September 1, 2005 4:00 AM PDT

Google thinks I care about the Orioles

If Google Desktop 2 were a guy I was dating, I'd be enamored with his style and determination, but annoyed by his forgetfulness.

I've been cozying up to Google's latest desktop search software for five days now, and despite all the time we've spent together I feel it doesn't quite know me as well as it should.

We got off to a great start. It was fast to download and simple to use. Before I knew it my hard drive was indexed and the Sidebar news personalization feature was dutifully bringing me all sorts of RSS feeds, stocks, weather and other tidbits from the Web it thought I would like. But I've been disappointed by some of its moves since then.

For instance, it was easy to see my preference for any information about, well, Google. And it was clear I'm a sucker for Salon.com and Jon Stewart. But right now it's boring me with sports stories. I don't care why the Orioles' first baseman lost his job or who will be the starting quarterback for Oklahoma State on Saturday.

I asked around and discovered I'm not alone.

"There's a lot of miscellany in there that's not particularly relevant coming from the sites I've been to," Greg Sterling, managing editor at The Kelsey Group, said Monday. "For instance, there's a lot of stuff on Fox News, which I really don't care about...Over time it will get better. I would give it a six on a scale of 10."

Brad Hill, author of "Google for Dummies" and writer of the Unofficial Google Weblog, was similarly disenchanted with all the generic news he seemed to be getting.

"The upshot is that I get a lot of general news in Sidebar," he wrote in an e-mail in response to questions. "The news panel is less useful than Google News when I want general news, and less useful than my newsreaders when I want topical news."

Gartner analyst Allen Weiner was having better luck. "From my couple of days of trying it, I thought it was pretty powerful in its recommendations," he said.

There's a lot of stuff on Fox News, which I really don't care about...Over time (Google Desktop 2) will get better. I would give it a six on a scale of 10."
--Greg Sterling, managing editor, The Kelsey Group

Admittedly, the beta of Desktop 2, released a week ago, has a lot to offer. In addition to how quickly it scours all the types of files on my desktop when I type in a keyword search, it discreetly and conveniently gives me other useful information. It displays a running inventory of my latest Gmail and Microsoft Outlook e-mails and frequently used Web pages and files, provides a scratch pad, photos from Web sites viewed and a quick search for files that offers an easy way to open up applications. It doesn't serve ads to match the content, like Gmail does.

I was a bit shy about signing up at first, but security concerns that critics had after the initial release of Desktop last year appear to have been mostly resolved.

Now Desktop doesn't index or store secure Web pages or password-protected files, and the index can be encrypted. The corporate version also allows administrators to restrict the indexing of specific files.

None of the desktop search data is sent back to Google servers unless the user enables the Advanced Features required for the news personalization in Sidebar, in which case Google will know which Web sites the computer visited, according to the Google Desktop Privacy Policy.

"From everything I've read, Google has done everything they can to make it clear that they have no intention of leveraging that store (of information) at all," said Stephen O'Grady, an analyst at RedMonk.

None of the information Google receives is personally identifiable, the privacy policy states. However, some privacy advocates were still concerned that just because Google isn't currently linking Web search data to specific users doesn't mean it won't in the future or that law enforcement can't, especially if Google knows more about consumers who have signed up for Gmail and other Google accounts.

"I'm worried about data leakage," said Bruce Schneier, chief technology officer of Counterpane Internet Security and the author of several books on computer security. "It's frustrating because I want to use a good desktop search program."

"Having a third party know all of the news you read is troublesome enough," said Kevin Bankston, staff attorney at the Electronic Frontier Foundation. "It gives away key details about your beliefs, your opinions and your interests."

Google declined to comment. (Google representatives have instituted a policy of not talking with CNET News.com reporters until July 2006 in response to privacy issues raised by a previous story.)

I took a risk with Desktop 2. I divulged information even my mother doesn't know about me: that I use an online calculator and I can't stop reading about Jennifer and Brad's divorce. If things don't improve, I guess I can always start up with another desktop application, like Yahoo's Konfabulator.

34 comments

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Too Conservative?
So, the gist seems to be that the toolbar is too conservative. Too much Fox News, not enough Salon.com. It should have a "dim-lib insane blog ramblings only" setting so that closed-minded lefties don't have to be bogged down with such things as facts and reality.
Posted by Neo Con (428 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Jabba the Hut Sits in Front of His TV Swooning over Lord Hannity
News flash bud, put down the Big Mac and Fries, and get outside more. You're watching way too much of that garbage on TV.

