Archive for the ‘Web Site’ Category

Windows Live Mobile Search 2.0 Out
July 14, 2007

Microsoft released the second version of its Windows Live Mobile Search application on Friday, including some new features for both the standalone and Web-based versions of the client.

Versions of the software are available for Windows Mobile, J2ME, and in beta for BlackBerry devices. Unsupported phones will be able to access the new Web-based version. The iPhone can use the Web-based app, but a bug prevents the search button from working properly.

“When you do a search, hit “Go” on the soft-keyboard after entering your search terms as the normal search button is not active,” Microsoft said. “The mobile search team will have a maintenance release shortly to address this issue.”In the Windows Live Search 2.0 desktop version, new features include movie showtimes and the addition of more local data and user reviews. The Virtual Earth maps functionality has been improved and users would have the option of increasing the cache by using a storage card.

The directions functionality has been bolstered as well, with better support for in-phone GPS and improved turn-by-turn navigation. The application would even prompt to reroute if it detects you have veered away from the given directions.

The Web-based version now allows for a single search box that shows results from Instant Answers, Local, Web, Images to News and Spaces. Two of these features are new to the Web platform, including Instant Answers and Image Search. Clicking on the links would show the page formatted specifically for a mobile phone.

Those with compatible devices can download the standalone version of Windows Live Search 2.0 by pointing their mobile browser to The mobile search page can be accessed from

Written By: Ed Oswald, BetaNews


FeedBurner premium news feed now free
July 8, 2007

RSS provider FeedBurner is to make its premium news feed management services available to publishers at no extra charge, just one month after being acquired by Google.

FeedBurner’s Stats PRO and MyBrand services were previously available for an additional monthly fee of $5.

Stats PRO includes tools to allow users to more effectively track stats on feeds, such as ad metrics and a list of sites publishing the feed.

MyBrand allows users to attach their own URL to a feed which is being served by FeedBurner. The original charge for the service ranged from $3 to $14, depending on the number of feeds.

The move follows a pattern for Google, which makes the vast majority of its money from advertising sales. The company had previously removed charges for premium services after acquiring such companies as Blogger, Picasa and Urchin.

Like its parent company, FeedBurner will now rely on ad sales for revenue. Increasing ad sales had been a constant theme for both companies when the acquisition was announced.

Susan Wojcicki, vice president of product management at Google, said at the time of the acquisition that the search giant “constantly aims to give AdWords advertisers broader distribution to an even wider audience of users”.

FeedBurner chief executive Dick Costello told users that the acquisition will allow them to make more money from Google’s huge advertising network.

Users will need to manually activate the Stats PRO and MyBrand services in order to take advantage of the premium features.

Written by: Vnunet 

Xcavator, Photo Comparison Search
June 26, 2007 is an interesting stock photo search engine. Instead of just searching for tags, you can also select a color, or upload your own photo to get best matches returned. Results are already OK, and would probably be even better with a larger image database in the back-end (so that you would find more precise matches to the photos you upload).

What’s really neat is that you can drag and drop photos from the result onto the bar below the results, so that you can buy the stock photo at a later point but continue browsing… in fact, thanks to Ajax you never have to leave the frontpage of Xcavator; on the downside of that, you also can’t use your browser’s back button to return to past searches (as ever so often with modern web apps, for every pro of on-page interactivity, there’s a con in accessibility).

If you find certain surprising or just very precise matches when you uploaded a photo to the site, please post your screenshot in the comments.

Written by: Google Blogoscoped

Plaxo 3 Beta Review
June 26, 2007

Robert Scoble broke the news on Sunday night first as far as I can tell. The address book, calendar and task management and synchronization platform Plaxo opened their new version 3.0 beta to the public.

As a user and fan of Plaxo, did I go and tested it out right away of course. I had a whole day to play around with it and here are my comments.

The new version included a complete overhaul of the web interface, the part of Plaxo, which I used the least to be honest. The interface was user friendly before and it did not change with the new version although the number of features increased and had to fit on the page as well.

I liked and still like the synchronization features, the de-duper, the auto update and the easy web access to your contacts the most. With Plaxo was I finally able to clean-up my address book for the first time to an extent, which I had never thought possible before. Plaxo offers plug-ins for Microsoft Outlook and Outlook Express. In addition, Mac users who are using Mac OS X have a plug-in available as well. I did not see any plug-in for Linux though.

The Plaxo plug-in automatically synchronized my contacts, calendars, tasks and notes (which are new I believe). The one thing I had hoped for did not make it into V3.0 unfortunately.

I posted comments in their support forum in April, after two other people already noted the same, but the Plaxo support people did misunderstand the request first.

Plaxo synchronizes images of people, if they provided one and shared it in their Plaxo profile. Images I specify in Outlook myself on the other hand, does Plaxo ignore and not use it, even for contacts who did not specify an Image at all. I am a visual person and the image for the contact helps me a lot to make associations about where we met etc. I hope that Plaxo will implement a feature like that in the near future.

Plaxo Syncs with MS Outlook, MS Outlook Express, Max OS X, Yahoo! Mail, Gmail, MSN Hotmail/Windows Live, LinkedIn (Pro Version) and Windows Mail. As I already mentioned, mobile access is also available, free (it used to be a Pro-Account feature). Users also have the option to do a one way import from a number of the sources I mentioned above.

