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May 16, 2012


As previously anticipated, Google introduced Knowledge Graph, a new way to handle queries that replaces keywords with objects. It's like replacing a dictionary with an encyclopedia.

"The Knowledge Graph enables you to search for things, people or places that Google knows about—landmarks, celebrities, cities, sports teams, buildings, geographical features, movies, celestial objects, works of art and more—and instantly get information that's relevant to your query. This is a critical first step towards building the next generation of search, which taps into the collective intelligence of the web and understands the world a bit more like people do," explains Google.

For now, you'll only notice a new info pane in the right sidebar that shows more information about your query. Google's graph has 500 million objects and 3.5 billion facts, so you'll see the new section quite often. Google shows a small thumbnail, a snippet from a Wikipedia article, a few relevant facts and some related queries. It's just like a Wikipedia infobox automatically generated using data from the Web and that's smart enough to only show important facts and hide the things people won't need.

The new info panes will also help users disambiguate queries just like Wikipedia's disambiguation pages help users find the right articles.

Wikipedia's internal links help you find other interesting articles. Google also adds links to all the other objects from the graph.

Some may say that Google borrowed too many ideas from Wikipedia, but that's one step that could help search engines evolve. Understanding the relation between entities and learning their attributes allows Google to answer more complicated questions and get better search results. As Mashable says, "the transition from a word-based index to this knowledge graph is a fundamental shift that will radically increase power and complexity."

Google "begun to gradually roll out this view of the Knowledge Graph to U.S. English users. It's also going to be available on smartphones and tablets". If you don't see the new features yet, check back later.

{ Thanks, David. }

May 15, 2012

New Interface for the Google Q&A OneBox

Google's OneBox for instant answers has a new interface that emphasizes the results. Google now displays the answer on the first line and the font size is bigger.

The Q&A OneBox now shows multiple answers for questions like [What is the cast of The Help?] or queries like [the dictator actors].

Until now, Google used the following template: "Best guess for ... is ...".

Just because Google no longer mentions that the answer is a "guess" doesn't mean that it's always accurate.

Research Sidebar in Google Docs

Google Docs has a new feature that lets you find more information about some of the words from a document and also add content from the Web. The research sidebar can be enabled from the Tools menu or by using the shortcut Ctrl+Alt+R (Cmd +Opt+R for Mac). You can also select one or more words from the document, right click and select "Research" from the menu.

The sidebar includes the top Google search results, image search results, facts, maps, reviews and famous quotes. Click the icon from the search box to restrict the results to images and quotes.

When you mouse over a Web search results, you can preview it, insert a link or cite it. For example, you can select "Google" from a document, press Ctrl+Alt+R, mouse over the top result and click "insert link" to add a link to Google's homepage.

Restrict the results to images to quickly add an image using drag and drop. Google also has a specialized search engine for quotes and you can also add them to your document.

Search for a famous person, a place, a concept or any other entity and Google will display a list of attributes above the search results.

Maybe Google will also add features like translation and definitions to the research sidebar, so you can quickly find them.

{ Thanks, Scott and Evan. }

May 14, 2012

Google Tests a New Interface for Info Panes

Last year, Google started to test a new sidebar that offers useful information about your query. As the Wall Street Journal mentioned in a recent article, Google will soon "present more facts and direct answers to queries at the top of the search-results page". There's a large database of entities and each one has a list of relevant attributes.

For example, you could search for [California] and Google displays the capital of the US state, a list of important cities, attractions, the Secretary of State, a map and a snippet from Wikipedia. Google continues to test the info panes, but the interface has been updated, the main thumbnail is smaller and there's more information that's displayed. For singers, Google displays a long list of songs and some important albums.

Google's experimental sidebar is similar to Wikipedia's infobox, "a fixed-format table designed to be added to the top right-hand corner of articles to consistently present a summary of some unifying aspect that the articles share and sometimes to improve navigation to other interrelated articles". It includes structured information about your query, related queries and links to all the topics that are mentioned. Google will look more like an encyclopedia.

{ Thanks, Anirban. }