Google Does and Knows a Lot

It’s pretty hard to keep up with all the stuff Google does. There are several blogs I know of whose only purpose in life is to cover Google.

Anyway, a couple noteworthy Google announcements recently caught my attention. So, I figured I share them and collect your thoughts.

Google Flu Trends announced Google Flu Trends recently, which tracks aggregated search data to estimate flu activity in the US (and by state). So your search for any number of flu-related keywords alerts Google Flu Search to the possibility of an influenza rise in your state.

Pretty Orwellian, but cool. At first blush, the logic here sounded weak to me. After all, lots of Internet doctors exist out there (my wife is one), and this approach puts a fair amount of faith into a person’s ability to diagnose symptoms effectively.

Not to mention the fact that the usage of Google state-by-state may not represent a large enough sample to make these assumptions. So, interested, but skeptical, I dug more deeply.

Turns out this theory was tested last year, and it closely mirrors data collected by the CDC. Even more surprising to me is that the data generated by Google Flu Trends estimate with good accuracy the spread of flu, one to two weeks ahead of the CDC models.

Surprising to me and yet another example of what Google knows about us all.

Google Hosts Images from Life
Google announced (by way of Lifehacker) this week that they are hosting newly digitized images from the LIFE magazine photo archive, available for search on Google Image Search.

Only a very small percentage of these images have ever been published. The rest have been sitting in dusty archives in the form of negatives, slides, glass plates, etchings, and prints. We’re digitizing them so that everyone can easily experience these fascinating moments in time. Today about 20 percent of the collection is online; during the next few months, we will be adding the entire LIFE archive — about 10 million photos.

This is very cool to me. There are loads of great shots that have never been published by famous photographers of events and times long past. It’s a very interesting way to look back into history.

This is a good move by LIFE too, but what’s missing for me is the usage licenses for these images. I’ve mentioned Flickr as a great source for Creative Commons licensed work to use in presentations and blogs.

I suspect the licensing for these digitized images is highly difficult to sort out, considering that each photographer could have had a different agreement with LIFE, but still there’s not a single clue as to whether I can use them or not and why.

I hope they sort that out and publish it soon so these fantastic photos can spread around the ‘tubes.




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