Google News gets foiled by 15-year old Vandetta

Tom Vandetta found an article that explained how to fool Google’s news system by writing fake press releases. He then decided to see what would happen if he submitted a fake Google press release claiming the 15-year old New Jersey student was Google’s youngest employee.

The press release was issued through the free service I-Newswire and contained a number of spelling mistakes. Short and to the point, the release, which appeared to have been sent by a Google spokesperson Sonya Johnson (who’s actually existence is unconfirmed and is assumed to be imaginary), read:

“(I-Newswire) – 15 year old student, Tom Vendetta has been hired by search engine giant Google Inc. The student will receive a lowered salary, which will be placed into a bank account for future education, said Google CEO Larry Page. When asked what role Vendetta will play at the Tech Giant’s offices, Page said he wouldnt have a role at the Main Offices. Instead he would work from his home in the New Jersey suburbs. Vendetta will be incharge of working with recent security flaw’s in Google’s beta e-mail service, “Gmail”. Google said they first found out about him when they discovered the student’s blog, at http://tomvendetta.be. The media giant said they looked forward to working with Vendetta’s expertise in JavaScript and AJAX.”

A few hours after posting the fake press release, Vandetta logged into the news search tool Digg after receiving an automated email from MAKEBot (Digg’s Spider), to find his practical joke had become a credible international tech story. Google was even displaying reference to the press release in Google News and at in the news results placed above search results relating to Google employment or hiring. According to his confessional blog posting, “At that moment, I felt my stomach knot up and my heart drop. I knew exactly what happened and knew that I would end up regretting posting that.”

The prank has made Vandetta temporarily famous. His Gmail account received almost 400 emails in the first few hours. Vandetta has since had to open new Gmail and MySpace accounts. His parents are changing their phone number and he is working to re-establish a workable online identity. On the brighter side, he has received a few emails from Google employees assuring him he has not dashed his dreams of one day working for Google, as he thought he might have.

Courtesy: digg, http://news.stepforth.com/blog/2006/03/google-news-credibility-foiled-by-15.php

Quite amusing!

read more | digg story

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π day

π = 3.14159 26535 89793 23846 26433 …

3.14 = March 14 happens to be pi-day every year. Curiously enough, it also happens to be Einstein’s birthday!

http://www.angio.net/pi/bigpi.cgi gives you a search engine to search for digits of π. For example, a search for 15081947 gives

“The string 15081947 occurs at position 604,341 counting from the first digit after the decimal point. The 3. is not counted.

The string and surrounding digits:

99538905839657483550 15081947 01003364946075415680″

If you are quite crazy about π, you might want to pick up this geeky T-shirt (I created something very similar on photoshop, yet to print it!) from thinkgeek.

Indeed an enigmatic constant!

Interesting Google Links

read more | digg story

This page is in a wonderful language 😀
http://www.google.com/intl/xx-hacker/why_use.html

Further, last April 1, google came up with this fantastic page:

Quench your thirst for knowledge.

At Google our mission is to organize the world’s information and make it useful and accessible to our users. But any piece of information’s usefulness derives, to a depressing degree, from the cognitive ability of the user who’s using it. That’s why we’re pleased to announce Google Gulp (BETA)™ with Auto-Drink™ (LIMITED RELEASE), a line of “smart drinks” designed to maximize your surfing efficiency by making you more intelligent, and less thirsty.

Think fruity. Think refreshing.

Think a DNA scanner embedded in the lip of your bottle reading all 3 gigabytes of your base pair genetic data in a fraction of a second, fine-tuning your individual hormonal cocktail in real time using our patented Auto-Drink™ technology, and slamming a truckload of electrolytic neurotransmitter smart-drug stimulants past the blood-brain barrier to achieve maximum optimization of your soon-to-be-grateful cerebral cortex. Plus, it’s low in carbs! And with flavors ranging from Beta Carroty to Glutamate Grape, you’ll never run out of ways to quench your thirst for knowledge.

red_200.jpgwhite_200.jpgpurple_200.jpgorange_200.jpg

How to get Gulped?
You can pick up your own supply of this “limited release” product simply by turning in a used Gulp Cap at your local grocery store. How to get a Gulp Cap? Well, if you know someone who’s already been “gulped,” they can give you one. And if you don’t know anyone who can give you one, don’t worry – that just means you aren’t cool. But very, very (very!) soon, you will be.

