Google Search Changes – Spotlight #399

1. Good Monday Morning

It’s October 4th. After a blockbuster 60 Minutes profile last night, the Wall Street Journal’s main source for The Facebook Files was identified as former project manager Frances Haugen. While at Facebook, Haugen led a team on the company’s election protection efforts. She is working with the Securities and Exchange Commission under its whistleblower protections and will appear before a Senate subcommittee on Tuesday. 

Today’s Spotlight is 1,245 words — about a 4.5 minute read.

2. News To Know Now

Quoted:For years, we’ve known many of these issues — via journalists and researchers — but Facebook has been able to claim that they have an ax to grind and so we shouldn’t trust what they say. This time, the documents speak for themselves.” — Yaël Eisenstat, Facebook’s former global head of elections integrity operations to Recode

a) Attorneys for Donald Trump have filed a motion asking a federal judge to order Twitter to reinstate his account. Trump used his personal account while communicating as president. Twitter permanently suspended that account soon after the president tweeted about the domestic terror attack on the Capitol.

b) New Amazon products announced last week include a “robot” that is more of a single floor Amazon Echo on wheels, home monitoring and elder care services, and new devices including their first smart thermostat and Fitbit competitor. (CNBC overview)

c) Global consulting giant PwC will allow 40,000 U.S. employees to remotely work from anywhere in perpetuity and without a change in compensation. Reuters broke the story.

3. Search Engine News & Spotlight Explainer Combine For Google Search News (Here Comes MUM)

Google’s Search On product event was home to enough announcements last week for an extra big search feature this week.

There was a lot of Google-style talk about how search democratizes information and allows people to learn formerly specialized knowledge. Neither your physician nor your attorney likely agree, but it’s great for finding data.

Google’s launch of MUM (Multitask Unified Model) is the big news. This is the name of the software Google developed that will allow people to use text, images, or video combinations to find something.

People today are trained to ask a number of simple questions as they research a topic. MUM allows those steps to be combined.

One Google example: You like the pattern you see on a shirt, but would like it on socks. You can take a picture of the shirt and have Google use MUM to search for socks with that pattern. You can also click a button to see if those socks are in stock at a local store, which seems to be quite an incentive to constantly update Google with the stock status of all your items. After all, if you don’t, the next person will. 

You are going to hear a lot about Google MUM for the next few months. You can start playing with Google Lens now, which has some of its early functionality. For example, point Google Lens at text in a foreign language, click the “Translate” icon, and the image of the text is instantly rendered in your language.

Maps and location services are also Google priorities. In addition to checking in stock availability of items, Google Maps will now include layers that show wildfire data, tree coverage, and the ability to create new Google Plus Address codes. Those last are important for places without street addresses. 

A Google Plus Address Code example: The local high school has three baseball fields. Home plate at one of them is 1,200 feet from the school’s front door. The Google Plus code (87C4VHGR+RX) narrows down the area from the large school with thousands of people to the area around home plate. That baseball field has about a dozen plus codes. Delivery robots, drones and other automated services will need that level of precision.

The shaded area on the baseball field is Google Plus code 87C4VHGR+RX.

Google will also expand information about the source of search results in addition to using MUM to improve how searches occur. The company says that there will be more fact checks, warnings to searchers when topical news results are changing fast, and an expanded “About the Source” information box to include what third parties have said about a source.

Video is the final place where Google says it will create more search context. That includes pre-populated links under videos that list the topics covered so that searchers can easily click a button to learn more about that or a related topic. The best part of this feature is that Google says it can identify a topic in a video even when the video is about a different topic.

MUM (and don’t forget its nifty near real-time universal translator to 75 human languages) is definitely coming after its announcement last spring and its star turn at Search On last week.  Google Lens, voice search, and maps will all present new search challenges and opportunities in 2022.

5. Did That Really Happen? — YouTube Bans Vaccine Misinformation

It took a global pandemic during which tens of millions of Americans refused to get vaccinated, but YouTube is removing all content with vaccine misinformation. Axios confirmed with YouTube that more than one million videos have been removed.

Full stop. People posted one million inaccurate videos about COVID-19 just to YouTube. Bad people remain a problem, but YouTube is at least done with the “both sides” argument when medical and public health experts have reached an overwhelming global consensus.

6. Following Up — NYC Protecting Delivery Workers

We’ve written a lot about the delivery workers whose efforts in dangerous circumstances allowed so many people to work remotely during the early stages of the pandemic. New York’s City Council has passed a group of six bills to protect restaurants and those workers. The laws include disclosure of how much of the tip workers receive, requiring restaurants to allow bathroom access to drivers, and caps on fees charged to restaurants. Gizmodo has great coverage.

7. Protip — Adding Alexa to iPhones

Amazon released a new widget that allows iPhone users to easily access Alexa. You still can’t call her by name, but one tap is better than open app.

Screening Room — Katy, Perry, Behr Paint & Spotify Colored Together

I love a great tie-in concept. Behr is working with Spotify & Katy Perry to show music’s colors. Using some of the dozens of attributes Spotify has created to code music, they’ve built a mini-player to show off any song’s colors. Watch the spot above and then visit Behr Music in Color to try it out with songs that you like. I’m apparently a joyful orange person this week.

9. Science Fiction World — Drone Docking

A Swiss hospital is the home of the first Matternet Station. That’s a drone docking, repair, and cargo depot since you probably shouldn’t drop medical stuff on the front lawn for anyone. The hospital is the first deployment. Forty more are due to be added in Abu Dhabi.

10. Coffee Break — 2021’s Best First Pitch

Back in July when baseball season was going strong, this woman threw the most athletic first pitch I’ve ever seen. Baseball’s playoffs start tomorrow night.

11. Sign of the Times

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