Well done Google

March 24th, 2010 at 9:53 am by David Farrar

Google has redirected www.google.cn from its censored China located search engine to its uncensored Hong Kong search engine.

This is quite smart, as it is highlighting that China itself allows Chinese in Hong Kong much greater freedoms than on the mainland. If they block google.cn (which is likely) they are saying that Hong Kong Google is breaking Chinese law.

Searches from China must pass through the Chinese government’s extensive web filters – collectively known as the Great Firewall – which automatically weeds out anything considered pornographic or politically sensitive.

The move, in effect, shifts the responsibility for censoring from Google to the communist government.

And this is how it should be. Personally I want no censorship at all, but if it has to occur it should be the Government, not the search engine provider, that does it.

UPDATE: The SMH also reports Google has done a submission to the Australian Government strongly criticising their Internet filter, and warning it “would enable future governments to use it for political censorship”.


Google supports Wikipedia

February 18th, 2010 at 1:07 pm by David Farrar

Rather pleased to read that Google has donated US2 million to Wikipedia.

Wikipedia is not great for current controversial issues (such as climate change or George W Bush) but I find it invaluable in many many other areas. I use it many times a day

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Google censoring

January 19th, 2010 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

AAP report:

Google has agreed to take down links to a website that promotes racist views of indigenous Australians.

Aboriginal man Steve Hodder-Watt recently discovered the US-based site by searching “Aboriginal and Encyclopedia” in the search engine.

He tried to modify the entry on Encyclopedia Dramatica, a satirical and extremely racist version of Wikipedia, but was blocked from doing so.

Mr Hodder-Watt then undertook legal action, that resulted in Google acknowledging its legal responsibility to remove the offensive site.

Just as I don’t think Google should censor for the Chinese Government, they shouldn’t censor for anyone.

I’m not saying there should be no censorship – but it should occur at the hosting level. It is generally an offence to host material in a country where such material is illegal.

But global search engines should not be bound by national laws. I expect a search engine to tell me what material is available on the Internet.

But upon further investigating, it seems Google has removed links only for google.com.au. I have far less of a problem with that I have to say. Also they have only removed links to the specific page, not the whole site.

But still a slippery slope in my book.


Google search suggestions

January 16th, 2010 at 2:06 pm by David Farrar

From Predictably Irrational:

The order reflects the number of hits in Google!

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Well done Google

January 15th, 2010 at 10:33 am by David Farrar

I was hugely disappointed in Google when they started censoring google.cn. It was the first time they really broke their motto of do no evil.

So I am equally pleased to see this story:

Google, the internet search engine, has set itself at odds with the authorities in China by declaring that it will stop censoring search results on its Chinese website.

This is going to be a fascinating battle between two giants.

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Quick Google

December 7th, 2009 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

Google must have its bots hovering constantly. Last night I blogged something, then thought I’d seek more info on the topic so googled it. My own blog post came up as a hit, less than 60 seconds after I had made it.

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Great initiative

August 25th, 2009 at 12:14 pm by David Farrar

Newswire report on a nice wee initiative:

RESIDENTS have pooled their knowledge of public fruit trees and wild foods from Aro Valley to Island Bay and pinpointed the locations on Google Maps.

The map directs to 22 locations of apples, plums, edible mushrooms, wild parsley, blackberries, and more.
Lisa Johnston, 27, a member of environmental group 42 Collective, started the project earlier in the year, and her page has now attracted more than 5000 views.
“If we’re not actually spending some time looking at what we’ve already got and using what we already have, then we’re kind of being neglectful and wasteful,” she says.
It is a work in progress and the idea is that people not only use it to find free food but add pointers to trees and herbs they know about.
Jacob Butler, 22, a student, says his dad told him about the map and he has already used it to gather rosemary and kawakawa that was growing around Newtown.
“I think it’s great, absolutely great, and the more people who get involved, it’s just going to get bigger and the web will grow. There will be more fruit sources and things like that.”
Jacob says there is enough food that students will not pillage the spots but says his one fear is that people might go too far and add pointers to plants like cabbage trees and Nikau palms.
“The problem with harvesting these is that you have to kill the plant.”
Each marker includes a note about what time of year the food is ripe and, if it’s on private land, whether the owner must be asked first before gathering.
Urban hunters and gatherers can type “Edible Wellington – A Gatherer’s Guide” into maps.google.com to find free food and share their own spots.

