kwc.org Photos Spare Cycles MythBusters

Category: Google

January 7, 2012

Man Hands: Galaxy Nexus vs. iPhone 4S

nexus_iphone4.jpg

Any review of the Galaxy Nexus will note that it's huge. I like it. I'm 6'2" and this phone is great: it's much easier to type on and I can see much more content.

In the photo above I'm holding the Galaxy Nexus and my wife is holding her iPhone 4S. My phone is smaller relative to my hand, which leads me to conclude either:

a. The iPhone is too small for me
b. The iPhone is too big for her

She says (b), as she can't fully use the phone one-handed. I can use my Galaxy Nexus just fine, so it seems (a) and (b) are both true. Regardless, anyone who argues that the 3.5" is ideal must have ideal hands.

I was going to write a Galaxy Nexus review, but got distracted by the previous post. I fear that two posts in one month is all I can manage right now

Why Android is Better Off

I think this John Gruber quote on Siri explains why I use Android:

"...the whole thing still isn't up to Apple's usual level of fit and finish, not by a long shot. But I'm still glad it's there. I think the iPhone 4S is better off with Siri in its current state than it would be if Apple had waited until Siri was further along to release it."

If I had to distinguish between Google/Android and Apple/iOS, it's that each company decides differently whether or not a new feature is "ready" to put in.

Apple typically denies a new feature/product is necessary, secretly works on it for a very long time until it's polished, and then claims their solution is better than everything else out there. Sometimes this is very true (original iPhone), other times its marketing.

Google will see a need for a feature and put it in as soon as it is useful, even if it's not fully baked yet. They will then iterate on that feature again and again to make it right.

Google's approach means that people can take advantage of features sooner. It can be more difficult to discover these features because they can start so small and they get better and better in small and frequent chunks. On the downside, Google makes more missteps (Wave, Buzz, Google TV), and the ground shifts more rapidly (Android 3, 4).

Apple's approach means that new features are usually more polished and the additional fanfare helps users discover that they exist. But you have to wait a lot longer for them to arrive (notifications, Siri, cloud sync) and there are still mistakes (Apple TV, iTunes Ping, Spaces/Launchpad/Widgets/Expose mess).

It goes almost without saying that Google's approach is the web company style, and Apple's is the desktop software style: incremental, frequent updates versus major releases.

This is all just a spectrum, and Siri is one example of Apple straying a little more towards Google's side: releasing something when it is useful, but not fully polished.

So, I find Android has many more useful features *, and that's why I'm better off. YMMV.

* cloud syncing, turn-by-turn navigation, notification, desktop widgets, voice transcription, Face Unlock, Google Voice, customizable keyboards, Android Intents (apps plugging into other apps), NFC, etc...

May 28, 2009

Google Wave

Dang, first the Rasmussen brothers helped create Google Maps. Soon, Google Wave. It's like the unification of e-mail, wikis, and group instant messaging (live instant messaging, you see characters as they're typed). Imagine a socially connected Web page that multiple people can edit and watch the updates live. Depending on how you use it, it can either be an e-mail thread, a collaborative document, an IM chat, a collection of Web clippings, a live set of search results, a group photo album, or all simultaneously. Plus, there's a bunch of treats just tossed in:

  • instant search results (as in, search results as new documents are typed)
  • contextual spell checking (i.e. Icland is an icland -> Iceland is an island, been soup -> bean soup)
  • character-by-character language translation
  • instant display of photo thumbnails as you share them, with easy captioning and slideshows
  • collaborative map making
  • drag and drop upload from the desktop
  • embed in a Web page, with live updates still enabled (i.e. edits you make are updated live onto the Web page, and Web page visitors can also update live)
  • there's even an extension that turns your Twitter (and Twitter search results) into a 'Wave' and lets you use the same editing semantics.
  • integration with Google's bug tracker

July 12, 2008

Google App Engine: Some early tips

appengine_lowres.jpgI'm not an advanced user of Google App Engine, but I did make some mistakes at the start that I had to pay for later on. All of these mistakes are simple and easy to avoid, so I thought I'd share some tips for others looking to wade into App Engine waters (thanks to bp for rescuing me from early mistakes).

Use memcache from day 1

With most apps you can write first, optimize later. Google App Engine's quotas including quotas for high CPU usage, which you can go over very quickly. Right after my site deployed I started getting some hits from StumbleUpon -- it was sad seeing my site disabled so soon after its birth.

The Memcache API is ridiculously easy to use, so thankfully optimizing is not difficult. It's basically just a string dictionary. Build your code to make as much use of this API as possible.

Limit your query result sizes

Big query results will hammer your quotas, so do whatever you can to make sure you work on small result sizes.

Take the time to watch the tutorials

You'll be productive quickly enough, so take some time to watch the tutorial videos to get a better understanding of how App Engine and Big Table work. It can help you figure out how to design your model better. For example, learn what entity groups are early on so you can decide whether or not you should use them.

Use source code management

You'll be up and running in no time with App Engine, so you have to be even more careful with your source code. Early on I found it far too easy to start hacking in a new feature into my code and breaking it -- which meant that I couldn't make any other updates to my site until I got it working again.

Keep your queries in a few places

App Engine's APIs make it really easy to do queries, in fact, too easy. It also automatically creates indexes for you based on your queries. You'll soon find queries scattered in every bit of your code and you'll be wondering why you suddenly have so many indexes.

Your better off consolidating your queries in a few places so you can keep track of what sort of queries you're doing and possibly eliminating some in order to reduce your indexes. This will also make it easier to invisibly throw memcache on top so that your higher-level code doesn't have to know if its dealing with the datastore or the cache.

One week of Google App Engine

appengine_lowres.jpgI got tired of cutting and pasting links into blog entries on my Spare Cycles site every time the Tour de France rolls around, so I thought I'd spend those early morning, live-race-watching sessions coding up a Google App Engine site to do most of the work for me. The app is very simple:

  • it checks a bunch of RSS feeds
  • it allows me to mark each entry it finds as approved or rejected

There's some additional stuff in there to try and classify a link by stage, category and type. Nothing rocket science.

I've been pleased with the low startup cost in getting something up and running. I had a crude cut running almost immediately and have been able to post incremental improvements frequently -- I think I'm already up to 200 revisions. Most of those revisions are due to an overabundance of confidence in my ability to code Python error free while watching TV at 5 in the morning. You are supposed to try out your code on a development server that runs on your local computer, but sometimes I was lazy.

In some ways the startup cost was too low -- I probably should have watched some of the tutorial videos first before designing my data model. You can play around with the data model after you've deployed it, though certain properties are harder to change than others (e.g. keys and parents). I was also more timid to do so because my site has had users from the get-go.

My only real complaints are:

  1. You can't schedule tasks on the server. You're only way of updating data is to load a URL. My simple hack for this is to use the 'Reload Every' extension in Firefox.
  2. It's really easy to exceed the quotas on the system. Too many queries or too many urlfetches on a particular page will easily trigger a temporary ban.
  3. The djangoforms API could use more than a little bit of work. Datetimes are not rendered properly and the documentation is really hard to navigate.
  4. I wish there were an automated tool for getting data in/out of the system. I'm constantly worried that I'm going to bork my data somehow, so I want to be able to back it up without having to keep a custom backup tool up-to-date.

My next attempt will probably be something photo related, so I'll soon have some more experience with the Image API as well.

April 8, 2008

AppEngine, yay! Flickr Video, yay! Larger photo uploads, yay!

Videos on Flickr, which I've long waited for, has arrived. I look forward to having videos and photos from events living side-by-side. Not-so-thrilling are the 90 second limits on video length: most of my videos are of author events and other talks, so I'll still have to stick with Youtube for those. Given that they've restricted video uploading to pro accounts, you would think that there would be less concerns about copyright violation, which is the usual bugaboo raised with longer videos. Or perhaps they really do think that videos on Flickr should only be "long photos.".

At least they've raised the limits to 20MB for uploading photos: ever since I got my 40D I've been running into their limits repeatedly.

As for Google Appengine, I can't wait to get off the wait list. I never got off my butt to do anything with Amazon's EC2 as the startup cost was a bit too much. With Google's Appengine, I should be able to crank out something simple in a matter of minutes, something interesting in a matter of hours. I really want to build a photo gallery engine on top of it, but that will have to wait until they allow you to buy over their 500MB storage limits.

December 13, 2007

Shortcuts, etc...

  • Gmail: '[' and ']' let you archive and move to the next/previous message in your inbox with a single keystroke. I'm still waiting for the hosted Gmail to get the recent Gmail update with this shortcut.
  • iPhone Safari scrolling: two fingers lets you scroll an individual frame. The iPhone may be intuitive, but this had me stumped until today's TUAW post.

October 23, 2007

Google bits

Update: my kwc.org account has IMAP support now. For the first time I can send e-mail from my iPhone using that account. I also don't have to go through the duplicate effort of deleting e-mails twice anymore -- though that could sometimes be a plus.

