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Google Desktop Search

In a move that took everyone by surprise, Google announced a new downloadable product that installs on your hard drive, indexes your email, Word, Excel, Powerpoint, and AIM chat logs and adds them to the Google Search results window. The expected move was that Google would launch their own, Google-centric browser but they have once again side-stepped popular wisdom and done something that new and fantastic.

You’ll do a double-take the first time you run a search after installing Google Desktop Search. Up on top of your results, right under the paid search ads, you see links to personal email and files that contain hits on your query. Instead of bringing the web to your desktop, by putting hits on your desktop files into the Google UI it now looks (and feels) like Google has put your desktop onto the web.

Rael Dornfest explains what’s going on behind the scenes:

What’s actually going on is that the local Google Desktop server is intercepting any Google web searches, passing them on to Google.com in your stead, and running the same search against your computer’s local index. It’s then intercepting the Web search results as they come back from Google, pasting in local finds, and presenting it to you in your browser as a cohesive whole.

John Battelle caught up with Marissa Mayer, Google’s director of consumer web products, and found out that the app is only 400k and runs on only 8 MB of RAM. She also says that the relevance algorithm obviously doesn’t use PageRank but does use 150 other proprietary variables (bolding, font size, etc) to determine relevance.

Danny Sullivan writes in depth about this new tool going on to say that the Google page that you see when you launch Desktop Search is not actually on the web but is being served up by the web server that comes with the app. This is apparent when you see the address of the URL [http://127.0.0.1:4664/&s=400994545] which is a local address.

Another benefit is the caching so that you can now quickly peek into the contents of a file without having to wait for Excel to fire up. If there are multiple copies in cache, there’s version history which can save you if you’ve overwritten a file using the same name.

It’s still in beta so I’ll forgive the fact that it only runs on Windows and indexes only AIM chat and Internet Explorer caches but other than that, this is a most impressive product that redefines its category.

isbushwired.com

The blogosphere is on fire about the strange lump on the back of Bush’s suit during the first debate with detailed video analysis looking for proof that George was channelling Karl Rove via a wireless transmitter. There’s even an entire site dedicated to the debate about the debate which goes into great detail.

Who knows what really happend. The bloggers are now, as The New Yorker said about their forensic analysis of the Rather memos, “in CSI mode” and the best of it is over on the site cryptome.org which contains detailed entries listing popular frequencies and full specs used by some of these wireless devices. All I know is that a certain segment of the population is going to be looking very closely at every detail of the next and final debate.

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Fenton’s Creamery

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Went back to visit an old college haunt with the Karp’s this weekend. Fenton’s on Piedmont Avenue in Oakland has been an institution and well worth the trip over from Berkeley. It looked newer than I remembered and was told the whole thing was redone after a fire in 2001. We ordered the Banana Special which is described below on their menu:

Banana Special – Watch Out! Tourists may takes photos of you with this Fentons tradition!
HUGE scoops, we mean HUGE scoops, of Vanilla, Chocolate and Strawberry ice cream cradled by a whole ripe banana. Topped with pineapple, strawberry and chocolate fudge. Topped off with almonds, whipped cream and cherry. $9.95

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everwas.com

As I was listening to the radio the other day and the Talking Head’s song Once in a Lifetime came on and the phrase “same as it ever was” hit me as highly relevant. Part of being middle-aged (I’m now 38) is that things take on a vague familiarity. We moved back to San Francisco and the places I visit are at once new and at the same time recognizable from when I lived here before. I look at life through the eyes of my children and I see the things that they see, I feel their joy (and frustrations). I can imagine what my parents felt when they were raising a family and trying to pass on wisdom to their children.

I begin to appreciate the rhythm and circle of life. Same – as – it- ever – was. Indeed.

I registered the domain so you can also reach clankennedy via everwas.com which is easier to remember and gives a little context to my running narrative here; one more person’s commentary on the at once mundane but beautiful cycle of life.

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Can there be two “internets”

Watching the second presidential debate and just caught another verbal slip to go with the “mexed missages” post from the first debate.

When questioned about the prospect of a draft, President Bush said, “I hear there are rumors on the internets, that there is going to be a draft for the military.” This is the first time I’ve ever heard the net referred to in the plural and it goes to show how out of touch Mr. Bush is from my world.

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AOL dumps Netscape?

I’m not sure I totally follow what’s going on here but CNet reports today that they are now going to base their new browser on Internet Explorer technology.

Huh? Didn’t AOL buy a browser company for this purpose?

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Web 2.0

I realize I’m getting liberal with the “Milestone” tag but it truly seems as if we are living in historic times. I just got off of an amazing three days in San Francisco where I saw history being made all around me at Web 2.0 in San Francisco. Maybe I’m still new to this industry but checking with others around me, they also shared my view that the mood of the crowd was upbeat and excited for the possibilities of the future. What was nice though is that despite the potential to go wild-eyed and overboard there were enough scarred veterans in the crowd to keep things realistic. Many of the things being discussed have been done before during the heady bubble days but this time it looks like we’ve got the platform to really make it happen.