The De-Dupe feature was extended and does include calendar entries. It is still a Pro feature, but that does not cost a lot. Full access to all features is available for less than $50 per year and well worth the investment.

A cool feature from previous version was the auto update of contact information for people in your address book that also have a Plaxo account. That happens automatically and requires no configuration at all. Plaxo informs you of contacts who created an account recently to let you know about it. Plaxo also reminds you of birthdays, if either you or your contact provided the information.

Another feature is to send out in bulk or individually a request to……. Read the full reviw from the Source “Search Engine Journal

Fauxto Online Photo Editor
June 25, 2007

Fauxto*, released in late 2006, is a Photoshop-like online image editor that’s constantly growing its list of features. Once you edited a photo with brushes, layers, fill tools, eraser and so on, you can save it online – no need to go back to your hard disk (though you can do that, too).

This tool works incredibly well, though I’m not sure if there’s any business plan behind it (registration is free). Perhaps the makers are hoping to get acquired. And Google Inc. seems to be one likely candidate: the Google office already has online Word, online Excel, online FrontPage, online email, online calendar, perhaps soon online PowerPoint, and more (all of these with less features than their desktop counterparts, but better sharing & multi-user editing capabilities), so online Photoshop would make sense too**.

*If you pronounce this the French way, faux – to, it supposedly sounds a bit like “photo.”

**Unless Google’s already working on this in-house, of course.


Written by:  Google Blogoscoped

translate Words with Google’s Bilingual Dictionaries
June 23, 2007

Google has a powerful translation tool that lets you translate a web page or a text, but that’s not very useful if you only need to translate a word or an expression. Without entering a context, Google shows the most plausible translation, but a word can have multiple translations.

To overcome this problem, Google launched a bilingual dictionary that lets you enter an English word and get the translations in French, German, Italian, Spanish and Korean or enter a word in of those 5 languages and get the English translation.

Google also shows related phrases, but it would be nice to see more contexts. “Some of these related phrases will show idiomatic usages of the word or short phrase that you entered, while others will be examples of your word or short phrase being used in its literal meaning.”

If you enter a word in one of the supported languages, but you don’t know the language, Google offers some options at the bottom of the page.

Google Toolbar also has a feature that lets you translate English words on a web page into another language by hovering your mouse cursor over a word, while Google’s define: operator gives you access to definitions from all over the Web.

Written by:  Google System

Xerox tool analyzes text to improve search results
June 21, 2007

Xerox researchers have developed a search tool that tries to understand documents, rather than looking for keywords, in order to provide better results.

The tool, FactSpotter, analyzes the underlying grammar of a text in order to infer additional information, such as whether ambiguous words are being used as nouns or verbs, or to whom a pronoun refers, said Frédérique Segond, who manages the parsing and semantics research group at Xerox Research Center Europe near Grenoble, France.

The analysis allows the software to understand that references to “Bill Gates,” “he” and “the head of Microsoft” in the same document likely refer to the same person. But the software should also be able to tell that “Bill Gates said … ” and “A friend of Bill Gates said …” do not precede words spoken by the same person, a situation that would likely lead search engines using keyword analysis alone to return irrelevant results.

One of the first groups to use FactSpotter will be Xerox Litigation Services, which next year will build it into a suite of “e-discovery” software for the legal profession, Segond said. In the discovery phase of a lawsuit, where legal teams must often sift through millions of e-mail messages and other documents, the software could be used to identify the sender and recipients of messages, and pick out information about events and dates from them. These features could be used to form a picture of who knew what, and when, in order to build a solid legal case, she said.

Segond’s research team developed their own metalanguage to describe the grammars of different human languages. So far, they have used it to build descriptions of Dutch, English, French, German, Italian, Portuguese, and Spanish. A joint Fujitsu-Xerox research team has also used it to describe Japanese grammar, showing that it can be used for languages using other writing systems.

FactSpotter itself is written in the C programming language, and the researchers have also developed modules in Java and Python, allowing the software to interface with other applications.

Although the software only analyzes written language, it can be linked with audio transcription tools in order to search radio and TV archives, and the company is involved in joint research projects to do just that, Segond said.

Written by: InfoWorld

Track Every Click with Crazy Egg’s “Confetti”
June 19, 2007

Crazy Egg LogoOptimizing your website can be tough business since you can’t “see” your customers online. Analytics packages like Google analytics do a good job letting you see how many visitors are coming and going on your site by tracking every page request. However, another breed of analytics focuses on optimizing how they’re using it, by tracking where visitors click. Crazy Egg, one of these optimization services, now has a new feature “Confetti” that lets you easily see where every visitor clicked on your site and what brought them there. We’ve covered their previous overlay and heatmap features here.

Confetti overlays your site, showing each visitor’s click as a colored dot. The colors stand for the categories you sort the clicks by: operating system, browser, window size, time before clicking, and what search term brought them to the page. It even shows you clicks that weren’t on links, so you know if your users are expecting a link where there isn’t one. You can see the results in aggregate as a bar chart or click on individual dots to find out more information about a particular user. For instance, you can use Confetti to see how users from different referrals behave, and settle the debate over exactly how many of those Digg users click on your ads.

crazyconfettismall.pngCrazy Egg has been implemented on over 250,000 sites and is free if you just want to track up to 5,000 clicks on 4 pages at a time each month. But if you upgrade to a paid account, you can track more clicks over more pages with real time data. The limited number of clicks tracked may seem restrictive, but analytics from Crazy Egg are meant to run for a short period of time on a specific url to grab a sample of how your users react to design changes.

