by selecting a state it will also show how many visitors you had over time from that region.

Overall a nice tool, whishes for the future are to include in here a way to see the referrals (how did people get to see your video, sort of like the most popular links to this video but with more details).

And Google, good work on naming it Insight and not Analytics - by the way, any plans to change the name from Google Analytics to Google Insight? Not complaining, but if you have a lot of tabs and Google Analytics is one of them, the last part of Analytics is cut so that it reads ... you get the point.

Mar 26, 2008

Submit sitemap to Google, Yahoo, MSN, Ask

Sitemap is a protocol adopted from by major search engines for a while now. The sitemap is actually an xml file that basically contains a list of all the items that you have on your website (links, images, documents) and that you want to be accessible to the public. Search engines use the information from your sitemap to add or update those items in their index - this doesn't mean that if you don't have a sitemap your website is not indexed, the sitemap is used in addition to the regular crawler.

There are several search engines that support the protocol, most important ones being: Google, Yahoo, Live (former MSN) and Ask. If you're a webmaster most likely you've heard at least about the Google Webmaster Tools, a web based interface that allows you to see interesting results based on the analysis of your sitemap (inbound links, top searches, site errors) more or less through the eyes of Google itself. However, Yahoo offers a similar tool called Yahoo SiteExplorer, but unlike Google's it only allows adding/removing sitemaps, removing individual links, and more recently adding rules for indexing Dynamic URLs. (former MSN) didn't want to be left behind and added a similar tool recently called Webmaster Tools. Unlike Google or Yahoo they also offer a way to see the top 10 most well ranked pages of your site, the top 10 most important websites that link to your site, and how your website ranks for specific keywords in their index. Give it a break if the tool doesn't work as it should, because it's still in beta and still needs work.

Back on the track, how do you submit sitemaps to search engines? Well, first of all you need to create a sitemap. While there are various tools out there (both online and desktop tools), I've covered this topic on how to create a sitemap using a desktop program a while back: GsiteCrawler.
After the sitemap is created (let's assume you named it sitemap.xml), you have to upload it on the server where the website is hosted (usually in the root). Now, after the sitemap is live, you can do a trick called robots.txt sitemap autodiscovery where you add in the robots.txt file the following line:

Of course instead of the url in this example you'll put your url. Now search engines that support sitemaps will read automatically the location of the sitemap from the robots.txt file and access those links directly - what better way to have your files indexed without headaches?

However, this does not mean you don't have to manually submit sitemap to search engines, specifically to Google Yahoo and Live. Why? Well, because you'll have access to the tools I mentioned above, which are very useful for webmasters in general (the Google one is pure gold, while others are still around the bronze level).

Submit Sitemap to Google:

  1. Login to Google Webmaster Tools (if you have a google account the login is accepted, if not create one)

  2. Add your website through the provided interface, and after that Verify your site (basically you have to upload a dynamically generated empty html file or add an entry in the meta-tag - Google provides sufficient instructions on this part).

  3. Go to the Sitemaps tab, click on Add a Sitemap and enter the url of your sitemap - status will be processing but if it was accepted all's well. Usually it takes a couple of hours for the sitemap to be processed, but depending on the status of your website (new, old) you won't get to play with the new tools until Google has more data

Submit Sitemap to Yahoo:

  1. Go to Yahoo! Site Explorer and click on the Sign in top button, after you're logged in the My Sites section enter the url of your website and click Add My Site. You'll also need to Verify that you are the owner of this website, so choose a verification method (default is to upload a custom file) and proceed to that.

  2. Now, click on the Manage button for that recently added url and you'll see a way to add your sitemap (actually they call it Feed) - enter sitemap.xml and click on Add Feed (Web Site Feed should be selected).

