All posts by Amit Banerjee

Amit has been writing for Techie Buzz since early 2009 and keeps a close eye on web apps, Google and all things Tech. He also writes at his own tech blog, Ampercent. Follow him on Twitter @ amit_banerjee

After Google Search, Gmail Joins The Redesign Club

Google is on a redesigning spree!

Few days ago, they rolled out a redesigned Google search for everyone and launched their social gig Google Plus on an invite only basis. Previously, we reported time and again that Google is heavily experimenting with the design and overall usability of search result pages. They removed the I am feeling lucky button, added a black navigation menu bar and introduced quite a few search enhancements for more meaningful results.

Now it’s Gmail’s turn.

Google is rolling out a complete redesign of Gmail in phases and here is how your redesigned Gmail inbox is supposed to look like:

gmail-redesigned1

Gmail’s new design aims to gift you a clutter free inbox, more white space between labels, items, individual messages and tries to soothe your eye with bold colors. Red, Blue, Grey, Black…maybe Green and Indigo are next.

If you are still on the older UI and want to test Gmail’s upcoming redesigned interface, follow these steps:

1. Click the Settingsicon at the right top corner of Gmail inbox and choose Mail Settings

add-gmail-theme

2. In the “Settingspage, switch to the Themestab, scroll down and activate the Previewtheme for Gmail. There are two versions: light and dense.

The dense version will give you a compact Gmail inbox with less spacing between different items. If you get tons of email every single day, the dense version will be ideally suited as you will have to scroll a little lesser. However, if you want to get rid of the clutter and want a clean layout – go for the light one.

gmail-redesigned

Gmail says in a blog post that Google wants to provide a unified experience across all Google services. Whether you are using Google search, Google Reader, Google Plus or Gmail – you will see the same design and colors, once the design roll out is pushed globally.

Personally, I am not a fan of boldcolors and I think they distract me a little. But it’s just a matter of time when my eyes gets used to the new Gmail design and I will start loving it anyway.

Note: In order to get Gmail’s redesigned inbox, it is not mandatory to have a Google Plus account. Some users have this confusion that the redesigned Gmail interface is only available to users who have signed up for Google Plus. It’s not true and Google apps users can also test the new dense and light themes of Gmail.

Now considering the fact that Google is rolling out it’s new design across all Google services one by one, how would Google Reader look like in the coming days? One user created a pretty similar mockup of Google Reader here

google_reader_new_interface_mockup

Who’s next? YouTube?

 

Google+: What It is And How it Works [Screenshot Tour]

So you have successfully created your Google Plus profile, still getting the hang of it, and want to know the inside details and working of Google plus. If you haven’t joined Google Plus yet, try requesting an invitation for Google Plus here and read our guide on setting up your Google Plus profile for the first time.

What Is Google Plus And How it Works?

Google Plus is a new initiative from Google, which aims to simplify your social sharing experience and connect with people who matter to you in real life. But wait…don’t we already have Facebook, Twitter and dozens of social sharing sites already?

Yes, but Google plus takes a different approach towards social sharing, and this guy has better privacy control on the features provided.

Don’t you hate it when a random friend adds you to a stupid Facebook group? Do you go mad when you receive tons of spam mentions on Twitter? They are all public and anyone can find it via a simple search [@your_Twitter-handle]. Are you fed up with people who mass tag you in photos and videos, which really gets in the way of your social privacy? You don’t want to remove those friends from your social life, it’s just that you want to prevent them from doing the same nonsense over and over again.

Enter Google Plus same social sharing and connections but no more fiddling with user privacy. In Google Plus, your friends or followers will have to take prior permission from you, if they want you to tag in a photo or video. There is no Wall so the question of spam links and malicious apps being posted on your profile is burned to death.

If you tag someone in a post, and share it only with him, none else can see it. Not even mutual friends !

How Circles In Google + Works

Everything in Google + works through Circles.

A Circle is an identifier for the network you create and it is visible to you only. You can create as many circles as you want, and add friends to one or more circles that you have created. No one except you will be able to see the name and visibility of your Google Plus circles.

google-plus-circles

The best thing regarding Google Plus is that Google will automatically scan your email contact list and Android contacts and suggest you people whom you might want to follow. You may add these people to your circles through a beautiful and intuitive drag-and-drop interface.

