Google Account Activity Generates A Monthly Summary Of Your Entire Google Account Usage

If you are too curious to know what Google knows about you and how much personal information of yours is stored on your Google account, here is some good news. Google has added a new opt-in service called “Account activity” – a periodical account summary which gives a thorough detail of what Google services you use everyday and how much Google knows about you. Account activity can be termed as an extension of Google dashboard; it can be used to monitor your entire Google account usage across all Google services under one umbrella.

Here is an example report which Google shared in their official blog post:


Account-Activity final

Account activity goes way beyond Google dashboard, which is in some ways limited to your Google account settings only. For example, account activity keeps a log of all the browsers you have been using recently, your sign in locations and the number of emails you have sent or received in the last 30 days. Additionally, Google will also show your web history, visited places and provide a quick overview of how you spend time with different Google services. This adds an extra layer of security to your Google account, as you will be able to know whether your account was used from an unknown device or from an unknown location.

It has been a few weeks since Google’s unified privacy policy was brought into effect. This new privacy policy gives Google the right to share your data between any Google service you are using. Gmail, YouTube, web search, Google Maps, Google Reader and your usage across all other Google products is tracked algorithmically, so that you can be served better. This account activity feature just makes the whole game a bit more transparent. Google has not mentioned any connection of account activity with the recent privacy policy changes but I am sure this is a way to make users feel more comfortable about their Google account. For your information, Google is not collecting any new data about you and neither Google is forcing this account activity feature for every Google account by default.

If you feel too paranoid about your data, you can of course use the very useful takeout service and export all your data out of Google. I haven’t got my report yet but looking at the sample, I think it is pretty basic and not as full featured as Google Analytics is. Of course I am not comparing the awesome site stats program with a private information outlet but I would be more excited, if the account activity page is more detailed in nature.  As it appears now, it is just the tip of the iceberg.

But then, something is better than nothing.

Android Users, Here is Your Chance to Get 23 GB Free Space In Dropbox Right Now!

Another day, another Dropbox hack, and you get more Dropbox storage space for free. But this time its huge – a whooping 23 GB. For nothing!

All you need is an Android device and no more than 180 seconds from your life.

Before you proceed, I want to make two things clear. First, this is not an official promotional campaign from Dropbox and the following steps involves installing a third party APK file on your Android device. If you don’t know what that means, it would be better not to proceed any further. Installing third party applications from unknown sources can be harmful in more ways than one so please be careful and proceed only when you know what you are doing.

1. On your Android phone or tablet device, uninstall the official Dropbox app from settings > applications > manage applications > Dropbox > uninstall.

2. Download this APK file on your Android and install this experimental build on your phone. You might have to turn on “Unknown sources” under settings > applications.

3. Once you have installed this experimental build, sign in to your Dropbox account from Android, wait a couple of minutes and you should see your Dropbox storage space bumped up by an earth shattering 23 GB.


This will be followed by an email from the Dropbox team which reads:

Hi [user],
Congrats on becoming a Dropbox Guru! We’ve awarded you 23 GB of bonus space for the next 24 months! You now have 29.5 GB on Dropbox. To get even more space, check out our upgrade options.Thanks again for supercharging your HTC device with Dropbox. Enjoy!

This 23 GB free Dropbox space will only last two years but a little more space doesn’t hurt anyway. Once you have obtained the 23 GB free space from Dropbox, you can uninstall the third party APK and then re-install the official Dropbox app from here.

Jokes apart, I am a little skeptical over these insanely tempting hacks that pop up every now and then, so I tried this one on one of my dummy Dropbox account (just don’t want to mess my main storage in greed of more free space). I am just wondering why Dropbox is not at all concerned about these hacks? Even kids can exploit this very useful service with fake accounts, store an enormous amount of junk in the cloud or try to spam the web with gigabytes of files stored in the public Dropbox folder.

Thank you Rajesh for the tip hack.

Share A Dropbox Folder With Facebook Friends

Popular file sharing service Dropbox has just introduced a new feature, now you can invite your Facebook friends to a shared Dropbox folder from the Dropbox share page. Shared folders in Dropbox is ideal when multiple people need a single storage location for storing common files, and no one does it better than Dropbox does.

To invite your Facebook friends to any of your shared Dropbox folders, head over to the Dropbox share page, connect your Facebook account and create your shared folder. To share an existing folder, check the option “I would like to share an existing folder”.



