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kottke.org posts about Google

Google Maps’ impressive attention to detail

posted by Jason Kottke   May 23, 2014

If you look at the Washington Monument in Google Maps, the monument’s shadow follows the motion of the Sun throughout the day.

Google Maps

The utility of this feature is unclear, but that is some impressive attention to detail. (via @sippey, @kennethn, @chrisfahey)

The slow-motion political race to build tiny stars on Earth

posted by Jason Kottke   Mar 04, 2014

Raffi Khatchadourian’s long piece on the construction of the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (ITER) is at once fascinating (for science reasons) and depressing (for political/bureaucratic reasons). Fusion reactors hold incredible promise:

But if it is truly possible to bottle up a star, and to do so economically, the technology could solve the world’s energy problems for the next thirty million years, and help save the planet from environmental catastrophe. Hydrogen, a primordial element, is the most abundant atom in the universe, a potential fuel that poses little risk of scarcity. Eventually, physicists hope, commercial reactors modelled on iter will be built, too-generating terawatts of power with no carbon, virtually no pollution, and scant radioactive waste. The reactor would run on no more than seawater and lithium. It would never melt down. It would realize a yearning, as old as the story of Prometheus, to bring the light of the heavens to Earth, and bend it to humanity’s will. iter, in Latin, means “the way.”

But ITER is a collaborative effort between 35 different countries, which means the project is political, slow, and expensive.

For the machine’s creators, this process-sparking and controlling a self-sustaining synthetic star-will be the culmination of decades of preparation, billions of dollars’ worth of investment, and immeasurable ingenuity, misdirection, recalibration, infighting, heartache, and ridicule. Few engineering feats can compare, in scale, in technical complexity, in ambition or hubris. Even the iter organization, a makeshift scientific United Nations, assembled eight years ago to construct the machine, is unprecedented. Thirty-five countries, representing more than half the world’s population, are invested in the project, which is so complex to finance that it requires its own currency: the iter Unit of Account.

No one knows iter’s true cost, which may be incalculable, but estimates have been rising steadily, and a conservative figure rests at twenty billion dollars — a sum that makes iter the most expensive scientific instrument on Earth.

I wonder what the project would look like if, say, Google or Apple were to take the reins instead. In that context, it’s only $20 billion to build a tiny Sun on the Earth. Facebook just paid $19 billion for WhatsApp, Apple has a whopping $158.8 billion in cash, and Google & Microsoft both have more than $50 billion in cash. Google in particular, which is making a self-driving car and has been buying up robots by the company-full recently, might want their own tiny star.

But back to reality, the circumstances of ITER’s international construction consortium reminded me of the building of The Machine in Carl Sagan’s Contact. In the book, the countries of the world work together to make a machine of unknown function from plans beamed to them from an alien intelligence, which results in the development of several new lucrative life-enhancing technologies and generally unites humanity. In Sagan’s view, that’s the power of science. Hopefully the ITER can work through its difficulties to achieve something similar.

On Google’s self-driving car

posted by Jason Kottke   Nov 26, 2013

Burkhard Bilger got inside the secretive Google X lab and reports back on the search giant’s effort to build a self-driving car.

The Google car has now driven more than half a million miles without causing an accident-about twice as far as the average American driver goes before crashing. Of course, the computer has always had a human driver to take over in tight spots. Left to its own devices, Thrun says, it could go only about fifty thousand miles on freeways without a major mistake. Google calls this the dog-food stage: not quite fit for human consumption. “The risk is too high,” Thrun says. “You would never accept it.” The car has trouble in the rain, for instance, when its lasers bounce off shiny surfaces. (The first drops call forth a small icon of a cloud onscreen and a voice warning that auto-drive will soon disengage.) It can’t tell wet concrete from dry or fresh asphalt from firm. It can’t hear a traffic cop’s whistle or follow hand signals.

