Google Magic

I am a big fan of what Google does with its search capabilities (along with other things). I love the fact that you can use Google search to perform math, to convert between different measurements, to track your UPS packages, etc.

That features all work great , but I like it when they do something new and cool.

Today, I learned about something cool you can do with Google Image search. With Google Image search, you can now drag a picture to your search bar and Google will search for it. This is similar to the Google Goggles, app, but cooler, I think.

I tried this both with some paintings from Picasso as well as a Chicago style hot dog. Google correctly identified everything that I threw at it.

I am sure Google is using the photo’s metadata to help with the search. Regardless, I think this is pretty awesome.

Hattip to Slog for pointing this out.


Trust but Verify

I am fascinated by this story in which a person managed to persuade at least five television stations to put him on the air to demonstrate his prowess as a yo-yo champion. I understand that producers for morning shows have to fill their air time and I understand the desire to fill that air time with a yo-yo champion. That is something unusual and could be entertaining.

However, I am baffled by the fact that these stations apparently did no research before letting this guy go on live television. Obviously, this did not work out well for the stations. In one instance:

At WISC in Madison, Strasser was booked and ready to go on “News 3 This Morning.” But things took a strange turn when Strasser said on the air, “Do you want to hear a scary story?”

Colin Benedict, the station’s news director, said the anchors were confused. They thought a yo-yo champion was supposed to be on.

Instead, Strasser started talking about his personal story of alcohol and drugs.

And the yo-yo tricks? Benedict said Strasser tried one but the yo-yo fell apart and onto the studio floor.

That was enough for WISC. The anchors took over and Strasser was off the air.

What did this guy do to get on the air? He sent the stations an email:

In each case, producers at the television stations received an e-mail from Joe Guehrke, saying he represented Strasser and ZimZam Yo-Yo, “the world’s first ‘green’ ” nonprofit toymaker.

Guehrke told the stations that Strasser, whom he called a “master yo-yo artist,” would be in their area to bring his environmental message and “zany sense of humor” to kids.

Guehrke wrote in one e-mail to a TV station that Strasser was a dynamic talk-show guest who comes “equipped with a roster of amazing yo-yo tricks, juggling and fun tips about how kids and adults alike can take small steps to make the world a greener place.”

The e-mail solicitation stated that Strasser was a runner-up for Rookie of the Year in 1995, grand champion at the Pensacola Regional and was nominated for the Walt Greenberg Award in 2000.

There is no Walt Greenberg Award in yo-yo, and there is no evidence Pensacola ever hosted a yo-yo tournament or that Strasser won a rookie of the year award.

Maybe I am strange, but when I am contacted by someone or some company that I have never heard of before, the first thing I do is Google that person.

According to the information in the news story, it appears that a reasonable web search would have revealed that this guy was not who or what he claimed to be. If you can’t find a reference to the Walt Greenberg Award anywhere, that should be a pretty good clue that it does not exist.

The internet is a powerful tool and it is good for things other than legal research and Twitter. Keep that in mind. There is nothing wrong with listening to what people have to say. However, it is someone that you have never dealt with before, take the two minutes required to run a Google search and see if the information you find (or do not find) supports what the person is telling you.

Remember STFW. (If you don’t know what that means, Google it).

Case Law on Google

The big news that broke last week was that Google Scholar now allows you to search state and federal court opinions. The official announcement is here. I think this is awesome. In general, I believe that making information more available is a good thing. Making our laws freely available and easily searchable is a great thing, for both attorneys and nonattorneys.

Now, I don’t think that Google Scholar is going to replace West or Lexis anytime soon. Although, like Carolyn Elefant, I have concerns for other providers of legal research. Carolyn explains:

As I see it, Google’s free legal research services won’t put a dent in LEXIS or Westlaw, at least not for a long, long time,  Instead, they pose a threat to what I’ve collectively termed the “second city” providers like Versuslaw, Casemaker, FastCase or Loislaw.  Right now, most lawyers are able to access those services for free or cheap through deals with the bars – but will bars continue to support those subscriptions when there’s a robust free option available?  My heart goes out to these companies because they served as an oasis for solos when no other options, save the law library and manual research, existed.  Yet I don’t see all of them able to survive the Google onslaught.

Of these, the greatest concern is likely for those companies whose market is primarily individual attorneys and individual law firms, rather than those companies that provide services to attorneys as a bar association member benefit. Nevertheless, I expect that Google Scholar will eventually affect the business models of these companies. Also, I would not be surprised if Google continues to improve their service and eventually draws a not insignificant portion of the West/Lexis customers away. Yes, there are those who use West and Lexis for their specialized databases. However, those who aren’t using the specialized databases may, in the near future, decide that it is not worth the amount being charged by Lexis and West.

For other thoughts on this announcement, you can check out the rest of Carolyn’s post, as well as posts by Crime and Federalism, TechnoEsq, Lex Tek, Ernie the Attorney, Jim Calloway, and Rick Klau.


Check out this analysis of the service from Law on My Phone.

What Does Google Know About You?

If you have ever taken a look at the vast number of products that Google offers (and this doesn’t count the stuff that is secretly in development) it is no wonder that some people believe that Google is on a quest to take over the world. I just hope that if that is the case, they are benevolent dictators.

Anyway, if you use Google products and want to find out what Google knows about you, you need to check out Google Dashboard.

To find out more about Google Dashboard, check out the video below (which, of course, is hosted on You Tube, which is owned by Google).

Google Maps in the Courtroom

I was in court this morning waiting for my case to be called. The judge was hearing a short argument over how much access and expert needed to a private home to render his opinion. To demonstrate the situation, one of the attorneys had brought in some pictures of the houses at issue.

While the attorneys were arguing, the judge asked for the address of the property at issue and then pulled that up on Google Maps. She asked the attorneys if the map accurately depicted the homes at issue, both attorneys agreed that it did.

From my perspective, the great aspects of this situation are that the judge actually had a computer on the bench that was connected to the internet and that she was not afraid to use it to resolve the discovery dispute between the parties.

Had she pulled this up during a trial and used it to issue her ruling, there would likely be some evidentirary issues. Here, however, this was a discovery dispute that she was able to resolve more efficiently because she was better able to accurately picture the property in question.

Let Mail Goggles Save You

One of the things I love about Google is that they aren’t afraid to try something. They almost always have some cool new feature coming out of their labs. One of the latest is Mail Goggles. Named after Beer Goggles, Mail Goggles is a feature in GMail that requires you to perform a series of simple math problems before sending an email.

In the default setting, the feature is enabled only on Friday and Saturday nights between the hours of 10 pm and 4 am. The idea is that you may not be in the best frame of mind if you are sending emails at that time of night. On the other hand, Google figures that if you have the thinking skills to solve a few math problems, you can probably decide for yourself whether to send the email.

You can activate Mail Goggles from selecting Setting > Labs from you Gmail screen. Best of all, there are a bunch of additional lab feature that you can choose from in that same tab. Take a stroll through these features and see which you would like to enable in your Gmail account.

Google Chrome: My Initial Thoughts

I downloaded Google Chrome today just to play with it and see what it was like. My initial thought is that, had it been introduce three years ago, it would be really cool. Right now, however, it ranks a shoulder shrug from me. Maybe it has some hidden jewels that I haven’t found yet. Unless someone points them out to me, I will not be switching my default browser from Firefox.

Despite my ambivilence at this point and given Google’s other successes, I would not be surprised to see myself using a Google browser 18-24 months in the future.