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Embedding Google Docs and Spreadsheets into your Blog Posts

I just wrote a post about buying a new camera, and because I want to compare specs on several different cameras and lenses, I’m going to need a spreadsheet.  Luckily there are some great online spreadsheet programs to chose from.  I’m going to use this as an opportunity to explore how to use Google Docs and Spreadsheets in blog posts.

Before you get started I’m assuming you already have a Google Docs spreadsheet ready to go.

1.  You can always just link to the document. By default your docs will be private so you’ll need to make them available to your readers.  To do so you’ll need to either go to the Share tab and check “Anyone can view this document WITHOUT LOGGING IN at:” or go to the Publish tab and publish the doc. Either way you’ll get regular URL to post, like this one:

Links aren’t very exciting though, so how can you embed into a post instead?

2.  You can embed the content into the post.  If you’re wondering how to do it in WordPress, one solution I’ve come across is the Inline Google Docs plugin at Broken Watch.  This plugin gets the actual text/html of the spreadsheet and places it inline in your post.  So if you have a wide blog template, or a spreadsheet with relatively few columns, it should blend right in.  On the other hand, there’s no editing or other fun.

Here’s an example of what the output looks like:

NOTE: I had to disable this, it was throwing errors once I upgraded to WordPress 2.7. You mileage may vary.

3.  You can put the doc directly in the page with an iframe. This works really, really well with Google Presentations but is a bit trickier with a doc and even less optimal with a spreadsheet. You’ll get the best-looking results if you publish the document and use the published URL in the iframe. On the other hand if you use the shared URL collaborators should be able to make changes right in your blog post.

You’ll want to create some code like this:

<iframe src=”” width=”500″ height=”400″></iframe>

Make sure you put the code in the “HTML” editing mode of WordPress rather than “Visual” mode.  As a result you can see some of the info I’ve gathered about possible camera / lens combinations in the spreadsheet below.

The main issue here is the relatively small iframe window size. If you use a wider blog template this technique might work really well.

Why bother? Spreadsheets aren’t the most exciting thing in the world for most people, but play around with all the features of Google Docs and Spreadsheets and you’ll see why this can be pretty cool.  You can embed questionnaires and surveys, cool charts and graphs with Gadgets, and anything else you can think of.

Google Earth vs. Reality, Revisited

Last week I compared some real-life photos with the same scene in Google Earth.  Since I’m a bit of a computer/mapping/photography geek, I couldn’t resist doing a few more.  That actually ended up being a pretty popular post, with thousands of pageviews, which just goes to show I’m not the only combination computer/mapping/photography geek out there.

Here’s a view of San Francisco from Coit Tower on Telegraph Hill.  Follow this link to see larger versions in Flickr.  This one is even better than the two from last week – look how well the streets, buildings, and Golden Gate Bridge match with the photo.

Google Earth vs. Reality - San Francisco from Coit Tower

Now I’ll go a little more international.  Here’s a photo from the site of ancient Mycenae in Greece.  This is above the famous Lion Gate looking out tat the hills surrounding the Argolid plain.  See larger versions in Flickr.  The aerial photograph that Google Earth maps to the topography isn’t as detailed as the real life photo, but even the borders of the olive groves line up.

Google Earth vs. Reality - Mycenae, Greece

These next two are not as identical as the San Francisco cityscapes, but are still impressive because of how well they evoke the real life scenes without 3-d buildings.

The first is from the Acropolis in Athens, looking out over the surrounding neighborhood.  Larger versions in Flickr.

Google Earth vs. Reality - Athens from the Acropolis

Here’s another shot from the Acropolis showing the new Acropolis Museum.  Larger versions in Flickr.

Google Earth vs. Reality - Athens and the new Acropolis Museum

If you feel like making some comparisons of your own, please let me know in the comments below – I’d love to see what other people could come up with.

Scientific proof that Reddit should add a tagging system

First, a disclaimer: the title of this post is obviously exaggerated. Proof is an awfully big word to throw around, and although I employed pretty good experiment design practices and statistical checks, I can’t really prove that Reddit should do this or that. But I can show that what they are doing now is not working, at least when it comes to search.

So, I got an email the other day letting me know that my article, Tagging and Searching: Search Retrieval Effectiveness of Folkonsomies on the World Wide Web, is being published in the July 2008 issue of Information Processing and Management (here’s the official DOI link to the article). In the study I compared search performance between traditional search engines (like Google), subject directories (like Open Directory), and social bookmarking systems (like Reddit) and their folksonomies.

What’s a folksonomy? The word is a play on the term taxonomy – a taxonomy is a system of organizing and categorizing things, like the Dewey Decimal System. Taxonomies usually follow very strict rules and are controlled by experts. A folksonomy is a system of organization built by large numbers of regular users, who add things to the collection, evaluate them, and usually tag them with keywords.


In my study, the social bookmarking systems with tagging systems did surprisingly well – was more precise than Open Directory, and at a cut off of 20 results it’s precision was fairly close to that of the search engines.

Reddit, however, did not fare so well. It consistently had the lowest precision, meaning that searches returned very few relevant results. There could be many reasons for this, but the biggest difference between Reddit and the others is the lack of tags.

Now, it’s possible that the folks at Reddit have no interest in search, or information retrieval in general. I think Reddit is very effective at bringing out new and interesting links on a daily basis and encouraging commentary (just my opinion, no stats to back that up). But I think it’s a big missed opportunity not to add tagging and see where it leads.

(One last disclaimer: this post is my personal opinion as someone who enjoys using Reddit and does not reflect on my employer. This post refers to research done independently as a grad student.)