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Ask a Techspert: What is open source?

When I started working at Google, a colleague mentioned that the group projects I worked on in college sounded a lot like some of the open source projects we do here at Google. I thought there had to be some misunderstanding since my projects all happened in-person with my classmates in the corner of some…

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When I started working at Google, a colleague mentioned that the group projects I worked on in college sounded a lot like some of the open source projects we do here at Google. I thought there had to be some misunderstanding since my projects all happened in-person with my classmates in the corner of some building in the engineering quad. 

To find out how a real life study group could be like a type of computer software, I went straight to Rebecca Stambler, one of Google’s many open source experts.

Explain your job to me like I’m a first-grader.

Well, to start, computer programs have to be written in a language that computers understand — not in English or any other spoken language. At Google we have our own language called Go. When we write in a language to tell a computer what to do, that’s called source code. Just like you can write an essay or a letter in a Google Doc, you have to write your code in an “editor.” I work on making these editors work well for people who write code in Google’s programming language, Go. 

What does it mean for software to be open source?

A piece of software is considered open source if its source code is made publicly available to anyone, meaning they can freely copy, modify and redistribute the code. Usually, companies want to keep the source code of their products secret, so people can’t copy and reproduce their products. But sometimes a company shares their code publicly so anyone can contribute. This makes software more accessible and builds a community around a project. Anyone can work on an open source project no matter who they are or where they are. 

Anyone can contribute? How do they do it?

Before you actually write open source code, a good first step would be thinking about what you’re interested in, whether that’s web development, systems or front end development. Then you can dive into that community by doing things like attending talks or joining online networks where you can often learn more about what open source projects are out there. Then, think about what topics you’re interested in — maybe it’s the environment, retail, banking or a specific type of web development. Some people write code just because they enjoy it; plenty of these people have contributed to code within Google open source projects. So if you’re looking to contribute,  make sure it’s something  you’re really interested in.

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Survey shows how people decide what to trust online

Alex Mahadevan is director of MediaWise at the Poynter Institute. He has taught digital media literacy to thousands of middle and high schoolers, and has trained hundreds of journalists from around the world in verification and digital investigative tools. We caught up with Alex to find out about a recent information literacy survey his organization…

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Alex Mahadevan is director of MediaWise at the Poynter Institute. He has taught digital media literacy to thousands of middle and high schoolers, and has trained hundreds of journalists from around the world in verification and digital investigative tools. We caught up with Alex to find out about a recent information literacy survey his organization conducted in partnership with YouGov, with support from Google. Learn more about how Google is working on information literacy and helping you spot misinformation online.

Why was this survey conducted?

Misinformation isn’t a new problem, but it’s becoming increasingly difficult to separate fact from fiction, especially on the internet. We wanted to learn more about how people across generational lines verify information and decide what to trust and share online. And we knew this research would help us expand on the educational resources MediaWise has to offer.

What were the parameters for the survey?

We surveyed more than 8,500 respondents of various ages in the United States, Brazil, the United Kingdom, Germany, Nigeria, India and Japan. We asked a wide range of questions aimed at assessing information literacy skills and verification habits. Those include queries about everything from the tools and techniques someone uses to investigate a post they see online, to the reasons why they may have shared misleading information in the past.

What are some of the biggest takeaways?

The survey found that 62% of respondents think they see false or misleading information on at least a weekly basis – that’s a staggering number. And people are aware that it’s a serious issue. Roughly 50% of all Gen X, Millennial and Gen Z respondents (these are people ages 18 to 57) said they’re concerned about their family being exposed to it.

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New ways we’re helping you find high-quality information

AI models are also helping our systems understand when a featured snippet might not be the most helpful way to present information. This is particularly helpful for questions where there is no answer: for example, a recent search for “when did snoopy assassinate Abraham Lincoln” provided a snippet highlighting an accurate date and information about…

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AI models are also helping our systems understand when a featured snippet might not be the most helpful way to present information. This is particularly helpful for questions where there is no answer: for example, a recent search for “when did snoopy assassinate Abraham Lincoln” provided a snippet highlighting an accurate date and information about Lincoln’s assassination, but this clearly isn’t the most helpful way to display this result.

