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Sunday, September 17, 2006

Using Google To Help Others

Google announced a United Negro College Fund scholarship program last week. I think our higher education system is way too expensive and am always happy to see more scholarships appear.

But in thinking about what other types of scholarship programs I could imagine Google funding (say, for Native Americans, Hispanic Americans, unwed mothers, orphans, and victims of drunk drivers -- not necessarily in that order), it occurred to me that there is one important segment of American society that never gets any attention: experienced workers whose skills are no longer required. I'm not just talking about unskiled laborers. I'm talking about college graduates.

Last year, Bill Gates whined about a shortage of skilled IT workers in the United States. Don't be fooled by the low percentages for unemployed IT workers mentioned in the article. In 2001, 500,000 American IT workers permanently lost their jobs. Estimates published since then indicate that as many as 400,000 of those workers have been unable to return to the IT field.

Many of those jobs went to India because the cost of hiring Indian programmers is considerably less than the cost of hiring American programmers. Now, I've been to India in a professional capacity and the programmers I met there struck me as being competent, capable programmers. Nonetheless, there is a growing backlash among Americans against the outsourcing of jobs to India. To his credit, Mr. Gates doesn't want to outsource jobs to India -- he wants to bring Indians to America on H1-B work visas and pay them American salaries.

In the meantime, approximately 400,000 former American tech workers find it very difficult to get jobs because they are "overqualified and will leave at the first good opportunity". Try submitting a resume that shows 25+ years' experience (including management positions) in the IT field to an unrelated industry and you'll see what the problem entails. There is a great deal of technical experience and skill languishing in this country because CEOs like Bill Gates are too cheap to invest in teaching skilled programmers how to work in a new language.

Google and other large corporations could give thought to tapping an immense resource of experienced talent that is currently not being exploited.

But enough about scholarships. Google AdWords' Blog has launched the first in a series of blog tips about how to create effective video ads. I don't think many companies have thought about what it would take to sell video ad space on their Web sites, but I've often wished I had the resources to put together some randomly available videos fo Xenite.Org. In about 3 years, these tips may look naive and misguided to experienced hands, but for now they are all that business advertisers have to work with in this emerging field.

If you operate a large multimedia site, think about how embedding cross-promotiona video ads in your own content can help you improve your on-site conversion ratios.

In August, Inside Booksearch published Finding Gems In Your Library. I have now seen this feature in action. I mainain a discussion group about Middle-earth and occasionally post news stories to the list. Tonight I shared a story about Amanda McKittrick Ros, an author whom J.R.R. Tolkien and his friends (the Inklings) read for amusement. I wanted to see if Google Books had any of her works (they don't, although they do have my first book Visualizing Middle-earth).

When I scroll down the first results page for Amanda McKittrick Ros, however, I see three searches of library catalogues. I shared that search with people on the Endor list and I think this marks the first time I have recommended Google Books to people. Don't assume I'm now wholly in favor of the service, but it would be crazy to pretend it is not there.

Google Enterprise says Xythos has developed a Google OneBox module without having to use a Google Search Appliance. If they share enough of their technology in their October 18 Webinar, other developers may be able to follow their lead.

And, finally, Google Webmaster Central reports that the login function for Public Search Service has been temporarily disabled. It's interesting that Google says they are not aware of any malicious exploits of the search function. But I have to wonder if this update was inspired by SEOMoz's 20 government links in 20 minutes post. There are Googlers who read SEOMoz. If they noticed that Public Search was being exploited, SEOMoz may have just helped Google close what could have become a serious loophole.

If you've never looked into what Google Webmaster Central offers, check out their resources. They make the SiteMaps Site Status tool available for free without requiring a login. Many people who don't trust the service may want to reconsider using this tool.

While it's true that Google most likely saves the queries, I doubt they use them to tag sites that are not compliant with Webmaster guidelines. They aready have filters to do that.


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