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Just Widgets Blog

Just Widgets Blog

On technology and points of interest on the web…

A bug in Google Trends?

Filed under: Google, Web Tech — October 2, 2007 @ 4:45 pm

(Update on 2008-07-10: It appears, with the latest update to Google Trends, the “bug” I describe below has been fixed)

In case you’re not familiar with Google Trends, it allows you to graph the popularity of the search terms that people enter into Google Search. You can graph up to five terms, separated by commas, and it will chart the relative popularity of the terms over time, as far back as 2004. I believe Google Trends has been available for well over a year, although it has recently (as of Oct. 2007) been improved so that statistics are now updated every 24 hours. The one problem I’ve encountered is with search terms that are too specific or unpopular. For such terms, instead of producing a chart, it just complains: “Your terms … do not have enough search volume to show graphs”. I suspect Google Trends initially checks *only* the first term against its database or some threshold of search volume. If that first term isn’t popular enough, it returns the “not enough search volume” error message. So you should put what you believe to be the most popular term first. This way, you are more likely to get results. For example, try two popular stock ticker symbols: GOOG and MSFT - plus an “unpopular”, fictitious symbol: ZYXW. If I enter ZYXW, GOOG, MSFT, Google Trends claims (as of the date I write this) it can’t produce a chart. But if I move “ZYXW” to the middle term (GOOG, ZYXW, MSFT), Google Trends happily creates a chart this time, just with no sign of the unpopular “ZYXW”. This seems like a bug to me (or arguably a design decision). I couldn’t find any complaints related to this in the Google Trends Forum so, either most people enter terms which are more popular than mine, so they rarely get the “not enough search volume” error or they just aren’t bothered by it enough to complain in the forum.

(Update on 2008-05-30: I had to replace my original dummy “stock symbol”, FOOG, with ZYXW instead. ‘FOOG’, which was just a mutation of ‘GOOG’ that I made up, now has 145,000 hits in Google search and so is now ‘popular’ enough for Google Trends and broke my example.)

Found on Safari

Filed under: Apple, Google, Web Tech — June 19, 2007 @ 4:29 pm

Many have already speculated on the reasons why Apple released Safari for Windows, the most obvious purpose being for iPhone compatibility testing, so the only thing I’ll add is that Safari has one obscure feature which IE, Firefox, and Opera don’t offer and probably never will. Native TIFF support. The Tagged Image File Format is an old format but it still sees use, especially in document imaging. Where I used to work, they handle thousands of claims for corporate bankruptcies and the document scanners would output multi-page TIFFs. The U.S. Patent Office’s (USPTO) documents are also in TIFF format as required by international standards (various reasons prevent them from also providing a browser-friendly format). Unfortunately, at least with Safari 3.0.1 on Windows, the USPTO images (like this one) appear too large, with multiple scrollbars. I’m unsure if the USPTO or Safari is to blame:

Patent image in Safari
If you’re only going to view one or two patents, this awkward display is at least better than how patents appear with IE and Firefox - the don’t appear at all and you have to go install a TIFF viewer plug-in. Actually, there’s a work around for all this - use Google Patent Search instead. The folks at Google have converted all the patent images to PNG format, which all browsers support, and Google even offers a PDF for download too:

Google Patent Screenshot

(Update, 2007-06-25: Edited this entry for clarity and added explanation that a TIFF plug-in is required for IE and Firefox)
(Update, 2007-07-18: I discovered a long running enhancement request to get native TIFF support into Mozilla Firefox (bugzilla#160261). There are several sites listed there which use TIFFs and it’s even suggested that IE 5.5 supported TIFFs (!? - maybe it was really a plugin that did?). If you sign up for a free account there, at bugzilla.mozilla.org, you can then vote to get the feature implemented.)

