Weblog on the Internet and public policy, journalism, virtual community, and more from David Brake, a Canadian academic, consultant and journalist

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20 January 2009

Now the ever-expanding Google Transit project includes journey planning covering London and neighboring counties and if you go to London on Google Maps and switch on the transit “layer” your map will be overlaid with a display of all of the lines run by London Transport (ie not including most commuter trains).

Thanks Richy C for the heads up!

5 December 2005
Filed under:Search Engines at11:46 pm

If you are curious about whether your favourite search engine really does work better or you just think it does because you are used to it you can check out a “blind taste test“. I haven’t done this myself though. For what it’s worth (unoriginally) I tend to use Google for nearly every search – in part because it integrates well with academic databases. Though perhaps Yahoo and MSN Search also do? Something I might try out the next time I do a difficult search…

P.S. in other news there has been a big jump in the proportion of time Internet users spend using search engines.

25 January 2005
Filed under:Arts Reviews,Personal,Search Engines at7:44 am

You should try listening to Federico Mompou. I saw a CD of music of his by chance in the home of a musical friend over Christmas and noticed that it had won the editor’s choice from Gramophone so I made a note to find some Mompou when I got back. The music turns out to be delightful (if a little lacking in variety after a while).

I found myself asking, characteristically, whether there is any way I could have found out about his work through some kind of automated Internet tool (rather than just participating in a “classical music related forum”:http://www.good-music-guide.com/forum/). Doing a Google Set search with the names of the two composers he’s closest to just gave me a “list of other famous composers”:http://labs.google.com/sets?hl=en&q1=debussy&q2=satie&q3=&q4=&q5=&btn=Large+Set, not of others who were similar. The excellent “All Music Database”:http://www.allmusic.com does provide “see also” information for Debussy and Satie but neither entry mentions Mompou (even though he’s in their database).

If you want to find some Mompou to listen to without resorting to peer to peer piracy, “here”:http://search.singingfish.com/sfw/search?last_query=mompou&query=mompou&x=62&y=14&adult_results=&a_submit=1&aw=1&sfor=a&dur=1&fmp3=1&freal=1&fwin=1&fqt=1&cmus=1&rpp=20&persist=1&a_eml_search=1&email_type=2 are 67 entries of at least a minute’s length from the SingingFish audio and video search engine. Altavista “only finds 14”:http://www.altavista.com/audio/results?q=mompou&maf=mp3&maf=wav&maf=msmedia&maf=realmedia&maf=aiff&maf=other&mad=long (and only lets you specify more or less than 1minute length) and “Lycos finds 63”:http://search.lycos.com/default.asp?tab=multi&adf=&query=mompou&submit.x=21&submit.y=9&submit=Search&cat=audio&loc=searchbox&agree=1 but doesn’t let you specify a minimum length.

P.S. Can anyone help with a query about anti-Chomsky media scholarship over at the Media@LSE blog?

26 December 2004

According to “Reuters”:http://www.reuters.com/audi/newsArticle.jhtml?type=technologyNews&storyID=7047174 Yahoo will release a desktop search tool of its own based on X1’s technology. Of course it may not provide X1’s full functionality but the report seems to suggest it will include its PDF searching (which so far Google’s search doesn’t do). There’s more detailed information “here”:http://insidegoogle.blogspot.com/2004/12/yahoo-announces-desktop-search.html.

Thanks to Guardian Onlineblog for the link.

13 December 2004

I just added a “post about global broadband penetration”:http://groupblog.workasone.net/index.php?p=20 and a few days ago I posted about research on “hit counts as a predictor of the number of citations”:http://groupblog.workasone.net/index.php?p=14 for academic articles published online. There have also been some recent postings by other blog members on “literature reviews”:http://groupblog.workasone.net/index.php?p=13 and the “use of the Internet for politics in the UK”:http://groupblog.workasone.net/index.php?p=18. I have some postings yet to come there about search engines (you should look there for any future information on search engines – especially as one of my colleagues there is studying them for her PhD)…

P.S. If you want an easy-to-remember address for the site (which does not yet have its own ‘proper’ domain) you can get to it by typing “http://get.to/lseblog”:http://get.to/lseblog.

3 December 2004

David Weinberger at the Berkman Center for Internet & Society raises an important issue in a recent discussion at Harvard using a metaphor I hadn’t thought of before:

Put aside for the moment question of what is legally ours on the Net. Instead, consider what’s ours in a less explicit and less rigorous sense. Google feels like ours (even though it legally belongs to its shareholders) while Microsoft’s new search site feels like theirs. Weblogs feel like their ours while online columns do not. The Mac feels like it’s ours while Dell computers do not. Craigslist feels like ours while newspaper classified ads and Monster.com feel like theirs. In fact, many of us feel and act as if downloaded mp3s were ours.