For your information, many of us, who are NOT "lefties" as you so inanely put it, do not like Fox News. It is not the bastion of facts, as you would like to believe. I am tired of you far right wingers painting everyone who disagrees with you as a "lefty liberal." Your tactics worked in an earlier time, but now they are getting old and stale.
Posted by (174 comments )
Link Flag
Maybe...
Maybe we are just not interested. Just because I want to read tech news, and not listen to all the *noise* of the news, it doesnt mean I dont want to know the facts.
Posted by (9 comments )
Link Flag
Too Conservative?
So, the gist seems to be that the toolbar is too conservative. Too much Fox News, not enough Salon.com. It should have a "dim-lib insane blog ramblings only" setting so that closed-minded lefties don't have to be bogged down with such things as facts and reality.
Posted by Neo Con (428 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Jabba the Hut Sits in Front of His TV Swooning over Lord Hannity
News flash bud, put down the Big Mac and Fries, and get outside more. You're watching way too much of that garbage on TV.

For your information, many of us, who are NOT "lefties" as you so inanely put it, do not like Fox News. It is not the bastion of facts, as you would like to believe. I am tired of you far right wingers painting everyone who disagrees with you as a "lefty liberal." Your tactics worked in an earlier time, but now they are getting old and stale.
Posted by (174 comments )
Link Flag
Maybe...
Maybe we are just not interested. Just because I want to read tech news, and not listen to all the *noise* of the news, it doesnt mean I dont want to know the facts.
Posted by (9 comments )
Link Flag
Google seems to go way to commercial indeed
Even the classic Google search has become so commercial that you can't find the content you need anymore but can only BUY it. So this is not a surprise, they are loosing their edge and all these additional tools won't steer the users back!
Posted by (5 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Google seems to go way to commercial indeed
Even the classic Google search has become so commercial that you can't find the content you need anymore but can only BUY it. So this is not a surprise, they are loosing their edge and all these additional tools won't steer the users back!
Posted by (5 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Bide your time Elinor
Soon Google and, by extension, everyone else who cares to buy the info will know everything about you! Are you really naieve enough to believe that a corporate monstrosity like Google won't leverage that info?
Posted by Michael Grogan (308 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Couldnt agree more - that is why I say AnooX
Couldnt agree more about your comment that google becoming a Monsterosity that wants to control our eye balls of, our childerens eye balls, well the eye balls of the planet. But that is what the big US/UK media have been wanting to do for ever. Google is just one more extentsion of that same group (financing gang). So that we hear the same lies from Fox news, CNN, etc. to Google or Yahoo about everything, from reason to invade Iraq to everything else..
So that so called "neo cons" are so brain washed by this Media monsterosity, which controls every orefous of information, that they have no idea what right & wrong is anymore.
But there is hope, after a long search I have found it, it is called AnooX (www.anoox.com).
Now their search results are not as good about non-business matters because they are currently running on few servers, small business you know, but their search results are fundemntally better because they are driven by the Vote of the people. Remember "people", us, not just machines or Big Wig Media moguls deciding what is the truth.
Posted by 207495111267145837975635436522 (58 comments )
Link Flag
Bide your time Elinor
Soon Google and, by extension, everyone else who cares to buy the info will know everything about you! Are you really naieve enough to believe that a corporate monstrosity like Google won't leverage that info?
Posted by Michael Grogan (308 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Couldnt agree more - that is why I say AnooX
Couldnt agree more about your comment that google becoming a Monsterosity that wants to control our eye balls of, our childerens eye balls, well the eye balls of the planet. But that is what the big US/UK media have been wanting to do for ever. Google is just one more extentsion of that same group (financing gang). So that we hear the same lies from Fox news, CNN, etc. to Google or Yahoo about everything, from reason to invade Iraq to everything else..
So that so called "neo cons" are so brain washed by this Media monsterosity, which controls every orefous of information, that they have no idea what right & wrong is anymore.
But there is hope, after a long search I have found it, it is called AnooX (www.anoox.com).
Now their search results are not as good about non-business matters because they are currently running on few servers, small business you know, but their search results are fundemntally better because they are driven by the Vote of the people. Remember "people", us, not just machines or Big Wig Media moguls deciding what is the truth.
Posted by 207495111267145837975635436522 (58 comments )
Link Flag
No Cnet News.com news in Sidebar?
Has anyone else seen that? I spend at least half of my web browsing time on News.com. And for the last week now, at least from what I have seen, there has been NO news.com results. In fact, just a guess, 9 out of 10 stories it brings up are not even tech news. (which is what I want)

Is Google blocking News.com, like the way they wont respond to News.com? I doubt it, but I hope not.

