published Friday, March 12th, 2010

Jenkins: Google services spin in different directions


by Donnie Jenkins

Say what you will about Google, but no one can accuse them of standing still.

This week the company unveiled its Google Public Data Explorer, a service that lets you analyze large sets of public information. Users can create data graphs and visualizations. Links to these visuals can be embed into Web pages and blogs much as is done with YouTube videos these days.

Google Books is a treasure-trove of free books and samples of books for sale. To give you an idea of how valuable and useful it can be, I found a free downloadable copy of "Man's Moral Nature" by Richard Maurice Bucke, almost impossible to locate anywhere else even in hardback form.

Life Magazine's archives can be found there, and now they have added the complete archives of Popular Science and Spin Magazine. Both are searchable, so you can find specific instances of whatever you are looking for. There are also other magazines and publications of great variety. Be aware that there is disagreement about licensing and royalties due to writers and publishers, so this is a service that may be in flux.

* One of my favorite online sites is Pandora, the Internet radio and music discovery service. The New York Times this week published a great article on the site, citing its long struggle for survival and its eventual rise to profits and success.

My favorite aspect of Pandora is its offering to allow you to build several custom stations that play only what you want to hear. The service provides several tools that let you prune out music you don't like and to vote for music you do enjoy. It tries to use your choices to find only music you'll approve of and overall does a great job. Its basic service is free, and you have the option to pay for premium features.

* Techmeme.com is one of my daily tech "watering holes," and it has just announced a new site called Mediagazer. While it's not yet clear how Mediagazer will differentiate itself from sister site Techmeme, it is bound to be excellent based on the performance of Techmeme and other company-owned sites. I'll keep you posted as I use the site.

* I'd like to quickly pay tribute again to two sites that are doing well and providing services in a tight little space, so to speak. Posterous and Tumblr are two mini-blogging sites that make blogging, podcasting and posting videos and photos space-cadet easy. I routinely set up accounts on both of these for clients who want a quick way to accomplish these tasks. While neither of these can match a Typepad or Wordpress blog for power and extensions, they are both excellent in their area of use.

* Finally, cnet.com recently ran an article featuring six high-definition video camcorders that cost less than $600 each. Of all the current technology developments, there is no other that shows better the promise of increasingly more power in devices for a lower price.

You can see this trend even in the low-end camcorder area. While none of the less expensive models can match the big boys, they all offer incredible power and features for the price, many selling for under $200. Oh, brave new tech world and all we have in it.

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