And yet, for each of its failings, the car has a corresponding strength. It never gets drowsy or distracted, never wonders who has the right-of-way. It knows every turn, tree, and streetlight ahead in precise, three-dimensional detail. Dolgov was riding through a wooded area one night when the car suddenly slowed to a crawl. “I was thinking, What the hell? It must be a bug,” he told me. “Then we noticed the deer walking along the shoulder.” The car, unlike its riders, could see in the dark. Within a year, Thrun added, it should be safe for a hundred thousand miles.

America’s legal system will make it difficult for self-driving cars to be accepted here…while not a legal kerfuffle yet, see Tesla’s current difficulties w/r/t fire risk in electric cars for a taste of what’s to come with self-driving cars. Europe is more likely…someplace like Holland or Denmark. They take their public and personal transportation seriously over there.

Is Google’s quantum computer even quantum?

posted by Jason Kottke   Nov 12, 2013

Google and NASA recently bought a D-Wave quantum computer. But according to a piece by Sophie Bushwick published on the Physics Buzz Blog, there isn’t scientific consensus on whether the computer is actually using quantum effects to calculate.

In theory, quantum computers can perform calculations far faster than their classical counterparts to solve incredibly complex problems. They do this by storing information in quantum bits, or qubits.

At any given moment, each of a classical computer’s bits can only be in an “on” or an “off” state. They exist inside conventional electronic circuits, which follow the 19th-century rules of classical physics. A qubit, on the other hand, can be created with an electron, or inside a superconducting loop. Obeying the counterintuitive logic of quantum mechanics, a qubit can act as if it’s “on” and “off” simultaneously. It can also become tightly linked to the state of its fellow qubits, a situation called entanglement. These are two of the unusual properties that enable quantum computers to test multiple solutions at the same time.

But in practice, a physical quantum computer is incredibly difficult to run. Entanglement is delicate, and very easily disrupted by outside influences. Add more qubits to increase the device’s calculating power, and it becomes more difficult to maintain entanglement.

(via fine structure)

Google’s new quantum computer

posted by Jason Kottke   Oct 16, 2013

Google’s got themselves a quantum computer (they’re sharing it with NASA) and they made a little video about it:

I’m sure that Hartmut is a smart guy and all, but he’s got a promising career as an Arnold Schwarzenegger impersonator hanging out there if the whole Google thing doesn’t work out.

The making of Digg Reader

posted by Jason Kottke   Jun 20, 2013

Writing for Wired, Matt Homan Mat Honan on Betaworks’ race to build a replacement for Google Reader in just 90 days. If you are interested in a 35,000-ft view on how Web-based software is built, read this.

McLaughlin saw a blog post in the Fall of 2012 speculating that Google Reader, choked of resources, was shutting down. He sent a teasing note to a friend at Google offering to “take it off their hands.” To his surprise, he got a serious reply. Google, his friend replied, had concluded that it couldn’t sell the name, user data, or code base (which would only run on their servers) and so there was nothing to actually buy.

The following February, McLaughlin, now full-time at Digg, bumped into this same pal at a TED conference. The friend warned him to act fast if he really did want to develop a Reader. “He said ‘I’m not telling you anything, but we’re not going to keep this thing around forever and maybe you want to have something ready by the end of the year.”

But instead of year’s end Google announced plans to shutter Google Reader on July 1. That same night, Digg put up a blog post announcing that it was going to build a replacement. The Internet went crazy.

Loved seeing ye olde kottke.org represented in the Digg Reader mockups, and I’m looking forward to checking out the service when it launches.

Mat Honan visits Google Island

posted by Jason Kottke   May 17, 2013

After taking in a four-hour keynote at the Google I/O conference, Mat Honan is transported to a magical place called Google Island.

The soft, froggy voice startled me. I turned around to face an approaching figure. It was Larry Page, naked, save for a pair of eyeglasses.

“Welcome to Google Island. I hope my nudity doesn’t bother you. We’re completely committed to openness here. Search history. Health data. Your genetic blueprint. One way to express this is by removing clothes to foster experimentation. It’s something I learned at Burning Man,” he said. “Here, drink this. You’re slightly dehydrated, and your blood sugar is low. This is a blend of water, electrolytes, and glucose.”