There are a couple other optimization services out there: Map Surface, ClickTale, and Click Density. Click Density was one of the first services to show each unique click on your site, but Crazy Egg has added a simpler point-and-click interface for drilling into your data.

Crazy Egg is based in Orange County California and has reportedly been in acquisition talks.

Written by: TechCrunch

Google Takes YouTube Global
June 19, 2007

YouTube launched nine localized versions of its popular social video site on Tuesday, which will at first only place navigation and functionality in the country’s native language.

Eventually, the site plans to offer localized content as well, with the featured pages targeted towards the individual tastes of consumers in each market. This would include ratings specific to that country in addition to localized comments.

<script language=”javascript” src=”″></script>

The nine initial countries included are Brazil, Britain, France, Ireland, Italy, Japan, the Netherlands, Poland and Spain. Users in these countries would have the option to switch their preference to the new version, or jump between them through the menu bar at the top of the page.Localized pages will not merely be subdomains of – the company in every case but Italy has gone ahead and purchased the YouTube domain for that specific country.

YouTube’s efforts to become more internationally inclusive have been stepped up in recent months. While much of the attention has been on its deals with American television networks, it has signed several agreements with international broadcasters as well.

Content will be made available to YouTube users worldwide unless the provider forbids it.

Some believe that YouTube’s move was a long time coming. “Opening up the site to a non-English speaking audience will drive a new wave of growth that will further cement YouTube’s place as the leading online destination for on-demand internet video,” Duncan Riley wrote for TechCrunch on Tuesday.

Written by:  By Ed Oswald, BetaNews

Stalking 2.0: The Websites that Track Your Every Move
June 17, 2007


So, you don’t mind being followed and tracked? You don’t care if your friends can see what websites you’ve been to lately, what software you’ve been running, or even what music you’ve been listening to? Then you’ll love the web’s trend towards extreme openness: sharing everything you do on your computer. Sometimes referred to as sharing your ‘attention’ data, this is a growing market. Below, we round up 12 services that want to track your every move – voluntarily.

Wakoopa Logo

Wakoopa is an excellent service which tracks what software you have been running. It keeps tabs of what software is running in the background, what software you have installed, and what software you actively use. Every so often the software uploads this data to the Wakoopa site where it then lists all programs you have been running. The interesting thing here is that you can add friends to track individually or join a team and combine the data. Thanks to Wakoopa, I have found several useful programs that I now use regularly. has been making news with the site being acquired by CBS for nearly $300 million. If you’re a tech-savvy music fan, you probably already use it. With you download a small program which gathers information on the current song you are playing through your favorite mp3 software application. Through a process called “scrobbling,” the software determines what song you are listening to and then uploads this song’s data to the server and then keeps track of it. On the website itself there are many ways of viewing the data which is fun to play around with. To be honest though, I think the greatest part is learning exactly how much horrible music you listen to and what songs your friends listen to in comparison. (Our review.)

Cluztr takes it to the web by tracking every site you visit online through your browser. Not only that, it also keeps a history log or “clickstream” of all those sites. One word of advice, avoid visiting sites that your mother would not think much of, as it’s all out there for your friends to view. Cluztr installs a plug-in to your FireFox or Flock browser (sorry IE and Safari users, Cluztr is hopeful for a mid to late 2007 release) where it then captures your entire web surfing history and compiles it into your “clickstream” which you are free to share or publish on the web for all your friends to see. There are also social functions built into the sidebar which allow for posting of messages for that specific site which other users can see when visiting that same site. (Our Cluztr review.)

AttentionTrust offers services similar to Cluztr. AttentionTrust installs as a browser plug-in and tracks the sites you visit. You can then take this data and share it with other applications or development projects that could make use of this data, or simply store it on your desktop. AttentionTrust’s idea is to let you share this data with in interested parties for a fee – in other words, a form of lead generation.

Atten.TV Logo

Atten.TV is another site that allows you to follow what you or your friends are clicking on around the web. You have the option to share this data or keep it private. It is completely up to you. Since you are reading this article, I think it is safe to assume you are leaning towards the former option. The downloadable application is only for Mac OS currently. (Our review.)

Me.dium can be considered a competitor to Cluztr. Me.dium takes the same basic approach, but doesn’t act as a personal log: instead, it lets you see which sites your friends are on, and join them there. It is simply personal preference on your decision to use Cluztr, Me.dium, Atten.TV or AttentionTrust. (Our Me.dium review.)

Plazes Logo

Plazes is a service that tracks where you are no matter where you are in the world. So now if you not only want your pals to know where you are online, you can have them know where you are in person. Just be sure not to get in to trouble with this service.

iStalkr doesn’t keep tabs on you directly, but rather, indirectly by utilizing RSS and ATOM feeds that most social web 2.0 sites are utilizing now. If you sign up for an iStalkr account and enter some social sites you are a member of, like and Twitter, iStalkr will then grab the RSS/ATOM feed for that service and will be able to get your updates from the site. To put it simply, think of iStalkr like as a central hub for your social website information and updates. (Our iStalkr review.)

