Google Refine 2.0: Power Tools for Working With Data

A few days ago, I was watching a TED talk by David McCandless where he said something that has moved me. His words were,

data is the new oil, data is the new soil.

Data is raw and unusable without proper management and handling. Google has stepped into this business with its service Google Refine 2.0.

Google Refine is a rebranding of the Freebase Gridworks service Google acquired as a part of the  Metaweb acquisition. The service works with the data to provide it with easy and powerful tools to remove inconsistencies, transform data, using web-services with the data, and linking it to a database. As the  Google open-source blog says, the service can work wonders with messy data.

Google Refine 2.0 will serve an excellent back-end for data visualization services. It has been well received by the Chicago Tribune and open-government data communities. Along with Google Squared, Refine 2.0 can create a powerful research tool. Learn more on the service from these video. The open-source project hosting can be found here.

Introduction

Data Transformation

Data Augmentation

Google Steps Up Its Game Against Facebook: Calls It A “Trap”

Google might rule the roost today, but five years on the scenario might be very different. Facebook is amassing a treasure trove of data on users around the globe that might give it the competitive advantage it needs to take on Google, and Google is obviously aware of this.

Facebook

Earlier this week, Google updated its ToS (Terms of Service) to stop Facebook from importing contact data from Google (Gmail). Within a couple of days, Facebook found a way around this by encouraging users to manually download and then upload their contact information. This trick ensured that users could still import information from Gmail, without Facebook needing to directly access Google’s Contacts Data API or Portable Contacts API.

As you might have guessed, Google isn’t too happy about this. After terming Facebook’s trickery as “disappointing”, Google is now resorting to a more direct approach to discourage users from importing data into Facebook.

Google is automatically displaying the following warning to all users who land on the contacts export page via Facebook:

Google-Facebook-Trap

Hold on a second. Are you super sure you want to import your contact information for your friends into a service that won’t let you get it out?

Here’s the not-so-fine print. You have been directed to this page from a site that doesn’t allow you to re-export your data to other services, essentially locking up your contact data about your friends. So once you import your data there, you won’t be able to get it out. We think this is an important thing for you to know before you import your data there. Although we strongly disagree with this data protectionism, the choice is yours. Because, after all, you should have control over your data.

Google’s motto has always been “Do No Evil”. Of late, critics have questioned Google’s dedication to that motto. However, Google obviously knows the value of being counted amongst the good guys. Even though it doesn’t want to provide Facebook free access to its social graph, it isn’t explicitly blocking its users from exporting their own data.

It will be interesting to see if this actually works. Casual users are notorious for not paying attention to messages like this. However, Google has definitely succeeded in highlighting the closed nature of Facebook, which has been criticized heavily in the past by privacy and data portability advocates. Well played Google.

How To Enable/Test Instant Previews In Google Search

Earlier today, Google rolled out a new feature for search to complement , called Instant Previews. This new feature allows users to preview search results before they visit the actual page to see if the results are relevant.

Google Instant Preview

However, Instant Previews is not yet available to everyone. If you are waiting to try out this new feature or just curious about it, you can visit http://www.google.com/webhp?esrch=instantpreviews to start using them. Instant previews in Google search can be viewed by clicking on the magnifying glass icon next to the search results.

Google Testing Infinite Scroll For Search Results, Similar To Image Results?

Google has been making a lot of significant changes to the search experience of late, with most recent introductions being , which guesses your queries before you can fully type them and also displays results as you type, and Google Instant previews which was launched earlier today and allows you to view previews of the search results.

Now, Search Engine Land is reporting that Google is also testing a new infinite scrolling results, which will continuously load results as you scroll down to the bottom of the page. This feature already exists in the new Google image search.

As you can see in the embedded video above, when you scroll to the bottom of the page, a small black bar moves you to the second page. Though there is no real indication as to when this feature will be available, you can currently have the same behavior on using a called Auto Pager which is also available as a   and can be downloaded from here.

Looking at the video makes me a bit skeptical considering the image used to display page numbers. I am pretty sure that I have seen it somewhere in use and it might actually be an extension too. Nevertheless, auto scrolling of results will definitely save a lot of time for users. We’ll keep you updated when we hear more.

Update: As I had suspected, this is not a Google feature and instead uses a Chrome extension called Faster Fox which can be downloaded from here.

Google Launches Instant Previews for Search Results

Looks like Google wants to go the instant way for everything. After launching , they have now added a new feature to Google search which will display instant previews to users for search results.

Google Instant Previews

Google had started testing Instant previews in early October, with more widespread tests in end of October. The feature was finally released to public earlier today. With Instant previews, users will be able to see a graphic overview of a search result which highlights the most relevant sections related to the search terms.

This is definitely a good thing because it will now allow users to preview pages before they actually visit it. However, from a webmaster point of view this might reduce the number of clicks you see to your website.