The Classic Ford Taurus

Filed under: Comedy, Money — November 21, 2006 @ 11:55 am

Back on October 26th, after 20 years, the last Ford Taurus rolled off the assembly lines. I think in the next year or two, Ford (NYSE: F) could be a nice stock to own, assuming the company is successful in its plan to be profitable in 2009. Perhaps Ford will follow the turnaround GM’s stock has had this year (before Kerkorian started selling his stake)?

For now, just enjoy this sketch by Conan O’Brien (removed from YouTube) - a discerning Ford Taurus owner.
(Update 2007-02-08: I guess Ford changed their mind, the auto formerly known as the Five Hundred will be the Taurus)

Amusing Stock Ticker Symbols

Filed under: Money — October 26, 2006 @ 1:06 pm

I have some technical blog posts I’m working on but until those are ready, here’s a quick list of amusing stock symbols that I’ve come across through my new interest in the stock market. If you know of any more, feel free to post them below.

(Note: WOOF added 2006-11-21, considered adding Crazy Woman Creek Bancorp CRZY.PK but it’s on the pinksheets - $11.6M cap.)
(2006-11-23: FIX added, 2007-02-08: ROLL added, 2007-04-25: FIZ added)
(2008-02-06: Added LVB, FIZ changed to FIZZ since listed on Nasdaq now)

Symbol Company Name Industry / Description
BID Sotheby’s Auctioneer
BOOM Dynamic Materials Explosion Welding
DNA Genetech Biotech
EAT Brinker International
(Chili’s, Macaroni Grill, etc.)
Restaurants
EYE Advanced Medical Optics Medical Instr. & Supplies
FIX Comfort Systems USA HVAC installation and repair
FIZZ National Beverage Soft Drinks - Beverages
HOG Harley-Davidson Motocycles - aka Hogs!
LVB Steinway Musical Instruments Inc. Makes what Ludwig van Beethoven played
ROLL RBC Bearings Manufactures plain, roller, and ball bearings
YUM Yum! Brands (KFC, Taco Bell,etc.) Food Service
WOOF VCA Antech Inc. Animal Healthcare Services
ZZ Sealy Corp. Mattresses

Would You Want to be One in a Million?

Filed under: Money, Online Events — September 5, 2006 @ 10:14 pm

I received an email advertisement (aka SPAM - but I’m trying to be nice) for a new site, www.onesiteinamillion.com. They are charging $15/year for the privilege of being randomly featured on their homepage. It’s a good example of a “copycat” site to the Million Dollar Homepage external site mentioned in my previous post.

It looks like onesiteinamillion.com is serving up full-page screenshots of sites (or ads for sites) one at a time. It’s aptly named because their chance of success is one in a million since:

  1. A subscriber’s visibility only decreases as more people sign up.
  2. There’s no mechanism to try to associate a visitor’s interests with the page they see. Admittedly, this would violate the whole “1 in 1 million random chance” rule of the site but that rule goes against the Holy Grail of Internet Advertising - getting the right ads in front of the right interested eyes. This is the goal that Google AdWords and others are trying to realize but onesiteinamillion.com totally disregards it.
  3. In my opinion, the $15/year subscription fee is a little steep. Someone could invest $5 to activate AdWords plus $10 towards cost/click expenses and take advantage of Google’s efforts at being context-sensitive (see point 2).
  4. If I was an advertiser, I’d rather spend my $15 at some site like onesiteintwelve.com (assuming it was a parody site of onesiteinamillion.com) because it may get some mention in press (if any) surrounding onesiteinamillion. Appropriately, the odds are 1 in 12 now on onesiteinamillion.com… they have 999,989 slots available! - so Act Now, Quantities are Limited!

Is www.onesiteinamillion.com anything more than a rehash of the MillionDollar Homepage?
Comment below…

One Paperclip = One House?!