SlifeShare Logo

SlifeShare is an application built for the Mac OS primarily. If you are running Firefox you can install the extension regardless of what OS you run. SlifeShare is similar to iStalkr in that the application tracks data from multiple sources and acts as a central hub, but SlifeShare takes it a step further and collects this data directly. Music, videos, photos, websites, applications, and more are tracked and then the data is displayed on the SlifeShare website which you can share with friends. You are only allowed five friends, after which you must either become a premium user or just stick with the five friend limit. (Our SlifeShare review.)

YouTube Logo

YouTube Active Share simply allows you to share videos that you watch on YouTube with all your friends. Your profile will show what videos you have recently watched and when you are currently watching a video while others are viewing the same video, they will see your name appear on a list of people currently watching that video.

Particls is a downloadable application which doesn’t necessarily track what you do, but instead tracks what you are most interested in receiving information about. The concept is that you allow the Particls software to search your documents for keywords that will allow the program to determine what information you want to be fed to your computer via RSS and ATOM feeds. For example, if you type in Web 2.0, it’s almost a guarantee you will receive site updates from the Mashable website directly to the Particls software. Minor problems with the application is that it can be a resource hog at times, but it is very powerful, and Particls will have an ad supported version and a pay version in the future. (Our Particls review and custom Mashable version.)

Google Logo

Google History has drawn much controversy over privacy issues. Google search history is another controversial tool Google released that tracks every search term you enter into Google’s various search tools. This feature is mainly for your benefit only.

Written by: Mashable

Chime.TV: A Prettier Way to Watch YouTube
June 15, 2007

Chime.Tv’s video player has got the kind of flash and style Ruby developers would envy, especially since it’s programmed in PHP and AJAX. The player, which dishes out 22 themed channels of viral video content, with a bunch of added utilities.The full page player is similar to Joost and Babelgum, but in your browser. Like the IPTV guys, you can flip through pre-made channels, roll your own, or search for content by keyword. The player is pretty hands off, and will just run if you give it a channel or a search term to munch on. The player searches through videos on YouTube, Veoh, Metacafe, Google Video, and DailyMotion. You can reorganize the results by title, length, or randomize. They also have a bookmarklet so you can add content to your channels as you surf the web.

So, iIf you want to create the “bikini” channel, all you have to do is search for “bikini” in the search bar and Chime will start playing through all the results. The player also has a friend feature for sharing your channels and vids with someone else.

The player can play in full screen mode, wide screen, or anywhere in between by dragging the corner of the video. It also comes with some color controls for brightness, contrast, and color in case the original quality is less than stellar.

All this thing needs is a mashup with one of the TV show aggregators.

Written by: TechCrunch

EMI and YouTube shake hands and hips
June 2, 2007

EMI has signed an agreement with Google’s video-sharing website YouTube to allow its users to view “authorised” videos and recordings from the music firm’s roster of artists.

It’s the last of the Big Four to do so, with Sony BMG, Universal, and Warner having already jumped on the bandwagon in an attempt to claw back control of multifarious online digital content.

The firm has been directing much of its attention in recent months towards its business relationship with Apple and was the first of the Big Four to sign a DRM-free music deal with the computer giant.

EMI said it is working closely on business models with YouTube with the ambitious aim of fulfilling customer demand, pushing up revenue, and keeping artists satisfied.

“Through this agreement EMI Music and its artists will be fairly compensated for their work,” said the firm’s CEO Eric Nicoli.

Financial terms of the deal were undisclosed.

User-generated content is a grey area being heavily explored by all the majors right now.

EMI said it plans to use YouTube’s content management tools to identify, track, and monetise copyrighted content. The tools will also give the firm powers to remove material from the video-sharing website.

For Google, the deal demonstrates yet another tightening of the screws to legitimise the digital content it provides via YouTube.

It’s hardly a surprising move given the level of copyright infringement lawsuits currently hitting the hugely popular website.

EMI band Ok Go caused a mild sensation on YouTube last year with its music video that featured running machines on which band members busted some interesting moves.

By Kelly Fiveash

Google Maps hits the streets
June 2, 2007

Google yesterday announced the immediate availability of “Street View” – ground-level, photographic panoramas of Denver, Las Vegas, Miami and New York which allow Google Maps surfers to “navigate around a city, ‘virtually’ walking the streets, checking out restaurants and landmarks and even zoom in on bus stops or street signs to make travel plans”:

A Street View image of the Brooklyn Bridge on Google Maps

As well as trumpeting the new facility, Google pointed developers in the direction of Mapplets, “mini-webpages that are served inside an IFrame within the Google Maps site”.

According to the blurb, you can “put anything inside this mini-webpage that you can put into a normal webpage, including HTML, Javascript, and Flash”.

While the code jockeys get busy knocking together illuminating Mapplets content, the rest of us will soon be able to enjoy extended Street View coverage of “other metropolitan regions”, a Google statement promised. ®

By Lester Haines

Contacting Google
May 30, 2007

Colin C. in the forum says, “One of the things that bugs us all about Google is how to contact them about new features, bugs, help, downtime, etc.”, and wrote a nice overview of how to contact Google. I put the HTML’ified version below. Also see the previous post on how to contact Google.




Blog Search



Checkout (Buyer Help)

Checkout (Seller Help)


Gmail Search

Google Groups




Toolbar (Firefox)

Toolbar (Internet Explorer)


One question remains – are all those ways to give feedback or ask questions working well, e.g. resulting in an answer?