More on google gulp at google.

Further, last August, ONION came up with this hilarious article, spoofing the google enthusiasm:

Google Purge

Executives at Google, the rapidly growing online-search company that promises to “organize the world’s information,” announced Monday the latest step in their expansion effort: a far-reaching plan to destroy all the information it is unable to index.

“Our users want the world to be as simple, clean, and accessible as the Google home page itself,” said Google CEO Eric Schmidt at a press conference held in their corporate offices. “Soon, it will be.”

The new project, dubbed Google Purge, will join such popular services as Google Images, Google News, and Google Maps, which catalogs the entire surface of the Earth using high-resolution satellites.

As a part of Purge’s first phase, executives will destroy all copyrighted materials that cannot be searched by Google.

“A year ago, Google offered to scan every book on the planet for its Google Print project. Now, they are promising to burn the rest,” John Battelle wrote in his widely read “Searchblog.” “Thanks to Google Purge, you’ll never have to worry that your search has missed some obscure book, because that book will no longer exist. And the same goes for movies, art, and music.”

“Book burning is just the beginning,” said Google co-founder Larry Page. “This fall, we’ll unveil Google Sound, which will record and index all the noise on Earth. Is your baby sleeping soundly? Does your high-school sweetheart still talk about you? Google will have the answers.”

Google executives oversee the first stage of Google Purge:

purge.jpg

Read more at ONION.

Search engine wars…

We all use search engines several times a day, left, right and centre. Most of us use our favourite engine, which is most likely Google, and are happy with the results it fetches. But the fact remains that, particularly considering the disconnectedness of the web, we’re indeed missing out on several results. Popular things — people, companies, search engines — always have to pay a price. Just like most of the viruses are written for windows, most of the search engine hacks are targetted at Google.

As a simple example, a search for miserable failure leads you to Biography of President George W. Bush (also by searching for failure) and Biography of Jimmy Carter! This is a typical example of a googlebomb:

“A Google bomb or Google washer is a certain attempt to influence the ranking of a given page in results returned by the Google search engine. Due to the way that Google’s PageRank algorithm works, a page will be ranked higher if the sites that link to that page all use consistent anchor text. A Google bomb is created if a large number of sites link to the page in this manner. Google bomb is used both as a verb and a noun.”
Wikipedia entry on Google Bomb.

Wikipedia has an entry on miserable failure, as well.

It’s no big deal that a search for failure pops up such a result, since you are quite unlikely to google for such terms. But it clearly emphasises the fact that, despite spam filters etc, it is still likely that you end up seeing results that really do not matter to you in the context of your search. Note context.

That brings me to the point of clustering search engines. Considering how big Yahoo! powered by Inktomi was, it was indeed foolhardy to venture to build another search engine, but that’s what great technology can do, and we end up with a legendary Google. The next burning question is to question the hegemony of Google. Every newcomer probably now builds on the google experience of having an extremely uncluttered start page. So that’s good. Next, they try various other things, one of them being clustering. Clustering is certainly useful for disambiguation (you’ve seen this term often if you regularly use wikipedia!). Searching for ‘Cricket’ would give you entries on the game as well as the insect, certainly more of the former, and you would be hard-pressed to find entries on the latter! Cricket is perhaps a wrong example, in that the entries are just so many, that the game bulldozes the insect out of the search engine!