Is this sense of “ours” an illusion? Is it a temporary artifact that will vanish in months or years? What makes something that’s not legally ours still feel that way, on the Web or off? And does this provide a way of figuring out why many of us feel so passionately about the load of bits we call the Net?

Well of course not everyone agrees on what technology they consider ‘theirs’ – I don’t feel a big psychological difference between Google and MSN search for example. But I think David W is on to something here. The Berkman folks will likely approach this from a legal perspective (should laws be written from the POV of how people have come to feel about a given tech?) while my interest is more cultural – (what makes people invest a tech with personal significance?)

22 November 2004
Filed under:Search Engines at12:40 am

Google announced a few days ago going from 4bn to 8bn pages.

Which made me wonder what proportion of the web it covers now and how much I was missing before. The last major survey of search engine coverage was in 1999 (Lawrence, Steve, and C. Lee Giles. 1999. “Accessibility and Distribution of Information on the Web”:http://www.wwwmetrics.com/ Nature, 1999, 107-109.) and concluded that no one search engine covered more than 16% of the visible web (it’s probably better now). And what of the (much larger) invisible web? See Bergman, M. K. (2001) “The Deep Web: Surfacing Hidden Value”:http://www.press.umich.edu/jep/07-01/bergman.html, The Journal of Electronic Publishing, 7 (1) for more on that…

11 November 2004

Microsoft has ‘soft’ launched its new “search engine”:http://beta.search.msn.com/ and it is “reviewed”:http://searchenginewatch.com/searchday/article.php/3434261 by “Search Engine Watch”:http://searchenginewatch.com/, which also provides in-depth info on the new features they’ve found so far.

Meanwhile by coincidence (hah!) Google announced it has nearly doubled the number of pages it indexed to more than 8 billion pages. What’s interesting to me is that I had been assuming that the 4bn-odd pages it used to index represented most of the total visible web – obviously not! But how far short is it now? There’s no easy way to tell, and the search engines aren’t giving us any clues…

6 November 2004

And now Google’s ad policies are public. Google will not run ads promoting gambling, beer or spirits (wine is apparently fine), fireworks and a long list of other banned subjects. Of course you can always argue about what they should have added and what doesn’t belong there – I also expect a number of objections by borderline cases. For example, they ban advertising of ‘miracle cures’ (but seem happy to allow ads for homeopathy). And I expect there may be a couple more exclusions they don’t mention. Would they allow dissidents to advertise the “anonymous proxy servers”:http://www.samair.ru/proxy/index.htm that would enable Chinese people to get around their government’s “internet filtering”:http://cyber.law.harvard.edu/filtering/china/? Would they let people advertise “Nazi Paraphernalia”:http://www.metronews.ca/tech_news.asp?id=2702 as Yahoo got prosecuted for? (the stuff arguably isn’t in itself ‘advocating against a protected group’ (which they ban) but I don’t see any ads come up if I search for ‘nazi for sale’).

Nice at least to see some openness from Google about the ethical policies they have exercised until now without scrutiny.

29 October 2004

Back in September I wanted to know how to find out “where the money comes from to fund US politicians”:http://blog.org/archives/001231.html and was surprised at how hard it seemed to be to get at the info. Fortunately (if a little late) the great guys at “SearchEngineWatch”:http://blog.searchenginewatch.com/blog/041028-604a just provided an excellent overview of a number of search facilities. Interestingly, “Google employees seem to lean overwhelmingly towards supporting Kerry”:http://insidegoogle.blogspot.com/2004/10/google-says-to-vote-google-employees.html (I knew they hired smart people…). Oddly though my own political contribution doesn’t seem to appear.

P.S. “Open Secrets”:http://www.opensecrets.org/ (‘your guide to the money in US elections’) which seemed not to respond when I looked in September is now back online.

P.P.S. I just came across a post over at the Berkman Centre about Cameron Marlow who has found a number of other “political hacks”:http://cyber.law.harvard.edu/home/home?wid=10&func=viewSubmission&sid=605 (in the sense of interesting uses of technology in the service of politics not to be confused with politicians’ spin doctors!) including a “text analysis of the presidential debates”:http://overstated.net/04/10/01-presidential-debate-analysis.

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