July 3, 2007

Feedburner TotalStats and MyBrand now free

feedburnerIn the grand tradition of Google acquisitions, Feedburner's TotalStats and MyBrand 'PRO' services are now free, though you still have to manually upgrade each feed to these extra features. TotalStats 'PRO' level allows you to track Item Views and Reach. MyBrand lets you switch feeds.feedburner.com/feedname with feeds.yourdomain.com/feedname.

For more information, including how to enable: Feedburner for Everyone

June 28, 2007

Awesome new Google Maps feature: Draggable Routes

drag.googlemaps.jpgGoogle Maps has a major new update: you can adjust driving directions simply by dragging. Want to drive via the East Bay instead? Simply drag the route over to the East Bay and it instantaneously recalculates. It's so cool because you can actually use this to deliberate various driving directions on the fly, and it also gets around the fact that Google Maps driving directions have never been the best.

Update: there's more -- you can also click to set your starting/destination point, just in case you don't really know the address

June 3, 2007

Google Streetview: a stepping stone

Much was made of the Google's release of the Streetview maps, but I haven't seen any posts that really focus on what I see as the real potential here. Instead, there's been the fun efforts to find 'interesting' StreetViews as well as a cat in a window being elevated to a New York Times article on Google + privacy (note: you can have images removed by clicking on 'Street View Help', 'Report image as inappropriate'). Good and/or fun to discuss, but where is this going?

Following the thread in my previous post:

  • Google buys Keyhole and recoins their product Google Earth
  • Google buys SketchUp and makes it easy to create 3-D buildings for Google Earth
  • Google integrates 3D-like buildings into Google Maps
  • Google licenses technology from Stanford/Stanley for 3D license for creating drive-by 3D models of buildings.
  • Google releases StreetView, aka drive-by photos of buildings

I know its been obvious from the start that photo-textured 3D buildings is where Google is headed, but it sure seems like their getting much, much closer now. How long before the StreetView car gets a SICK laser?

I'll close with my own little StreetView find, something fit for Year Zero.

sherlockrd.jpg

May 30, 2007

Google Gears: not impressed (yet)

Google waited until late today to announce Google Gears, which allows you to run Gears-enabled apps in 'offline' mode. You can use this in Google Reader, for example, to download the latest 2000 messages and then browse your feeds far away from any WiFi connection. Actually, that's all you can do right now as that's their demo, for now, but you can easily imagine all of the major Google Apps -- Gmail, Calendar, Docs, etc... -- getting a similar treatment. They've already released an update to the Google Web Toolkit to support Gears.

As is, it's definitely a 'beta' for me: I had to run the installer twice and the Google Reader extension doesn't download any images. Images are the primary way in which I filter entries to read, so I can't see myself really using this extension just yet. Update: I may have to already uninstall. Google Reader has asked me five times this morning if I wanted to switch to offline reading mode ("Connection error: A connection to the internet could not be made. Would you prefer to read in offline mode?"). I'm reading from a wired connection at work, this is downright annoying.

Also, Google will hardly be the only provider of this sort of technology. Firefox 3.0 will ship with similar APIs out of the box and Adobe's Apollo toolkit does the same. Hopefully we won't end up with 20 different offline synchronization programs that we have to download and install just to use the Web. Google took a positive step by releasing this as open source and indicating that they are willing to work with Mozilla, Adobe, and Opera.

May 16, 2007

Google "Experimental" Labs

Google Labs has gotten a bubbling cauldron: Google Experimental Labs. The coolest of the bunch is Timeline and Map view. Compare, for example, Tour de France (timeline) and Tour de France (map). More interesting, perhaps, is Route 66 (map), Benjamin Franklin (map), Christopher Columbus (timeline), or Computers (timeline).

google.experimental.labs.map.tdf.jpg google.experimental.labs.timeline.computers.jpg

I've been having fun trying to produce timeline results in the future, but with limited results as it appears that future dates are downweighted. Population growth and climate change provide a glimpse into the future, but armageddon already occurred many times and the future is past.

I have some quibbles, but they are fairly easily resolved: the timeline labels are misleading, the map sometimes leads you to miss the outlying datapoints, and the results are a bit wobbly -- your results can change as you browse a timeline, leading to vanishing and re-appearing data points.

Also in the Experimental Labs are keyboard shortcuts, which I believe has been around, left-hand search navigation, and right-hand contextual search navigation.

I'll leave you with the presidency of George W. Bush (map)

google.experimental.labs.map.bush.jpg

May 12, 2007

Latest Google Video vs. Youtube: Youtube wins again

Google may own both Google Video and Youtube, but that doesn't mean that the two have moved towards parity, yet. I tried uploading my Michael Chabon book talk clips to both services last night. I tried:

  • Google Video's Web upload form
  • Google Video's Desktop uploader
  • Youtube's Web upload form

The results are clear: Youtube wins for both reliability and speed. The Google Video Web uploader failed three times on me and all three failures occurred after almost an hour of waiting. Youtube's Web upload form was 3/3 and the videos were ready for viewing immediately after they finish. This was unlike Google Video's Desktop uploader, which took several hours to 'process' the videos after the uploads finish, and the uploads were much slower than Youtube. The Desktop uploader also has a strange behavior in which it will reject punctuation marks in your video's filename. As a software programmer, I can't think of any reason why this is necessary -- it would be trivial to remap the characters, as the Web uploader must have to do.

Another plus for Youtube: the Web upload form tracks the upload progress so you know if it is still working.

May 10, 2007

Google stuff -- new Analytics, Wii Reader

Google just transferred my Analytics account to the redesign and I like it very, very much. The new graphs are much more legible (they were very difficult to read for long data ranges previously). There are also sparklines next to summary data for easy trend reading, draggable date selection widgets, and a customizable dashboard for viewing your favorite reports.

There really wasn't any trouble adapting to the new interface as it pretty much is the same old data with the same basic navigation structure, but it is so much easier to grok now that it feels like a whole new product (one digression: thinner lines and scalable y-axis would help even more). It did crash my Firefox, but luckily SessionSaver saved this blog post from oblivion. Also, the 'Site Overlay' feature doesn't work for me anymore, but it's not something I used very often.

google.analytics.gif

April 12, 2007

Google Maps adding 3D-like buildings

googlemap3d.b.jpg Google Operating System: 3D Buildings in Google's Street Maps

Google Maps now has isometric projections for buildings in select cities, possibly drawing on 3D building data they have been gathering with their Google Earth product. It's not as cool as Microsoft's Virtual Earth 3D, but at least it works in any 'ole browser.

Checkout Boston or read the Google OS blog entry for more.

April 5, 2007

First Google "My Map"

I made a map of my Hawaii Vacation to try out the new Google Maps "My Maps" feature. There are numerous sites out there that do something similar with Google Maps, but its nice to see that Google is now providing an in-house version. As an added bonus, you can export your map to KML, which is their format for Google Earth.

Update: Added some whale watching, Byodo-In temple, and Spitting Cave photos

My vacation map is a bit incomplete as I still haven't uploaded my photos of humpback whales or West Oahu yet. I similarly mapped my photos using Flickr's builtin mapping features, but this is much more fun as you can create your own distinct map instead of a single universal map of all your photos. Of course, it also takes a little more effort to do it the Google Maps way.

mymaps.png

January 18, 2007

$10 from Google Checkout

If you don't mind giving up your credit card info to Google, you can get $10 if you signup for Google Checkout. I got $5 (or was it $10?) of Dana Street coffee when I helped user test Google Checkout several months ago, so I'm becoming quite fond of the service ;). I used my $10 to pre-order the Hellboy Animated Sword of Storms from DVD Empire.

I liked Google Checkout slightly better than PayPal. Checkout can forward e-mails from the seller to keep your address private and the overall experience is a bit more polished (shopping cart looks like seller's, the receipts are easier to read).

December 14, 2006

Google Reader: now sorting by oldest

davextreme just informed me via comment that Google Reader has added that he, bp, and me all seem to want: sort by oldest. Sorting by newest starves those older entries and sometimes it just doesn't make sense to read feeds in reverse chronological order.

The also announced the "sort by auto" feature, though this has actually been live longer. The sort by auto feature tries to give your least frequently updated feeds (i.e. friends) higher placement so that you can get to them sooner, while leaving things like Gizmodo/Engadget/BoingBoing further down for the daily feed slog.

December 8, 2006

Google Reader switch

update: now sorting by oldest (thanks davextreme for the link)

Yes, I have finally abandoned Bloglines, which has carried me so far into the world of feeds. I have some quibbles with Google Reader, but the big win for me was the fact that it doesn't mark items as read until you read them. I tend to power through lists of hundreds of items at a time; Google Reader lets me stop halfway through, Bloglines demands I finish the job. It still took bp teaching me a couple of keyboard shortcuts I missed (shift-n, shift-p, and shift-o for navigating the list of feeds) to become fully comfortable with the switch.

Pros: * Doesn't mark items as read until you've read them, which makes it much easier to plow through feeds incrementally. * Better keyboard navigation. Bloglines has a shortcut for reading the next feed or folder, but there's no way to really tell what is next. * Can have more than 200 unread items in a feed, which means that you can catch up on everything you missed while on vacation.