Filed under: Google, Money, Online Events — August 30, 2006 @ 5:01 pm

1) Someone really did trade a paper clip (after 14 other trades in a year) for a house!
Wikipedia - One_red_paperclip
Original Site: http://oneredpaperclip.blogspot.com

There have been other seemingly crazy ideas that have had some success:

2) Student sells each pixel on his web page for $1.
1 million pixels sold = $1 million dollars.
Wikipedia Article: Milliondollarhomepage
Original Site: http://milliondollarhomepage.com

3) A Couple is raising funds for their wedding “one penny at a time”.
The project is in progress and has raised over $9,700 so far.
Wikipedia Article - Wedding_On_A_Penny
Original Site: http://weddingonapenny.com

4) A man flies from Colorado to New York City with $100 cash and an idea to market a tool and make $1 Million in a month. Although he didn’t succeed, he did get a cool website built (http://mymantool.com) and sold the idea on eBay for $3,700.
http://remifrazier.com - About

Why do these plans succeed? My thoughts:

1. The ideas get a lot of publicity on the web through the press and word of mouth (email, blogs, etc) which greatly increases the chance they will find either the right number of people or right type of people to help with their plan.

2. The ideas are new ideas (or at least fresh rehashes of old ideas). That of course plays into getting reason 1 to work in their favor. Copycats won’t do as well because, unlike a new application or some other functional thing, the main draw to these ideas is the novelty of the idea itself. I guess this helps explains why something like Google Search doesn’t have to be the first to market, it only has to be functionally better to have a chance at success. I don’t think anyone can come up with a “better” Million Dollar Homepage and do as well as the first one.

3. Three of the four ideas above have to do with advertising and marketing, which tap into the amazing benefits of scale. For more evidence of how advertising + scale = big results see how the 1% improvement = $100 Million/year at Google.

Are there any other reasons small ideas like these turn into big successes?
Post a comment.

JavaScript Solver for Wei-Hwa’s Puzzle #3

Filed under: Code, Google, Web Tech — June 14, 2006 @ 10:36 pm

I’ve written a javascript program (latest version) which finds the solution to Wei-Hwa’s Puzzle Challenge #3 (formerly the Da Vinci Code Quest module). You can add his puzzle module to your Google Homepage here: fusion.google.com/add… or if you don’t want to sign up to get a Personalized Google Homepage, the latest puzzle is being posted on a third-party web page here: solvepuzzles.googlepages.com/.
If you get stumped, come back here and have my program find the answer for you.

For a little while, I tried solving puzzle #3 manually but it was getting a little frustrating as others have commented. Once I realized that there is a simple rule involving the possible distances (I don’t want to spoil it here), I actually thought it would take only a little longer to code up a solver compared to manually solving it by trial-and-error. Well, 4 days later, I proved myself wrong. Since I worked on it part-time over the weekend, it probably took about 2.5; days total. I guess I shouldn’t feel that bad since I was rusty with JavaScript and it was a fun refresher (first time using a JavaScript debugger too). Hey, at least I’m in good company, given that a web guru at Yahoo! took about as long to get a web version of Tetris done.

For those who prefer C code rather than JavaScript, a Rubik’s Cube expert, Dave Barr, has posted a C program that solves it.

I would like to add some code to show the progress on the puzzle board. It’s just an HTML table changed through .style and .nodeValue properties. It would be a nice piece of animated user feedback. I do constantly update the puzzle board in the code but for some reason the browser chooses not to display the updates and only shows the final solution, no intermediates. Actually, this is true for Mozilla/Firefox and Internet Explorer 6 but the lesser known, yet impressive Opera Web Browser does actually show the progress in solving the puzzle - and it still solves it faster than Mozilla! So are Mozilla and IE just buffering their displays for too long? I tried the extremely inefficient loop-that-counts-to-100,000 technique to slow things down but that didn’t help. Then I did a few tests with window.setTimeout() and although it didn’t spike CPU usage to 100% like the previous loop method, it still didn’t change anything - the puzzle board stayed blank and then displayed the full solution. Try it (latest version) for yourself and you’ll see what I mean. If anyone has a suggestion, please post a comment or contact me: george@justwidgets.com