Remember moreover.com? RSS before anyone knew what to do with it. Geocities was like weblogs 1.0 but instead of letting people subscribe to an RSS feed, you had a small text entry box where you would ask for an email address so you could push out a notice when the page updated. One good line from Martin Nisenholtz of nytimes.com is that the promise of RSS is that he can now send content directly to the reader without having to cut bad deals with Biz Dev execs at portal companies. Web 2.0 is all about cutting right by the intermediary.

There’s a lot of good coverage of the conference already but I’ll post on some personal tidbits and takeaways:

I listened in on the interview behind this article with Google’s Peter Norvig in eWeek and later talked to him about sentiment analysis as it might apply to blog posts. He said that Google is applying techniques to skip over indexing spam comments such as “I really like your page, have you seen www.spampage.com?”

I asked Jerry Yang if he had any advice for a software startup interested in going after the corporate market. Yahoo had an enterprise portal group that eventually threw in the towel and turned their customers over to Tibco. His advice was to stay away from corporate IT because they have a vested interest in avoiding the new and different.

I witnessed as Brewster Kahle struck a deal with the folks from Morpheus to work together. “I’ve got this great archive of all this wonderful stuff and you’ve got this great mesh of a distribution network.” Ok, I egged them on a bit.

The most inspirational talk was by Lawrence Lessig who railed against the specter of old world copyright law that threatened our ability and right to mix and mash digital content to express ourselves. Something’s not right when you can teach your kids to write creatively and encourage them to quote and incorporate styles & nuances but cannot teach them how to remix music or video to make a point, political or personal. Indeed. For an mp3 of the speech, click here.

The conference was organized by publisher Tim O’Reilly and MC’d by John Battelle who have been noodling over the theme of the Web as a Platform/Web as an OS theme for the past year or so. This conference brought together the best and brightest of that conversation and put them on stage for a number of interesting and insightful discussions.

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How News Gets Made

What a week! Amidst all the excitement of Web 2.0, we announced that we raised $10 million in funding. A couple of us went to Kokkari, arestaurant downtown, to celebrate when Mena realized that she forgot to post her perspective on the announcement. Ben fiddled with the Bluetooth connections on the phone and the laptop at one point juggling two Powerbooks until he got things working.

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Snap.com

At Web 2.0 this week and saw Idealab’s Bill Gross announce the release of snap.com – a new search engine designed to address comments that Google’s interface is looks like a command line.

Based on the premise that search engines need to give control back to the user. You can change the focus of your results (with an integration of X1) in real-time and sort results on a number of parameters which change based upon your search query. Snap also believes at its core that it’s important to be transparent so it provides an interface to an area where you can see not only stats related to the top keywords and their related terms but also an area where you can view Snap’s revenues as well as performance reports on click throughs on keywords that you can specify.

A number of examples showed how this is a different kind of fish.

Search on “jaguar” then refine my typing in “os”

Search on “camera” and you get a totally different set of results based on the assumption that you’re looking to purchase a camera. In the results, new widgets to sort on things like price, resolution. Refine the search by typing in “cannon” and see the list narrow itself to just the cameras made by Cannon.

Search on “walmart” and you’ll see that the result set changes again. Bill explained that this was because they analyzed ISP traffic to determine popular clickstreams and saw that most people searching on “walmart” were either looking for the website, the company (news & quotes), the job page, or directions to the nearest store. The left hand column has these links ranked for easy access and other elements on this page provide shortcuts as well.

Search on “cars” and you get yet another view which is like a dashboard to the most popular links yet in a different format. This time the screen is divided into four main categories into which most behavior following the search results fell. Here you see further drill down on to Buying, Research, Loans, and Insurance. The same concept applies for that other big ticket item, “real estate” but this time with yet another set of drill down choices.

These innovations are all very cool and welcome but as I write about it, I realize that variations of each of these exist in some shape or form on Google and Yahoo. Snap’s presentation is so much more graphically rich than what is out there today giving a greater opportunity for advertisers to integrate their messages with the results in a much more meaningful way.

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From Vivisimo comes, Clutsy the Search Engine

From Vivisimo comes, Clutsy the search engine which has elicited guffaws over it’s name, coined to evoke a clustered set of search results but instead brings to mind a buck-toothed, all-thumbed version of the more refined Mr. Jeeves. The jury is still out for me on this as I’m so well-trained that I usually am able to throw enough contextual keywords into a query to get to what I’m looking for but Clutsy’s Clustering Engine (sound’s like a book I might read to my 5 year old) does shine when put to the “polish” test. Are you talking about the people, the sausage, the language, or something shiny? Clutsy will parse it out for you and give you several paths to try.