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Poking At Google Base

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Well, Google Base is here. I think the most telling thing about Google Base for me will not be today, tomorrow, or even next month but five or six months from now, when we can see what kind of content is being added, how much content is being added, where the content is being accessed, and if people (both users and publishers) are still paying any attention to the service.

All of this might be fun for the search geek, but I don't see the typical person going through the motions to add bits of content. Just yesterday, noted analyst Safa Rashtchy said of eBay:

While eBay has brought millions into online commerce, it is still too complicated for sellers who balk at the listing process and for buyers who don't want purchase from someone located far away, he adds.
So, the question is, will Google Base be any different. I'll be honest, I was both surprised and intrigued by Safa's comments about eBay and it being too complicated for sellers. On the heels of today's announcement, his thoughts might also serve as a reminder for the search geek to remember that what we think is easy, fun, and simply available for use remains a mystery to many people. Perhaps we can leave the ease of use service to some future Google Automat?

The big news about Google Base is that it will help companies, news organizations, publishers, etc,, get content and links into the Google system, quickly. So far, I've spotted material from CareerBuilder.com (help wanted ads) The NY Times, (real estate listings), Homescape Network, and volunteer listings from Idealist.

The other issue for me is, where does the content go aside from the Google Base database? Where will it be seen? It's up to Google to make that determination. Will it be another OneBox on a web results page? Or will the listings be merged within regular results? These are issues Google itself says it is still resolving.

Spam will likely be rampant, especially in the optional "labels" (aka tags) section. Precisely how these labels are used is unknown, but I'm guessing their use is for helping determining relevancy to a specific query. Also, will someone or something be watching for copyright issues if/when someone reposts an in-copyright article from a magazine? It's worth mentioning that every item has a link to report it as a "bad item" (violates copyright, mislabeled or misleading, spam, contains or links to adult content and is not labeled correctly, etc.) Great, now does Google have the human resources to check out each report in a timely manner and then respond properly? Google appears to be hiring temps to do customer support these days (here's one for Gmail and another for overall product support) so I wouldn't be surprised we will soon see listings for Google Base customer service openings. Of course, job openings and a good customer service are not always the same thing.

Remember, what's contributed to Google Base is all public information. If you use it to create an itinerary of your trip, it's public info. What about offering a Google Base that only certain users (ones you pick can see)? Your own personalized Google Base community database of sorts.

Posting

Posting items to Google Base (non-bulk uploaded files) involves a a number of steps. By the way, a bulk-upload is defined as 10 or more items. In short, you select from a list of predefined "item types" or create your own, fill out a form and submit your content. Vocabulary control could become an issue here.

Bulk Uploads

I didn't have any time to try this tool but I did notice that a user can FTP directly to the Google Base server. Material must be supplied in Tab-delimited, RSS 2.0, RSS 1.0, or Atom 0.3 formats.

Show Me the Money--Where's the Revenue Stream?

Well, more content means more places to place ads. However, I didn't see any ads on Google Base results pages while testing. Also, on an Google Base example slide I saw from Google, a field for "Payment" was listed. Perhaps Google plans to allow people to sell items, services, etc. and then take a cut of the sale (whatever it is) using their Google Wallet system How's that for speculation! Update: While no Google payment method is in place (yet?) and you can't use Google (yet?) to run a transaction, I did find a spot where you can list what forms of payment (Visa, Amex, Cash, Wire, etc.) you offer. The payment option appears for certain (but not all) categories including "Products" and "Services."

Searching Google Base

After you search, you can sort by relevance, date posted (newest), date posted (oldest). You'll also see "refinements" below each listing title.

For example, I could click refinements like "management," "business development," "verified," "location," etc.

By the way, when I refined by location, a box appeared allowing me to search in a specific location (within xxx amount of miles of xxx)

It would be useful if each attribute would also contain a pop-over with a definition of what it means. For example, what does "verified" mean in my specific search situation?

Final Thoughts

As I said at the beginning of this post, it's a wait and see issue for me with Google Base. Let's see how much and from where content is being added five or six months from now. It will also be interesting and maybe even fun to watch how some try to "game" the Google Base system and how Mountain View responds.

That said, I'm glad that at least in some form, Google has chosen to use a more structured form of tagging (the attributes section of a entry, NOT the labels section) to help make information more searchable and accessible. The questions are will the typical user take advantage of all of this or just use the basics. Cataloging info, or if you prefer, adding good metadata isn't always easy.

Bottom Line?

Those with lots of content now have a way to add it to the Google database. It will likely be a new responsibility for the SEM when he or she is not working on their Google Sitemaps or feed to Froogle (-: It could also give library catalogers moonlighting opportunities. (-:


Postscript 1: It appears most of the Google's advanced syntax works with Google Base:
+ intitle:

+ inurl:

+ site:

Also, you can search by author by using the authorid:[foo]. For example the authorid for the NY Times is 296700. You can find the author id in the url of every content provider.

Postscript 2: It will be worth watching to see if people try to add their data using multiple Google services including Google's regular crawl, SiteMaps, Froogle feed, Google Local entries, Blogger, etc. Will publishers tweak the data to make each entry slightly unique? How will Google handle duplicates or items that are VERY close to duplicates?

Postscript 3: Let's not forget that Google also has "deals" (as does Yahoo with their Content Acquisition Program) to gain direct access to large amounts of data for inclusion in their database. The OCLC Worldcat deal is an example.

Postscript 4: I wonder if O'Reilly has alread signed an author to write Google Base Hacks? (-:

Postscript 5: In case you're wondering, GoogleBase.com has been a registered domain since June, 2005.

Postscript 6: See also Danny's long write-up on the service, Google Base Live, Accepting Content, which is today's SearchDay article. Google also now has an official post on their blog about the launch.

Want to comment or discuss? Visit our SEW Forums thread, Google Base Opens To Submissions


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