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Editor’s note: For the latest information on the Google Panda algorithm, please see: A Complete Guide to the Google Panda Update.

Google was under a lot of pressure to make an update that cast the “content mills” from its index.

With the heavy pressure of the tech media community, spunky upstarts like Blekko calling the company out, and an acknowledgment from Google of an increase in spam on its index, the search engine giant had to act both quickly and effectively.

Their most recent major algorithm change, known in the tech community as the “farmer update,” was released with bullet speed and did a great job at getting rid of a lot of spam – but at what cost?

In any war, some inncoents will be hurt, and that seems to include the war on spam.

When the update went live, thousands of smaller sites lost some ranking, with some losing literally all SERP visibility. This was primarily seen in the blogging and e-commerce community, but the reach could be felt far and wide.

Google Fellow Amit Singhal stated that the company is aware of some fallout, and that “no algorithm is 100% accurate.”

That isn’t an excuse or escape hatch, though. Rather, it’s Singhal’s way of saying that the company knows there’s more to work on, and that they are already plugging away, aiming on bringing the algorithm “close to 100%.”

He has stated that engineers are already at work on those adjustments, building an extra “layer” on the foundation of the farmer algorithm.

While some rumors have stated that these alterations have already been made, Google has confirmed that any changes already present are minor (part of the “more than one alteration per day” that Google’s algorithm typically sees); the layer they are referring to is yet to come. In other words: “Innocents” hurt by this update will be thrown a floater in the near future!

[via Wired]

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Google Social Search; The Lost Update

Can you imagine there being a change at Google that pre-dates Panda, (and subsequent incarnations) the +1 button, the attribution algo updates and few if any in the SEO world had noticed? I mean, it makes one helluva trivia question don’t it? Not as much fun as; What does Archie comics have to do with the early history of search. But it’s fascinating none-the-less.

Hey gang… long time no chat! Dave here… long lost SEJ writer and all around search geek. Can we talk or what?

February 17th 2011; the day it all changed

First off, those of you familiar with my ranting and ramblings on this topic, are excused. It’s unlikely we’ll be covering much new for my faithful SOSGs (no that’s not talking dirty, it’s; Seriously Obsessed Search Geek m’kay?). It simply needs to be repeated for a larger audience.

Those still wondering what this mad rambling Gypsy is on about, walk with me…

Over the years we’ve seen many changes to Google that had some interesting if not far reaching implications for the fastidious search optimizer. Odd, I’ve never optimized a search engine. What’s up with that? Anyway, getting lost again. We’ve had the rise of personalization (and general flux), the timeliness of the QDF (query deserves freshness), finding our way with deeper localization and general madness in what we call universal search. The list is ever-growing it seems over the last few years.

Many times during these evolutions SEO types weren’t always grasping the value right out of the gate. At least though there were some that caught it and generally some form of awareness within short order.

I mean, this is the group of folks that traditionally go a little mental each time there is a Google toob bar PageRank update… (like this);

What happened some 4 months ago, while extremely noteworthy, has gone almost entirely un-noticed or at very least, below the radar of those covering the industry.

The 2011 Google Social Search Update

For starters, is it unsurprising this went largely unnoticed? In retrospect, no. If we consider that back in 2008 we caught a glimpse of the Google social graph work and ultimately user profiling, which few seemed interested in, then no. If we consider the madness that ensues with shiny bobbles like the +1 button, then ok, yes… it does give one pause to say WTF?

And on a side note, some have suggested that SEOs like the thought of the +1 having ranking weight because…well… then they can manipulate it. Another story tho… we’ll get back to that.

Here’s the short version of what went down (Googly post here);

Ok, seems kinda unremarkable on the surface right? NOT. This is something fairly significant in the world of search.

Now, a few notes of interest;

Google accounts are on the rise (think Android)

It pulls from the social graph

It is another form of personalization

Does an end-around on problematic explicit feedback

Uses primary and secondary contacts

It re-ranks (search) listings

Catch that last one? It RE-RANKs the listings in the SERP. Anyone that’s been around long enough remembers how we drooled on the new short-cuts to the front page when various verticals gained prominence (aka universal SERPs). This is no different.

Look…. this is logged out;

And this is logged in;

WOW. We have a new way of ranking and SEOs aren’t talking about it? Did you know that there are a few thousand freaking articles on the +1 button (which doesn’t re-rank anything) but outside of ol Rand (who recently discovered it apparently) and yours truly (tho mine has been a little obsessive ROFL) there has been very little on this one?

Consulting the crystal ball

This is all about looking into the future. We are seeing (over the last few years) an evolution to search that will most certainly be around for years to come. It started with real-time search and has grown out of control since then. Google has had a stated goal of deeper personalization for many years. One of the problems has always been the inherent issues with implicit/explicit feedback.