Cons: * Not as easy to create feeds for things like weather, packages, and social sites. * Organizational system for read items is poorly integrated and modelled -- its not terribly clear what tags are, you can't browse by tags ('gt' -- goto tag -- is not the same as browsing), and you can't segment starred items by tag. Bloglines only has clip blogs, but at least they made sense to me. * Only loads entries 20 at a time. Once you make it to the 20th item, it loads the next 20. This wouldn't be so annoying if they loaded the next 20 when I got to the 18th or 19th item, but as implemented it means you have to wait for the next 20 items to load.

November 13, 2006

The 4th Dimension in Google

Just last week at lunch, we were discussing Google Earth and MS's Virtual Earth 3D and how cool it would be once there is enough data to start adding a time slider to it all. Move the slider on Mountain View and you'd get to watch the town collapse all the way down to a stage coach stop. Move the slider over San Francisco and watch the skyline appear and the Golden Gate Bridge come into fruition.

Well, as it turns out, we were discussing a feature that is, in some ways, already there. The new Google Earth 4 comes with a time slider, which works with any timestamp data. It's not the all encompassing time machine, as it is a feature that still awaits massive amounts of data, but people have already put it to work with Hurricane Katrina, London buildings, and more.

There's also another feature they've announced that fits well with all of this: new historical map layers.

This, to me, is a critical tipping point for consumer mapping applications. Before, they could only show us the present. Now, they can show us our past, i.e. give us glimpses into our cultural memory, take a walk down Memory Lane in 3D. Now, we just need data.

Google Earth Blog: Google Earth 4th Dimension Redux

October 6, 2006

Google buying Youtube?

Rumors are afoot that Google is going to buy Youtube, but this is just an excuse for me to pontificate on a discussion I recently had with a friend: can a large company (e.g. Google, Microsoft, Yahoo, Amazon) successfully create a social/community service like Youtube? Google Video is a failure in comparison to Youtube, Yahoo had to buy Flickr to supplement its photo offerings, Amazon's product tagging service sucks to use, Google's Bookmarks and Yahoo's My Web 2.0 trail (Yahoo-acquired) del.icio.us, etc... NOTE: 'large company' isn't the right label here, but 'large company that stores your private data' is a bit wordy.

Many of the failings that I perceive in Google Video are attributable to a lack of understanding of community. There isn't even an easy way to find all the videos by a particular user -- lonelygirl15 would have a much harder time gaining popularity. Some of Google Video's failings were boneheaded technical decisions -- it took over two weeks for them to approve a video that I had uploaded -- but Youtube is hardly a technical or visual masterpiece.

There are several theories one could expound: smaller companies have more 'cool', which is important to community services; there is a big first mover advantage in establishing a community service; Google/Yahoo/Amazon IT infrastructure wasn't built to do open-community-style interactions for their users (note: Yahoo is a community service, but it is a closed community). This latter reason does resonate with me a bit: this is an Amazon URL for a tag: http://www.amazon.com/gp/tagging/glance/ex%20machina/ref=tagdpct/102-8509772-8364930?ie=UTF8 . This is the same tag on Flickr: http://www.flickr.com/photos/tags/exmachina. But I don't think it's the major reason.

My own personal theory is one of digital identity management: my Google and my Yahoo identities are too personal to give away in a community service. Google/Yahoo identities are tied to e-mail, search history, calendars, and more. If you publicly reveal that identity you at least open yourself up to more spam and at worst invite identity theft of a much larger scale: determined individuals can figure out who I am from my Flickr account, but that's because I chose to tie my Flickr account to my overall 'kwc' moniker. It's related to danah boyd's mention of managing social contexts, e.g. teens don't necessarily want to hang out in the same social space as their parents (related: MySpace is drawing older visitors, study finds).

There is also a technological corollaries to this. My "home page" for Google is private-facing while my "home page" for Flickr is public facing. A company managing your private identity has to have less lax login procedures: Flickr can keep you signed in for weeks, Yahoo needs to sign you out almost immediately. There is also screen-handle assignment: I can be 'kwc' on Flickr, due to the smaller user population, but there is no way I would ever be able to get that for Yahoo.

So, what is the point of all this pontificating? To go back to the original question, I do think big companies storing your private data can successfully create new public community services, but they have to create separated sandboxes for these services. They have to allow 'alter egos', perhaps many, so that you can remain in control of your privacy. This is what they effectively do when these large companies acquire community services, but sometimes attempt ruin the whole deal, e.g. Yahoo's announcing they will merge Flickr accounts with Yahoo! accounts. Arguably, this is what Google did with Orkut, but Orkut couldn't scale to meet demand.

Google buying Youtube would be an interesting test for Google. Google didn't really muck with the Blogger community when it bought itself into that, but Blogger's development was stalled for over a year and the service became overrun with blogspam. If Google makes the right decisions with how to Google-ize Youtube without vacating its community, then it could possibly be the start of Google becoming more of a community player. Or it could pull another Blogger and watch users run to one of the many Youtube clones. The rumored $1.6B price tag is an expensive price to find out if Google has learned its lessons.

September 28, 2006

A New Reader

Bloglines is still getting the job done, but I like the fact that Google revamped Google Reader to get rid of my many, many annoyances with the first incarnation. The new expanded view makes it much easier for people like me with 100+ subscriptions to actually make it through our feeds. There is also a big improvement over Bloglines: Google Reader only marks items as read as you scroll through them, which lets you catch up on the last 100 posts of BoingBoing in more manageable chunks. My only real annoyance so far is that Google Reader loads posts into the Expanded View in 20-post chunks, waiting until you are on the 20th item before loading in the next 20. As I tried to catch up on some feeds in Reader, I would have to sit an twiddle my thumbs constantly.

What would be a switcher feature for me is if they could integrate their GMail package tracking link with Google Reader. I've been playing around with Bloglines package tracking feature, but I have to copy the UPS/DHL/FedEx tracking number out of an e-mail, go to Bloglines, click add, click on Package Tracking, paste in the number, and then select a folder to add the information to. That's a lot of steps. If GMail and Reader were integrated, I could do it in one click as GMail already detects package tracking numbers.

August 28, 2006

Google Pages on my domain

At the very sparse pages.kwc.org you can see the start of a my new Google-hosted Pages site. It's much like their GMail for your domain product -- they share the same administration controls -- but with this particular port of their product, you get 100MB for your entire domain and only domain adminstrators are allowed to make edits. I hope that they open this up more in the future -- it would be nice if you could hand out individual Pages accounts to your users as well as setup collaborative Web spaces on your domain, although I personally don't have a need for that right now.

Those of us who already had hosted GMail got the upgrade to the "Google Apps" suite automatically. In addition to Pages I can now hand out kwc.org accounts for Google Talk and Google Calendar. I'm not a big fan of either of those products, so not a big deal right now. I'm wondering how long it will be until Writely and Spreadsheets join the suite.

August 16, 2006

Google Sitemap upgraded

I'm not sure when Google did this, but the Google Sitemap pages offer far more specific stats than they used to. You can now filter what search terms are popular for your site by type of search (Web/Images/Mobile) and you can also view stats for each sitemap on your site, instead of just the whole site in aggregate. You can now also rate each tool to give Google feedback on what you like.

I found out some surprising things, like the fact that spare cycles was the #2 search result for 'phonak landis' and the 14th most popular click for this site is an image search for 'ugly.'

August 9, 2006

Google Video improves?

In my original YouTube vs. Google Video test, YouTube came out way ahead. The one thing that was really killer for me is that Google took days, in one case weeks, to 'verify' a video that I had uploaded. The need to wait an extended period was so... anti-Web. There were also plenty of other features missing, like tagging, commenting, and rating -- features that help generate a community around a pool of videos.

The Google Video team has seemed to take note of YouTube's feature lead and has sent out a mass e-mail detailing all their new features. Everything listed here has been available on YouTube, which goes to show how deficient GVideo was, but now, in a bulleted list at least, Google Video is looking more on par with YouTube. One area they might surpass YouTube is something they haven't released yet: sharing in ad revenue for the videos that you post. Whether this is text ads hosted on the side of your video or video ads before/after your clips, I have no clue. While the opportunity to make money off little videos is attractive, I'm less excited by the idea that I might have to watch more video ads (note: there is no indication that Google is going to do this type of ad, I'm just specuating).

Here's a list of the new features (in their own words, as I have neither the videos nor the time to try this out): * Instant gratification: A web-based video uploader for immediate upload and playback * Share your video with the world, or maybe just your friends: Single-click video posting to popular blog services, including MySpace and Blogger * Get involved!: Now add ratings, tags, and comments for all videos * Zeit-what? Now you can see a "Top 100" list, updated daily, that shows what people are watching * It's "Football", not "Soccer": Google Video now exists in the UK, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Canada, Poland, and the Netherlands

July 26, 2006

I'm covered

Google has a map of the Mountain View wifi access points they've put up. They've also marked areas that aren't yet covered -- most areas are, and I'm glad to see that most places I generally go with laptop are in the green.