Hit “Next”, type in the name of your Facebook friend(s) and click “Share folder”. You can add multiple friends but there is no way to add an entire friend list or share a specific Dropbox folder with an existing group of friends on Facebook. You have to type in the name of each friend one by one, so this is not a very convenient option as far as mass collaboration is concerned.


When you have shared a desired folder with any of your Facebook friend, he will get a notification that you have invited him to view the contents of a shared folder from your Dropbox account. Once he clicks the invite link, he will be asked to sign into his Dropbox account for accessing the content of the shared folder. Which means, this shared collaboration is not entirely open in nature and works only if your Facebook friend knows what Dropbox really is.

Here is what your Facebook friend will see:


In order to view the contents of the shared folder, your Facebook friend must register for his own Dropbox account. Since this is not really the case of a usual Dropbox referral, you won’t get any extra storage space if any of your Facebook friend joins Dropbox from a shared folder invite. Actually this is good, keeps the space crave spam in control.

However, this drive will surely give Dropbox a social trigger and might help accelerate its reach towards users who are on Facebook but aren’t using Dropbox yet.

Personally, I would still prefer sharing via email. I have many Facebook friends who haven’t heard about Dropbox yet, so it would be foolish on my part if I invite them via a shared folder invite. Instead, I can earn free space by sending them a referral link and then share a folder from my Dropbox account.

Hello Samsung Portugal, Your Free Dropbox Space Offer Can Be Hacked In 5 Minutes

Getting free storage space in cloud storage services like Dropbox is always tempting, everyone wants more free stuff without having to pay for it. While there are legitimate ways to bump up your Dropbox storage space for free, should you opt for hacks and loopholes?

Here is a scenario where Samsung Portugal is giving away 2 GB of free Dropbox space to Samsung customers who have an Android device. The offer is available only for Portuguese citizens who have bought an Android device from Samsung in Portugal only. But in reality, this offer can be gamed by anyone regardless of whether you are a Portuguese citizen or not. That is not all, you don’t even need an Android phone or an email address for verification, as the entire process can be gamed through fake credentials and fake IMEI number. The offer is ending on April 2nd 2012 or after the sale of 1,00,000 Samsung units, whichever occurs first.

So here is the deal. Go to the Samsung Portugal offer page, which is written entirely in Portuguese, you may use Google Translate to read the instructions or use inline language translation of Google Chrome to keep things simple. You will be asked to enter your email address for future correspondence. For the sake of trying this out, enter any random email address, hit the “avancar” button twice and you are through. No verification required at all!


2. The next page consists of a simple form where you will be asked to enter basic details e.g phone number, mobile number, gender, name and date of birth. There is a DWR field where you have to key in an 11 digit CPF code. That’s easily fixed, thanks to this website which will generate a random CPF code for you.


The last step involves choose a model number and entering the IMEI code of your Samsung Android device. We won’t reveal any further, as we are strongly against using such hacks and vulnerabilities, but here is a hint. You can choose a device from the dropdown and enter any random IMEI number to see if luck gives a nod. I am not telling which device you have to choose but I tried this several times until my fake IMEI number was accepted and I was given a free Dropbox coupon code.

dropbox-samsung-offer-hackRest of the part is easy, head over to, sign in to your Dropbox account and enter the coupon code you obtained from the Portuguese Samsung portal. You will instantly see your Dropbox storage space getting an increment of 2 GB. This hack was originally unveiled by Mathheu at XDA forums (the forum post has been taken down now), a quick Google search reveals that the entire procedure is still available on quite a good number of sites. [via]

This is insanely hilarious as well as awful, considering the company we are talking here is Samsung.

Disclaimer: We are only broadcasting this vulnerability and we have neither devised this hack, nor we can be held responsible for any loss which can occur to your Samsung and Dropbox properties.

Google Semantic Search Will Add Answers To Search Results

When you perform a search on Google, two major things happen within a fraction of a nanosecond. Google parses and processes your query in its index and attempts to find a closest match or answer to your question. Second, Google tries to guess or predict the “subject” and offers answers that Google thinks you are searching for. This depends on a lot of factors which may include your previous search queries, list of visited sites, social context, interests, behavior and so forth.

Consider the following example search query:


Google thinks that I am searching for “miss”, which is a traditional honorific for unmarried women. Additionally, Google thinks that there is a chance I am searching for an album by John Mitchell. The fact however, is completely different from what Google thinks I am searching for. I am searching for the verb “miss”  which means “to fail” as in – he misses the target and turns back to the crowd.