The social graph is a VERY effective way to gain deeper personalization beyond the traditional signals and matches well with the way the web is growing. In short; it makes sense.

Regardless of how much value you see in it now, this is an important development at Google. Did you get spanked by the Panda? Then maybe paying closer attention to the evolution of search could have prevented it. Don’t drop the ball again.

Some food for thought

Ok, enough rambling. I simply wanted to abuse the hallowed halls of SEJ to try and get the word out one last time on this. A few thoughts before I go….

They have a good grasp on you social circle (see here); they likely weren’t doing that just for fun right?

Google has long been interested in social profiling, known at the time as ‘friend rank’. The road map has been in front of us the entire time, if you’re looking.

And what about the latest foray? Google Plus. It sure seems that what we’ve seen in the last few years is all moving in a concerted direction. I can see MANY ways that this social search update can play nicely with Google Plus. Consider the simple fact that Google Profiles are now wrapped up in Plus. I had originally lamented that they needed better management, which seems to be happening now.

Point being, this is a major vision of where search and social are likely headed. If you, like many, haven’t really been looking at this… it really is time that you did.

If you don’t…. you may find yourself left out of the loop in the real near future

Ios 7 Update Promoted By Nypd With Flyers: Security The Key

iOS 7 update promoted by NYPD with flyers: security the key

If you’re walking around New York City this afternoon, you may be handed a flyer by the NYC Police Department with a “Public Awareness Notice” for so-called “Apple users”. This note informs users of iPhone and iPad devices that upgrading to iOS 7 will add security features that will keep these devices from being reprogrammed without an Apple ID and Password. These notes go on to suggest that “additional information on iOS 7 features” can be found at Apple’s homepage.

The feature these notes speak of is indeed included with iOS 7 (see: Activation Lock), added by Apple to help cut down the turnover rate of stolen or otherwise lost phones to thieves. The notes handed out by the NYC Police Department also suggest that users register their devices with the NYPD’s Operation Identification Program. This program is outlined by chúng tôi in their Crime Prevention program listing as follows:

Operation Identification is offered free of charge by the New York City Police Department. The program involves engraving an identifiable serial number with the letters N.Y.C. on all portable valuables such as computers, fax machines, copiers, etc. and registering only the number and the owners name and address with the Police Department.

This program can be implemented by contacting your local Precinct’s Crime Prevention Officer. The officer will loan you an engraver, which is used to mark all equipment. Benefits from this program include:

• Special New York City Police Department decals are issued which are affixed to windows alerting people that all property contained within, has been registered in this program.

• The marked property is more difficult for a thief to sell.

• Stolen property in the possession of a thief is easily traceable to its rightful owner.

• Found property can easily be identified and returned to the rightful owner.

It is not clear at this time if these flyers are being handed out across the 5 boroughs or if they’re being distributed in centralized locations. Several flyers have popped up with “72nd Precinct” printed on them while others show no such specific marking. According to 9to5mac, flyers are being handed out at Apple Stores “where people are walking out with new iPhone 5s/5c with iOS 7 installed” as well. Twitter users Tam Nguyen and Michael Hoffman began mentioning these “uniformed NYPD officers” handing out flyers as early as yesterday.

Nguyen stated that the NYPD was at more than one Apple store handing out flyers while Hoffman suggested “four uniformed NYPD officers” were standing at a subway stop closer to 6:30PM handing out the flyer you see in this article with 72nd Precinct printed on top and down below. The shorter flyer comes from Jim Rosenberg who sends message from what AllThingsD suggests was a subway station on 168th St. in Manhattan.

Jerry, Community Affairs Officer from the 78th asked that we pass this on to folks:


Look familiar?

While it would appear that no formal message has been issued by the NYPD on this matter online, we expect that a street-level distribution was seen as having more potential. For more information on iOS 7 in general, you’ll want to head to SlashGear’s full iOS 7 review, and if you’ve suddenly found yourself with downloader’s remorse, there’s always the iOS 7 downgrade back to iOS 6.

We Can Save Coral Reefs By Putting Them On Ice

The planet’s coral reefs are in trouble. Thanks to warming and acidifying oceans, the animals that make up coral reefs are dying, turning the reefs themselves into algae-covered ghost towns. This represents a loss of habitat for numerous nearby creatures, many of which evolved to only live in the reefs. So the deaths of the corals can lead to the deaths of many other species. From monitoring the reefs by listening to them to local action and working to understand the dynamics of coral illness, scientists and conservationists are taking a lot of approaches to stem the tide. Still, without drastic action on our part, the oceans are going to get warmer—and more coral will die—a predicted three-quarters of the world’s reefs by 2100.