Jacob Butler collecting rosemary growing in NewtownJacob Butler collecting rosemary growing in Newtown

The map points to 22 locations of apples, plums, edible mushrooms, wild parsley, blackberries, and more.

Lisa Johnston, 27, a member of environmental group 42 Collective, started the project earlier in the year, and her page has now attracted more than 5000 views. …

Each marker includes a note about what time of year the food is ripe and, if it’s on private land, whether the owner must be asked first before gathering.

Urban hunters and gatherers can type “Edible Wellington – A Gatherer’s Guide” into maps.google.com to find free food and share their own spots.

I’ ve tried it out, and it works well. There is so much great info one can add to Google Maps.

Hat Tip: Roar Prawn

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The “skank” blogger

August 25th, 2009 at 12:11 pm by David Farrar

Some readers may have followed the case of Liskula Cohen who was called a skank and “psychotic lying whore” on a blogger.com blog. Google owns these.

Cohen regarded this as defamatory and went to court to sue the author, and as part of that the court ordered Google to reveal the identity of the author.

Google complied and supplied the e-mail address used to register the blog. And this allowed Cohen to deduce that a Rosemary Port was the author.

Now to my mind, this is how it should be. If you defame someone anonymously, then your identity will be revealed.

Port, rather than apologise for her slander, is now saying she will sue Google for A$18 million for revealing her email address.

I think Port needs to get over herself and get a grip. Google was ordered by a court to reveal her address. I can’t see she has any chance of success.

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Wolfram Alpha

May 6th, 2009 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

This sounds great – from the Herald:

The biggest internet revolution for a generation will be unveiled this month with the launch of software that will understand questions and give specific, tailored answers in a way that the web has never managed before.

The new system, Wolfram Alpha, showcased at Harvard University in the US last week, takes the first step towards what many consider to be the internet’s Holy Grail – a global store of information that understands and responds to ordinary language in the same way a person does. …

Sounds good.

Wolfram Alpha will not only give a straight answer to questions such as “how high is Mount Everest?”, but it will also produce a neat page of related information – all properly sourced – such as geographical location and nearby towns, and other mountains, complete with graphs and charts.

The real innovation, however, is in its ability to work things out “on the fly”, according to its British inventor, Dr Stephen Wolfram. If you ask it to compare the height of Mount Everest to the length of the Golden Gate Bridge, it will tell you. Or ask what the weather was like in London on the day John F Kennedy was assassinated, it will cross-check and provide the answer. Ask it about D sharp major, it will play the scale. Type in “10 flips for four heads” and it will guess that you need to know the probability of coin-tossing. If you want to know when the next solar eclipse over Chicago is, or the exact current location of the International Space Station, it can work it out.

Sounds even better. Can’t wait.

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Google News Alert

April 30th, 2009 at 12:28 pm by David Farrar

I have my name as an alert term for Google News. So I get to see when people say nasty things about me. My name is fairly rare but not unique, as this alert showed:

Google News Alert for: “David Farrar”

Shell casings, cigarette butt found near slain 65-year-old’s body
Gaston Gazette – Gastonia,NC,USA
A trail of Styrofoam packing peanuts was found leading from the Farrars’ hallway to the backyard where David Farrar was shot and killed.

Pretty sure it wasn’t me!

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Google’s Latitude

February 5th, 2009 at 9:15 am by David Farrar

I’ve blogged many times over the last few years about how a future killer application will be one that combines GPS, mapping and friend finder on your phone.

As the Daily Telegraph reports, Google has launched such a service. It is called Google Latitude. It works for New Zealand, and you can download it onto your blackberry and other phones. Only problem is a download error code 500 at the moment.

There are huge privacy issues around such services. They key is to only let people see your location who you totally trust. But it can be an easy way of meeting up in town etc. I’ll blog more on this once I actually get it installed and working.