Now you may be wondering whether Google precisely understands the words you use in your query. The short answer is No it doesn’t. Google and other search engines have no clue about the meaning of words used in the query and they don’t rely on the meaning  alone for fetching results. However, what is important is the context of the query, whether the words used in a query have something in common or whether they imply a question whose answer (closest match) is already available in the index. When you search for “tear”, Google can only “predict” whether you are looking for a waterly fluid or the ripping apart of something by force.

Here is another example search which shows how crowd sourcing affects Google search results to a great extent.


When I typed “make money” in Google search box, Google assumes that I am someone who wants to make money online. There are a thousands ways of making money, but Google thinks (and predicts) that this guy is looking for online money making ideas. In reality, I am looking for the novel by Terry Pratchett in the Discworld series. Unless I use the identifier “novel” in this context, Google will assume something based on what millions of other users are searching for and show the same results to me.

Then we have a SPY world to consider which introduces a social mix in regular Google search results, showing you relevant content and information from your social circles. But not everyone is using Google Plus, which at this moment is nothing but a virtual ghost town used by only Google employees (and of course Robert Scoble).

Hence the Plan B.

In coming months, Google is all set to radically change the search mechanism with a novelty called “Semantic search”. According to a report from Wall Street Journal, Google will soon implement its semantic search technology to the search filter, which will analyze the meaning of words typed into the search box. Based on the meaning and context of words and phrases, Google will provide answers directly on the SERP page, instead of throwing a list of webpages, maps, ads or links.

The current keyword and Pagerank based ranking system isn’t going anywhere but I believe we are entering an age where results are not ranked merely by Pagerank authority. Google fellow Amit Singhal told WSJ that semantic search will process information by understanding the actual meaning of words. An excerpt from the post:

Google search will look more like “how humans understand the world”. For many searches today, we cross our fingers and hope there’s a web page out there with the answer. Some major changes will show up in the coming months, Google is undergoing a years-long process to enter the “next generation of search.”

Mind you, Google already provides answers to simple questions e.g the population of India, the capital of Australia and the author of The Tempest, so there is nothing new here. But according to the WSJ report, semantic search will tightly integrate with Google search, offering answers and close suggestions that are contextually relevant.

This can mean a lot of things, other than just plain answers. If someone performs a search for a famous singer or a band, Google might show all the music albums and DVD’s of the current artist on the search result page itself. This can be disastrous for sites who rely only on the long tail of search, buy tons of links for a specific keyword and lure users to their affiliate commission sales page. For if users find all the music albums of a particular artist directly on, they surely won’t click the fourth result on the SERP page.

On another note, this can be the false front for a forthcoming war on Apple’s Siri, remember Google Majel? Eric Schimdt has already declared Siri as a competitive threat to Google’s mobile search so this move completes the equation.

There is another guy with the same label of “an answer search engine”. Bing.

Well done Google, I remember they copied your results way back.

The ability to learn faster than your competitors may be only sustainable competitive advantage. ~ how true!

[Editorial] Google Panda Completes 1 Year: A Timeline, Analysis and Suggestions

22nd February and 11th April, 2011 – I will remember these two dates forever. One year ago, Google pushed out a much needed algorithmic update to its search filter, popularly known as the Panda farmer update. This algorithmic update, as you might know, was designed to target content farms and spam sites but the real scenario was very different from theoretical goals as thousands of legitimate publishers saw a big dive in their organic traffic. Panda was launched to address “low quality” or “thin” content and being a site wide penalty, this update did not make any exceptions; changing SEO best practices forever.

The reality: Panda is color blind and sees things only in white or black. Either your site falls entirely in the Panda pit or you are never affected at all. There is no hanging in the middle, pure binary stuff.

The most frustrating thing regarding Panda is that it is a rolling update and the iterations are manually pushed. You can’t expect results overnight. You have to patiently make a change, wait for 90 days, see if your changes were noticed by Google and move on to make the next change. If your site was affected by any of Google’s Panda iterations, you know how difficult it is to arrive at conclusions. There are a lot of factors, some examples:

  • Site design, architecture, navigation and usability.
  • Advertisements – how much is too much?
  • Content quality – the definition of “Good content”, “Shallow content”, “thin content” and “poor content”.
  • Content exclusivity – why does your website even exist?
  • Links / Social signals.
  • Trust.