The writer:

Suggestions for Google Services
May 30, 2007

Most Google services have feedback forms where you can suggest new features or improvements, but some of them even list frequent suggestions and let you vote your favorites. The lists also give you hints about the future updates.

The writer:  Google System

How Google translates without understanding
May 24, 2007

Column After just a couple years of practice, Google can claim to produce the best computer-generated language translations in the world – in languages their boffin creators don’t even understand.

Last summer, Google took top honors at a bake-off competition sponsored by the American agency NIST between machine-translation engines, besting IBM in English-Arabic and English-Chinese. The crazy part is that no one on the Google team even understands those languages…. the automatic-translation engines they constructed triumphed by sheer brute-force statistical extrapolation rather than “understanding”.

I spoke with Franz Och, Google’s enthusiastic machine-translation guru, about this unusual new approach.

Sixty years of failure

Ever since the the Second World War there have been two competing approaches to automatic translation: expert rules vs. statistical deciphering.

Expert-rule buffs have tried to automate the grammar-school approach of diagramming sentences (using modifiers, phrases, and clauses): for example, “I visited (the house next to (the park) ).” But like other optimistic software efforts, the exact rules foundered on the ambiguities of real human languages. (Think not? Try explaining this sentence: “Time flies like an arrow, but fruit flies like a banana.”)

The competing statistical approach began with cryptography: treat the second language as an unknown code, and use statistical cues to find a mathematical formula to decode it, like the Allies did with Hitler’s famous Enigma code. While those early “decipering” efforts foundered on a lack of computing power, they have been resurrected in the “Statistical Machine Translation” approach used by Google, which eschews strict rules in favor of noticing the statistical correlations between “white house” and “casa blanca.” Statistics deals with ambiguity better than rules do, it turns out.

Under Google’s hood

The Google approach is a lesson in practical software development: try things and see what sticks. It has just a few major steps:

  1. Google starts with lots and lots of paired-example texts, like formal documents from the United Nations, in which identical content is expertly translated into many different languages. With these documents they can discover that “white house” tends to co-occur with “casa blanca,” so that the next time they have to translate a text containing “white house” they will tend to use “casa blanca” in the output.
  2. They have even more untranslated text in each language, which lets them make models of “well-formed” sentence fragments (for example, preferring “white house” to “house white”). So the raw output from the first translation step can be further massaged into (statistically) nicer-sounding text.
  3. Their key for improving the system – and winning competitions – is an automated performance metric, which assigns a translation quality number to each translation attempt. More on this fatally weak link below.

This game needs loads of computational horsepower for learning and testing, and a software architecture which lets Google tweak code and parameters to improve upon its previous score. So given these ingredients, Google’s machine-translation strategy should be familiar to any software engineer: load the statistics, translate the examples, evaluate the translations, twiddle the system parameters, and repeat.

What is clearly missing from this approach is any form of “understanding”. The machine has no idea that “walk” is an action using “feet,” except when its statistics tell it the text strings “walk” and “feet” sometimes show up together. Nor does it know the subtle differences between “to boycott” and “not to attend.” Och emphasized that the system does not even represent nouns, verbs, modifiers, or any of the grammatical building blocks we think of as language. In fact, he says, “linguists think our structures are weird” – but he demurred on actually describing them. His machine contains only statistical correlations and relationships, no more or less than “what is in the data.” Each word and phrase in the source votes for various phrases in the output, and the final result is a kind of tallying of those myriad votes.

Winning at chess, losing at language

This approach is much like computerized chess: make a statistical model of the domain and optimize the hell out of it, ultimately winning by sheer computational horsepower. Like chess (but unlike vision), language is a source of pride, something both complex and uniquely human. For chess, computational optimization worked brilliantly; the best chess-playing computers, like Deep Blue, are better than the best human players. But score-based optimization won’t work for language in its current form, even though it does do two really important things right

The first good thing about statistical machine translation is the statistics. Human brains are statistical-inference engines, and our senses routinely make up for noisy data by interpolating and extrapolating whatever pixels or phonemes we can rely on. Statistical analysis makes better sense of more data than strict rules do, and statistical rules produce more robust outputs. So any ultimate human-quality translation engine must use statistics at its core.

The other good thing is the optimization. As I’ve argued earlier, the key to understanding and duplicating brain-like behavior lies in optimization, the evolutionary ratchet which lets an accumulation of small, even accidental adjustments slowly converge on a good result. Optimization doesn’t need an Einstein, just the right quality metric and an army of engineers.

So Och’s team (and their competitors) have the overall structure right: they converted text translation into an engineering problem, and have a software architecture allowing iterative improvement. So they can improve their Black Box – but what’s inside it? Och hinted at various trendy algorithms (Discriminative Learning and Expectation Maximization, I’ll bet Bayesian Inference too), although our ever-vigilant chaperon from Google Communications wouldn’t let him speak in detail. But so what? The optimization architecture lets you swap out this month’s algorithm for a better one, so algorithms will change as performance improves.

Or maybe not. The Achilles’ Heel of optimization is that everything depends on the performance metric, which in this case clearly misses a lot. That’s not a problem for winning contests – the NIST competition used the same “BLEU”(Bilingual Evaluation Understudy) metric as Google practiced on, so Google’s dramatic win mostly proved that Google gamed the scoring system better than IBM did. But the worse the metric, the less likely the translations will make sense.