I was taken aback. “How did you…” I began, but he was already answering me before I could finish my question.

“As soon as you hit Google’s territorial waters, you came under our jurisdiction, our terms of service. Our laws-or lack thereof-apply here. By boarding our self-driving boat you granted us the right to all feedback you provide during your journey. This includes the chemical composition of your sweat. Remember when I said at I/O that maybe we should set aside some small part of the world where people could experiment freely and examine the effects? I wasn’t speaking theoretically. This place exists. We built it.”

I was thirsty, so I drank the electrolyte solution down. “This is delicious,” I replied.

“I know,” he replied. “It also has thousands of micro sensors which are now swarming through your blood stream.”

“What… ” I stammered.

“Your prostate is enlarged. Let’s go hangout now. There’s some really great music I’d like to recommend to you.”

You could consider this a follow-up to 2004’s EPIC 2014 by Robin Sloan and Matt Thompson.

Time lapse satellite images, 1984-2012

posted by Jason Kottke   May 10, 2013

Working with the USGS, NASA, and Time, Google has built a viewer for satellite image time lapses. Among the images are those of the deforestation of the Amazon rainforest, the retreat of an Alaskan glacier, and the growth of Dubai. You can also refocus the map on any other area you want. More info here and here’s the extensive Time feature.

Google Street View hyperlapse video

posted by Jason Kottke   Apr 10, 2013

The term of art for time lapse videos in which the camera moves is hyperlapse. In playing around with the hyperlapse technique, Teehan+Lax developed a system to make hyperlapse videos using Google Street View. Like this one:

Make your own here.

YouTube is the dominant force in music

posted by Jason Kottke   Apr 01, 2013

This is a nice article about how memes are often made or promoted deliberately by financial interests and not because of a spontaneous popular uprising, but mostly I wanted to highlight this statement:

Google’s YouTube, not Apple’s iTunes, is now the dominant force in music.

I’ve been convinced for awhile now that YouTube and not Android or Google+ will be their main source of revenue if/when Google’s search business wanes. (via @claytoncubitt)

RIP Google Reader

posted by Jason Kottke   Mar 18, 2013

You may have heard by now that Google is shutting down Google Reader, their RSS reading service. It’ll be gone by July 4. Fortunately you can export your subscriptions and use another service…here are some suggestions from Matt Haughey and Gizmodo. Or you can wait for Digg’s reader.

If you want to forego RSS readers altogether but still want to keep up with kottke.org without having to visit the site regularly, try following kottke.org on Twitter, Facebook, or Tumblr.

Seeing the world through Google-colored Glasses

posted by Jason Kottke   Feb 20, 2013

Google is making a wearable headset called Google Glass and here’s a look at how the heads-up display is going to work.

Maybe it’s the jetlag talking, but that looks pretty fricking great. But I have a feeling that Glass is going to be a Segway for your face.

Bad flu season this year

posted by Jason Kottke   Jan 09, 2013

According to Google’s search tracking, this is the worst flu season in more than 6 years.

2013 Flu Trend

Google’s trends tend to follow the official CDC data closely and indeed the CDC concurs about the scope of the flu this year but their data is lagging behind Google’s by what looks like about 2 weeks. See also my post on how flu vaccines are made. (via @kellan)

How Google builds its maps

posted by Jason Kottke   Sep 07, 2012

The Atlantic’s Alexis Madrigal gets an inside look at how Google builds its maps (and what that means for the future of everything). “If Google’s mission is to organize all the world’s information, the most important challenge — far larger than indexing the web — is to take the world’s physical information and make it accessible and useful.”