Your Old Tweets Are Now Mined By Advertisers. That’s Because Twitter Sold Them.

datasiftTwitter has sold all your old tweets to Datasift, a UK based data mining company for market research, according to a report from Dailymail. That’s right, anything you’ve posted on your Twitter account is now also stored on Datasift’s servers and will be mined by advertisers and data research companies. Datasift has already launched a platform which allows advertisers to search trends in Tweets ranging back to January 2010. Unless you maintain a private Twitter timeline, all your old tweets will be sold which also includes location data, date, time and GPS information.

Any guesses on who founded Datasift? None other than Tweetmeme founder Nick Halstead, who confirmed the historical data partnership with Twitter through a blog post.

Here is a brief video which briefly explains Datasift’s working model:

Here are some official words from Datasift:

DataSift Historics enables companies to tap into historical Twitter data to filter and extract insights and trends that relate to brands, businesses, customers, financial markets, news and public opinion.

To create insights from Social Data, we enrich every Tweet with details including sentiment, topics, web-links, location and social media influence – giving companies an unprecedented capability to filter Social Data, extract meaning and create insights.

Before you label this as an “unethical act”, read Twitter’s  TOS which clearly states that:

You retain your rights to any Content you submit, post or display on or through the Services. By submitting, posting or displaying Content on or through the Services, you grant us a worldwide, non-exclusive, royalty-free license (with the right to sublicense) to use, copy, reproduce, process, adapt, modify, publish, transmit, display and distribute such Content in any and all media or distribution methods (now known or later developed).

At the end of the day, a tweet is nothing but publicly accessible information posted by the user. Precisely, YOU. Your tweets can be read by anyone, including third party services or apps. I agree that you own the rights to any content you post but you are not the sole owner of your Tweet. Twitter is. Unless of course you keep deleting old tweets every other day.

Twitter has to make money in some way or the other, if you think you are going to enjoy this ride on a free ticket until eternity, you’re day dreaming. Sponsored tweets? Advertisements? Nah, Twitter won’t be as aggressive with ads as Facebook is. They care about their users, right? Right.

I agree with Graham on his quote

Did you think Twitter was just for fun? That your tweets were just harmless irrelevant mutterings into the electronic ether? You’re wrong. You’re taking part in a massive market-research study.

Google Confirms Panda 3.3 Update, Changes How Link Popularity Influences Search Results

google-pandaGoogle has confirmed that a new Panda update was rolled out in the last week of February, 2012. Along with 40 improvements pushed to the filter, it is expected that this update will have a lasting impact on sites who practice unethical link building. In their official blog post, Google has clearly mentioned that they are completely turning off a method of link analysis that was being used for several years. The link analysis algorithm is now re-constructed and Google is now stressing more on traditional algorithmic ranking factors.

Here is a brief synopsis of some noteworthy changes that looks appealing:

  • Shopping rich snippets goes international which means, now you can look at the meta description of a search result and find relevant products, prices, availability, ratings and review counts. Previously, shopping rich snippets were only available in US, Germany and Japan.
  • Deeper integration of web search history will show personalized results based on what you have searched before. For example, if you did a search for “women’s clothing”, arrived to a site from search results and immediately hit the back button, you might not see that site again, given that you perform the exact same query after one month. This example is just my assumption, not an official declaration.
  • Video results will be more detailed than before as Google will now show direct links to most popular videos of a YouTube channel in search results.
  • The rankings of local search results will now consider the rankings of main search results as a signal. Google says that they have figured out a more reliable way to find results from a user’s city, so they can serve location specific web documents to the user.

Coming back to link popularity and how this Panda update is going to redefine the influence of links, I have this feeling that they are going to dilute the value of “old” links. The age of a link decides how fresh the “value”  of a “vote” is. Savvy webmasters have a tendency to outperform their competitors with “number”. Instead of focusing on the content or service, spammers (and legitimate publishers too) try to beat the competition by buying tons of links. As far as ranking goes, the link score of a page (often termed as PageRank) is still a very important factor. For the long tail of search, PageRank can be ignored but if you are considering short and straight queries, PageRank is still a very dominating signal among all the other 200 signals Google uses in their search algorithm.

