Category Archives: google

how to figure out if a site is a scam

All right, everybody be cool, this is a robbery!

I was looking into getting some ebooks so I googled around a bit and something came up that was offering a nice deal. In fact, it was so nice that a little warning indicator popped up in my brain. It was looking a bit too good to be true, you know, the typical signs of a scam: if it’s too good to be true, it usually is.

Then I read the conditions and apparently you had to pay upfront before you could buy a book. Hmm. More warnings popped up.

So how do you determine if a site is a scam? Well, googling the name might help and turn up some warnings. But it didn’t in my case. That search however did turn up one thing by chance. A site that calculates the ranking of this ebook scam site gave me links to similar sites. When I opened one of them, it turned it had the same layout. In fact, it was a clone of the original site hosted on a different domain.


So how many more domains like that are there? I tried a few google tricks and finally struck gold by copying a line of text from the site’s privacy policy, surrounding it with quotes to have The Google search for that exact piece of text. If that line is unique enough, it should only turn up a single website. Or websites that copied the same text. Or complete clones of the website as in this case.

The result? Google turned up a huge list of sites hosting the exact same content under a ton of different domains, sometimes with a different layout theme or logo. But plain copies none the less.


Picture by Alex Abian, cc-licensed.

break out of the search bubble

This is relevant to my interests

Did you know that when you search on the popular search engines these days you’re actually doing that from inside a “search bubble”? Google, Bing and Yahoo all do it, to give you more tailored and “relevant to your interest” results.

Let’s take Google for example, since most people are using that one anyway. They are tracking your searches and clicks, if you’re logged in or not. They do this to compose a profile on you so that they can give you more specific search results the next time you look for something. They try to determine your sex, age and location (just like on IRC) to feed you the search results your are probably looking for. They are filtering the information based on a profile they’ve created on you.

The damn thing is that this actually works quite well. As a software developer I search a lot for technical, programming related topics. Google knows this and will give me those before any other possible hits. But what are you missing? What links are not included in your personal bubble just because Mr Google finds them irrelevant for you?

So how do you bust out of this bubble? You could use a browser with privacy mode but as long as you’re still using Google to search, or Chrome, you can’t be sure.

Another way is to use a different search engine. I know! A different search engine. It’s been ages since that happened right?

Enter DuckDuckGo. Beside the funny name and the mascot (A duck! Who would have guessed!) this one doesn’t put you in a bubble, doesn’t track your info and uses SSL by default.
Give it a try, and you’ll see that your results are quite different from Google’s. I have to be honest here and say that in some cases, the Google results are “better”. But that’s the bubble at work here.

DuckDuckGo also has a ton of specific search goodies like a built-in calculator and conversion engine, some specific tech goodies (whois queries, md5 hashes etc) and the !bang searches which allow you to search sites and topics directly.

As you can see, there’s plenty of reasons to try this new duck on the block out and burst out of your search bubble. The goodies alone make it worth checking out imo.

cheapest online storage ever?

Data Center Storage

By chance I stumbled across the Google Docs fees to expand your free 1GB space to whatever you feel like. It turns out you can get 20 frigging Gigs of online storage at Google Docs for 5 US dollar per year. That’s right. Per year! Some of those online web space/file hosting services have you pay that same amount a month, for less.

Since you can now upload any type of file to Google Docs this seems to be the cheapest way to serve your files to the world for now. At least it’s the cheapest I’ve come across so far. I even checked the Amazone C3 (you know, the whole cloud service thing) prices and even those can’t tip this kind of cheapness. I’ve never uses the Amazone services before, but I doubt it’s as easy to upload and maintain files as it’s on Google Docs since that’s just a matter of dragging and dropping.

Host away I’d say! Host away!

google docs as a wiki?

The "On the other hand" selfportrait

I love Google Docs. The fact that you can share documents online with anyone in a matter seconds and collaborate on documents is something I really miss when it’s not there. Like at work. With MS Office. And emailing spreadsheets and documents back and forth. Blegh.

In fact, the whole document publishing/sharing thing even allows you to use it as some sort of rudimentary open wiki site. You can share any text document and publish it as an internet page. But you can also open this page up for editing by anyone, with or without a Google Account. How’s that for openness?

// how it works

Once your document is published, you change the share settings to public for the internet, and allow anyone on the world wide web to edit the page as well. You don’t even need a Google Account to be able to edit the page, but if you have one you have some more options of course.

It’s awesome.

When two people are editing the document at the same time, they will even see the changes happening live on their screen. By clicking the name in the top right corner of the other person viewing the page, they can even chat about what they want to do with the page. There’s more room for collaboration by using the comment feature. Just select a portion of text and insert a comment for it (you can only see those when you edit though).

And it’s all free.

// downsides?

You don’t have the same level of control over this kind of editable open page as you’d have in a regular wiki website of course, but then again you didn’t have to set up a website either now did you?

Depending on who’s editing your page might evolve into something that looks like a good old Geocities or Myspace mess of clashing image, font types and colours, but if people behave a little it might turn out just fine.

Maybe not to be used for too large and open projects as it’s too easy to vandalise, but for smaller groups this might be the cheapest and easiest way to set up a shared online mini-site open to anyone who receives the link.

If you want to give it a shot, there’s a completely editable page right here, with roughly the same text as I’ve posted here.

Photo by dhammza, cc-licensed