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You've left us really enthused about the whole digital dimension and we're looking forward to developing our plan with your support.
Simon Beardow - Deputy Director, British Council, Vietnam

Saturday, 13 October 2012

It's Written In The Stars

Fancy a touch of galactic typography? Or perhaps a piece of stellar sign writing, if you will excuse the pun.

Galaxy Zoo has been in existence for the past five years but they have just launched a fourth version of their web site.

Beginning with a data set of a million galaxies imaged by the Sloan Digital Sky Survey, Galaxy Zoo has developed since then. They are using crowd sourcing techniques to classify the shapes of galaxies. Galaxy Zoo asked members of the public, the Zooites as they have labelled them, to look through nearly one million galaxies to make a catalogue of their shapes for scientific use. More than 50 million classifications were received by the project during its first year, contributed by more than 150,000 people.

But of course many people are sighting the same galaxy but there is 'method in the madness'.

"This is deliberate; having multiple independent classifications of the same object is important, as it allows us to assess how reliable our results are. For example, for projects where we may only need a few thousand galaxies but want to be sure they're all spirals before using up valuable telescope time on them, there's no problem - we can just use those that 100% of classifiers agree are spiral. For other projects, we may need to look at the properties of hundreds of thousands of galaxies, and can use those that a majority say are spiral."

The real fun start with a new interactive tool professional astronomer Steven Bamford has developed.  Now you can have your own message written in real galaxies using the My Galaxies generator.  There is really only one word to describe it:

Hours of fun are to be had writing one's thoughts in the heavens.  Once written you can click on your galactic creation to get a larger version and save it as a digital file.

Just the thing for weather school holidays; fun and educational at the same time.  And if you wish to expand your science horizons still further take a look at Zooinverse, home to the internet's largest, most popular and most successful citizen science projects.
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Monday, 8 October 2012

When A + is Not A Plus

It would seem that receiving a +1 on Google Plus is no great benefit in raising your profile in Google's search rankings.

As a social metric the number of +1's you receive may be heart warming but doesn't mean that you will be discovered online any better.

Matt Cutts,  the head of Google Web Spam team confirmed in a ‘Power Searching With Google Hangout on Air #2’ that this was the case.  This is not to say that +1's won't become more important in the future but right at the moment Google is more interested in 'authorship'.

"In the short term, we’re still going to have to study and see how good the signal is, so right now, there’s not really a direct effect where if you have a lot of +1s, you’ll rank higher. 

But there are things like, we have an authorship proposal, where you can use nice standards to markup your webpage, and you’ll actually see a picture of the author right there, and it turns out that if you see a picture of the author, sometimes you’ll have higher click through, and people will say, ‘oh, that looks like a trusted resource.’ So there are ways that you can participate and sort of get ready for the longer term trend of getting to know not just that something was said, but who said it and how reputable they were."

So perhaps the main lesson to be learnt is that you need to have Google Authorship enabled on your site. Your online visibility will improve with the number of results your achieve as an author,within the results pages.
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