A consequence of PageRank is the prosperity of link farms and so called “Seo companies” who sell text links to webmasters, in return of a ranking boost. This method works wonders for some but it is a highly risky zone and might have negative effects on your overall ranking going forward.

This isn’t going to work in a Post Panda world. Sooner or later, the algorithm will detect your spam behavior so before it’s too late, bid adieu to low quality link building, improve your content and try to attract links organically.

This Chrome Extension Takes Out Gmail Chat From The Browser

I am not a big fan of IM programs and hence do not use desktop chat clients e.g Google Talk, Pidgin, Digsby or Meebo. The built in chat feature of Gmail is perfectly suitable for brief conversations but there is a small catch. During a chat conversation, you have to either stick to the Gmail tab forever or constantly oscillate between multiple tabs, which can be highly annoying at times. I am composing a blog post and here comes my friend whom I can’t ignore, I switch to the Gmail tab, send a message, fall back to the earlier tab and in comes the ding!

This cycle goes on and I have to find the Gmail tab within a sea of open browser tabs; there seems to be no possible way to get out of this situation other than sticking to the Gmail tab through the entire conversation.

If you are anything like me and want to detach Gmail chat from the browser, try this chat for Google chrome extension. This extension frees Gmail chat from Google Chrome, allowing you to reply to messages from no matter what web page you’re on at any given moment. The extension works exactly the same as the desktop Gmail client, with added support for email, video calling and Google Plus hangouts.

Once you have installed the extension, sign in to your Gmail account and you are through. Here is how the chat UI of the extension looks like:


To start a voice call or a Google Plus hangout, all you have to do is hit the respective icons on the chat window. One of the biggest advantage is the ability to send quick emails to your Gmail contacts, right from the desktop, without having to open Gmail at all. Type the name of the contact in the search pane, hit the result, compose your email and shoot! No more inbox gazing every 30 minutes.


The extension is slightly slow and IM’s might take a little longer to go through. Another downside is that it doesn’t support multiple user profiles or multiple Gmail accounts, so if you are using a shared computer, you better use the standalone desktop chat client. [via]

Also read: Ultimate list of tips and tricks for Google Chrome

Google Retiring Adsense For Domains On April 18th, Run Typo Squatters Run!

Another day, another Google product shutting down. But this time, I am more than happy.

Google has decided to retire Adsense for domains, which means that Adsense publishers won’t be able to monetize parked domains using the Adsense for domains program after April 18th, 2012. There are a few reports where existing Adsense publishers received the following email from Google Adsense team:

We’re contacting you because you’re using AdSense for Domains to monetize your undeveloped domains. After evaluating the benefits of our partner network, we’ve decided to retire the Hosted domains product within AdSense. Going forward, undeveloped domains will only be served through our existing AdSense for Domains distribution network.

Our records show that 7 of your Hosted domains will be affected by this upcoming change, which will follow the schedule below:

March 21: You’ll no longer be able to create new Hosted domains.
April 18: Hosted domains will become inactive and it’ll no longer be possible to earn from them.
June 27: Hosted domains will no longer be available in AdSense accounts

To continue monetizing your undeveloped domains, you can migrate your domain portfolio to any domain parking provider.

parked-domainsOther Adsense products e.g Adsense for content, Adsense for feeds and Adsense for search will continue to work normally. If you have a whole bunch of domains parked within your Google Adsense account, better move them to another parking provider as ads won’t be served after April 18th. On June 27th, all the hosted domains will be permanently removed from your Adsense account.

Google has put up a support page here, including a guide to migrate your hosted domains to another parking provider.

Being an Adsense publisher myself, I never found Adsense for domains very convincing. Unlike me, some savvy web publishers constantly try the “get rich quick” myth, buy tons of keyword domains in bulk and park them within their Adsense account. The result is nothing but an ad laden page, full of Adsense ads with absolutely no content, no links, no value. Nothing!

One idea, which I know worked wonders for many publishers is to buy misspelled domain names as early as possible, throw Adsense ads over it and forget about it. What really happens is that the publisher spends only $2-$5 in registering a domain name and waits to earn some revenue from “Garbage traffic”. Those who have mastered this art know that most of the typo-squatting sites will fail anyway but one of them will bring a decent amount of revenue.

Here is a brilliant example of another typo squatting site:


If you’re one of those Adsense publishers, I am afraid there isn’t any decent alternative which you can use after April 18th 2012. My advice: stop wasting time on keyword domains and do something worthwhile already.