Google Earth Time Machine

posted by Jason Kottke   Jul 30, 2012

The Google Earth Time Machine blog uses Google’s historical satellite maps to make now-and-then comparisons of interesting places around the world. Like the transformation of this Texas river bend into an oxbow lake over 60+ years:

Google Earth Time Machine 01

Google Earth Time Machine 02

(via stellar)

Turn your Twitter stream into your friends’ linkblog

posted by Jason Kottke   Jul 23, 2012

A few weeks ago, Twitter added an option to search the tweets of only the people you follow. This is useful for several different reasons (try searching for [recent pop culture key phrase] to see what I mean) but for those who use Twitter primarily to find cool links to read/watch, it’s an unexpected gift. To view your Twitter stream filtered to include only tweets containing links, just do a search for “http”. Simple but powerful.

ps. Who knows if they’re interested in this or not, but by a) making their entire archive available to search and b) allowing people to limit their search to their friends + 1-2 degrees of separation, Twitter could significantly better the search experience offered by Google et al in maybe 25-30% of all search cases. This is what Google is attempting to do with Google+ but Twitter could beat them to the punch.

Update: The search above, while quick, is also dirty in that it will include non-link tweets like “My favorite protocol is HTTP”. The official Twitter way to is to use “filter:links”, which will avoid that problem.

You can also filter out the links from your Twitter stream by negating the http search (this no longer works…), but you’ll have to wade through all the @replies.

Marissa Mayer is Yahoo’s new CEO

posted by Jason Kottke   Jul 16, 2012

But can she turn the company around? This is a super interesting move.

Marissa Mayer, one of the top executives at Google, will be the next C.E.O. of Yahoo, making her one of the most prominent women in Silicon Valley and corporate America.

The appointment of Ms. Mayer, who was employee No. 20 at Google and was one of the few public faces of the company, is considered a surprising coup for Yahoo, which has struggled in recent years to attract top flight talent in its battle with competitors like Google and Facebook.

Video conferencing skydivers at Google I/O the best demo ever?

posted by Jason Kottke   Jun 27, 2012

To demonstrate a pair of their products, Google arranged for a group of skydivers to jump out of a blimp and parachute onto the roof of the Moscone Center in San Francisco, the building in which the Google I/O was being held. The divers were each wearing a pair of Google Glass networking glasses and video chatting on a Google+ Hangout.

Here’s what it looked like from the ground:

I think this is what Robin Sloan was referencing in his tweet earlier:

Watched #GoogleIO. This company is totally Doc Brown. In one corner, an automatic banana-peeler; in the other, A WORKING TIME MACHINE.

How to build an iPad competitor

posted by Jason Kottke   Jun 20, 2012

It’s funny. Or sad. Or predictable. It’s predictably sadly funny that many tech media outlets are saying that Apple’s iPad finally has a bonafide competitor in the Microsoft Surface. Set aside for now that Surface does look genuinely interesting, that the price hasn’t been set, and the thing isn’t even out yet. For a piece of portable networking technology like a smartphone or tablet to be successful on the scale at which Apple operates, you need to have an ecosystem, a network of interacting devices, software, products, and services that work together…hardware + software is not enough. Apple, Google (and partners), Amazon, and possibly Microsoft are the only companies with the expertise and pockets deep enough to build their own ecosystems. Ok, maybe Facebook in a couple years or if Nokia can dig themselves out of their current hole, but that’s really about it.

The current parts of the phone/tablet/media ecosystem are as follows:

1. A piece of hardware at a price that compares favorably to its quality and features. Apple sells premium hardware with great features at a premium-but-still-reasonable price. Google and their partners offer a range of devices at different prices corresponding to different levels of quality and features offered. Amazon offers low-price hardware with a relatively limited but appropriate set of features. Microsoft looks to have a nice piece of hardware with promising features but the price point is pending.

2. An OS that takes proper advantage of the hardware capabilities with features in line with the price of the device. Apple has iOS, with most of its devices running the same version. Google and their partners have many different versions of Android, most of which are not the most recent version. Amazon runs a customized Android OS for the Kindle Fire and a modified version of Linux for the non-Fire Kindles. Microsoft has Windows 8, which will eventually run, in different configurations, on lots of different kinds of hardware, from desktop computers to phones.