April 5, 2006

Why relate?

Google recently launched Google related links to compete with Yahoo's Y!Q for publishers. Both provide you an automated mechanism for inserting "related" links into your own Web site. I don't get it. Let me start off with an example of a human-authored attempt to incorporate related links (from Wikipedia's April 1, 2006 article, but just about any Wikipedia article will do):

Slashdot incorporated a pink "OMG!!! Ponies!!!" theme [1] at 00:00 UTC. This girlish theme is in stark contrast for a techie website believed to be mostly frequented by male nerds.

The only related links in that sentence important to understanding the subject (link "[1]") were Slashdot and OMG, but there are plenty of other 'related' links to Wikipedia entries about pink, girlish, male, nerds, contrast and Web sites -- great if your goal is to spend three hours on Wikipedia exploring the interconnectedness of entries, but not much more.

A link is a way for someone to leave your page. With either Google Related or Y!Q, you, as a publisher, are saying that you want to insert more ways for a visitor to get the heck out, that the fire marshal has directed visitors to proceed to the nearest related link safety exit in a calm and collected manner.

I use a more profitable system for saying, "Get the heck out": ads. A large percentage of the entries on this site are crap or have only short-term relevance. My entry about Bootcamp won't matter for long, but many more people will read it a year from now because of search engines. I'm too lazy to keep older blog entries relevant and I don't want to delete part of my historical record, so I review older entries from time to time and place my ad exit signs if I think that the entry won't age well... or if I think I can make a buck :).

Ads are just as crappy as related links, but older entries are mostly compost and you can't really crap on crap. At least Google is better incentivized to make ads more relevant. As a publisher, masking the smell with a Google Adsense check helps and there is one good that comes of it all: you can buy fancy new toys to blog about ;).

March 26, 2006

More hosted Gmail screenshots (manage domain)

for Kolo, I've posted a couple more screenshots of the "Manage Domain" screens for hosted GMail.

Continue reading "More hosted Gmail screenshots (manage domain)" »

March 23, 2006

More on hosted GMail

Update: more screenshots

Here's a screenshot of my customized kwc.org gmail, slightly altered to block out some visible names (yes, that is my e-mail address if you wish to contact me). There's not much to review here that hasn't been said before: it's GMail. It feels a little cooler because it's my GMail (notice my little custom graphic at the top), but otherwise it's plain-old GMail: 2GB, chat, etc... My account has been 'verified' so I'm now sending and receiving e-mail with no problems other than the slight GMail slowdowns that I've noticed on both of my accounts today (@kwc.org and @gmail.com).

I'm still waiting for the day when we can get rid of our corporate IMAP mail servers and replace them with GMail boxes or something similar. I'm tired of slow search and trying to keep things filed in folders.

kwc.gm.screenshot.jpg

At last, @kwc.org e-mail (Gmail hosted)

Update: screenshots and more screenshots

I've never had @kwc.org e-mail addresses before. I'm just too lazy. I also prefer Web e-mail and very few options exist that would be superior to my regular GMail account. Now, in a couple short minutes -- short enough to do lazily -- I have a GMail-hosted @kwc.org account. I'm still in the setup process. I can receive, but not send e-mail (they are verifying my account or something).

The details I've gleaned so far: * you can login to both your @gmail and your own hosted account simultaneously * you get up to 10 e-mail accounts free * 2GB (I don't know if this is per address or total yet) * you can set your own logo to replace the GMail logo * you can enable/disable chat across accounts * you can customize the sign-in box color

I've always wondered why other free-mail services (hotmail, yahoo) haven't made similar moves. There is a wretched land grab that occurs with any of these services where everyone scrambles to get their screenname of choice; the late-comers are left with bob1230923x@atleastitwasfree.com . About once a month I get mis-sent e-mail for a Kimberly or a Kevin or some other poor soul would probably has some meaningless digit appended to their account name.

With domain-hosted e-mail, GMail now has effectively infinite screennames for its users. I get to have a screenname that makes sense (guess my e-mail, it's really, really easy), no one else accidentally gets my e-mail, and other people should hopefully be able to easily remember the address.

March 8, 2006

YouTube vs. Google Video

I recently had the chance to try out YouTube vs. Google Video as a video publisher. I had some clips from the Tour of California that I wanted to put online and my DSL doesn't do the best job hosting video.

It's hard not to notice the rise of YouTube. It seems that everytime I see a video link I end up on that site and they certainly seem to have the attention of NBC, which is sending cease and desist after cease and desist for SNL videos (is SNL officially no longer lame?). I've run across Google Video much less frequently. I wasn't sure if this was due to laxer policies on the part of YouTube in allowing content like Oscar clips or if YouTube was superior in some manner.

I believe I now have the answer: YouTube is far, far superior. Google Video does have a better video uploader, but that's about its only advantage. For my test I uploaded the same Tour of California clip to both services. Google Video took over 24 hours to 'verify' the video. I still have a video that I uploaded on February 21st (two weeks ago) that is in the 'verification' process. Time it took YouTube to post my video online: instant. 24 hours is just a mind-boggling long time to have to wait, let alone two weeks. As far as I can tell, Google Video doesn't even tell you when your video is ready, so you have to keep revisiting your video status page.

YouTube also has three features that Google Video does not: tagging, commenting, visitor counting, and rating. I don't care much for ratings, but tagging makes it easier for people to find my videos, commenting is nice for feedback, and visitor counting tells me whether or not it was worth my time even posting the video.

Both services seem to degrade the quality of the original video. The cycling videos I uploaded weren't of the greatest quality as they were shot with an ELPH, but they were definitely more intelligible than these:

Nevertheless, if you don't have to server to host the video and you want to get the video online to share with others, I highly recommend YouTube as the route to go.

March 7, 2006

Google Drive?

If GDrive (Google's online storage technology) launches, we'll be one step closer to addressing two of my biggest pet peeves about computer technology: data synchronization and data loss. I find it archaic that we still think of data living on a physical computer. Why should I have to take an extra step to make sure that a CD I ripped is on all three of my computers? Why should I risk losing all of the data on a computer when the hard drive fails? Why do I have to make backups of my computer? My ideal solution would be that all my computers talk to each other and provide one unified storage area -- I retain control over my data. Another solution that has it's own benefits is for a company like Google to provide free online storage.

I imagine that personal data storage is a bit of a holy grail for an information company like Google. One of the main criteria I use when evaluating a new startup is whether or not it makes more information accessible as well as the value of the information being provided. FlySpy and Zillow evaluate well by this criteria because both enable users to access valuable information that was previously thought inaccessible. Now imagine if your company could store all of your personal data. Your personal data is the most valuable data a company could present to you. Making your personal data available to me anywhere would also solve data synchronization and backup headaches while also enabling an entire new breed of Web applications that directly interface to your online storage.

The main impediment to controlling this data is the obvious costs associated with storing hundreds of gigabytes of data per user. Google has to index billions of Web pages, but it can share the cost of that index across all of it's users. Personal data must only be shared with one person. Desktop search technologies are a cheaper approach, but they don't offer the same control; I can always install multiple desktop search technologies or switch from one to the other. Desktop search solutions also get the EFF to raise red flags when they try to assert a bit more control over your personal data -- it's better to be explicit about what it is you're trying to do, especially when walking the grey areas of privacy.

GDrive will be entering a crowded space. There are many other competitors and it's not clear that Google will even have the leading product in the field. However, Google is a more interesting player in the space because (a) it is offering to store 100% of your data and (b) the variety of other Google services. GDrive, GMail, and the rumored Google Calendar could interact seamlessly. You could publish to Google Video with a single click. You could save copies of searches and Web pages directly into your online storage. It's these new types of interactions between Web applications that I think will be the major factor in the next generation of Web applications -- they are the ones necessary to facilitate a greater transition to an online mode of interaction with a more diverse ecosystem of devices (personal computers, handheld devices, cellphones, etc...).

February 15, 2006

Disable that annoying GMail popup

gmail.gifupdate: novak has pointed out the easier "standard without chat" link at the bottom of your GMail inbox that will completely disable the chat functionality (including annoying popups).

GMail Chat has finally migrated to all of my GMail accounts. I don't really plan on using the chat functionality, so mostly I'm annoyed as the update also includes a popup window that appears anytime you hover over someone's name. It seems really, really, silly to me to see an "Invite to Chat" button when I hover over an Amazon purchase confirmation.

If you're as annoyed as I am and you have Firefox+Greasemonkey installed, Garett Rogers has written a Greasemonkey script that banishes the popup to the netherworld.

Warning: it eliminates all popup windows, including the one for the Quick Contacts pane. The popup window in the contacts pane is the only way I know managing your Quick Contacts, so if you still need to use the chat functionality you may wish to do without.

Eliminate Gmail Chat popup windows Greasemonkey script

January 8, 2006

Neat Gmail feature, never noticed it

Turns out that there is a 'Map This' link that appears in the right-column of Gmail if you're reading an e-mail with an address in it. There's also similar links like "Track USPS package." I found out about it here, but according to their help documentation this feature may have been there since last August. Nice feature, but the ad column isn't the best place to get me to notice it.