We’ve trained our systems to get better at detecting these sorts of false premises, which are not very common, but are cases where it’s not helpful to show a featured snippet. We’ve reduced the triggering of featured snippets in these cases by 40% with this update.

Information literacy

Beyond designing our systems to return high-quality information, we also build information literacy features in Google Search that help people evaluate information, whether they found it on social media or in conversations with family or friends. In fact, in a study this year, researchers found that people regularly use Google as a tool to validate information encountered on other platforms. We’ve invested in building a growing range of information literacy features — including Fact Check Explorer, Reverse image search, and About this result — and today, we’re announcing several updates to make these features even more helpful.

Expanding About this result to more places

About this result helps you see more context about any Search result before you ever visit a web page, just by tapping the three dots next to the result. Since launching last year, people have used About this result more than 2.4 billion times, and we’re bringing it to even more people and places – with eight more languages including Portuguese (PT), French (FR), Italian (IT), German (DE), Dutch (NL), Spanish (ES), Japanese (JP) and Indonesian (ID), coming later this year.

This week, we’re adding more context to About this result, such as how widely a source is circulated, online reviews about a source or company, whether a company is owned by another entity, or even when our systems can’t find much info about a source – all pieces of information that can provide important context.

And we’ve now launched About this page in the Google app, so you can get helpful context about websites as you’re browsing the web. Just swipe up from the navigation bar on any page to get more information about the source – helping you explore with confidence, no matter where you are online.

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Finding community and customers through Growth Academy: Women Founders

With thousands of highly-valued tech companies, a global-first market approach, and a strong economy dominated by entrepreneurship, it’s clear why Israel’s nickname is ‘The Startup Nation.’However, this thriving startup ecosystem isn’t equally supportive of all aspiring founders. According to the latest Israeli Tech Gender Distribution Report, spearheaded by Google for Startups and IVC Data and…

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With thousands of highly-valued tech companies, a global-first market approach, and a strong economy dominated by entrepreneurship, it’s clear why Israel’s nickname is ‘The Startup Nation.’

However, this thriving startup ecosystem isn’t equally supportive of all aspiring founders. According to the latest Israeli Tech Gender Distribution Report, spearheaded by Google for Startups and IVC Data and Insights, only 2% of startups with a woman founder raised above $50 million between 2018 and 2021. While the number of entirely women-led companies has doubled in the past decade, they still only comprise 6.3% of Israeli startups — and only 13.9% of startups had at least one woman co-founder in a mixed-gender founding team.

I fall into the latter category. My cofounder Gal Benbeniste and I met during college, where we bonded over how outdated the investment world is. What started with trying to figure out a simple way to automate became FinityX, a deep-tech startup that helps investors implement AI tools as part of their investment process to save time and resources, and improve quality.

While I have been humbled by FinityX’s rapid growth and recognition, as one of the very few women in the deep-tech space I’ve always wanted to be able to access the same capital, business networks, and mentorship readily available to my male cofounder.

So I was thrilled when Google for Startups launched a Growth Academy program tailored specifically for the needs of early-stage women founders. Based on the successful Startup Growth Lab curriculum, the program includes leadership workshops with Israeli VCs such as Entree Capital, Ibex and Viola, leadership sessions with top industry lecturers, and one-on-one Google product mentorship. “Ever since Google for Startups opened Campus Tel Aviv in 2012, diversity and inclusion has been an essential focus to our work,” said Marta Mozes, marketing manager of Google for Startups in Israel. “When we discovered this data about female founders in Israel, we knew we had to be part of the change.”

Meet the other Israeli entrepreneurs, representing industries from family vacation-planning to finance, who joined me at Google for Startups Growth Academy: Women Founders:

  • Miri Berger, Cofounder & CEO of 6Degrees
  • Kerri Kariti, Cofounder & CPO of Claritee
  • Vardit Legali, Cofounder & CEO of Clawdia
  • Ronny Schwartz Dgani, Cofounder & CMO of Expecting.ai
  • Inbal Glantser and Naama Yacobson, Cofounders of Homaze
  • Tamar Liberman, Tal Provizor Narkiss, and Lee Winfield, Cofounders of It’s July
  • Mika Kayt, Founder & CEO of Outgage
  • Danielle Shpigel and Yarden Kaufmann, Cofounders of Unika

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