MSN Virtual Earth Beta

MSN SearchMSN could not stay behind longer so they released their own Google Maps called MSN Virtual Earth. Both can display maps and/or satellite imagery. Both offer ‘local search’. Both use somewhat of the same navigation tools. But IMHO it’s not the ‘Google killer’ yet, but see for yourself.

Pizza in Redmond: Virtual Earth vs. Google Maps
Pubs in Baltimore: Virtual Earth vs. Google Maps

Notice that Virtual Earth does not automatically center itself on search results. It’s quite annoying, having to pan & zoom manually and in the process having your resultset re-updated.

BTW: They both use NAVTEQ maps. Although, MSN’s has a copyright of 2004. Are they using older maps than Google?
Oh and Europe is still ‘Terra Incognito’ …

Thanks Webdrain as I completely missed the news yesterday. πŸ˜‰

Finally, I got Pagerank!

Finally! It has been a long wait. πŸ™‚ But it’s only a meagre PR of 1! Damn it. πŸ™
It’s about time I remove my homepage then. πŸ˜‰

In a weird way my homepage has received a 1, but the rest a 4. Take for instance the reference or the Google Search category.

Ah well… everyone knows the PageRank is for ENTERTAINMENT PURPOSES ONLY. Yeah right…
When is the TrustRank due?

Update: Oops. It seems there is no pagerank for the rest of the site. πŸ™

Google Earth :-/

In a totally non-webdev way I’ve let my blog down for a ‘couple o’ days’. Why? That damn Google Earth virus caught me…

Google Earth BetaI advise, anyone with some time on their hands, not to install the damn thing. First there was Google Maps. Before that, Google acquired Keyhole. Now they give you this piece of crap that let’s you zoom into ANY part of the world and, if you want, whirl around it. πŸ™ (For the 7th time this day, is it drawback or plain nausea?)

Alternatives:

For the junkies: http://www.googleearthhacks.com/

Google Toolbar for Firefox

Google has released an official beta, what isn’t beta from Google these days, of their toolbar for Firefox. Previously this was only available for IE-users. Get the toolbar at: http://toolbar.google.com/firefox/

Furthermore they’ve released two more extensions:

MediaWiki and Google Sitemaps

As I could not find an extension or script specifically for MediaWiki that would automatically deploy a Google Sitemap, I thought, why not build one myself? And in the process try and learn some PHP on the way.

So here’s my result: https://www.thinklemon.com/wiki/sitemap.xml.php

It’s submitted to Google as of yet. Let’s see what it’ll do. …

Diese Seite übersetzen

Just learned about a cool feature of the ‘German’ editions of Google. When you encounter an English spoken site on www.google.de or www.google.ch it offers you an extra option to automatically translate the page into ‘Deutsch’. As usual it stinks because it’s machine generated. But reading your posts translated is cool nonetheless.

Old news for the German speaking people. I know… I’m not a German. πŸ™‚

Google Maps expands to Europe, needs to learn more…

Finally Google Maps expands to Europe. First there was the UK and now the rest of the continent. πŸ™‚

BUT! πŸ™

I always had a hunch that Americans weren’t too involved in European geography. Especially the smaller countries. No problem there, but I would expect from Google to check and double-check their facts first. Take a look at this picture. (NO, it isn’t Photoshopped)

Google Maps Europe

Steps to reproduce:

  1. Go to Google Maps
  2. Left Click on the map and drag to the left a few times (Europe is on the right…)
  3. Just take a look at the country next to the UK. What’s that spelled?

Google Sitemaps is working

Google Sitemaps As I’ve posted previously, I started ‘testing’ Google Sitemaps last week. So what have I done? I added my feeds first. They were there already so that didn’t take any effort. Next I added a plugin to my WordPress installation that would generate a sitemap automatically and added that one also.

Now the big question. Is it working? It seems so…
At the Google Sitemaps ‘Control Panel‘ I see that the feeds and sitemap are being fetched every 12 hours or so.
Looking at my serverlogs I see Google spidering like crazy in the past 24 hours or so. Their spider jumped from a third to the first place in the bot-list. So spidering is great. What about the indexing? Seeing a spider is one thing, being indexed another.
Well, great news on that front too. If I lookup my pages in Google I see that a lot of them are cached on june 12 and 13. (That’s like yesterday)

In conclusion: Google Sitemaps looks like the tool to keep your pages in Google fresh. Now if other searchengines would follow, that would be nice. πŸ™‚

Some reservation: It could be that Google is doing an all out spider-run which may (or may not) indicate a Google Dance is underway and we’ll see some updated PageRanks. Time will tell.

Corporate Egosurfing, or how to get market info for free.

Keeping track on what is being said in the media is somewhat of a luxury for big companies. They can afford to allocate people and time in special departments (PR, Communications, …) to track the news, journals, internet, measure campaign effectiveness, etc. Smaller family run companies don’t have that kind of resources. Their time is mainly consumed by running their businesses. There’s hardly any time to stop and look what is being said about them (positive or negative).

Enter the internet anno 2005. I know many of you type their names into Google, hence the term Egosurfing, to see what is known about you. You may want to go over to Yahoo, MSN or Altavista to check what’s being said there. But running around all those sites is time consuming. And time is something some people don’t have. Now, with some RSS-magic and a little time to set-up we’ll automate this task and spare ourselves some valuable corporate time. Best of all, it costs nothing!

Requirements

  • A browser.
  • An hour or so to set things up.
  • An aggregator.
  • A whole lot of feeds, more on that later.
  • A few minutes a day to check up on things.

So here we go.

Step 1: Get a browser

If you are reading this, you have browser. What kind doesn’t matter. So step 1 is taken care of.

Step 2: Get an aggregator

For this ‘Corporate Egosurfing’ to work you’ll need an aggregator. Say what? An aggregator! It’s a tool that lets you collect several sources at once and quickly scan through the latest news.

BloglinesFor this example I suggest you sign-up for a Bloglines account. Bloglines is an online aggregator so you don’t have to install anything, its available on any pc you work on and best of all it’s free. (http://www.bloglines.com/)

Once set-up your account is empty, apart from the ‘Bloglines | News’. Next we’ll add some feeds to go ‘Corporate Egosurfing’. You can add feeds using the ‘Add’ link on your ‘My Feeds’ tab. Bloglines offers some ways to easily add feeds, but for this example we’ll find and add our own feeds.

Our Company

For this example let’s say we are a small family run company that builds custom motorcycles. Or choppers as we call them. Our name is ‘Orange County Choppers‘. We have some internet-presence, even had a documentary on the Discovery Channel. πŸ™‚

Step 3: Add Yahoo! News

Yahoo! NewsGo over to http://news.yahoo.com/. Enter the name of your company or see our result.
Now the important bit. In the right sidebar you’ll see ‘View as RSS’ with an orange XML button. Click on it and don’t be scared. You’ll see a lot of strange code in your browser. This is what a feed looks like on the inside. Now go to the addressbar and copy the URL.

Go over to your Bloglines and click on ‘Add’ under the ‘My Feeds’ tab. On the right hand side paste the copied URL in the ‘Blog or Feed URL:’ and click on ‘Subscribe’. On the next page click ‘Subscribe’ again and your set.

Congratulations! You’ve added your first egosurfing feed. Everytime you’ll login to your account you’ll see the latest additions. You can scan the headlines, read some summary info and/or click on the headings to see the original article.

Step 4: Add Google News

Google NewsOn to the next one. Google. There’s one problem with Google. It doesn’t offer any feeds. πŸ™
But no problem, there is this other site that does what Google doesn’t. πŸ™‚

Go over to http://www.justinpfister.com/gnewsfeed.php. Enter your companyname and press ‘Create RSS’. Next you’ll see another page with the same ‘weird stuff’, so did we. Just copy the URL from the adressbar and add it to your Bloglines account. Just like we did with the Yahoo! News feed.

Step 5: Add MSN News

MSN SearchGo over to http://search.msn.com/news/. Again, enter your companyname. You’ll be presented with a normal search result set. (Our result)

Now go hunt for that orange RSS/XML icon, yes it is on the bottom of the page. The page you’ll see when you click on the button is something we haven’t seen before. Instead of a lot of ‘weird stuff’ we’ll be presented a nice page. MSN offers a direct link to add this feed to your bloglines account. Just press the grey/white ‘sub bloglines’ button. That’s all. πŸ™‚

The nice people of MSN Search also offer feeds for their normal search. So go back to the normal results and click on the ‘Web’ link on the top of the page. Now go to the bottom and click on the ‘RSS’ button. Just add this feed using the ‘sub bloglines’.

Step 6: Sit back and relax

Now you’re set with the top 3 search engines and you’ll be up to date to what’s being said in the ‘press’. Now close all your browsers and come back to your Bloglines account tomorrow. You’ll find it pretty easy to be kept up-to-date with just one visit instead of three.

Or don’t stop here! There are many, many more sources out there that you can add. All you have to do is when you find a nice orange ‘RSS’ or ‘XML’ button on your favorite site, remember to add it to you account.

Or how about keeping a track on what’s happening with the competition? Like for example those West Coast Guys. Just repeat the steps above but with a different companyname.

Now you have a free, custom built, news service about, well, you! How’s that? There’s more, but I’ll save it for later I guess.