This grim story was illuminated by a ray of hope this week, in the form of a new paper published in the journal Scientific Reports. After years of attempts, Smithsonian Institution researchers in Hawaii have figured out how to cryogenically preserve coral larvae. That means it’s possible to save the genetic diversity of existing coral, perhaps for centuries. The preserved coral larvae can help reseed dead or injured reefs and, as coral research continues to work on the problem of reef death, may someday launch a reef renaissance.

“As reef degradation accelerates, the need for restoration tools has become innovative,” the paper authors write. Although scientists have been able to freeze coral sperm for a while, they need fresh eggs to fertilize—an issue if you’re trying to save a species from going extinct in the wild. A possible solution is freezing coral in their larval stage (they do not have what we’d call an embryonic stage), but “large, multi-celled organisms are usually difficult to freeze,” explains study author Jon Daly. Until now, nobody had successfully cryopreserved and awoken coral larvae, but Daly and his coauthers were able to find the right method to preserve Fungia scutaria larvae and defrost them successfully.

With some experimentation, the paper authors found that freezing coral larvae in the first days of their life cycle using a super-fast method called “vitrification” was successful in cryopreserving larvae who could be awoken with laser warming to swim again.

Among the technical difficulties they faced is the fact that fish embryos and coral larvae are protected from the ocean by “space capsules,” explains coauthor Mary Hagedorn. The same protections that keep them safe from the sea also make them difficult to cryopreserve without giving the tissue what we could colloquially call “freezer burn.” (The problem of freezer burn is one of the many issues faced by the field of human cryonics.)

Usually, the use of cryoprotectants—substances that work with the cells to make freezing without freezer burn possible—helps in the preservation process. But unlike mammalian embryos that are not protected from their mothers’ uteruses, marine embryos are hard to penetrate. By using the right cryoprotectants and relatively undeveloped larvae, the team was able to saturate the baby coral with the protective substance and keep ice crystals from forming during the freezing process.

The size and protection of the embryos is also an issue when it comes time to wake them. If you’ve ever tried to defrost a couple of pounds of ground meat in the microwave, you’ll have a sense of the issues: it doesn’t de-ice uniformly. And you certainly don’t want your precious coral larvae starting to cook around their edges while their centers are still frozen. The team got around this by surrounding the embryos with gold nanorods, which converted a laser’s light into heat and uniformly warmed the larvae.

Comparatively few marine animals are cryopreserved as embryos or larvae—something Hagedorn says needs to change if we want any hope of saving ocean biodiversity. “One of the things that we are really concerned about is our ability to bank this material long-term around the world,” she explains. There’s nothing like the Svalbard Global Seed Vault for marine life, she says—but there should be.

“We need to develop these tools now,” says Hagedorn. It takes a while to learn how to do things like this, she says, but without tools to preserve the living genetic diversity of threatened species, they may go extinct before we have any chance of saving them. Thawing and reintroducing coral larvae to the oceans isn’t exactly de-extinction, since the tissue never died, unlike—for example—efforts to clone the wooly mammoth.

While the thought that coral reefs are disappearing is a grim one, “this is something that we can do,” Daly says. It’s arguably an investment in the future—even if it’s one that nobody alive today will see. “There’s always a possibility that people hundreds of years from now may want coral reefs back again,” Hagedorn says.

Google Earnings Hopes Hampered By Economy, Competitors

(Reuters) – Investors have muted expectations for Google Inc’s second-quarter results, as economic clouds and shifts in the company’s strategy dampened hopes that it will beat Wall Street estimates.

At least three analysts have cut financial estimates for Google in the run up to its second-quarter earnings report due late Thursday.

“There’s no question that sentiment going into the quarter is much lower,” said Cowen and Co analyst Jim Friedland.

With fears of a double-dip recession and ongoing worries about the European debt crisis, Wall Street is taking a cautious view on the Internet powerhouse, which counts Britain as one of its biggest overseas markets.

Google’s future in China, where the company’s license was recently renewed for one year, is also a concern for investors.

Investors will also focus on operating expenses and headcount after Google made eight acquisitions during the quarter in addition to the $700 million deal to acquire online travel software company ITA Software announced July 1.

“…a large uptick in expenses could create concerns for investors looking for the company to maintain or increase margin in 2011,” UBS analyst Brian Pitz wrote in a recent note to investors.


Google has beat Wall Street revenue expectations in five of the past seven quarters and exceeded profit estimates in each of the past seven. But its shares have sold off after its last two better-than-expected earnings reports when, analysts said, some investors’ expectations of blow-out results were missed.

The average analyst expectation according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S calls for Google to generate net revenue — which excludes costs that Google pays to partner websites — of $4.99 billion in the second quarter, down roughly 1.4 percent from the first quarter, with earnings per share of $6.53.

Estimates from Thomson Reuters StarMine, which places more weight on recent forecasts by top-rated analysts, forecast revenue of $4.99 billion and a EPS of $6.57 – a relatively minor amount of upside by Google standards.