3. An app store stocked with the applications that smartphone and tablet owners want to use. Apple has the comprehensive App Store. Google, etc. have Google Play (née Android Market), Amazon’s Appstore for Android, and other stores, on which you can get most of the most popular apps. Amazon has their Appstore for Android for the Kindle Fire. Microsoft has the Windows Phone Marketplace for the Windows Phone with a more limited selection than the other stores…it’s unclear what their plans are for a Windows 8 app store.

4. A media store with books, movies, and TV shows. Apple has the iTunes store (as well as iBooks, Newstand, etc.). Android has Google Play. Amazon has the Kindle store and Amazon Instant Video. Will Microsoft offer a way to purchase media across their Windows 8 platform? Does Windows Media Player do this?

5. A digital media hub for managing media, apps, software updates, etc. This part is a bit more optional than the others since media management is moving to the device and the cloud, but still. Apple has iTunes. Android has a variety of possible desktop managers and management happens on the device or through the cloud? You manage the Kindle stuff through Amazon’s site and on the device. Microsoft will probably go cloud/device-based at this point?

6. An integrated cloud solution for syncing apps, media, and documents across devices. Again, this isn’t crucial but will likely become so over time. Apple has iCloud. Android has Google’s suite of apps (Gmail, calendar, Google docs, Google Drive, etc.). Amazon uses Whispernet and is leveraging AWS in various ways (e.g. Cloud Drive). Will Microsoft leverage SkyDrive for their tablets and phones?

7. Sister devices. Apple has the iPhone, iPad, iPod touches, Apple TV, and their full line of OS X-powered computers. Android runs on phones and tablets, but can also run on an increasing number of other devices (Google TV, etc.). And maybe ChromeOS devices? Amazon doesn’t really have an interacting network of devices. Microsoft will have phones, the Surface, billions of desktop computers running Windows 8, and, dare I even say it, the Xbox.

You don’t need to have every single part of the ecosystem for it to thrive but the more the better. Again, Surface does look genuinely interesting (as do the Windows phones from Nokia), Windows 8 and the Metro interface look promising, and Microsoft has deep pockets but all the pieces aren’t quite there yet for them. Microsoft’s real opportunity here is the Xbox. If they can properly leverage and integrate the Xbox’s growing status as a home media hub (Xbox Live), they can fill in a lot of the holes in their fledgling ecosystem, provide people with compelling devices & media experiences, and give Apple, Google, and Amazon a real run for their (and our) money.

The real Google Glasses

posted by Jason Kottke   Apr 06, 2012

Since Google released the video for their augmented reality glasses the other day, people have been busy making videos that show a more realistic (or cynical) portrayal of how the glasses might work. Here are a couple of the better ones. First a version of the glasses with Google ads:

And this one gives new meaning to the phrase “banner blindness”:

While not specifically about Google Glasses, this concept video by Keiichi Matsuda is also worth a look:

I will also direct your attention to the second episode of Black Mirror, a UK drama series by Charlie Brooker.

A satire on entertainment shows and our insatiable thirst for distraction set in a sarcastic version of a future reality. In this world, everyone must cycle on exercise bikes, arranged in cells, in order to power their surroundings and generate currency for themselves called Merits. Everyone is dressed in a grey tracksuit and has a “doppel”, a virtual avatar inspired by Miis and Xbox 360 Avatars that people can customise with clothes, for a fee of merits. Everyday activities are constantly interrupted by advertisements that cannot be skipped or ignored without financial penalty.

(via jake & stellar)

Google Glasses

posted by Jason Kottke   Apr 04, 2012

Google has shared a bit about their augmented reality glasses project (more at the NY Times).

A video released by Google on Wednesday, which can be seen below, showed potential uses for Project Glass. A man wanders around the streets of New York City, communicating with friends, seeing maps and information, and snapping pictures. It concludes with him video-chatting with a girlfriend as the sun sets over the city. All of this is seen through the augmented-reality glasses.

The glasses look a little strange, like Geordi La Forge’s visor…they might go over a little better if they looked more Warby Parkerish.

