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From the BBC, full post here.

The Pac-Man game Google put on its home page gobbled up almost five million hours of work time, suggests a study.

The playable version of the classic video game was put on Google’s front page on 21 May to celebrate 30 years since the launch of Pac-Man in Japan.

The search giant reworked the game so the layout was arranged around letters forming its name.

The Pac-Man game proved so popular that Google has now made it permanently available on its own page.

Time delay

The statistics on how many people played and for how long were gathered by software firm Rescue Time. It makes time-tracking software that keeps an eye on what workers do and where they go online.

On a typical day, it suggests, most people conduct about 22 searches on the Google page, each one lasting about 11 seconds.

Putting Pac-Man on the page boosted that time by an average of about 36 seconds, the firm said based on the browsing habits of 11,000 Rescue Time users.

The firm believes this is a relatively low figure because only a minority realised that the logo was playable. To play, people had to click on the “insert coin” button which replaced the more familiar “I’m Feeling Lucky” button on 21 and 22 May.

Extrapolating this up across the 504 million unique users who visit the main Google page day-to-day, this represents an increase of 4.8 million hours – equal to about 549 years.

In dollar terms, assuming people are paid $25 (£17.50) an hour, this equates to about $120m in lost productivity, the firm said.

For that money, suggested Rescue Time, it would be possible to hire all Google’s employees and put them to work for about six weeks.

From the BBC, article here.

British e-mail users with Google accounts are now able to change the end of their addresses from @googlemail.com to @gmail.com.

A five year trademark dispute meant that Google was not allowed to use the name Gmail in the UK.

In 2005 a company called Independent International Investment Research claimed it had used “Gmail” first.

Google claimed at the time that the settlement IIR asked for was “exorbitant” and dropped the name.

Within a year of launching the free e-mail service in the UK, Gmail became Google Mail.

While early adopters received a gmail.com address, all subsequent new accounts were given the suffix googlemail.com.

“Since ‘gmail’ is 50% fewer characters than ‘googlemail’ we estimate this name change will save approximately 60 million keystrokes a day,” wrote software engineer Greg Bullock on Google’s Gmail blog.

British users with Googlemail addresses will be asked whether they wish to change their address. It will not affect the settings or functionality of the accounts, Google said.

The firm is not releasing the details of the new settlement but states that the matter is “happily resolved”.

Google trends, similar to trends on Twitter, tell you what are the most popular search terms on the internet at any given time.

They can also have the potential to be mildly or massively amusing. Such as the following images; each a screen capture of an actual Google trend. Some are funny, some bizarre, and some make you want to question the future of the human species. Enjoy.

Personal favourites anyone?

-Jessie W.

A long-awaited feature for the popular and extremely useful Google Maps.

screen shot bike biker route google maps

From Wired, full article here.

With the click of a mouse, the new feature allows you to plot the best (and flattest!) ride from Point A to Point B. Several cities, including New York, Minneapolis, San Francisco and Portland, Oregon, have bike-specific mapping sites. But Google is rolling it out in 150 cities nationwide and announcing it Wednesday at the 10th Annual Bike Summit in Washington, D.C.

“This has been a top-requested feature from Google Maps users for the last couple years,” says Shannon Guymon, product manager for Google Maps. “There are over 50,000 signatures on a petition.”

The news thrilled bike advocates, who have for years been pushing — and petitioning — the search giant to include bike routes on Google Maps. No longer do they have to rely upon paper maps or open-source DIY map hacking or crazy-cool helmet-mounted heads up iPhones.

“This new tool will open people’s eyes to the possibility and practicality of hopping on a bike and riding,” says Andy Clarke, president of the League of American Bicyclists. “We know people want to ride more, we know it’s good for people and communities when they do ride more — this makes it possible. It is a game-changer, especially for those short trips that are the most polluting.”

Cyclists will have to map their victory lap from their desks, because Google’s cool mapping tool is available only on a computer for now.

“Making the bike-route tool available on Google Maps for mobile devices is a high priority,” Guymon says. But it’s a priority without a launch date.

To create the mapping tool, Google developed an algorithm that uses several inputs — including designated bike lanes or trails, topography and traffic signals — to determine the best route for riding. The map sends you around, not over, hills. But if you really want to tackle that Category 1 climb, you can click and drag the suggested route anywhere you like, just like you can with pedestrian or driving routes. Users can suggest changes or make corrections to routes using the ever-present “report a problem” feature on Google Maps.

bike route google maps adds new feature

Google kicked its bike-mapping effort into high gear in October when it started using improved datasets that provided more specific information about trails, street details and more granularity on college campuses. The Rails-to-Trails Conservancy provided Google with information on 12,000 miles of bike trails nationwide, and the League of American Bicyclists helped gather data on bike lanes and so forth.

“We’ve got a five-person team in Seattle that has spent the majority of its time working on this project since October,” says Guymon.

To test the tool, bike-commuting Google employees vetted suggested routes against their own experience, pointing out discrepancies on routes or time allowances.

Google Maps for bikes has a unique look and feel. Bike trails are prime cycling turf — “They’re like the highways for cyclists,” Guymon says — so they’re indicated in dark green. Streets with dedicated bike lanes are light green. And streets that don’t have a bike lane but are still a decent route because of their topography, light traffic or other factors are indicated by dotted green lines.

Don’t go looking for turn-by-turn GPS-based navigation though. That feature remains strictly auto-centric.

For other interesting findings on the service, go here.

-Jessie W.

crowdsourcing

Facebook, Twitter and Google join the outreach following the devastating earthquake in Chile

For critics who cast the use of new media and social communication networks like Facebook, Twitter and YouTube, as useless or merely a waste of time, the recent devastation in Chile is a great example of using web-based resources for the good.

Twitter been used as a platform for an outpouring of international support for affected Chileans; Google has launched Person Finder to aid Chileans and those abroad located loved ones and nearly every relief agency is connected to the public through Twitter, Facebook and YouTube. These resources make information about the devastation readily accessible providing an essential resource both in the ravaged country and for a concerned international community.

Matthew Ingram at GigaOm has compiled a helpful list of resources for individuals to use in responding to the devastation; the full article can be found here.

  • Twitter List: As it did during the Haiti earthquake, The New York Times has collected some Twitter accounts with information about what is going on in Chile.
  • Ben Casnocha: The entrepreneur and author has been tweeting details about the earthquake and its aftermath
  • Twitpic: People have been uploading images of the devastation in and around Concepcion, some of which have been collected by The Huffington Post.
  • Ushahidi: A site designed to act as a central clearinghouse for information about disasters such as the Chilean earthquake.
  • Livestream: A live video feed from Chilean TV via the Livestream service.
  • Person Finder: A Chilean version of a tool that Google originally created to help during the Haiti earthquake.
  • Map Maker: Google has also opened up the use of its mapping database for use by aid organizations, and people can help via the Chile Update Page. Google has a page set up with other resources, including the ability to click and donate to Unicef and other charities from the page.

If you have other suggestions, please feel free to contribute on the original post or email Matthew Ingram (as per the original post, contact mathew@gigaom.com.)

– Jessie W.

Pondstone Communications

Pondstone on Twitter

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