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Google Streetview

December 2nd, 2008 at 11:35 am by David Farrar

Well it is here, and they have done an amazing job of havign seamless photos from cars driving through.

The Beehive and Bowen House as captured on Street View.

You can see my apartment block on the right, and lots of activity on the street as people were arriving for school at Queen Margarets. In some of the photos you can almost make out who it is – not enough for a stranger to recognise someone, but for friends to be able to work out who was pictured.


Waitangi Day and Google Earth

November 29th, 2008 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

Maori Television has a nifty idea for Waitangi Day:

New Zealand’s national indigenous broadcaster, Maori Television, is putting out the call for all New Zealanders to come home for Waitangi Day 2009 but forget the planes, trains and automobiles you would usually rely on. This year, the only travel required will be in a virtual sense.

The broadcaster has created its own layer on Google Earth to collect messages from anywhere in the world devoted to the question: ‘Where on Google Earth will you be on Waitangi Day?’

Pictures, videos and text can all be uploaded into the page – from Aotearoa-New Zealand and beyond – to appear on the specially-created layer as a pin on the spinning globe. Anyone can upload material, ranging from a simple text message to photos, via Google’s photo sharing service, Picasa, or for the more tech-savvy among us, videos via YouTube.

‘Where on Google Earth will you be on Waitangi Day?’ is the question but also the concept that will underpin the channel’s broadcast dedicated to New Zealand’s national day, Waitangi Day, on Friday February 6 2009. The most inspiring, fun and heart-warming messages will be played throughout Maori Television’s programme, KOTAHI TE RA: WAITANGI DAY 2009.

“For anyone who has ever been away from home on our national day – or even if you’re at home but feeling that tug of national pride – this is the chance to connect to something special,” says Maori Television chief executive Jim Mather. “We believe this is something new and unique for an indigenous broadcaster, or indeed any broadcaster, to connect with its people via the internet.”

The technology used is essentially a specially-created layer visible on Google Earth which allows New Zealanders, their friends and families all around the world to create a message and load it into the space, marked by a map pin. “The beauty of the concept is its simplicity,” says Mr Mather. “It is easy to use, people can be as interactive as their abilities allow. It is all about the feeling.”

To see the short demonstration, or if you want to post a message, go to www.maoritelevision.com and follow the Google Earth link. Google Earth can be downloaded at earth.google.com.

Nice to see innovative thinking at Maori TV. They provide by far the best ANZAC Day coverage, and I suspect will do the same with Waitangi Day.

And hey we’ll have a Prime Minister next year who isn’t afraid to spend Waitangi Day at Waitangi!

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How they voted in Wellington

November 13th, 2008 at 8:15 pm by David Farrar

View Larger Map

Tom Beard has put together this interface for Google Maps of voting in Wellington. He explains at the link what the different shades mean but basically the more blue it is the more votes for National/ACT/United Future and the more red it is the more votes for Labour/Greens/Progressive.

I’d love to see this done nationwide!

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Google’s 2008 election gadget

October 9th, 2008 at 8:54 pm by David Farrar

Google have launched an online gadget for Kiwis wanting to follow 2008 election news. Quite a tidy little tool.

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“Not affiliated to any party”

September 14th, 2008 at 7:15 am by David Farrar

The Herald on Sunday reports on how Rochelle Rees has google bombed John Key so a search of NZ sites on “clueless” will bring up his website.

This isn’t terribly difficult to do, especially if it is for .nz sites only. It is far far harder to do it for all searches.

Anyway I found it interesting that the HoS reported:

Auckland computer programmer Rochelle Rees told the Herald on Sunday she emailed friends a year ago, asking them to put links on their websites to Key’s site with the word “clueless” as the link text.

“More than anything, it’s fun,” said Rees, who said she was interested in politics but not affiliated to any party.

I found that interesting. For I could recall two things about Rochelle. One is that she is involved in Auckland Animal Action. The other is I was sure she was a member of Young Labour. And sure enough a quick Google search, and I find the answer on my own blog!

So Rochelle just last year was not just a member of Young Labour, but was elected onto its National Executive. So how is that not affiliated to any party?