January 2, 2006

Review: Picasa - good stuff

picasaI installed Picasa on my dad's computer to help him manage all the digital photos that he's been taking and I am impressed. I'm not impressed because Picasa has better features that Adobe Photoshop Elements, Aperture, or any other photo management software out there. In fact, the features of Picasa are fairly streamlined to include only the most basic photo retouching capabilities.

The reason I am impressed is that it's one of the few pieces of software that my dad was comfortable and competent with almost immediately. My dad is a complete computer novice who doesn't use his computer for much more than writing letters, surfing the Internet, and balancing his checkbook. To see him immediately latch onto the red eye tool, retouch several photos, and then print them with only minimal assistance is a great accomplishment in user interface design. Importing photos from the camera was also a snap because Picasa doesn't really care how you import the photos -- it finds them automatically -- so it doesn't really matter which of the numerous import options Windows pops up he chooses, it will probably work, i.e. Picasa gets around Windows' lack of usability.

There are still some features that my dad had trouble with. The selection tools for cropping and red-eye correction gave him some fuss, it's hard to tell which options you have selected on some menus (the highlight around a selected button is too faint), and the button layout is a bit inconsistent, including the placement of the OK/Cancel options. However, Picasa doesn't edit the photos directly, so it's hard to do permanent damage.

Picasa most directly compares to iPhoto. Photoshop Elements 4.0 and Aperture have more features but require more computer-savvy users. Picasa is much faster than iPhoto and I believe it's UI is a better design for photo-editing and browsing, but you'd never really have to choose because Picasa is only for PCs. So, if your parents have a PC and you want to get them good, free, photo-management software, or you love iPhoto and are stuck on a PC, you may want to give it a shot. It will be better than the crap that comes with your digital camera.

November 10, 2005

Free-Fi

Our little city of Mountain View is going to be the first city to receieve free city-wide Google wireless. Just think, I could convert my R/C to run off of 802.11.

September 20, 2005

Food thoughts

Wandering the Yahoo! cafeteria, it seems to be a less cool Google cafeteria. The Y! cafeteria has some nice things, but you get them for free at Google.

They were out of coffee.

September 14, 2005

Google + Blogs

This involves Google and blogs, so of course I'm obligated to post: Google Blog Search.

Pros: 1) It's fast. 2) It's really fast. 3) It places a "References" link next to blog entries that are linked to by others. 4) You can get feeds of your search queries (ala IceRocket).

Cons: 1) I can't make heads or tails of their relevance. 2) Their index isn't impressive yet (both in depth and recency). 3) It's pretty easy to get a spam blog or two in the top search results page.

Relevance is a difficult issue. When I search for 'jython' do I want a blog about Jython-related issues, or do I want a recent blog entries mentioning Jython. They try to offer both by having a short list of "related blogs" at the top of each search result listing, but it's far from perfect: I get bp's comment feed instead of his main blog when I search for 'bp.'

You can get off-results even for very prominent blogs. I searched for Scoble, author of "the scobelizer weblog." Presumably, someone who is #30 on Technorati's Top 100 with 6,087 links from 4,003 sites be an easy search result. For related blogs, Google returns "Alex Scoble's IT Notes" (a different Scoble). The top result in the main list of results is "the scobelizer weblog," but the URL listed beneath it is http://www.velveetaland.com, which is a blog that links to Scoble. I get similar problems if I search for "John Gruber" (author of Daring Fireball, #76 on Technorati's list).

Of course, a normal Google result for either Scoble or John Gruber gives the desired result.

Sites like Technorati are all but unusable because of slowness and frequent database outages, so speed is IMHO the competitive advantage here. It's hard to care about feature XYZ when it only works 50% of the time and takes 30 seconds to complete.

BTW: My favorite blog search is still Bloglines. It's slow, and it does have frequent outages, but lets you exclude your subscriptions from the search results and it contains a very broad index. I'm also a fan of IceRocket, which has RSS search subscriptions and tends to catch tons of people who link to my mythbusters entries. It's also pretty zippy, though not Google zippy.

August 24, 2005

A whole load of ketchup

google talkOf course I am trying out Google Talk, at least long enough to figure out how to make most of it work inside of Trillian. Feel free to find me online if you want to play with it, but I'll tell you upfront that it's rather bland and feature-sparse as IM goes. At least it's very 'clean' and 'simple.'

If you're going to dominate the world, at least the world of software, then an IM client is pretty much obligatory. They're also really, really easy to implement -- it seems that whenever I have to come up with a software design/prototype for something, IM ends up listed as an ancillary feature. In Google's case, they didn't have to implement as much as they based theirs on pre-existing Jabber software. They did add voice chat to the mix, which is nice, but also not groundbreaking.

In order for it to be groundbreaking, I would have expected something more... Googley... i.e. I would have expected them to allow you to save your IM conversations on their servers and search them later on, or to be able to lookup terms/acronyms/names that other people use (Trillian does auto-Wikipedia transclusions), or I would have expected some sort of interesting 'conversation' integration with GMail given that the Talk client is already leveraging your GMail contacts. One of the things I've noticed about GMail is that the conversation UI means that when you are e-mailing with other GMailers, it can frequently start to approach the brevity and speed of IM -- a seemless transition between the two environments would be a difficult but useful innovation.

August 22, 2005

New Google Desktop

Even though every tech site on the Internet has already dissected this, I would be remiss in not mentioning the new Google Desktop 2.0 Beta. I was underimpressed with the first Google Desktop as it was lacking in Google's core strength: it did not return good search results. I hope the new version does, but if it doesn't there are a lot more competitors in this space now that I can try out.

The feature I'm most pleased to see is Quick Find, which appears to be a direct copy of Quicksilver. I've long wished for a descent PC equivalent of this Mac-only tool and perhaps this will be it.

The most noticeable new feature is the 'sidebar', which appears to be a copy of the sidebar that has appeared from time-to-time in betas of the next version of Windows (Longhorn). I have previously discussed how many of Google's current moves (Desktop search, GMail) are better understood in the context of Longhorn. All Microsoft has to do is put up search boxes that use their own search technologies and the average user will be too laxy to go to Google.com.

Google has two strategies that it can use to counter this threat: * make sure their own search box is there (the Google Desktop strategy) * own the data that the user is trying to search (the GMail strategy)

These two strategies make sense and, with the frequently announced delays to Longhorn, Google has plenty of time to stake their territory.

I just didn't realize that there was a third strategy: copy Microsoft's ugly, space-hogging sidebars.

June 28, 2005

Google Personalized

Google is rolling out personalized search once again, this time through the "Search History" feature that they rolled out awhile ago. The old personalized search was a bit kooky to use because you had to fill out a profile of interest categories, and if you trashed your cookies or used a different browser your profile was lost.

I can't quite tell yet what triggers a personalized search results. If I do a query for "test search," then I get personalized search results. If I do a search for "Armstrong" (to test if Lance, Neil, or Louis gets top placement) or "Java" (language, island, coffee) then I get no personalization.

I don't get the cool Kaltix-based category slider that lets me refine my search dynamically, but I'm hoping that makes a re-appearance as they refine this.

May 27, 2005

Google Earth details

Just got my copy of the Google Earth Beta. I can't test it just yet because I purchased the cheaper NVIDIA-only license for Keyhole that will only run on Chunk (my home laptop) (update: added my own screenshots below).

Looking at the feature list, it looks like this will be a big upgrade: * GPS support * new primary database with imagery for Australia, South/Central America, Asia, Europe, Africa, the Middle East, as well as hi-res support for all of Indiana, Missouri, New Jersey, and, Massachusetts. * 3D buildings in select cities (update: added a screenshot of an awfully pencil-like TransAmerica building in the extended entry) * integrated driving directions (don't care about this per se, but this is integrated with the flyover feature, which hopefully will be more useful than it's previous "flying morass of pixels" incarnation) * extension to their previous markup language, KML, which is now KMZ (KML zipped). From reading the descriptions, it looks like it will be easier to create photomaps (both in UI as well as with scripting tools). It's rather hard-to-tell, though, because Keyhole never released a public specification of KML, and I don't see any released for KMZ yet, either. In the past people have reversed-engineered the XML spec, but hopefully they will be nicer this time around. update: Google has posted the KML documentation and tutorial. (thanks Mickey)

The UI looks a lot cheesier, like some misguided homage to OS X (screenshot), but if the features live up the hype, this should be a nice upgrade from Keyhole NV.