Ex-employees of Google, Goldman Sachs, and Yahoo have their say

posted by Jason Kottke   Mar 14, 2012

There seems to be something in the air. Within the last day or so, three ex-employees have written about why their feelings have changed about three formerly beloved companies. James Whittaker recently left Google:

The Google I was passionate about was a technology company that empowered its employees to innovate. The Google I left was an advertising company with a single corporate-mandated focus. […] Suddenly, 20% meant half-assed. Google Labs was shut down. App Engine fees were raised. APIs that had been free for years were deprecated or provided for a fee. As the trappings of entrepreneurship were dismantled, derisive talk of the “old Google” and its feeble attempts at competing with Facebook surfaced to justify a “new Google” that promised “more wood behind fewer arrows.”

The days of old Google hiring smart people and empowering them to invent the future was gone. The new Google knew beyond doubt what the future should look like. Employees had gotten it wrong and corporate intervention would set it right again.

The whole thing is worth a read, what with damning phrases like “social isn’t a product, social is people and the people are on Facebook” sprinkled liberally about.

In the NY Times this morning, Greg Smith writes that it’s his last day at Goldman Sachs after almost 12 years at the firm.

To put the problem in the simplest terms, the interests of the client continue to be sidelined in the way the firm operates and thinks about making money. Goldman Sachs is one of the world’s largest and most important investment banks and it is too integral to global finance to continue to act this way. The firm has veered so far from the place I joined right out of college that I can no longer in good conscience say that I identify with what it stands for.

It might sound surprising to a skeptical public, but culture was always a vital part of Goldman Sachs’s success. It revolved around teamwork, integrity, a spirit of humility, and always doing right by our clients. The culture was the secret sauce that made this place great and allowed us to earn our clients’ trust for 143 years. It wasn’t just about making money; this alone will not sustain a firm for so long. It had something to do with pride and belief in the organization. I am sad to say that I look around today and see virtually no trace of the culture that made me love working for this firm for many years. I no longer have the pride, or the belief.

There’s that saying: “If you’re not paying for something, you’re not the customer; you’re the product being sold.” Google’s product has always been the people using their products and it sounds like Goldman has made a sizable shift in that direction.

Andy Baio hasn’t worked for Yahoo for several years, but after the company announced they were filing a patent-infringement lawsuit against Facebook, Baio wrote of his displeasure about the move at Wired.

Yahoo’s lawsuit against Facebook is an insult to the talented engineers who filed patents with the understanding they wouldn’t be used for evil. Betraying that trust won’t be forgotten, but I doubt it matters anymore. Nobody I know wants to work for a company like that.

I’m embarrassed by the patents I filed, but I’ve learned from my mistake. I’ll never file a software patent again, and I urge you to do the same.

For years, Yahoo was mostly harmless. Management foibles and executive shuffles only hurt shareholders and employee morale. But in the last few years, the company’s incompetence has begun to hurt the rest of us. First, with the wholesale destruction of internet history, and now by attacking younger, smarter companies.

Yahoo tried and failed, over and over again, to build a social network that people would love and use. Unable to innovate, Yahoo is falling back to the last resort of a desperate, dying company: litigation as a business model.

Yahoo seems to be in a different stage in its lifecycle than Google or Goldman. In the mid-to-late 2000s, they tried what Google is trying now and failed and now, as Baio notes, they are trying everything they can to survive, like the T-1000 writhing in the molten steel at the end of Terminator 2. Perhaps a harbinger of things to come for Google and Goldman?

Google Image Search recursion

posted by Jason Kottke   Jan 13, 2012

This is mesmerizing: using Google Image Search and starting with a transparent image, this video cycles through each subsequent related image, over 2900 in all.

(via ★mattb)

Google Street View first-person shooter

posted by Jason Kottke   Dec 12, 2011

There’s no gameplay asside from firing the gun and moving around, but it’s still disturbing to walk around within Google Street View with an assault rifle. (thx, job)

Do a barrel roll

posted by Jason Kottke   Nov 03, 2011

The most fun on the internet right now: go to Google and search for “do a barrel roll” (no quotes). Whee!