Oh well, maybe I just missed it when it was available on the Sidebar.
Posted by (9 comments )
Reply Link Flag
That's because Cnet news isn't actually news...
It's crap like this.
Posted by M C (598 comments )
Link Flag
No Cnet News.com news in Sidebar?
Has anyone else seen that? I spend at least half of my web browsing time on News.com. And for the last week now, at least from what I have seen, there has been NO news.com results. In fact, just a guess, 9 out of 10 stories it brings up are not even tech news. (which is what I want)

Is Google blocking News.com, like the way they wont respond to News.com? I doubt it, but I hope not.

Oh well, maybe I just missed it when it was available on the Sidebar.
Posted by (9 comments )
Reply Link Flag
That's because Cnet news isn't actually news...
It's crap like this.
Posted by M C (598 comments )
Link Flag
OMG
That guy's name is Allen Weiner.
Posted by Charleston Charge (362 comments )
Reply Link Flag
I bet
he had a tough go of it in school.
Posted by corelogik (680 comments )
Link Flag
OMG
That guy's name is Allen Weiner.
Posted by Charleston Charge (362 comments )
Reply Link Flag
I bet
he had a tough go of it in school.
Posted by corelogik (680 comments )
Link Flag
Put this "story" in the blog section and get it out of the "news"
Cnet takes another step down...
Posted by M C (598 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Put this "story" in the blog section and get it out of the "news"
Cnet takes another step down...
Posted by M C (598 comments )
Reply Link Flag
War of the Worlds!!!
Ugh - it's driving me crazy! I've spent an entire summer bashing this movie and its lead actor and it continually shows up at the Top of my 'What's Hot' List!

I can't help but feel this is some sick punishment from Dreamworks Intelligence Corps.
Posted by aarond (2 comments )
Reply Link Flag
War of the Worlds!!!
Ugh - it's driving me crazy! I've spent an entire summer bashing this movie and its lead actor and it continually shows up at the Top of my 'What's Hot' List!

I can't help but feel this is some sick punishment from Dreamworks Intelligence Corps.
Posted by aarond (2 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Some stories coming out of CNET....
are just useless. Interesting? NOT! I think I will go back to sleep..... Zzzzzzzzzzzz Zzzzzz
Posted by snharden (47 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Some stories coming out of CNET....
are just useless. Interesting? NOT! I think I will go back to sleep..... Zzzzzzzzzzzz Zzzzzz
Posted by snharden (47 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Has anyone noticed the "NEW" icon on
the google toolbar for their desktop search. Lo and behold they installed it to my puter and I didn't even ask for it. Yahoo is already doing it and so is MSN.

Folks I think its time to dump all these ridiculous toolbars and the junk they force on us.

I now have Google desktop search and never even downloaded it but Google has put it on my PC for me. Now they have gone too far as far as I'm concerned. They and there toolbar will be removed promptly.
Posted by snharden (47 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Has anyone noticed the "NEW" icon on
the google toolbar for their desktop search. Lo and behold they installed it to my puter and I didn't even ask for it. Yahoo is already doing it and so is MSN.

Folks I think its time to dump all these ridiculous toolbars and the junk they force on us.

I now have Google desktop search and never even downloaded it but Google has put it on my PC for me. Now they have gone too far as far as I'm concerned. They and there toolbar will be removed promptly.
Posted by snharden (47 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Can anyone do "real" personalization technology now?
Has Yahoo's Konfabulator done a better job of personalization? Obviously no.

I believe there has been very few (I would like to say "no" here actaully, but I want to be careful) pretty good "practical" technology that does such reasoning effectively.

Of course, I meant "personalization" here as the magical way of learning user's preference from the usual searh terms entered or routine mouse click streams, instead of directly asking bunch of obvious questionares in the beginning directly.
Posted by (2 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Can anyone do "real" personalization technology now?
Has Yahoo's Konfabulator done a better job of personalization? Obviously no.

I believe there has been very few (I would like to say "no" here actaully, but I want to be careful) pretty good "practical" technology that does such reasoning effectively.

Of course, I meant "personalization" here as the magical way of learning user's preference from the usual searh terms entered or routine mouse click streams, instead of directly asking bunch of obvious questionares in the beginning directly.
Posted by (2 comments )
Reply Link Flag
 

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