The gist of the problem is that because machines don’t yet understand language – that’s the original problem, right? – they can’t be too good at automatically evaluating language translations either. So researchers have to bootstrap the BLEU score, taking a scheme like (which merely compares the similarity of two same-language documents) and verifying that on average humans prefer reading outputs with high scores. (They compare candidate translations against gold-standard human translations)


But all BLEU really measures is word-by-word similarity: are the same words present in both documents, somewhere? The same word-pairs, triplets, quadruplets? In obviously extreme cases, BLEU works well; it gives a low score if the documents are completely different, and a perfect score if they’re identical. But in between, it can produce some very screwy results.

The most obvious problem is that paraphrases and synonyms score zero; to get any credit with , you need to produce the exact same words as the reference translation has: “Wander” doesn’t get partial credit for “stroll,” nor “sofa” for “couch.”

The complementary problem is that BLEU can give a high similarity score to nonsensical language which contains the right phrases in the wrong order. Consider first this typical, sensible output from a NIST contest:

“Appeared calm when he was taken to the American plane, which will to Miami, Florida”

Now here is a possible garbled output which would get the very same score:

“was being led to the calm as he was would take carry him seemed quite when taken”

The core problem is that word-counting scores like BLEU – the linchpin of the whole machine-translation competitions – don’t even recognize well-formed language, much less real translated meaning. (A stinging academic critique of BLEU can be found here.)

A classic example of how the word-by-word translation approach fails comes from German, a language which is too “tough” for Och’s team to translate yet (although Och himself is a native speaker). German’s problem is its relative-to-English-tangled Wordorder; take this example from Mark Twain’s essay “The Awful German Language”:

“But when he, upon the street, the (in-satin-and-silk-covered-now-very-unconstrained-after-the-newest-fashioned-dressed) government counselor’s wife met, etc”

Until computers deal with the actual language structure (the hyphens and parentheses above), they will have no hope of translating even as well as Mark Twain did here.

So why are computers so much worse at language than at chess? Chess has properties that computers like: a well-defined state and well-defined rules for play. Computers do win at chess, like at calculation, because they are so exact and fussy about rules. Language, on the other hand, needs approximation and inference to extract “meaning” (whatever that is) together from text, context, subject matter, tone, expectations, and so on – and the computer needs yet more approximation to produce a translated version of that meaning with all the right interlocking features. Unlike chess, the game of language is played on the human home-turf of multivariate inference and approximation, so we will continue to beat the machines.

But for Google’s purposes, perfect translation may not even be necessary. Google succeeded in web-search partly by avoiding the exact search language of AltaVista in favor of a tool which was fast, easy to use, and displayed most of the right results in mostly the right order. Perhaps it will also be enough for Google to machine-translate most of the right words in mostly the right order, leaving to users the much harder task of extracting meaning from them. ®

By Bill Softky

Google launches universal search
May 18, 2007

Google announced yesterday that users searching the web with its site will be treated to a veritable bounty of results from now on. No longer just the useful links you were after, but an array of video, pictures, and news will all be returned by a single search query.

Google has dubbed the idea “universal search”, which we thought SETI had in the bag. Clearly, we were wrong.

The idea is that users will have a more complete picture of the subject they were searching for returned to a single page, rather than having to use all the various individual search tools to get hold of the information.

In its promotion of the update, Google has given the example of a search for “I have a dream”. This, it explains, would have returned the basics: the text of his famous speech and links to historical information. Now, the same search will also return video clips, pictures, and even excerpts from books.

Google says the changes are the result of significant investment in both kit and search technology. It also promised that universal search would get better over time.

Both and Yahoo! pointed out loudly that they had already introduced similar services on their sites. But Google says it is the first that collates all the results into a single, prioritised list.

Google watchers speculate that the rejigging of the front page is a precursor to the firm offering video ads alongside its other sponsored links.

Shares in the firm rose after the announcement, gaining 3.2 per cent, according to reports. ®

The writer: the register

Another posts I liked:

1- No JavaScript, No Google Navigation

2- Google Searchology: The Future of Search

The online scanner
May 13, 2007

Do you have a virus or a spyware in your PC, or you want to be sure that your PC is clean? then you don’t have to install another antivirus or do format “like some friends I know the only answer for all the problems they have is the format :)” any way if you can enter the Net this site will give you a greet help. Because they scan your PC and give you the name of the virus or some of them clean your PC of the malwares, there are a lot of site that scan the PC but I picked the powerful ones :

1- Trend Micro: the best web scanner I’ve ever used, you can choose if you want to scan a virus or just a spyware and fast.


Cleans: Yes

2- Bitdefender: very active company and one of the first site I visit if I want to do a scan.


Cleans: Yes

3- Kaspersky: I know it doesn’t clean the files but it’s Kaspersky one of the big malware database, so you will know the name of the malware and you could do a search about it and how to delete it.


Cleans: No

4- F-secure: it help some times to delete the rootkits because this is the only site that scan this type ” or as far as I know”


Cleans: Yes

5- Panda:

*Nano Scan: the Nano still in Beta and it didn’t work well with some PCs, but it’s good and scan your PC in 1 min. Nano will support Firefox nearly (update: now it support).


Cleans: No

*Panda totalscan: you need to register if you want to disinfect.