Where’s your platform?

posted by Jason Kottke   Oct 13, 2011

A very raw and passionate post by former Amazon employee and current Google employee Steve Yegge in which he praises a key decision made by Amazon several years ago to build a platform…and argues that a major problem for Google going forward is a lack of a platform of their own. It starts off:

I was at Amazon for about six and a half years, and now I’ve been at Google for that long. One thing that struck me immediately about the two companies — an impression that has been reinforced almost daily — is that Amazon does everything wrong, and Google does everything right. Sure, it’s a sweeping generalization, but a surprisingly accurate one. It’s pretty crazy. There are probably a hundred or even two hundred different ways you can compare the two companies, and Google is superior in all but three of them, if I recall correctly. I actually did a spreadsheet at one point but Legal wouldn’t let me show it to anyone, even though recruiting loved it.

I mean, just to give you a very brief taste: Amazon’s recruiting process is fundamentally flawed by having teams hire for themselves, so their hiring bar is incredibly inconsistent across teams, despite various efforts they’ve made to level it out. And their operations are a mess; they don’t really have SREs and they make engineers pretty much do everything, which leaves almost no time for coding - though again this varies by group, so it’s luck of the draw. They don’t give a single shit about charity or helping the needy or community contributions or anything like that. Never comes up there, except maybe to laugh about it. Their facilities are dirt-smeared cube farms without a dime spent on decor or common meeting areas. Their pay and benefits suck, although much less so lately due to local competition from Google and Facebook. But they don’t have any of our perks or extras — they just try to match the offer-letter numbers, and that’s the end of it. Their code base is a disaster, with no engineering standards whatsoever except what individual teams choose to put in place.

Why is Sergey Brin so good at Angry Birds?

posted by Jason Kottke   Sep 30, 2011

I spent perhaps too much time this morning pondering one of the mysteries of the internet: Sergey Brin’s astronomically high scores on the Google+ version of Angry Birds. For instance, Brin’s high score on the easiest level of the game is 36240. It’s a legit score (here’s a higher one) and he has impressive scores on several other levels. But in 15 minutes of playing this morning, I couldn’t get within a thousand points of his score. (Hey, at least I beat Kevin Rose.)

Google+ Angry Birds

So does Brin actually spend time obsessively playing Angry Birds to get those high scores (instead of, say, running Google or his other ventures) or has he written a program of some sort to produce near-optimal scores or does he have a fleet of interns playing as him for hours on end? We need to know this vital info…if you’re interviewing Sergey at an upcoming conference, please ask him about this!

Happy birthday, big GOOG

posted by Jason Kottke   Sep 27, 2011

Google is thirteen today…back in 1998 when the site was still hosted at http://google.stanford.edu, Keith Dawson gave the search engine its first online coverage in English on the fondly remembered Tasty Bits From the Technology Front.

This site, one of the few rigorous academic research projects on Web searching, presents a demonstration database — only 25M documents — that already blows past most of the existing search engines in returning relevant nuggets. Google employs a concept of Page Rank derived from academic citation literature. Page Rank equates roughly to a page’s importance on the Web: the more inbound links a page has, and the higher the importance of the pages linking to it, the higher its Page Rank.

Searching Vonnegut’s story shapes

posted by Jason Kottke   Sep 02, 2011

Austin Kleon explicitly tied the last two posts together and fed Kurt Vonnegut’s story shape graphs into Google Correlate’s search by drawing feature. This is SO GOOD.

Vonnegut correlate

Google’s search by drawing feature

posted by Jason Kottke   Sep 02, 2011

This is kind of amazing…you draw a graph and Google Correlate finds query terms whose popularity matches the drawn curve. I drew a bell curve, a very rough one peaking in 2007, and it matches a bunch of searches for “myspace”.

Google Correlate

This fits beautifully with the previous post about Vonnegut’s story shape graphs.