  3. Sitemap should be processed in a couple of hours and you'll be able to see more details about it after that. In the meantime you'll see that by using the Explore button on the main Dashboard you get to see which links were indexed for your website and eventually remove ones that you don't want indexed by Yahoo

  4. A new feature that Yahoo! Site Explorer offers is the Dynamic URLs (in Beta). What you can do through that is "teach" Yahoo which urls are dynamic on your website (if any) so that he could index the correct ones. For instance if you have an ecommerce website and each link has a parameter, you can tell Yahoo to ignore that parameter and index only the main link.

Submit Sitemap to Live (MSN):

  1. Go to Live Webmaster Tools and click on the Sign in to use tools button (Windows Live Account needed).

  2. Add a Web address, the location of your sitemap in the Sitemap address section, select a Verification method and add your Contact information

  3. Once you'll submit that information you'll see the content of the xml verification file that you need to upload to your website (if you didn't choose to add a meta-tag), copy that and create/upload the verification file before clicking Submit.

  4. After you've verified that Live will give you additional information about your website - Summary, Profile, Keywords, Top Outbound links, Top Backlinks and the Sitemap tab. They're still in Beta so some of this information is not accurate, but still is something new brought to the table

  5. also gives you the option to ping them so that they'll mark the sitemap for re-indexing:[Your sitemap web address]li>

Submit Sitemap to Ask - This is actually a ping, since does not provide a web interface like Google/Yahoo/Live. To send your sitemap to simply ping them using the following url (add your sitemap location though): URL of your sitemap here.xml

Google Webmaster Tools provides now the most comprehensive and useful information, but, I like the new features that Webmaster Tools adds (the top backlinks, outbound links, a possibility to see how your pages rank for specific keywords) and also the Dynamic URLs feature that Yahoo! Site Explorer has. So Google, we're waiting for an update.

So, where's Microsoft?

Today is the first Document Freedom Day, a first of its kind event with the purpose of spreading the word about open document formats. The event is marked by the organization of local activities in more than 60 countries, through the work of over 200 teams, which means that Document Freedom and Open Standards are going to be heard by many people today (and hopefully in the future).

While the Document Freedom Day is supported by some large businesses (such as the Free Software Foundations Europe and Latin America, IBM, Google, Red Hat, Sun Microsystems) you cannot ignore the fact that Microsoft is missing. Why should it be there? Well first of all because of its new "open" standard called MS-OOXML - kidding of course, because that's not really an open format, best explanation for not being included in the Open Standard list is given on the DFD website:

Anyway, Google says it the right way, when you're working with a popular document format you have to have the assurance that you'll still be able to open a document in that format 10 years from now too. What would happen if Microsoft will cut out completely the .doc format or the .xls format? Not likely, but gives you the chills (at least gives business owners one).

So, today do your part in raising awareness about Open Document Formats.

Mar 25, 2008

Sponsored links in organic searches

Now Google always said that sponsored links (results) have no connection with the organic results. To be more specific, here's what they say in one of the many mentions about sponsored results and organic searches:

The most important thing to know is that there is no connection of any sort between the unpaid search results and the paid sponsored links -- so being an AdWords advertiser will neither help nor harm one's ranking within the search results.

However, there are instances when the text from the Sponsored Links is indexed and appears in the organic search results. For instance, see this search: "Google Printable Coupons" "Sponsored links"
On this main page five of the organic search result listings have in their description text from the Sponsored Links:

And there are other examples. Going back to the initial statement taken from their Adwords blog, we see that actually they don't contradict themselves, because the adwords ads do not help the organic search results for the one that pays for the ads. However this is not fair because it helps the website that publishes the ads through Adsense - in this particular case ... Google itself. If Google really ignores and separates the Sponsored Links from the organic results then it should start doing that from its own backyard.

Given the magnitude of Google I'm sure there are many more examples to be found, so I hope the algorithm will be improved in the future.