Update: woohoo! There's a lot more imagery for Japan now, and they've unfogged my birthplace (military base). Here's a shot of Mt. Fuji close-up (checkout the extended entry if you want to see a screenshot of Fuji looming over Tokyo Bay):

gearth.fuji.jpg

The flyover driving directions are also sweet -- the map even spins as you go through a cloverleaf. It's mostly an eyecandy feature, though, as it takes about as long for it to fly between San Francisco and San Diego as it does to do the actual driving (even on the fastest flyover setting). Also, they went a little too crazy with the driving directions (in the spirit of Google Maps), which means that you'll find amusing popups like:

gearth.tokyo.JPG

Continue reading "Google Earth details" »

April 12, 2005

Talk: Recent Innovations in Search and Other Ways of Finding Information

Peter Norvig, Google; Ken Norton, Yahoo!; Mark Fletcher, Bloglines/Ask Jeeves; Udi Manber, A9; Jakob Nielsen, NN Group

I went with bp and Neil to a BayCHI talk on "Recent Innovations in Search." I agree with bp's sentiment -- there were some interesting moments, but the talk was short on revelations or insights. I guess that is to be expected as the title of the talk is past focused ("Recent Innovations") rather than future focused ("Future Innovations"); it's hard to believe that the panelists would give away yet unrevealed technologies they were working on. I'm going to try and save as much effort as possible, given that bp posted his notes. In fact, as I am going to crib from his notes, or just omit what he already has, you should just go read them instead.

Continue reading "Talk: Recent Innovations in Search and Other Ways of Finding Information" »

April 8, 2005

Craigslist + Google Maps

I've seen several Google Maps hacks since its recent release, but this one takes the prize for actually being useful: Craigslist + Google Maps

You can see all of the Craiglist apartment rent/sale listings overlaid on a Google Map, and if you click on a listing it will show you the details for that listing, including pictures. You can also narrow the listings down to your particular price range.

Having used Craigslist before to find housing, I know that this would have saved a lot of time and effort.

April 7, 2005

Google adds factual answers

Hogue's project at Google has started appearing in Google queries -- you can now ask Google for 'facts'. I use the term loosely, referring back to my bastard corollary of doing research: "Any 'sufficiently lazy' Internet search can confirm anything."

I tried out the Google system with some sample queries that Hogue passed along, and I also asked BrainBoost the same questions for comparison, noting the results below. They have very different approaches to how they answer the question, with Google favoring a concise statement of what the answer is (citing a single source), whereas BrainBoost simple returns multiple sentences it believes answers the questions for you, without trying to extract the exact answer. I am preferring the speed and clarity of Google's approach, but neither is perfect -- for both you have to take the answers with a grain of salt.

I had a hard time formulating questions for either system. For example, neither would tell me Paris Hilton's e-mail address or cell phone number (certainly public knowledge by now). They are both also very sensitive to phrasing. For example, Google doesn't know "what is the capital of California," but it does know "capital of California." (correction: Google does answer "what is", but from the Glossary instead) The exact opposite was true of BrainBoost; it could answer "what is the capital of California," but not "capital of California.". Also, Google thinks Mountain View is located in "Mt. CB (condo shuttle bus)," and when I asked it where SRI is, it gave me the location of Sri Lanka.

I've tested the queries Hogue sent me along with some of my own -- you can view the results in the extended entry. One query that I omitted is one that shows that Google knows the birthday of Hogue's daughter -- parsed from Hogue's personal homepage -- demonstrating the potential of Google's approach.

Continue reading "Google adds factual answers" »

April 5, 2005

Google's plan: World Domination

I've finally collected evidence of Google's plan for world domination:

map

Notice the faint "(c) 2005 Google" text that is scattered in about a dozen different places across the satellite map -- Google's copyrighting our planet! From this image it appears Google now has faint control over much of Merced county.

Seriously, though, when Microsoft, of all companies, can offer the high resolution, public domain, satellite imagery on their Terraserver site, assessible via a Web services API, is it really necessary that Google crud up their images with their subliminal plans for Global World Control?

As a comparison: * Castro Street, Mountain View, on Terraserver * Castro Street, Mountain View, on Google Maps

Disclaimers: MS gets their imagery from the USGS, Google gets their imagery from DigitalGlobe, which explains some of the copyright issues, but not their expression of it. Google Maps does have a better UI than Terraserver, as well as Yahoo Maps and Mapquest (which both seem to have taken away their satellite views), but it does not have the GIS-friendly API of Terraserver.

Update: an even better map showing Google (c) World Domination over Burning Man (appropriate, considering the tradition of the changing Google logos first started b/c of Burning Man).

February 17, 2005

I'm a testimonial

I just found out that I'm listed on the GMail site under "Press and Testimonials." How amusing. Perhaps more amusing is that if you search Google for sites linking to my GMail review, the GMail site link does not show in the results.

About Gmail - Reviews

February 4, 2005

delicious gmail

The grand merging of two of my favorite Web services: del.icio.us gMail. ponderer/tony wrote a script that downloads pages that you've added to del.icio.us and forwards them onto Gmail. This way, if the page goes offline you have a saved copy, and you get Gmail's fast searching as well.

January 25, 2005

Video search

Google Video Search

I'm glad that someone is finally deploying this. I saw demos of programs that could do the video segmenting and indexing based on scene transitions and closed caption text in 1996-7 and I remember thinking that it was the coolest thing ever. Now, with Google's search capabilities and UI touches it seems like this can be a good complement to other searches (e.g. Google News). It also appears that they may eventually provide video clips -- I find that in recent years as I've transitioned to more and more online news viewing, I've been missing the video aspect, and video search (with actual clips) can combine the instant accessibility of online news with the richness of the moving image.

October 14, 2004

Puffin?

I'm glad that Google Desktop search is out (is this the secret Puffin tool?). In some regards it's nice that it looks just like your standard Google search page. I'm also sure that the search results that it provides will be very nice and useful.

After using Quicksilver for Mac, though, I'm not so impressed with it. The Web page metaphor is slow. I know that Quicksilver is not a real search tool, but I want something like it that you can pull up with a quick keyboard shortcut and, more importantly, shows you your search results as you type. Look at iTunes. Look at Mozilla Thunderbird. Both have search boxes in the main window that show you the search results as you type. Even Snap.com, which is a new Web-based search engine, allows you to refine your search results without having to resubmit. Why would I want to go back to the type in search, click submit, see results, refine search, etc... when there's clearly a better way of doing search on the desktop.

Also, the three most mind-boggling missing features are: * Not integrated with Google deskbar * Not integrated with GMail * Not integrated with Blogger

I know this is beta, but would it really have been that hard to be integrated with their own tools? I'm sure this will be fixed in the next release, but still. This is the tool that is supposed to circumvent Microsoft's attempts with Longhorn and WinFS to take over search, and so far I'm not believing.

July 29, 2004

Talk: Application of Artificial Intelligence to Web Search

Peter Norvig, Google

Continue reading "Talk: Application of Artificial Intelligence to Web Search" »

July 28, 2004

Google HQ

Had my first tour of the new Google HQ today. It was an event held for AAAI participants that was a thinly veiled recruiting event, though the recruiters stayed far away, letting us munch down on really, really good food and drinks on their large patio. They gave us some cool shwag -- Nalgene bottles with Google logos and black Google t-shirts -- and afterwards there were some fairly open tours of the actual campus.

I managed to wander over to where benoit sat during his orientation time, which was near Eric Schmidt's and Brin/Page's offices. I was surprised that even people like Brin, Page, and Norvig all have to share offices, and there's a lot of shared cubicles as well. I guess they wanted to foster that communal spirit. The food they give their own employees is awesome -- everywhere you look there's free, high-quality snacks; I would gain 50 pounds my first week, or as meta would say, I would be sportin' a third trimester food baby in no time.

On the way out they handed out free shares of their stock and showed me their warehouse with the Ark of the Covenant, but alas, I'm under NDA, and can say no more -- I can't tell you what was inside the Ark.

June 22, 2004

Latest GMail prize

ken.jpgI'm sure I could have asked any number of Chinese friends to do this for me, but the opportunity came up and I managed to get a fairly nice rendering of my Japanese name. It means health, but it doesn't seem to be helping me too much ;). It's not as hires as I would have liked, but it'll be good enough for importing into Photoshop to use in future graphics if need be.

I also go "warm fuzzy" karma from another gmail swap, so I guess I don't have to do anything nice for the rest of the day :).

Update: got a higher res version now from the person I swapped with. It's nice :)

June 21, 2004

Getting rid of invites

I've been trying to get rid of my gmail invites, now that I've received over twenty, and I'm not cool enough to know twenty people to give them to. After e-mailing my workplace, college mailing list, high school friends, and pho list, I've pretty much run out friends and friends-of-friends.

I hung out on GmailSwap for a bit and managed to collect some good-quality live Pixies and the guarantee from a Yankees hater that the Yankees won't win the World Series. These were entertaining, but the requests are flying by so quick on the site that it was hard to follow. The amusing requests were responded to in a matter of seconds, and I got tired of pressing reload. I may also be receiving a postcard from Europe; but we'll see.

I wanted a less effort intensive means of giving away accounts, and with a good warm fuzzy feeling, so I'm now giving the rest away on gmail4troops. I know many of the troops serving abroad have Internet access, and they don't need to be spending the limited hours they have online using inferior e-mail clients (though whether or not GMail is any good over a slow connection remains to be reviewed).