Cleans: yes
6- Symantec: it doesn’t clean or delete the file but the best thing about Symantec is that after you do the scan and have the virus name you can search in their huge database of the manual steps or mini tool to delete the malware


Cleans: No

7- Virus Chaser: I didn’t use it my self but It use Dr.Web engine, and this is good


Cleans: Yes


This list of scanners that scan your full hard-disk. The engine underlying each scan is noted so you can avoid duplication with scanners you already have. If a freeware version of the scanner (or at least roughly the same engine) is available for local use it is indicated. Most allow you to scan specific folders as well. Almost all have options to scan archives, those that do not are “tested” by scanning with a zipped version of eicar, though this is not a foolproof test. A few scanners only detect problems but do not offer to disinfect or even delete the offending file; these are indicated.

The Writer : Murtadh

Use IM with out installation
May 13, 2007

What is Web messengers, how it’s useful?

It’s an instant messaging service without the need to download and install a separate application.

The change allows people working for companies and some Universities which stop staff downloading and installing applications to use the service. It will also make the service usable for people in internet cafes that don’t already have the standalone messenger software installed.

And this is the most used services:


Has a built-in messenger in the email in the left.


you can use: (this is the official one)

Note: there are so many sits that can give you a web messenger for Hotmail but it’s not official so there are some risks of stealing your Identity and your privacy.


They published this site early, two weeks ago:

The writer: Murtadh

Windows Live Folders, Online Storage Service
May 13, 2007

LiveSide found a new service from Microsoft called Windows Live Folders, Redmond’s version of the long-awaited GDrive.

Windows Live Folders, which was briefly available at, will offer 500 MB of storage and 50 MB as the maximum file size. There are three built-in folders for documents, music and pictures. The permissions are at the folder level, as each folder can be private, shared or public.


* Use personal folders to back up important files that are only for you.
* Get to your files from any computer with Internet access by signing in with your Windows Live ID.


* Shared folders make it easy to collaborate with coworkers or classmates.
* You decide how much control each person has over each shared folder. Some can just read what’s there: others can add and delete files.
* Everyone who is sharing uses their own Windows Live ID.


* With public folders, anyone on the Internet can view your files, but they can’t change them.
* Want to show your public files to others? Just send them a link! Each folder and file has its own web address.

Want to Broadcast Yourself Live On The Web?
May 12, 2007

Bored of youtube! try to Broadcaste your self live

If you are looking to broadcast live to the world using your web-cam, there are now a number of options available to you. Furthermore, several services offer you the opportunity to enhance your direct-to-camera performance with the inclusion of extra features, such as the ability to add and mash-up a variety of different media, or manage a group of participants in a live video discussion.

  • UStream

    UStream does one thing and does it really well. If you are looking for a solution to broadcast live from your camera, by way of your computer, UStream makes it very easy to get started. Providing you with an embeddable video player and a TV-guide style listing of forthcoming events, UStream allows you to create truly live videos that can be inserted into any website or blog. Once your live show has finished, your videos are archived and can be watched back at any time.

    Suited to: Situations where broadcasting live is of peak importance, from up-to-the-minute (on-location) news reports, to reality-TV-style lifecasting in the style of Justin.TV

    Not suitable for: Situations where you want to edit your live feed on the fly, or insert other media into your stream, such as a musical soundtrack, or pre-recorded video clips

  • Operator11

    Operator11 gives you what is essentially a mini-TV-studio right in your browser. Broadcasts are created either from pre-recorded video clips, or in the Operator11 studio, whereby you can mix your own web-cam video, that of any other person watching your broadcast, adverts and pre-recorded video clips. With a simple drag-and-drop interface, you choose which feeds will be displayed in the live player at any one time, just as an editor might do for a live TV show. The result can be a fantastic combination of live conversation and pre-recorded video clips. It’s a real shame you can’t embed the live video player into your website, though.

    Suited to: Live shows with more than one participant, such as talk and discussion shows. Also an excellent tool for conducting and recording interviews, allowing you to cut between the two (or more) speakers with ease.

    Not suitable for: Those that want to broadcast their show live from their own website. Solo video-bloggers with no interest in involving the audience.

  • Stickam

    Stickam has been around for quite some time now, and was reviewed in full on these very pages a year ago. Stickam makes it very easy to create both video chat sessions and live broadcasts straight from your web-cam, with the addition of being able to upload photos and audio / music files to include in your broadcasting line-up. With an easy to navigate embeddable media player, an active (if teenager-biased) community and promotion of forthcoming shows on the Stickam website, this makes for a well-rounded live broadcasting solution.

    Suited to: Creating live broadcasts that can be embedded into any website or blog, or watched from the Stickam website with the addition of text and video chat.

    Not suitable for: Those afraid to seem ‘past their prime’. The Stickam website and community is almost entirely comprised of teenagers, and the service can feel a little too teenaged for the tastes of some. Nevertheless, there is nothing to stop you breaking the mold.

  • YouCams

    YouCams focus is firmly on video chat, and the service is primarily advertised as a ‘Webcam chat widget‘, allowing you to embed video chat capabilities, along with text-chat functionality, right into your own website. This is a great solution for those looking to broadcast from their own website, and perhaps to a smaller group rather than to the world at large. Furthermore, you can watch YouTube videos together with other chat participants, seeing their reactions in realtime.