“In previous quarters, when foreign exchange wasn’t that big of an issue and macro conditions were relatively stable, all the checks (that analysts made with Google’s customers) were coming out strong, so the numbers kept going up ahead of the quarter,” said JMP Securities analyst Sameet Sinha.

Still, with shares now trading at much lower levels and second-quarter estimates having come down, JMP’s Sinha says the stock is under less pressure to outperform on Thursday.

Google’s stock is down roughly 22 percent from its 52-week high of $629.51, though shares have rallied more than 13 percent since the start of the month, closing at $491.34 on Wednesday.


Meanwhile, Google’s Android smartphone operating system software has continued to make headway. Roughly 160,000 smartphones featuring Android software are now shipped every day, up from the 60,000 units-per-day rate announced in February, Google said.

The company’s plans to become an online phone retailer have fared less well, with Google pulling the plug on its effort to sell the Nexus One smartphone through its website in May.

And while Google shares got a bump earlier this month, after the company said its license to operate a website in mainland China had been renewed by the Chinese authorities, analysts question Google’s business prospects in the world’s largest Internet market by users.

Kaufman Brother’s analyst Aaron Kessler said he hoped to get more clarity from management on the sustainability of Google’s new tack of providing Chinese websurfers a link to an uncensored search site in Hong Kong, as well as details about changes in Google’s market share and ad business there.

Why Is The Knuckleball So Hard A Baseball Pitch To Hit?


Want to throw a knuckler? In 1939, the price of knowledge was the cost of a pack of gum.

Batters see knuckleballs much less frequently than more conventional pitches. Of the thousands of professionals who’ve pitched in Major League Baseball, only 84 qualify as knuckleball pitchers, according to Knuckleball Headquarters. The rarity of the pitch, also called a floater, may contribute to its effectiveness: The more often a hitter sees a pitch, the better he can adjust his swing.

Most important to the knuckler’s evasiveness, however, is the pitch’s erratic flight to the plate-an effect achieved because the ball is thrown with little or no rotation. Without rotation, the knuckleball will flutter, dance, and generally behave unpredictably. (The key is to throw the ball with a stiff wrist.)

The science behind the knuckler was clarified when engineers Eric Sawyer and Robert Watts of Tulane University in New Orleans conducted wind tunnel experiments in 1975. They found that pressure would build up on one side of the ball and then the other, causing it to dart back and forth from its original trajectory.

One of the elite 84 knuckleballers, Jim Bouton, who won 21 games as a fastball pitcher for the Yankees in 1963, was able to extend his career as a knuckleballer after an injury robbed him of the fastball. An author as well, Bouton wrote the celebrated Ball Four. An update, Ball Four-The Final Pitch, appeared in 2000.

Bouton learned the pitch as a youngster from instructions on the back of a cereal box. He and his brother then threw hundreds of attempted knucklers in the yard, until he finally launched a genuine spinless pitch that dropped at the last minute, hitting his brother in the knee. “Ow!” the sibling yelled, “what a great pitch!”

“I spent my teenage years maiming my brother and father, and anyone else who tried to catch my knuckler,” Bouton remembers. Because he also had a blazing fastball, the teams he pitched for discouraged the knuckleball. “A fastball is like a jackhammer, and a knuckleball is like brain surgery,” he says. “I could not have mixed the two very well.”

After Bouton retired in 1970, he continued to pitch semiprofessionally in his free time exclusively as a knuckleballer, and launched an unprecedented return to the majors in 1978. He’s done a fair amount of thinking about the pitch.

“It’s part of Bernoulli’s principle, how air lifts airplane wings,” he says. “Because the knuckleball is moving through the air without spinning, air currents that flow over and under the ball are not equal, creating a disturbance immediately behind the ball.”

“Or,” he continues, “think of the

old musket balls from colonial times. When they came out of the muskets they would be accurate for only 15 or 20 feet, then they would destabilize, because of Bernoulli’s principle. Then they invented rifling in the barrels of guns. When a bullet comes out of a gun, the spiral grooves cause it to spin like a football. It’s that spinning that keeps it on target.” A knuckleball is like a musket ball-unpredictable.

Pitchers don’t need to know the science, though. “All you need to know is that if you put any kind of a spin on it at all, it’ll travel about 475 feet in the opposite direction,” Bouton says.

“Contact hitters, the guys who wait until the very last moment to get their bat on the ball, are the most effective against the knuckler,” Bouton points out. “Free-swinging home run hitters can be totally helpless.”

The knuckleball invariably taps a wellspring of humor, and Bouton offers one last laugh. “Remember what Bob Uecker (the announcer and former big league catcher) had to say about how to handle the knuckleball? You just wait until it stops rolling and then pick it up.”

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