If you want to follow a celebrity or a famous person on Google Plus, simply search for his name on the search box and add him to a circle you have created. Again, this circle is visible only to you so you can safely name it anything you want.

find-people

 

Your Google Plus Life Stream

Your Google Plus life stream will contain updates from all the people whom you are following. This includes photos, status updates, videos and comments from people whom you have added to your Google + circles.

google-plus-stream

Filtering Updates From Specific Circles

On the right pane, you will notice that all the circles are listed one after another. Click the name of a circle and you should see the filtered life stream, containing updates from people who have been added to that particular circle only. This is super useful and helps you to stay in touch with family members, and friends, so you never miss out catching up the updates of quietpeople among those who are highly active on Google plus.

filtered-stream

Your Google Plus Notifications

On the top right corner of your Google plus profile, you will notice a sleek notifications button. This little kid will continue monitoring your Google plus activity and alert you whenever someone comments in a post you commented earlier, someone replies to your status update or tags you in a photo uploaded by you.

google-plus-notifications

Further, you will see a brief preview of which of your friends are participating in a discussion within your circle. This is really nice and quite similar to Facebook, the only difference here is that there would be no notification like Mr X tagged you in a photo. Anyone who wants to tag you in a photo will have to obtain your prior permission, which is very very useful and a godsend.

Chat With Plus One Buddies Or Email Them

Every social network has an option to send instant messages to their followers and friends and Google Plus is no exception. The chat widget is placed down the bottom of right pane where you can click the name of a person and send him an instant message right away.

Contrary to Facebook and Twitter, there is no way to send private messages to your Google plus friends and contacts. Instead, there is a handy option called Email’ placed right below the profile photo of your Google Plus friend, click it and you can send a private message directly to his email inbox.

send-email-google-plus-one

Please note that your friends can choose whether he wants to allow you to send him an email or not. In some profiles, you may not find the Email Meoption, this is because the person has customized his email settings to suit his needs.

Controlling Email Notifications

For all your Google Plus activity, you will receive email notifications to the email address you used to sign up for Google Plus. Individual notification settings can be toggled from the notifications page

google-plus-account-settings1

Google plus In Android

Android users can install the official Google plus application using this link. Here are some screenshots of Google plus application for Android [thanks Sathya]

google-plus-android-app-screenshots

There are a lot of other tips and tricks for Google plus which you should learn. We are still digging out more features, settings and shortcuts for Google plus, come back soon!

Google Plus For Dummies: Setting it Up For The First Time

All right folks, calm down.

Google’s latest social gig Google Plus is out and lots of people are jumping in right away. At this moment, Google Plus is available as invite only, we have some invitations to give away here.

Google plus is a new initiative from Google which aims to redefine how social sharing works. With Circles, Hangouts and lots of innovative features, Google plus is definitely here to stay.

Things To Know Before You Setup Your Google Plus Profile

Before you ask anyone for a Google plus invite, here are a few things you should know:

1. Google Plus works only with Google accounts that have an active Google profile. If you haven’t created your Google profile yet, you won’t be able to sign up for Google Plus.

2. Only regular Gmail accounts are supported and you can’t use your Google apps account to setup a Google Plus profile. if you ask anyone to send you an invitation to your Google Apps email address, you will never receive it in the first place.

3. If you have a Yahoo or Windows Live Hotmail account and you have used it to sign up for a Google account, you are good to go. But make sure you have created your Google profile and it’s visibility is public.

Setting Up Your Google Plus Profile

When you click the invitation link sent to your email address, you will be taken to Google Plus where you have to sign in with your Google account. That’s it, you are on board and in full swing to use Google Plus. Here is the first screen:

google-plus-setting-up

 

After you have  successfully completed signing up for Google Plus, you will need to know a thing or two about how Google Plus works and what are it’s inside twists and perks.

Part 2: What is Google Plus And How it Works

We have put up a step by step screenshot tour for Google Plus which will help you learn about the basic features of Google plus. You will learn more on how circles work in Google Plus and how social sharing and conversations happens almost in real time.

Update:  Don’t miss out on some really good articles on using Google+ along with several other editorials we have written for you.

Google TakeOut Makes It Easy To Export Your Data Out of Google

The one thing I really admire about Google as a company is it’s open nature towards the data of it’s users. Google has always said that the biggest asset of their business is peopleand they always want users to control the data that’s stored in their Google account.

You might know that Google already provides an online dashboard feature which allows users to manage or export data out of their Google account. You can export bookmarks, contacts, delete web search history and manage all the information right from your Google dashboard.

