Twitter followers of @daveyp and myself may have spotted a brief exchange of tweets between us and Phil Bradley (http://philbradlel.typepad.com/ Twitter name @philbradley) about additional icons appearing on Google results pages when ‘Show options’ was selected. An example of what @daveyp was seeing is at http://www.daveyp.com/blog/stuff/google.jpg . He was using Google.com, the “search provider” box in IE and running IE8.0.6001 on WinXP SP3. It did not matter whether or not he was signed in to a Google account.
Phil Bradley and I attempted to replicate this on our various machines, operating systems, browsers etc but could not and neither could anyone else in @daveyp’s twitterstream. Phil Bradley wondered if @daveyp had stumbled upon some unique, bizarre experiment. In the mean time I had turned to the email discussion list of the AIIP (Association of Independent Information Providers), one of my professional networks. One hour and fifteen minutes later, fellow member Donna Fryer responded with a link to http://blogoscoped.com/forum/163640.html, which suggests that Google are testing a change to the format and layout. The posting also refers to http://searchengineland.com/google-streamlines-search-options-30143 . By this time @daveyp had reported that the icons had disappeared and the layout returned to normal!
I subscribe to the Blogscoped RSS feed but had completely forgotten about the posting. In a follow up tweet Phil Bradley echoed my own thoughts when he pointed out that the Blogscoped article was written in November 2009 and asked why they had started testing again now. The answer may be in the Search Engine Land post: “the cleaner display may be launched across Google after the New Year.” So keep your eyes peeled for a new layout in Show Options.
As well as alerting me to a potential change in the Google results layout, this whole exchange reinforced to me the power of networks and social media when one is faced with a problem – and I include the good old-fashioned, traditional email discussion lists. One person reports an oddity on their preferred social network (in this case Twitter). Members of that person’s network pick it up, investigate and pass it on to members in their preferred networks (in my case the AIIP discussion list). Suggestions, advice and information are passed back to the original enquirer and problem solved!