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Google Co-Op Topics - Annotating Web Content

In May of 2006, among other announcements, Google announced Google Co-op. This article is a follow-on article to a previous article, "Google Co-Op Overview", which provided a high-level overview of Google Co-op. This article will go into one of the components of Google Co-Op, Topics, in more detail than was covered in the previous article. Google Co-Op is important to users for several reasons. Google Co-Op allows users to contribute information that will help Google to improve search results for everyone. In addition, Google Co-Op allows an end-user to customize their own search experience so that information that is more relevant and trusted will appear at the top of the user's search results.

Users accomplish this by subscribing to "trusted" sources of information. Information from those trusted sources will appear at the top of a user's search results for relevant searches. Google Co-Op is a beta-test service now being offered by Google. Anyone with a Google account may participate. While still in its infancy, Google Co-Op represents Google's efforts to embrace social web and social search concepts in a major way to help improve Google search results.

Google Co-op consists of two things: 1. Topics, which are simply a means of labeling web content 2. Subscribed links, which are a means for users to subscribe to a particular web site's content Topics can further be sub-divided into two things: 1. The ability to create an entire categorization or labeling scheme 2. The ability to simply provide labels for web content, which Google calls annotations The remainder of this article will focus on the annotations aspect of Google Topics. Annotations to URLs Annotating URLs is perhaps the easiest part of Google Co-Op to understand. It also requires the least amount of technical expertise to implement. A "topic" is simply Google's way of saying "area of interest". Topics are a labeling or categorization scheme. Topics allow users a way of providing labels (which may also be referred to as tags, or categories) for information on the web (represented by URLs).

Labels may be provided for an entire web site, portions of a web site, or even a specific web page. These "labels" provide some indication of the topic or topics for a given web site or page. In essence, they provide additional information on what the web site is all about. Anyone with a Google account can label web sites. Google refers to the process of providing labels for web sites as "Annotating URLs". An annotation is simply the association of a label, or multiple labels, with a URL. For example, a travel site might get the label "destination guide". Users may use labels for topics that Google already has under development, which include: health, destination guides, autos, computer & video games, photo & video equipment, and stereo & home theater. Users may also develop their own labels for topics. For example, if a user has an interest in "wine" they may develop labels for the topic wine, which may include "wine regions", "wine types", etc.

They can then use these labels to annotate sites that deal with wine. An end user may submit their annotations to Google in one of two formats: 1) in a tab-delimited format (which can be created using Microsoft Excel or any spreadsheet); or 2) in an XML file. Perhaps the easiest format for most users to deal with is simply to create a spreadsheet where the first column contains a URL or URL pattern, and the subsequent columns contain labels, one label to a column. Further information that may be associated with a URL in subsequent columns includes: Score - a ranking of relevance from 0 to 1 (0 to 100%) Comment Attributes - user defined attributes which may only be included in the tab-delimited file format Annotation Examples A few examples will go a long way to illustrate annotating URLs. If I were using a tab-delimited file to annotate a travel related web site it might look something like this: URL                                                     Label            Label         Label        Score Comment http://www.travelsite.com/*                   sightseeing    museums    shopping   1         Detailed destination information If I were using an XML file to annotate the same travel related web site it might look something like this: <Annotations> <file>travelsite-annotations.xml</file> <Annotation> <about>http://www.travelsite.com/*</about> <Label> <name>sightseeing</name> <score>1</score> <Comment>Detailed destination information</Comment> </Label> <Label> <name>museums</name> <score>1</score> <Comment>Detailed destination information</Comment> </Label> <Label> <name>shopping</name> <score>1</score> <Comment>Detailed destination information</Comment> </Label> </Annotation> </Annotations> Conventions for Labels There are some simple conventions that should be followed when labeling content.

First it is important to understand that labels may be applied to URLs or wildcard URLs. Using wildcards makes it much easier to label a lot of content with a few statements. For example: Labels applied to www.mywebsite.com/ would only apply to that specific page of the web site Labels applied to www.mywebsite.com/* would apply to all URLs that starts with the URL "www.mywebsite.com" Labels applied www.


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