Today, the company has unveiled yet another product at google.com/takeout which allows users to export their data out of Google for all Google products they are currently using. Additionally, all the data is made available in open and portable formats so it’s really easy to import them on other services.

google-takeout

Currently, Google takeout works with Google buzz, Google profile, Picasa web albums, Google Contacts and Google circles while support for more products is a work in progress. Using the tool is fairly simple, head over to the Google takeout page, sign in with your Google account and choose the products for whom you want to export the data.

Once you are done, hit the Create Archivebutton and Google will provide a zip download for all the data that’s stored on your Google account.

I tried this tool with Google Contacts and it worked as described. After unzipping the package, all my contacts were shown as a Microsoft Outlook vcard file, as shown below:

download-contacts

After you have downloaded all the stuff from your Google account, you can delete them from your Google account dashboard page. Google explains

We believe that if we make it easy for you to leave Google, we have to work just that much harder to make sure that you don’t want to.

Take that Facebook!

Google Introduces Author Thumbnails On Search Result Pages, Another Step Towards Highlighting “Quality Content”

Google has just introduced yet another update on how content is shown on search result pages. Starting today, you might see a small thumbnail of the author placed on the right of a search result, as shown below:

author-results-google-search

This is a indeed a huge step towards increasing the quality of search results and providing the user substantial amount of trust factor. If you are a well known person in your industry and people trust you for the content you write, there is a high chance that they will see and recognize your image on Google search result pages. In some situations, they will skip the highly ranked pages and will click through the link to read your piece. It’s human nature!

The name and thumbnail image are derived from the Google profile of the author in question. This feature is still in it’s experimental stage but the way Google is rolling up updates one after another, expect it to go global within a couple of weeks.

How Google Identifies the Author of An Article?

Three things are in play here: the content page on the website, an author page on the same domain and an active Google profile of the author.

Google uses a lot of different signals to determine whether a particular author has a substantial amount of authorityon the subject. To ensure that your author profile is shown on Google search result pages, here are a few things you should know and implement:

1. If you haven’t created a Google profile yet, do it right now. Add a profile image and a clear bio describing your areas of interest, previous work experience and the sites for whom you write or contribute.

2. Next, add the links of sites where you contribute articles on a regular basis. When you link your Google profile to the author pages where you contribute content, you are telling Google that you are the person who wrote this piece. And don’t just link to the homepage of the site, link to your author page so Google can find all your articles.

3. Ask the webmaster of the site to incorporate support for authorship markup. The markup uses standard markup tags e.g (rel=author) and (rel=me) to enable search engines and other web services identify content produced by the same author across different websites.

It is important to note that Google will list the identifiedcontent on the +1 tab of your Google profile. This is unlike manual links added by the author and Google will automatically identify Youas the author of an article and show it on your Google profile.

Will following all the best practices for authorship markup automatically guarantee that your profile image will be shown on Google search results? I guess, No.

Users won’t see a thumbnail attached to every link on search result pages. Instead, a few results will be highlighted, showcasing the work produced by Bestauthors writing on the subject the user is searching for. Will this also include social signals? Google isn’t saying but with the introduction of Google plus one button and the very recent +1 social service, I guess it’s just a matter of time when social signals and authorship markup will go hand in hand.

From the past couple of months, Google has been increasingly focusing upon increasing the overall quality and usability of their search results. First, they declared war on content farms by introducing an algorithmic update which was geared towards reducing the rankings of low quality sites and pushing higher quality sites up, so users can find high quality content instantly. The algorithmic update had some serious consequences, so Google is constantly pushing out minor tweaks to it’s search algorithm.

And not just machine learning, Google is also heavily experimenting with the behavior of humans and how their eyeballs react to the design changes.   They introduced a related search feature at the bottom, removed the I am feeling lucky button from the middle and changed the header by introducing a black navigational bar at the top.

With so many design and usability changes in such a short span of time, it is evident that Google is constantly experimenting the overall usability and quality factor of search results.

More information regarding author results on Google search is available on this webmaster tools help page

Twitter For Newsroom Launched: Your Guide To Twitter Basics

twitter-logoTwitter is no doubt one of the best ways to find breaking stories and up to date information about something which is happening right at this moment.

Whether it be the death of Osama Bin Laden or the Japan Earthquakes, Twitterverse is always booming with information, news or scoops in real time. What makes Twitter so useful and compelling is it’s universal and spontaneous nature. Anyone can break a story, news or deal on his Twitter profile and if the tweet is really worth, it will spread within minutes. This is very different as well as way faster than old media where the end user gets the information after much editorial processing.