Mar 24, 2008

Blogger to Wordpress migration with 301 redirect

You have a blog hosted at blogger and since you're getting some traffic to it you would like to change the address from [whatever] to a custom domain name that you've just ordered. Not only that, but you've tested the new version of Wordpress and you like it much more than the Blogger platform. So what do you do to have your blog migrated from Blogger to Wordpress, without losing your search engine rankings? To keep your rankings, you would have to create a 301 redirect from each Blogger post to the new Wordpress blog - but Blogger doesn't let you access the apache configuration file to do that redirect.

So here is the solution that I've found and tested:

  1. First of all, order the custom domain that you want to use. If you already have a custom domain, and want to add your new blog as a sub-domain that's possible too (just add the new subdomain). You'll have to edit your DNS settings for the domain/sub-domain so that in the CNAME field it says
    Now, you'll need to add this custom domain in the Blogger dashboard for your [old] blog. To do that go to the Settings->Publishing tab of your blogger blog and click on Custom Domain. Add in there the new domain name you want your blog to be at and save that change. What will Blogger do now? Well it will create a 301 redirect from each post of your old blog to the respective post in the new custom named blog. You can test that by entering the url address of the old blog in your browser and you'll see it automatically redirects to the new one. However, even if you have now 301 redirects for your posts, the blog is still hosted on Blogger. Which brings up the next step.

  2. Waiting. That's right, now you have to wait a while until Google (and other search engines) pass the ranking from the old blog to the new one. That shouldn't take more than one week, and you'll see that happening when the new blog address will appear in the search results instead of your old blog address. After the page rank transition was finished, install wordpress in a folder at your hosting company and customize it to match any design you need. After that, you can import the posts from blogger into wordpress. To do that, in the Wordpress interface go to your dashboard, then click Manage, Import, Blogger and point to your blog address. You'll see the status of the importing and you can test it once it's finished.

  3. Let's recap a little, you have a new blog address that kept the ranking of your new blog but it's still hosted at Blogger. You have Wordpress installed and it contains all the posts from Blogger (after the import). Last step needed is to actually do the transition from Blogger to Wordpress. To do that simply change the DNS settings for your blog domain/subdomain to point to the folder where you installed Wordpress. It will take a little to propagate (1-2 days) but when that's finished you have the new blog hosted at your hosting company and using Wordpress.

  4. One last thing, you'll have to go in the Blogger interface and switch back from custom domain to being hosted at Blogger - right after that's done delete your old blog from the Blogger interface and then be sure to add it right back - this way you'll flush all the posts and still keep that old blog address - just in case someone finds the old address on a website somewhere and clicks on it, you will need to add a meta-refresh tag to the new blog.

Mar 23, 2008

Borat's village - 100 masked people fight each year

Each year on December 31st there's a fight in Ruginoasa, Iasi (Romania). This is not your common fight, about 100 youngs (split in two "armies") each one with 5 feet long wooden bats try to crack their heads in for a noble purpose: winners get the right to date the most beautiful women in that particular year.

Members of one team marching towards the fight place (skip to 1:20):

Actual fight:

This tradition goes on for couple of hundred years, and if initially they used lashes or wrestled, over time it degenerated into using large wooden bats.
The night before the fight, the teams gather (in separate places) to drink and eat until the morning, when they start preparing for the fight. The most important accessory is the mask, which it's composed of several layers, one of them being iron - its weight is about 70 pounds. This doesn't mean that there are not casualties, mostly because they are accompanied by up to 2000 other people, and sometimes the parents of the fighting youngs approach to give advices and since they don't wear protection they get injured. The elderly ones are inspecting the fight scene after it's over, because tradition also says that if there's much blood the coming year will be prosperous.

In the past the fight ended before noon or when there were too many injured fighters, whichever came first. However, due to being part of EU now, authorities tried to stop it this year because of the violence, and the whole fight got a new purpose: 100 armed mask people vs the police.

Fighting the police:

This is a tradition accross other countries too, one mentionable one being held in Bolivia, where the number of people involved goes up to 6000 with around 15 dead people after each fight. Tradition is called Tinkuy Ritual Fighting and here's one video about that too: