Again, Google Rules

Sure, a case can be made for Google doing evil, but, hell, they are smart (in an evil way??).

Today, at the Google I|O conference, the company announced Web Elements. Web widgets, let’s say, but don’t require a Google key, API access and so on.


I embedded search on my site in about 15 seconds (took way longer to republish my site via Blogger…a Google property…when is Google going to update same???).

Awesome. Search now in the rail. For my site only. Wow. This type of “widget” is going to be embedded everywhere, which benefits Google, as well as “everywhere.”

The other (to me) killer Element (beyond search) plays off Google Maps – embed a fully functional Google Map with a few lines of code.

When I went to Maine last year, I blogged about same after the fact, and included a (Google static) map of Maine. I.e. that I screen-shotted off Google Maps, re-sized in Photoshop blah blah. Here’s the result.

The fully functional Google Map of the same area is the graphic in this entry. Your choice…

Image the possibilities….

I’m sorry, but I just added – with about 30 seconds worth of work – full site search and Google Map integration for a particular site.

This is a game-changer. Honest.

The Google Maps have some limitations, but they’ll evolve.

Trust me. Game Changer.


  • Map embed works in Firefox; issues with IE(7). Cache? I think it’s a Google issue (double-click on Maine icon, go to Brazil or Netherlands. WTF?)
  • Long story short, I had the wrong doctype in the file. And a Google Engineer worked with me to get it fixed. That said, I’m still leery of using the Web Elements – I have to be on a page with the correct DOCTYPE, or it won’t work in (currently) the most popular browser out there. Works in all the others (Mac/Windoze), including IE6 on Windoze. While the DOCTYPE fix did fix the issue…seems like an implementation issue, so I’m guessing I won’t be using the Map Web Element. Too bad; I really liked this tool….

When Things Break

I’ve said this a zillion times to many, but computers or cars are great…until they break. Then it’s (often) hell. I.e. a pain in the ass to fix.

Add to list: lawnmowers. This weekend, the linkage from the handle to the drive-wheel power broke. Awkward mowing session (and I have the blisters to support this claim).

However, I spent way too long on the phone today with way too many so-called lawnmower-repair places describing the issue and … they not really giving me a resolution.

It’ll work out, but it’s a bit of work.

The End of an Era

Erotic Services

I don’t have strong feelings one way or another, but the decision by to stop carrying “erotic” ads (read “prostitution”) is a sorta defining moment in the internet.

Have we (the internet) grown up? (Prostitution is illegal in the U.S.; why allow ads??)

Have we stifled free speech? (Why not go after Yellow Pages or alternative papers for the same ads???. Why is it bad/worse when it’s on the internet?) Update: 2009-05-23: Yeah, Craigslist has already fired back: An Apology Is In Order

I dunno, but it’s interesting. To me, it’s Craigslist saying that it’s not worth the hassle. They have States Attorneys all over them (legit or not).

Will this action slow prostitution? No.

Will this action slow prostitution ads on the web? No.

Will this action slow prostitution ads on the Craigslist? Nah – just shift them to other areas with code words.

Will this action make it harder for those who want to crack down on prostitution to find prostitutes advertising their services? Yes.

Our tax dollars at work…or, working the street…

And – sadly – we remove (or drive underground so it’s not easily accessible) this part of the zeitgeist. This is a part of sociology that is “poof – gone!”

And we seem to forget the Safe Harbor section (hosts not responsible for stuff folks upload, essentially) of the DMCA (or CDA – I fergit. Section 230??)


Second Step for Newspapers

This is the second in a series of articles (Step One) giving my two cents about how newspapers can dodge their obituary).

Simply put, newspapers – or any industry endangered by the internet (real estate, travel industry, booksellers, video-rental stores…and the list goes on) – need to understand two basic facts:

  • Like it or not, the (near) future is online (after that, who knows?). It’s virtual, not physical.
  • Embrace geeks (those technologically conversant).

I think most people (grudgingly, in many cases) understand the former, but the latter doesn’t register. Here are my thoughts on how geeks can help save newspapers.

* * * * *

Newspapers have to be willing to listen to – and follow – geeks.

What do I mean by this?

Example: Any outfit can take a print columnist and post that daily column on the newspaper’s/magazine’s website, but if (for example) comments are not enabled…well, that outfit missed what the web is all about.

The web is:

  • Link-driven
  • Community-driven
  • A flat line – not an inverted pyramid. A commenter/blog author blasting one’s coverage can be as important as the original coverage.

Geeks – in this article’s content, I mean the web-savvy – get this.

And geeks get the limitations/connections. Not everyone needs to be on Twitter or FaceBook; in some cases, one or the other would be a good thing.

My advice to newspapers: Hire/listen to geeks. They will steer you away from that $5 zillion Microsoft software purchase by pointing out that X is open source and, uh, free. And it’s used by more Fortune 500 companies than the MS product blah blah.

More importantly, geeks’ll tell a company that this or that will drive more traffic (and sales/ad impressions). They’ll be wrong often; we all are. But they’ll give the non-geeks insight into what they have never even considered but is happening all around them on the web.

Dear Newspapers: Online is the current survival mode – so at least listen to the geeks, who grok the web.

Scott Rosenberg, a founder of, had a great newspaper anecdote the other day, describing the Q&A; from a “save the newspapers!” forum:

A young journalist who’s started up a blog that focuses on the 2010 census. Today we call this a “niche site”; but it’s also what we used to [in newspaper lingo] call a beat.
Coll, Kinsley, Bronstein kick newspapers around

Again, the geeks – this guy running this unknown site – is an expert on same. He’s a geek. He gets the web. He gets what he’s reporting on. He’s the “beat reporter.”

I think Rosenberg’s off-hand comment is brilliant and really hits home.

Newspapers: Getting a better idea of the future?

Update 5/12/2009: At least one journalism school is getting the message – Northwestern University’s Medill journalism school is hoping programmers can save newspapers (via TechCrunch).

Northwestern University’s journalism school is offering free scholarships to software developers so they can further hone their journalism skills and possibly integrate the two for a media company down the line (disclosure: I attended this journalism school). The idea of creating programmers who understand journalism is compelling and brings attention to an important trend taking place in the industry.

— Leena Rao, “Calling All Coders: Journalism Schools Want You To Save The News Industry”