But here is the catch: not everyone is familiar with Twitter basics and sometimes they need clear and concise guidelines on how to use Twitter to dig out specific information they are interested in. Most newbies think Twitter as a large chat room with useless discussions without going into the finer details, which is now made a little easy.

Twitter has launched an official site at media.twitter.com/newsrooms which provides detailed guidelines on how to use Twitter to find sources, embed tweets on webpages or promote your own stuff on Twitter. The site is geared towards people who are new to Twitter and need help in understanding how Twitter works.

twitter-for-newsrooms

Here are a couple of sections from the Twitter Newsroom site which are worth reading:

#Report

This section outlines a suite of search tools which you can use to find tweets that are related to the topics of your interest.

  1. Twitter Search: This section gives some insights on how you can use Twitter search to find information about a particular subject. Please note that Twitter search is also available at twitter.com/search apart from search.twitter.com
  2. Advanced Twitter Search: This is for power users who have lots of Ifs and buts. Learn how to use Twitter advanced search, combine search operators and track conversations between two people (see example).
  3. TweetDeck and Twitter for Mac: Use TweetDeck on your desktop and dedicate columns for specific hash tags. Get real time notifications and there is no need to manually search for the same hash tag or topic every other day.
  4. Archive Search: Need to find old tweets? Use Topsy.com

Twitter says that it is their goal is to help creative professionals in news, TV, sports and entertainment use Twitter effectively.

#Engage

Still not getting hold of Twitter or find it rather confusing? The success stories page will be a good start which showcases examples of Journalists and media persons using Twitter everyday to find information that matters to them.

Furthermore, Twitter gives some more tips on branding your profile with a custom   image, a profile picture and writing a clear and concise bio.

#Publish and #Extras

Some tools of the trade. Learn how to embed tweets on webpages, display selected tweets or add a Followor Tweetbutton on your website.

Finally, the wrap of section contains links to Twitter help pages, problems and troubleshooting issues and a lot of other useful resources.

If you are using Twitter for a year or so, chances are you already know these things. However, if you have a friend or colleague who is new to Twitter and needs help in understanding the basic things, the Newsroom page will be a good start.

Some Tips On Using Twitter Wisely

1. There is no rulebook and the so called ethical guidelines for using Twitter. Everything depends on what you want to achieve through this medium and your tweets should be a reflection of your goals.

2. You don’t need tons of followers to tweet. Everyone started with zero followers.

3. Respecting your followers is a good practice. It won’t hurt if you are tweeting about your lunch or last night tequila party but make sure your tweets are meaningful and not offending or disturbing.

4. Build relationships, not just blind followers with an egg as their profile picture.

5. Communicate with people you care about and talk about things you love, rather than stealing tweets of random celebrities or mimicking someone.

6. Avoid personal attacks or stalking someone publicly. Not only you will lose trust, but you will regret your behavior as the reactions are most likely to pour in.

7. If you are promoting your business on Twitter, register a different account for branding reasons. Your business followers can quickly subscribe to that Twitter profile and get real time updates about your website, without having to go through each and every personal tweet of yours.

8. It’s fine to use auto tweeting services like Twitterfeed but don’t overdo. Be human, no one likes robots.

9. You don’t have to tweet every single hour. Do it when you feel it and don’t worry about F.O.M.O (fear of missing out).

twitter-cartoon

10. Twitter is a great way to connect with strangers and like minded people. When you are talking about something very specific, remember to use appropriate hash tags. People who are searching for the same topic will notice you and they will eventually follow your tweets.

11. Don’t forget to thank your followers when they Retweet your tweets and reply to them when they are mentioning you. It should ideally be a two way channel.

12. If you are using Twitter to market your business, help as many people as possible rather than tweeting about your business all the time. You must deliver value in some way or else no one will stick around in the long run.

13. Self promotion isn’t bad and remember the fact that no one else is going to do that for you. But excessive self promotion equals spam.

14. Your followers are 1000 times smarter than you. Respect their time and attention.

Happy tweeting! See you there

 

Google Chrome Canary Build Introduces An Experimental New Tab Page

The latest version of Google Chrome canary build (14.0.802) houses a lot of changes to the new tab page, sync options and the way apps, bookmarks and the list of most visited sites appear on Google Chrome. Google wants to maximize the browsing area and hide almost everything under shortcuts, which also includes the URL bar and extension buttons.

Before you jump in to find the changes, update Google Chrome canary to it’s latest version and go to the about:flags page.Scroll down and enable all the goodies you want to use in Google Chrome, the latest additions are enabling typed URL sync, enabling the experimental new tab page, restricting instant to search and compact navigation.

When you are done enabling all or some of the new experimental features, hit the Relaunchbutton for the changes to take effect.

Let’s quickly take a look at the new features added to Google Chrome’s latest canary build.

The Experimental New Tab Page

chrome--experimental-new-tab-page

Wow!

Two separate tabs, one for the list of most visited sites and another for Apps.You can slide between the two tabs and keep your apps on one tab while the list of most visited sites on the other. Furthermore, the list of recently closed tabs is grouped at the bottom of the new tab page, clicking which pulls up a menu where you are shown the option to open recently closed tabs in a new browser window. If only I could figure out the keyboard shortcut for flipping between the two tabs on the new tab page, kind of produces a smartphone effect.

Sync Typed URL’s With Your Google Account

sync-typed-urls-google-account

Apart from syncing extensions, bookmarks, passwords and apps with your Google account, you can also sync typed URL’s in Google Chrome. Google understands that the URL’s you type often are important to you and the auto fill suggestion for typed URL’s should be accessible across multiple computers. Hence, say hello to Typed URL sync.

Hide That Toolbar

compact-navigation

Enabling the compact navigationfeature from about:flags page will let you hide every other UI element of chrome. This includes the bookmarks toolbar, the address bar and the extension buttons. All in one shot!

The address bar will be hidden by default. To enter a new web address, you have to either open a new tab   or hit the keyboard shortcut Control + L.

This is nice for users who have been using Google Chrome for quite some time. But not so nice for those who are new and need basic options right in front of their eyes. Then, the canary build is for power users, right?

Tired Of Third Party Download Sites? Fetch.io Brings All Of Them Together

Do you download a lot of movies, torrents and random stuff from the Internet and want a single place where you can manage all the downloads? How about an app which can fetch files from any download server and let you download it at your preferred time, without having to sit back and wait for the downloads to finish right at this moment?

Enter Fetch.io a simple yet useful service which lets you fetch files from any download location to your Fetch.io account. Fetch.io supports torrents, Rapidshare, Megaupload, Mediafire and all the major third party download servers, so instead of downloading files from random servers and losing track of them, you can consolidate all of them on your Fetch.io dashboard.

fetch-files

After adding a file to your Fetch.io account, hit Fetchand forget about it. Fetch.io will download the file on it’s remote server and will send you an email notification when they your file is parsed and ready. Next, you can either download the file directly from your Fetch.io account or grab the URL and share with anyone who might want to download the same file.

Fetch.io works just like a cloud download manager which downloads files to your Fetch.io account instead of the local computer you are using. Many download servers have limitations on file downloads and in some bizarre cases, you may find that the file you have bookmarked has either expired or has been removed from the server. So instead of bookmarking files, movies, videos or torrents which you want to download later, you can use Fetch.io and save them to a remote server which you control.

Once Fetch.io has downloaded that file to your remote server, it’s saved on your Fetch.io account. This service is a lifesaver for users who use multiple computers at work or need to download a really large file but have doubt whether the file will be available at a later point of time.

The service is in closed beta right now, so a desktop application and smartphone support is a work in progress. Currently, Fetch.io provides a hefty 20 GB of free storage to all users, so you can store a lot of files like movies, videos and so on. One downside is that files that are protected by Captchas can’t be added to your Fetch.io download queue. Otherwise, the service does a nice job aggregating files from different download servers at one place and lets you download them when it’s convenient to you.

 

Skype’s 5.5 Beta For Windows Adds More Deeper Facebook Integration

Skype has recently announced a new beta version of their desktop client for Windows users which offers deeper Facebook integration and a new call control toolbar. Although Skype already supports Facebook integration from version 5.0, this new update polishes some existing features while introduces a couple of new ones.

First you will need to connect your Facebook account with Skype, if you haven’t done it already. This can be done by clicking the homebutton on Skype’s desktop client, switching to the Facebooktab and hitting the Connectbutton.

connect-skype-facebook-account

In the next window, sign in to your Facebook account and grant all the necessary permissions . Skype will import your entire Facebook contact list so that you can chat with Facebook friends directly from Skype, see your Facebook news feed, like or comment on status updates and send SMS messages to any of your Facebook friends who have added their phone number to their Facebook account.

The instant messaging pane will add a Facebooktab, showing all your Facebook friends who are online at the moment. Here is how your Facebook news feed will look inside Skype’s desktop client:

facebook-on-skype

Skype’s integration with Facebook looks good so far but it is in a way incomplete.

skype-notificationFirst, there is no way you can call a Facebook friend within Skype, if they don’t have a Skype account. We already have dozens of IM clients so it was necessary on part of Skype to introduce a voice chat feature with Facebook friends.

Second, you can’t customize your Facebook news feed within Skype’s desktop client. There is no way to block apps, hide updates from specific people, view a particular friend list and so on. Skype will pull out your entire news feed in it’s default state which is not very friendly in nature.

The only advantage here is that you will get desktop notification whenever any of your Facebook friends come online. A sleek Mr X is now onlinenotification pops up near Windows system tray, which looks nice.

Skype was acquired by Microsoft in May 2011.

 

Google Testing A New Design Of Search Result Pages, Removes “I am feeling Lucky”

Looks like Google wants to do away with the classic I am Feeling Luckybutton. Some sources have reported that they are seeing another major design overhaul of Google search where the “I am Feeling Luckybutton is missing.

google-not-feeling-lucky

From the last couple of months, Google has been testing newer mockups every other week. First, they tested a completely new look of Google search result pages by changing the color, fonts and spacing’s between links.

Soon after, they performed another test by moving the URL up and placed it between the title and meta description. If you have missed our earlier stories, the following screenshot should do a quick recap:

changes-google-search-design

The third mockup however, adopts a rich color scheme, removes the I am Feeling Luckybutton and slightly revamps the order of links in Google search result pages. Let’s take a look at another screenshot (courtesy Google operating system blog):

google-search-redesign

As you can observe, the search button has been replaced with a really bold counterpart where the word Searchhas been removed and replaced with a magnifying glassicon. The header portion of Google search result pages has been revamped with a greyish background while the sidebar filters have received a new color (Red). There is no hover background for the sidebar filter links, while the Cachedand Similarlinks have been moved to the Instant Previewbox.

With so many changes one after another, it’s no wonder Google wants to completely redefine the usability of search result pages. This is evident with their algorithmic tweaks which aims to improve the quality of search results. On both fronts, Google wants to provide a useful user experience and since they are testing a major design overhaul of their search result pages in parallel with the Panda algorithmic update, it’s clear that something big is round the corner.

The newer design has not been rolled out yet, so we will have to wait until Google pushes it out to all users globally.

Google’s “Me on The Web” Tracks Online Mentions Of Your Name, Just Like Google Alerts

online-identityOn the eyes of a random searcher, your online identity largely depends on which pages are returned when they search for you on major search engines.

It’s a known fact that most recruiters are most likely to perform a Google search for your name before they decide to hire you.

The question is: how do search engines decide which pages should be returned when someone is Googling for your name, email address, company site and so on. Two factors come into play here.

First, what you say about yourself. Your personal blog, Twitter profile, Google profile amongst other social sites are strong signals of your online identity. Second, what other people are saying about you, who is linking to your site’s about page, who is mentioning your name in comments, who is conversing with you on Twitter and so on.

Hence, it is really important to keep your eyes really wide open on online conversations that are related to you in some way or the other.

Google is at your rescue again, with the introduction of Me On the web- a personal reputation management tool available on your Google account dashboard.

Google’s Me On The Web

Google’s Me on the webtool lets you track online reactions which may be related to you in some way or the other. The tool is powered by Google alerts and lets you set up search alerts for your name email address, website or specific keywords which are directly associated with your brand, company, service and so on.

google-me-on-web

For me on the webto work, you must have an active Google profile. No wonder Google wants to push Google profilesto more and more people out there so that their socialsignal strength becomes more and more widespread. What I mean is that there is nothing new here, all the features are already available on Google Alerts. In fact, the overlay window itself claims that Me on the webis powered by Google alerts, so it’s clear that Google wants more and more people to create their Google profiles and use this service to track their online identity.

Some Downsides of Google’s Me On The Web

There are two downsides though.

First, there is no way to subscribe to these custom alerts using RSS. I get dozens of email every single day and I am a little skeptical on receiving stuff on my email inbox. I have some Google alerts working round the clock in Google reader, so there is no way I am going to use me on the web. Thumbs down.

Second, the results are not archived and you are shown only recent results. If someone linked to your site and it appeared as an alert four months back, you have to dig up that old email message. There is no way to find that old alert directly from your Google dashboard. It’s lost in time !

Overall, this is not really useful for power users but if you have never heard of Google alerts, you may want to try this out.

Google Improves It’s Related Search Feature, Shows Similar Items From A List

Often times, you may want to see similar items that closely match with your search criteria.

It’s unlikely that you will remember the names and details of all the items that belong to a group. Let’s quickly take an example to understand how list of searches work.

Say you are researching about American presidentsand want an easy way to find out all the individuals who were previously president of USA. You don’t know the name of any U.S president at all so how do you search anyway?

One example in this case is to head over to Wikipedia or any other website which has a list of all U.S presidents, copy the name from that website, prepare your internal list and then start your research on Google.com.

Google understands that in some situations, it makes perfect sense to show all the items that belong to a particular group. NBA players, American authors, Spielberg movies, you get the idea.

Starting today, you might see a Top Referencessection at the bottom of Google search result pages which is an improvement to how related searches are shown on Google.com. Previously, Google offered search suggestions focusing only on the long tail of search and different keyword variations.   But this feature has been extended to work with lists and items that are part of a subset of queries.

Here is how.

google-related-searches

Previously, users were only shown different keyword and phrase variations of the same search. This is an aggregate data of search queries which closely matches with the queries of other users. Google has extended this feature for specific queries with the Top Referencesfeature which now shows different items from a list.

So if you are searching for American authors, Google thinks that you want a list of American authors and then refine your search deeper. It can happen that you don’t remember the name of John Steinbeck, so Google will now show you all the items that match with your query, so you can just click on the list item and perform long tail searches on your own.

If you click one of these links, the collection of links moves to the top of the results page and results are shown depending on the links you click next.

google-related-searches1

These related searches currently appear in English only on google.com. Google says in a blog post that their search algorithms uses variety of signals to determine the most relevant and accurate items that may be present on a list. These suggestions are shown automatically when Google thinks the user is searching for a specific item that is part of a bigger group. Please note that there is no way to toggle Top Referencessuggestion on Google.com, as you can do with related searchesavailable in the left sidebar.

Some observations:

1. The Top Referencessuggestion is shown only for very very popular queries.

2. Most of these queries are short in nature. Works best with one or two words at maximum.

3. Searching for an individual list item won’t show you the references suggestion. Instead, if you type in the name of the larger group, you are most likely to see similar items of the same list. So if you search for Mark Twain, you won’t see any references suggestion at all. Instead, you have to search for american authorsand the references suggestion should appear.

Google has been quite busy rolling up updates one after another. A few days back they introduced voice search, search with images and Instant pages. We told you that Google is working on a major design overhaul of their search result pages with the URL’s being plastered between the title and description snippet. It looks like their search team is also focusing on user interaction and discoverability of content, not just design, look or feel.

We tried this improvement with some sample queries [Indian cricketers], [nobel prize winners] and [seven wonders of the world]. Try them out and let us know your thoughts in the comments section.

Google’s Les Paul Guitar Doodle Gets It’s Own Homepage

All right, all right. Google’s famous Les Paul Guitar doodle lives in eternity, just like Google’s Pacman doodle.

If you have missed our earlier story, Google’s Les Paul Guitar doodle featured a sweet electric guitar with strings and notes that can be played using your computers keyboard and mouse. U.S citizens were also provided an additional option to record songs and share their recordings using a Google Doodle shortlink.

Seeing the immense popularity, Google tweeted that they would be keeping the Les Paul doodle for one more day. Guess, one day was not enough!

Google has now put up a dedicated homepage for the Les Paul Google doodle, which is available and will be available round the clock, till the Internet lives.

google-les-paul-doodle-homepage

Just as the Pacman Google doodle is still available at Google.com/pacman, the Les Paul   will continue to operate from it’s homepage. The only difference here is that the search box is missing from the Les Paul’s homepage which means you can’t search and play music at the same time. This is unlike Google’s Pacman doodle which lets you search as well as play the game from the same page.

Some Creative uses of Google’s Les Paul Guitar Doodle

Here are some songs recorded using Google’s Les Paul doodle:

Tell us your favorites in the comments section.

Don’t You Ever Kill Indian BullFrogs. And If You Must, Don’t Post It On Facebook Or Twitter

Weekends are often fun and ideal for relieving the stress accumulated during the week. Some folks turn to the beaches, hang out with friends, watch movies while a few of them try bizarre hobbies like Poaching.