June 16, 2004

No more GMail invites

Giving out invites is tiring. I've pretty much exhausted my social networks to find people to give invites out to, so I officially open this entry up to requests for GMail accounts. My only requirement is that you login using your own Typekey account, so I can test some more of MT 3.0's comment settings. I don't expect the same craziness witnessed before on this blog, now that invites are a dime a dozen, but we shall see.

Update: Five more again.

Current count (12:04pm PST): 5
Current count (02:05pm PST): 4
Current count (11:09pm PST): 3
Current count (08:09am PST): 0
Current count (02:45pm PST): -2
Current count (05:43pm PST): 5
Current count (07:55am PST): 0
Current count (01:52am PST 06/20 ): 4
Current count: no longer keeping track or taking requests

June 14, 2004

GMail bonanza

I now have a second Gmail account, which I plan to use in the when I sign up for future online accounts. Google employees are now getting 100 invites a piece (the source of my second account). In addition exponential growth that was started last week with new accounts also receiving invites, it would appear that the exclusive period of Gmail is officially at an end.

May 10, 2004

How to meet strangers on the Internet

Earlier today I posted that I had one invitation to give out for G.Mail. I had assumed that I had phrased the post in such a way that only friends that knew my e-mail address would respond to it. Of course, I was wrong.

I did not intend to word that entry as a challenge to scavenge for my address, but, in retrospect, it's easy to see how it was construed that way. Two Three diligent people (attracted here by Feedster and the like) have already gone through the effort, only to be turned away as I explained that my offer was intended only to attract friends.

The first person, though, impressed me with the manner in which he derived my address, first searching my blog entries to find where I mentioned the domain of my address, then using my memorylane pages to guess the particular handle that I might use, and then confirming the full address using a search engine (pointing out pages that I didn't realize contained my address). NOTE: this isn't the easiest way to locate my e-mail address, but it has the most spirit, and is the most Google-like.

I also did say that I wanted to reward readers of this blog, and even though that person is not a regular reader, he did meet all the requirements set forth, so much to my surprise and amusement, I'm going to give the account to him, currently valued at $20-40 eBay dollars :).

I just have to post everything Google

Google, owner of Blogger, now has an official blog: Google Blog

One more G.Mail in.vite

I've got another G.Mail in.vite that I can hand out. I debated polling people via e-mail, but I think a fair metric is that whoever endures reading my blog should get rewarded :)

So who's interested? Please respond via e-mail. Also, please only respond if you intend to use G.Mail as your primary e-mail account, i.e. if you are currently using Hotmail or Yahoo as you main e-mail, then you are a likely candidate; if you run your own mail server, please hold your request.

Note: this entry will self-destruct in 5, 4, 3... 2, 1, BOOM

April 27, 2004

Orkut map

I'm sure stuff like this will cause another privacy stir, but you can get a geographical map of your friend network on Orkut. - Here's mine (red is friend, blue is friend-of-friend)

My map points how my Boston and Virginia friends aren't really represented at all; just a big gob of people in SF. Although it would be nice for these to fill in, the fact is that orkut has become rather boring, and I sign in about once a month nowadays (the same with Friendster).

meta points to dodgeball as an example of social network service that has some potential. Dodgeball lets you use SMS to announce to your social network where you currently are, which is nice at night when you're bar hopping. Having seen it in action, though, I'm willing to bet that it will go the way of the dodo; it's simply too annoying to be receiving text messages all the time and it's not clear to me that a cellphone has a rich enough of a UI to make it not annoying.

(via joi ito)

April 26, 2004

First real test of GMail conversations

As I've said before, GMail can get conversation threads wrong when it inappropriately thinks that two messages are part of the same thread, but I had my first test of when it got it really right.

One of the mailing lists I'm on just got into a debate about Tillman and other war issues. At current count, the number of e-mails in the thread are 40, and likely to grow even further, but GMail is keeping them all nice and organized under one heading. I've previously had the 40 e-mail experience in both Yahoo! and threaded e-mail readers, and it's very easy to judge GMail as the winner. Other e-mail readers make it difficult to go back to what other people said without opening multiple windows and arranging them. GMail lets me view as many responses as I want in chronological order and keep others collapsed, all in the same window. It is also remarkably easy to read the thread as your are composing your response, as the composition window is inside of the thread.

Also, I initially selected "Reply" for one of my responses, but then decided halfway through that I really wanted "Reply All." GMail let me click on the Reply All button and added in the additional e-mail addresses without losing the text I had already written.

April 23, 2004

G-Mail + Safari

FYI for bp: Preliminary support for Safari in G-Mail

April 13, 2004

GMail initial thoughts

Here's are my initial thoughts on GMail, after having used it for a day. This isn't very long, but it at least has allowed me to explore some of the more prominent features of the service. I may post another review later on.

I currently have both Hotmail and Yahoo accounts, both of which I use actively for different purposes. In my summary, I will try to compare GMail to these services to see how it stacks up. I will emphasize here, and again later on, that GMail definitely is beta; some of the things I complain about here I expect to improve over time, and some of the things I praise here may get even cooler. With their Orkut venture, Google was clearly responsive to user feedback, so I would expect to see changes made to GMail as well.

The Really Good

Search:

The search interface is the nice, simple experience you would expect from Google. I assume it will be fast once I have more e-mails to search across, but I don't know for sure.

Organizing:

GMail allows you to assign as many "labels" as you want to a particular e-mail. These labels act like folders, except that an e-mail can have multiple labels, which is very useful. I found this type of organization very useful in Photoshop Album.

In general, there are three basic ways which you can organize a message, which seem nice:
1) archiving it, which removes it from the Inbox. (All e-mail is always available under the "All Mail" menu)
2) marking it with a star. I use this in Photoshop Album to mark my favorite photos quickly, and I imagine that it will be equally useful for e-mail messages. the semantic meaning of the star is entirely up to you. Starredd messages are then available under the "Starred" menu listing.
3) labelling the message. This is an important feature, and I'm surprised that I haven't seen an e-mail client that already does this. It would be very useful for work e-mail, where I deal with a lot of cross-project e-mail

You can also report a message as spam.

The User Interface

The UI is extremely fast. They use a lot of tricks previously seen on sites like Orkut and in Google's personalized search, such that you don't end up in the "Select -> Submit" cycle that dominates most Web-based e-mail clients. They also preload common pages, like the compose window, so that when you click on a link, the page often loads immediately. The result of these two optimizations is that you can actually organize and manipulate your e-mails with ease, which is something I can't say for either Yahoo or Hotmail.

There is also no clutter in GMail. Something like this doesn't show up on a feature checklist, but when you use it, it's something that you immediately appreciate. Hotmail, especially, has a clutter problem, and Yahoo has it to some extent as well. With Hotmail, I often have to pause for a few seconds to locate the button I want to press. With GMail, the non-essential parts of your screen are the nice, unobtrusive white we expect from Google.

This is how I would summarize the UIs of the three services:
- Hotmail tries to look like a client-side e-mail application, but behaves like a slow Web-based application
- Yahoo looks like a Web-based application, and is one
- GMail looks like a Web-based application, but behaves like a client-side application

Infinite Subaddresses

You can add "+whatever" to your e-mail address when you sign up for accounts. For example, when I sign up for an Amazon account, I can specify "kwc+spam@gmail.com" as my account name (NOTE: that is not my actual GMail account). This doesn't prevent spammers from stripping off the "+" part and figuring out your real address, but it does let you setup useful filtering rules so that when I do see e-mail with the kwc+spam To: address, I can file it appropriately.

Misc:

There is an autocomplete engine for typing in e-mail addresses. It matches either the name of the person, or the e-mail address. This is extremely useful and brings GMail on-par with e-mail applications like Outlook and Mozilla.

The spell checker on GMail is also friggin' awesome. It is far superior to Hotmail's and Yahoo's checkers, and I would even venture to say that it's faster and easier to use than my Mozilla Thunderbird spell checker. You click on "check spelling," and it instantly underlines the words that are mispelled. You can then click on those words and pop-down menu appears with spelling alternatives. I am amazed they were able to accomplish this so well.

The Good

There are a lot of little tidbits that GMail throws in that make you wonder why other services haven't done them. They are so simple, and show that Google put a bit of thought into the e-mail problem. Here are some examples:

- Google includes the first several lines of each message next to its title in the Inbox, which is useful for identifying spam or poorly labelled messages. (Hotmail and Yahoo do not do this)

- The login page is encrypted by default (Hotmail and Yahoo are not)

- no annoying redirects on URLs, unlike Hotmail which records every URL you click on in an e-mail message. (Hotmail also opens all URLs inside of a frame with a Hotmail banner on top, which makes it harder to bookmark).

Slightly Bad

It took me awhile to figure out how to delete individual e-mail messages instead of entire conversations, because the option for deleting individual messages is hidden under "more options," whereas the menu option for deleting an entire thread is in the pull-down menu that's always visible at the top of the message. I know that there philosophy is that you won't have to delete messages, but this disjoint + hidden menu fooled me for awhile.

It would also be nice if there were some import mechanisms. I don't blame them for not having import, but it would be nice. It's really not intersting testing GMail's search capabilities when I have so few messages to search across.