    Suited to: YouCams could be used in a number of ways, from small seminars, marketing presentations and discussions through to focus groups, video-feedback sessions or just plain old video chat.

    Not suitable for: YouCams is ill-suited to broadcasting to a larger audience, and also lacks the creative control that other services offer, making sessions much more of a group effort than a programmed, individually-led broadcast.

Scheduled and On-Demand Broadcasting Solutions

If you are less interested in getting your video out live than you are in being able to seamlessly mix your media files together into fluid, multi-dimensional Internet TV shows, you might want to take a look at the following solutions. While they don’t offer the ability to stream live video, they more than make up for this shortcoming by offering a great range of import and playback features.

  • Kyte

    Kyte offers a very easy way to create scheduled programming by combining your video footage, images, music files and even live image-feeds from your camera-phone. Using a really easy-to-get-along-with drag-and-drop interface, you simply drag different media and formatting features onto your screen to create a media-rich show. You can then share the show at a scheduled time from the Kyte website, where live text chat is integrated. Kyte features extensive customization features, so that you can really transform the look and branding of the media player to suit your tastes. It also allows you to produce shows for other users’ channels, or invite them to contribute to your channel. The inclusion of in-show polling adds interactivity to the viewing experience.

    Suitable for: Anyone looking to put together their existing media files into a great-looking, branded-and-customized media player, to create scheduled Internet TV shows.

    Not suitable for: Those looking to broadcast live, as in ‘right here, right now’. Kyte will allow you to upload photo-streams from your mobile, but if you want to broadcast your video show as it is recorded live, this isn’t currently supported.

  • Splashcast some ways similar to Kyte, Splashcast is focused on allowing you to easily aggregate your existing media into shows and channels. However, in addition to its extensive capabilities in this department – including the ability to import and incorporate YouTube video into your show – Splashcast has a further list of great features. With the ability to add a soundtrack to your show, to record voice narration, create still image slideshows as well as video, and to record your web-cam right from the interface, Splashcast has a very rich feature-set. What it won’t do is allow you to broadcast live in any way shape or form, but this is perhaps made up for by the inclusion of RSS feeds that instantly update any player embedded out on the web each time you add new content to your channel.

    Suitable for: Splashcast is an excellent way to combine your media into playlists, with our without video and audio commentary, and is therefore also very well suited to the delivery of all types of web presentation.

    Not suitable for: If you are looking to broadcast either live or to a schedule, Splashcast is not for you, as the Splashcast player is on-demand only.


The next wave of web video

Web video is evolving, and it is easier than ever to create your own Internet TV show using free tools, right from your browser. Some of the features now available would have seemed impossible only a short span of time ago. With nothing more than a web-cam enabled computer, you can now:

  • Broadcast yourself live to the world, twenty-four-hours-a-day if the mood takes you
  • Create media-rich mash-ups from a number of different sources, bringing your video, music and images into exciting new fusions
  • Manage live and recorded video from a virtual TV studio, cutting between live and archived footage to create an episode of your personal show

With several services offering branding capabilities for the resulting channels you create, it is now very easy to put together your own highly customized video content streams, from news broadcasts to academic conferences, stand-up comedy shows to multiple-participant interviews and debates.

Wishful thinking?

With so many well-featured services out on the market, and surely more to come, it should be easy to find a web-based tool that meets your broadcasting needs. I would argue, however, that there some features missing from each of the services reviewed.

What I would like to see, and this may be just wishful-thinking, is a tool that combines the ease-of-use but tight creative control of Operator11 with the embeddable live streaming feature of UStream, and the ability to import and mix in other media to your broadcasts, as is possible with Kyte and Streamcast.

At present each tool leaves me just wishing for that little bit more. Take Operator11 as an example. Here is a tool that allows me to control a variety of live and pre-recorded video feeds, and to create great looking shows as a consequence. I can embed these shows on my website, but only after they have finished recording.

UStream, on the other hand, has little in the way of additional features and controls – it just does a very good job of broadcasting live video, which can be embedded anywhere, as it happens. If it were possible to embed my Operator11 broadcasts while they were still live, this would be a very welcome improvement to what is already a very promising service.

Finally, I would love to see the ability to have integrated chat appear within the frame of the video as it unfolds live. Operator11 comes very close on this front, displaying new messages onscreen, but as soon as I watch the video back, the messages are nowhere to be seen.

Nevertheless, each of the tools reviewed here has a very rich feature-set. We are seeing the next wave of online video and Internet TV evolve, and the opportunities seem to expand a little more each month. If you want to broadcast your very own web-based TV channel, the time is ripe.

The new wave of live Internet TV

Live Internet broadcast is really taking off. In the footsteps of Justin.TV and the recent interesting tests from Chris Pirillo, our very own Robin Good has been himself extensively testing this new opportunity, and has already done two outstanding broadcasts at the recent OpenCamp and RItalia events.

He is now preparing for the major next step, which will take place this next Saturday, 28th April in Genoa, at the upcoming ZenaCamp, where with some new interesting gear, personal sponsors and micro-mobile team he will stream the whole event live from 10am to 6pm or later.

Stay tuned.

Additional Resources

If you would like to read more about web video broadcasting, you might want to check out the following links:

Originally written by Michael Pick for Master New Media and originally published as: “Web Video Broadcasting: Create Your Own Internet TV Show – A Mini-Guide