One youth from India just ran into trouble due to his Poachingand social mediahabits.

indian-bullfrogEarlier today, an Indian resident named Yoko Gomes posted a message on Facebook saying he loves to kill Indian Bullfrogs and eating them is his hobby. Shortly after his message went viral on Facebook, cops and forest department officials raided his house only to find him missing, as he was already on his way to Mumbai.

The cops, paired with Goa forest department officials searched the house for evidence and found traces of cooked frog at his place. The officials are now questioning Yoko’s parents about the matter.

A local NGO network from Goa found Yoko’s Facebook status update and lodged a legal complaint with the forest department.

We had downloaded all the content from Facebook and attached it with the complaint,” Clinton Vaz, an activist of Wild Goa Network, said.

As it turns out, the bullfrog feast partywas squashed and the youth left his house in a hurry.

The Takeaway Lesson?

Facebook, Twitter and all these social sharing sites are great but there is a limit to everything. Posting each and every rant of yours online can get you into serious trouble.

You see, the Government is very serious with the IT regulations and online human behavior these days. Since the Internet is kind of a No Mans landand there is no rulebook, does not necessarily mean that you should go over the board and start posting everything, round the clock.

Some insane examples:

If I don’t get back my damaged laptop within a day, I will bomb XYZ companies headquarters Okay you said this biting your teeth in anger but the cops might take it seriously. And don’t expect them to be as tech savvy as you are, chances are that they won’t check your online reputation before sending someone to trace you out.

I am without power for three days, if this electricity company doesn’t fix things up…. I am going to kidnap the CEO’s daughter   Heh! You got 10 retweets but if the cops catch you, expect more bad mentions.

I hacked into this XYZ Government website this proves you are an amateur because a real hacker won’t ever reveal his identity.

Somewhere down the road, you have to draw a line to keep your online and offline life balanced. Your offline life is much more valuable than this virtual, always connected and ever expanding environment called Internet.

Don’t let the latter screw up the former.

About Indian Bullfrogs: Indian bullfrog are the largest specie of frogs found on the Indian subcontinent. It’s a protected specie and as per the wildlife rules and regulations of India, killing or poaching of frogs is a punishable offence.

[ Source: TOI, Photo credit ]

P.S: I don’t like Amphibians, they scare me away.

So You Thought Twitter DM’s Are Completely Private?

twitter-dmUnlike mentions, Twitter DM’s are completely private in nature and are accessible only to you and the receiver to whom you are sending the Direct message. So it’s safe to assume that Twitter DM’s are not accessible to any third party apps, which has been proved wrong by a demo Twitter app.

The fact: Some Twitter apps can access your mentions, timeline, following list and direct messages without any prior permission as such.

Ok, so where is the proof and which app we are talking here?

If you are really curious and want to see the results hands on, go to the Royal test application page, sign in with your Twitter account, grant all the necessary permissions and let the app rip off your entire history of direct messages in less than a minute. It would be wise to first create a dummy Twitter account, send a few test DM’s and then sign in with this dummy account to check whether the app can access those messages.

I tested the app with my own Twitter account and was surprised to see the app produced the entire history of all direct messages I have sent and received, since the day I created my Twitter account. Here are the results:

send-message

And here is the list of direct messages I have received on my Twitter account:

received-message

Another  important  thing to note here is that although I had deleted a lot of messages from my Twitter inbox, those deleted messages reappeared once I used the app. Same goes to all received messages !

If you think this is not possible at all, we have a 1 minute hands on video which shows how this app can completely fetch your DM’s:

The app authorization screen clearly states that this app won’t be able to access your Twitter DM’s. Not to forget the fact that Twitter recently changed their oauth authorization screen and added more explicit details on the data which an application can access, once you start using it.

app-permissions

Robin Wauters from Techcrunch writes

Twitter recently updated its OAuth screens, which are supposed to give users greater transparency about the level of access third-party applications have to their accounts. What has happened is that the new authentication model   was supposed to go live on June 1st, but they postponed it to the end of June without fully realizing that the new UI for the OAuth permission screens would already be live.

As it turns out, this is a flaw in the oauth authorization screen upgrade which was scheduled for June 1st. The upgrade has been postponed till June 30th so don’t authorize any suspicious third party app whose oauth authorization page claims that they can’t access your Twitter direct messages.

If you have a lot of confidential data and important messages saved on your Twitter account, you should be really careful and double check your application settings from Twitter > Settings > Applications.

P.S: Previously we did another video discussing the vulnerabilities of Gmail, Twitter and Facebook over an https connection.