I also found it amusing that that they are trying to suggest with their Google bombing that John Key is clueless. The bombing works better if it is an attribute that many people will agree with. They should have gone with “swallowing dead rats” or something. Because look at Key’s achievements:

  • Hugely successful career in the private sector
  • Rose to the top job in his area (global head of foreign exchange) in a company with 60,000 staff, $100 billion a year turnover and assets in excess of $1 trillion.
  • So popular with his staff, colleagues and competitors than the SST couldn’t find a single person to speak badly of him, despite the fact he was in an industry with legendary rivalry
  • Appointed to the Foreign Exchange Committee of the New York Federal Reserve
  • Successfully challenged an incumbent MP for the Helensville 2002 nomination
  • Made Opposition Finance Spokesperson after just two years in Parliament
  • Unanimously elected National Party Leader after just four years in Parliament
  • Within six months of being elected Opposition Leader, overtook Helen Clark as Preferred Prime Minister
  • Has consistently polled as the most popular Leader of the Opposition since records began over 20 years ago

Need I go on?

UPDATE: Rochelle, far from being someone just interested in politics, was a candidate for City Vision in the local body elections. Also she was endorsed by the Labour affiliated EPMU as a preferred candidate. And her e-mail address is @primary.geek.nz which is mainatined by Labour Party member and The Standard owner – Lynn Prentice.

I have no problems with Rochelle having some fun Google bombing. Good on her. But once again we see the traditional pattern of behaviour where someone is portrayed as just “interested in politics but not affiliated to any party”, when the reality is quite different.

UPDATE2: The Herald on Sunday have updated their story and Rochelle has commented below. She says she told the reporter she wasn’t currently affiliated. And Lynn Prentice happens to be her uncle!

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Google 10 years old

September 10th, 2008 at 7:39 am by David Farrar

The Herald calls Google the world’s most powerful 10 year old.

It brings back memories of AltaVista, the former number one search engine. It was amazing how quickly Google replaced it as the search engine of choice.

Google is powerful but not quite all conquering. When they launched Google Video, I thought that would dominate the online video market as they had the brand and resources of Google.

But You Tube kicked their butt, because they had a superior product. The “embed” function especially turned every blog into a gateway for You Tube and they gained massive market share over Google Video.

Of course Google then went and purchased You Tube. But it still shows that product is still more important than brand, and that Google’s dominance can not be assumed to last forever.

But having said that, I am a regular user of:

  1. Google Search
  2. Google News
  3. Google News Alerts
  4. Google Adsense
  5. Google Analytics
  6. Google Maps
  7. Google Images
  8. Google Toolbar
  9. Google Calendar
  10. Google Docs
  11. Gmail
  12. Google Talk
  13. You Tube

I have also played with Google Chrome and check out Google Groups very occassionally. So it is hard to see an Internet without a dominant Google anytime soon.

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Two useful gadgets

March 25th, 2008 at 3:28 pm by David Farrar

I have to say I am impressed with BNZ’s netguard card. I had put off getting one for my Internet banking because I thought it would be one of the clunky electronic gizmos which flashes a new code every minute.

But it is just a credit card sized card with a 7×7 matrix on the back with a letter or digit in each square. They prompt you for three squares each time you login, which is very quick to do.  Hardly a hassle at all, and definitely more secure.

The chance of someone guessing the right responses on any given login is 1 in 46,656 (36^3). And the chance of guessing your entire card is 1 in 36^49 which is 1 in 1.81×10^76.

The other cool thing lately is that Google Calendar now has a plugin to sychronise with MS Outlook.  This means I can let people view my busy/free times in Google, have appts synchronise with Outlook (where I make most of my appts) and have them also transfer to my Blackberry to remind me of the appt when on the road.

The only bad thing is discovering this may have cost me a Blackberry. I have been looking for a way to synchronise Google Calendar and Outlook for months and tried every setting there was. So I casually remarked to one of my staff that if she could discover a way to do it, she’d get the Blackberry she had been pestering me for. By pure coincidence, Google had earlier that day released their Outlook plugin, and it was a front page link from Google Calendar.  So she is insisting I owe her a Blackberry for her two minutes of work.

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