Here are some of the key features of Google Instant Previews:

  • Quickly compare results – A visual comparison of search results helps you pick the one that’s right for you. Quickly flip through previews to see which page looks best.
  • Pinpoint relevant content – Text call outs, in orange, will sometimes highlight where your search terms appear on the webpage so you can evaluate if it’s what you’re looking for.
  • Interact with the results page – Page previews let you see the layout of a webpage before clicking the search result. Looking for a chart, picture, map or list? See if you can spot one in the preview.

Instant Previews is currently not available for everyone and will be rolled out gradually to users across the world in the next few days.

Android 2.3 Gingerbread Coming November 11

Android 2.3 GingerbreadWord on the interwebz is that the next version of the Android OS – Android 2.3 Gingerbread is set to be launched soon. The new SDK for Android 2.3 will be unveiled on November 11. Soon after, it should start being available on major handsets like the Nexus One, Samsung Galaxy S, Motorola Droid X etc.

The speed with which handset makers and carriers have been rolling out updates has been abysmally slow in the past, but it is expected to improve. Samsung will finish rolling out Android 2.2 Froyo for the Galaxy S variants by the end of November, and we can probably expect Android 2.3 by January 2011.

The Gingerbread man was spotted on the Google campus exactly 2 weeks back, so the timing seems right for a new release. It also fits in perfectly with the supposed unveiling of the new Google Nexus 2 at Samsung’s event on November 8.

via IntoMobile

Google Asks Facebook To Back Off, Literally

If you are a user, you might have seen the ability to get in touch with people who are in your address book from , Hotmail and Yahoo among others. Facebook, does have tie-ups with both Hotmail and Yahoo for importing and accessing Facebook data.

facebook

However, there is one service which does not offer it and it is Gmail, it is most likely because of the growing rivalry between these two, and it will now escalate thanks to a new change in Gmail’s Terms of usage.

According to TechCrunch, Google has now made it clear; not directly to Facebook though; in their terms of usage that anyone who makes use of Gmail data will have to reciprocate them in the same way or stop using them altogether. Here is what the new TOS says (emphasis added).

5.8. Google supports data portability. By accessing Content through the Contacts Data API or Portable Contacts API for use in your service or application, you are agreeing to enable your users to export their contacts data to other services or applications of their choice in a way that’s substantially as fast and easy as exporting such data from Google Contacts, subject to applicable laws.

On one hand Facebook has been ruthless with users, even a partially blind person who wrote a add-on to extract email addresses from Facebook to several other companies who have tried to access data on Facebook. And they have been easily using data from other websites for their own purposes, that’s definitely double standard.

Google Instant Hits iOS Devices, Instant Search on iPhone and iPod Touch

was launched in September, and since then it has made searching easier on desktop and laptop computers. However, Google Instant was not ready for mobile devices and was supposed to launch in November.

google_instant_ios

Google Instant could already be used on devices using a hack. However, it looks like Google is now officially rolling our Instant search on iOS devices including the , and .

Instant search is currently not available for everyone and will be rolled out gradually. There is no official announcement about the rollout, though several blogs have managed to get Instant search on their devices.

Are you seeing Google Instant search on your iOS device yet?

Update: Google has officially announced Google Instant for mobile devices. It supports and iPhone and iPod Touch running . Watch a video of Google Instant for mobile below.

(Image Credit: 9to5 Mac)

Are Google Smartbooks Coming in November?

It’s already November, but there’s still time for plenty of surprise launches before Christmas shopping hits us hard. I was surprised to learn that there may be a few smartbooks running Google’s Chrome OS coming soon. While netbooks were a big hit last year, smartbooks have been tried before and were not popular. Maybe their time is coming. Will we find out this month?

smartbook In case you didn’t know, a smartbook is barely big enough to support a full qwerty keyboard, and typically runs on ARM processors. The battery on one of these mini computers can last you all day.

According to an article at Digitimes:

Global brand vendors are expected to launch their new generation smartbooks featuring the Google Chrome operating system (OS) later this month (November), while Google also plans to launch its own-brand Chrome notebook with a similar strategy as its Nexus One smartphone, according to sources from component players.

The article mentions that Google is planning a November launch for a Chrome OS notebook, in addition to the rumored Chrome OS tablet. That sounds like a lot to deal with, and I wouldn’t be surprised if neither one of them make it to the market this year.

For those of you who are adventurous, curious and a little geeky, there are some Chrome OS builds by Hexxeh that can be booted from USB sticks. If you are only mildly curious, we have some Chrome OS screenshots and video for you.

MeeGo v1.1 Ported To Nexus One

It was a week ago MeeGo v1.1 for handsets was officially released, and today the modding community has managed to port it to the Nexus One. We had reported earlier that the modding community was trying to port MeeGo OS to the Nexus One, HTC Desire etcetera. However, the developers were facing many performance related issues and driver issues. Nexus_One_MeeGo_1.1

However, the latest version of MeeGo OS v1.1 has been optimized for handsets and thus the performance of the OS is pretty smooth on the Nexus One. This makes the Nexus One the second phone unofficially to run the MeeGo OS. The Nokia N900 being the first.

Users who are interested in running MeeGo OS on their Nexus One need to make sure that they have a microSD card. The steps to run MeeGo v1.1 OS on your Nexus One can be found here.