Vivisimo is a clustering search engine, that does a decent job.

tm.gif main_logo.gif

Previewseek (“the world’s most advanced search engine” is their slogan) is a very very good looking search engine, that throws up quite interesting results. For example, a search for cricket directly gives you several useful links. It already says at the top that “Previewseek know this about cricket …” at the top, which would be of great use if you are looking to understand a term or search (I almost said google!) for information about something. The wikipedia entry for cricket is also on the first page. It does use some bandwidth by displaying screenshots for the pages (the parent page of the page you wish to see, I feel), but for broadband users, that’s nothing to worry; you can preview a page before you jump into it. It looks a bit of an AJAX-type interface that’s cool and allows you to add search terms based on the results (a plus next to India, in cricket results , when clicked, will take you to cricket india results). Google does not give the wikipedia entry for cricket in its search, in the top ten. In fact, it’s at a rather bad 34 on the results list!

While I am on the topic of result ranks, I must mention this website, synerge, which compares the ranks of the results between Yahoo! and Google:

yahoo-vs-google1.jpg

PageRank is good no doubt, but spamming etc has its effects on it. I am certain that any algorithm for search, by definition, can be tricked. It’s just like encryption: no key is unbreakable (I’ll ignore quantum cryptography for the moment!). However, 1024-bit encryption does offer practically foolproof security. It’s just that we must continue to strive for such a search algorithm, that is practically foolproof.

There’s another search engine Kosmix, and this is what they have to say about themselves:
kosmix_logo.gif

“At Kosmix, we’re passionate about building a world class search engine that lets people search less, and discover more great stuff. There are billions of pages on the web that are useful, but never see the light of day through a standard search engine. We want to help you find those great pages, and make it easy and fun to do in the process.

Right now we’re in the early stages of Kosmix, and at this point only cover a handful of categories. Our list is growing fast, so check back with us to see what’s new.”

While Google searches pages based on popularity; Kosmix promises to work differently, and will have categorization based on content. With Kosmix, users will be asked to define a search category, and the search engine will then find Webpages that are closely associated in meaning with the search term. Kosmix – which has already started testing a health search on its website, will launch several other search categories over the next year.

The puropse of this article is just to make sure you have an eye on other search engines, including MSN, and not blindly run behind Google, however difficult that may be. None of them is way behind the other, except in popularity! Of course, I’d use Google Scholar ahead of any other search engine, but even there, there’s Entrez PubMed (or HubMed), Scirus and the like which are quite good.
The race is well and truly on, and we, as consumers, are in for a treat, for the problem of plenty is good to have!

lo and behold, logogle!

k0l.gifa3.gifr0.gift2.gifh2.gifi0.gifk2.gif
So how does that look? It’s pretty much trivial to do such a thing even in photoshop — I forget the site which gives the “How to” for that — but I generated is pretty much simple on logogle. Can’t see why anyone would want to use this, but it does look cool if you want to put up a funny-ish logo!

Google also comes up with a lot of cool logos — I wonder if any site has caches of those.. For example, on Independence Day (Aug 15, yeah!), google.co.in had a cool logo, with two Ashoka chakras instead of the two O’s in google! I’ve got one with a double helix though, which google uses in its site-flavoured searches. The google logo in itself is much a statement of its simplicity! Staying on the topic of design, there’s a graphic designer who believes that google could be a little more efficient (and beautiful?)! Read more about that here.

Update (2005-02-04 1027):

Googled and found the I-Day logo:

india05.gif

The BluWiki Vision

Bringing web publishing to the people. We see a world where everyone can publish online. Without censoring, popups, or banner ads. And you don’t even need to know html! Thats right, just good old-fashioned publishing. Help us acomplish this vision, make BluWiki.org your home on the web.”

— BluWiki website

I’ve been amused by wikis for quite some time and wanted to start a wiki based homepage on my own. When I examined for free hostings, there appeared to be several ones, but none as good as BluWiki. I did like wikispaces, where I created my own space, but no wiki is as compelling as one that uses mediawiki. I even looked at editthis.info, but found BluWiki to be the best place to make my home! I must say that editthis.info allows you to create your own wiki but I am not sure how well they’re doing. Looks like that’s a good place to be, if you want to have a large wiki and not just a personal homepage.