Bad

Problems with threading:

GMail relies on messages being organized by conversation/thread, but it doesn't provide you the tools for correcting it when it incorrectly groups messages correctly. I don't believe that GMail can possibly determine the e-mail thread correctly all of the time, and I've already found two cases where it does not.

(1) It is common practice for people to find an old e-mail with the recipient list they want, and use that to write a new e-mail. I tried this within GMail, and GMail grouped my reply in the original conversation thread, even though I completely changed the subject line.

(2) I forwarded an e-mail from Yahoo twice to my GMail account, because the first time I didn't include the forward the way I wanted to. GMail grouped these two messages together. This case isn't as bad as (1), but it is incorrect.
I'm hoping that in the future, final release of this, there are more tools to correct GMail when it's wrong.

Attachments:

It doesn't appear to handle e-mail forward attachments as well as I would like. I initially forwarded some e-mail from my Yahoo account to GMail using the "forward as attachment" setting, which is the default. Instead of displaying the text of the attachment in e-mail window, you have to click on the attachment, which then opens up a Notepad window, which, of course, doesn't display the e-mail message very well.

Contacts

The contacts UI is rather pathetic right now -- it doesn't appear that it got much lovin'. You can currently enter in a name, e-mail address, and notes per person. My Yahoo account has fields for phone numbers, addresses, etc..., and it also integrates this information into it's IM client. In my mind, at least, an address book and e-mail go hand-in-hand, and it's difficult for either to be great unless they are well integrated.

Bugs

GMail appears to lockup Mozilla's autocomplete sometimes. When this happens, I'm not really able to type anything. This isn't necessarily GMail's bug, but at the same time they need to be aware of it as it is frustrating to have to leave a page and come back again so that your cursor starts working again.

I've also had issues with using the star labelling mechanism. I would click on the star, but when I click on the Starred folder, there would be no messages.

I've also had issues with the Contacts folder. The field for entering in the name of the contact disappeared on me, and I had to leave the page and come back in order to re-enter the contact.

The spell checker doesn't check the title of the message.

Spam:

I currently have my e-mail forwarded to both GMail and my Yahoo mail. Yahoo count is currently 11/11 in combating spam, while GMail is 5/11. It was a bit of a surprise for me to start seeing so many spam e-mails again. (Note: My Yahoo account usually lets about two-five spams through a day on average).

I'm hoping the spam issue is simply an issue of training and tuning, and that as I use the account GMail's filters will improve. Yahoo has the benefit of millions of users, many of whom submit spam to them. GMail's users probably still number in the thousands.

The Unknown

I have yet to see a single ad on my own e-mails. The only e-mail that had any AdWords was the initial e-mail from the GMail Team. In that message, at least, the ads weren't the least bit distracting, and there was also a "relevant pages" list that I presume might come in handy, but can't say for certain.

There is also concern over GMail's privacy terms. Personally, I really don't care if they run their engine over my e-mails to show me text ads or to find spam, because the experience is still better than Hotmail and Yahoo, which displays gigantic ad banners. Also, I wonder why there isn't similar uproar over the fact that Hotmail tracks every single URL you click on in an e-mail message. A 1GB of e-mail per person is going to cost Google several dollars per person, and their answer for paying for that doesn't seem very offensive to me.

Summary

You have to see GMail in action to appreciate how fast it is, and how nice of an application it has the potential to be. The capabilities for searching and organizing e-mail is also something that I have longed for in an e-mail application. There are still some bugs, which are a result of its ambitious javascript, and I imagine that those will be fixed over time.

I anticipate that I will use GMail as my mail e-mail account in the near future, but for now there are some final bits of polishing that I need. There's no way of receiving notifications when you have new e-mail, for example. It would be nice if the Google Deskbar was modified to provide this sort of capability. The ability to import my Yahoo e-mail and address book will also be a stumbling block. If I forward my e-mails over from Yahoo, I will lose the sender information, as well as the temporal information of when I original received the e-mail. Perhaps if GMail improves it's parsing of forwarded messages, or allows me to extract the forwarded message as a separate message, this transition might be easier. For now, though, I see no easy way of transitioning.

Update: Please do not post requesting a GMail account. I do not work at Google, and I do not have any accounts to give.

Goodbye Yahoo?

After an act of shameless begging on my part, Jason Shellen hooked me up with a GMail account. I will be posting some reviews as soon as I've gotten some significant use out of it. Step one will be setting up my mit e-mail to start forwarding it there as well.

As a favor to me, please do not send e-mail to my yahoo.com account. Use my alum.mit.edu account if you have that in your address books.

April 8, 2004

Gmail screenshots

heerforce posted his initial comments on his new GMail account, which reminded me that I promised someone that I would post some screenshots of GMail, so here you go. It appears to have the same, clean UI you would expect from Google, without the ugliness of Yahoo! Google appears to have taken some interface cues from Photoshop Album (or they share a common ancestor). You can star e-mails, and instead of folders they have "labels." My guess is that you'll be able to apply multiple labels to a single e-mail, which feels much more appropriate for e-mail.

March 29, 2004

Is this Kaltix?

Awhile back, Google acquired Kaltix. Now Google Labs has launched Google Personalized Search, which adjusts your search results based on a profile that you fill out. Each profile consists of a bunch of categories/subcategories that you indicate that you're interested in (there's even a checkbox for birding).

The actual search is the cool part (it also makes me pretty sure this is Kaltix). When you do the search there is a slider bar that lets you select how personalized the search is. It starts off at "min," but as you slide it, the results instantly change to reflect your profile. I tested this with "armstrong." The top search result was "Armstrong Floor, Ceilings." When I started moving the slider, Lance Armstrong and Neil Armstrong moved to the top of the search results (I had checked "cycling" and "astronomy"). I was disappointed to see Satchmo drop from the results, so I went back and clicked "jazz" and Louis Armstrong stayed in the top search results.

The one question I have with this approach, though, is whether or not a high-level, explicitly declared profile is actually going to get the search results people want. I think one of the canonical examples for personalized search is searching for "Java." There's plenty of checkboxes for computing-related interests, but I don't see any for "Indonesia" or "Coffee" that might help out people who don't want results related to the Java programming language. At the same time, if there were checkboxes for topics as specific as "coffee," it might make filling a profile out a bit overwhelming. Perhaps, instead, there needs to be a ternary state to the high-level checkboxes: not specified, interested, NOT interested.

January 31, 2004

Last thoughts on Orkut

As my confinement nears an end, and also as orkut has already burned up its entertainment value for me (copying and pasting from Friendster), here are my final thoughts. These were actually posted on danah boyd's blog, but might as well include them here. Although I've posted the comments here (slightly modified) as if there were a conversation, it's actually me posting to three separate threads of hers linked to below, but I've included/summarized her statements so that mine make a little more sense. If you read this, then you should probably read danah's full posts, as she's far more intelligent than me on these issues, and she's got a bigger orkut network. Also, I had to take her comments out of context in order to put mine in context.

apophenia: venting my contempt for orkut

danah:2) Are trustworthy, cool, and sexy the only ways that i might classify my friends? (Even Orkut lists a lot more in his definition of self.) And since when can i rate the people that i know based on this kind of metric
...trim...
3) Explain to me why one must be a friend to be a fan of someone? The role of fan is inherently a power differential, not an equalizer. (Don't get me wrong: on Orkut, there's definitely pressure to reciprocate.) The people that i'm a fan of are not my friends; they're idols; they're people that i read on the interweb but do not know.

It is sooo weird to read which of my friends are a fan of me. Does that mean that the rest are only following social custom in linking to me? Does that mean that they don't really respect me? [Or does it mean, like it means to me, that it's too bloody weird to consider checking off that fan bit?]...

Me: The thing I don't get about the whole ratings system is that there is no reason why you shouldn't give all your friends maximum points, and you will give them high ratings, because they're your friends. It's like a bad implementation of Cory Doctorow's Whuffie -- but I'm not sure that I would want good implementation either unless that act of rating was implicit in some other action. Technorati ranking, for example, feels like a good system, even though it's one-dimensional, because my explicit action is one of linking, not rating. It also has more credibility than your # of friends, because it indicates that, not only do I know you, but I listen to what you have to say.

And fans? At first it seemed kinda of interesting, as well as appropriate for say someone like danah, or Joi, or Orkut, or anybody else that's prominent enough in a community. But for the other 99% of the people on orkut that spend their lives living below the radar, it comes across as weird, awkward, and stalker-ish: "Hi, you have a not-so-secret admirer."

apophenia: orkut pissyness, round 2

danah: What i'm fundamentally frustrated with is the fact that it does not go to the next level. It's more a slight variation on the rest. Only, with more explicit ratings of friends.

me: [trim] Personally, I don't think it will become useful for me until they operate seamlessly through my homepage. My homepage already has my resume, links to all of my friend's that have homepages, and all the "about me" that I care to share. The only features that Friendster et. al seem to add a way to link to friends that don't have homepages, a bunch of empty fields to fill in, and a relatively easy-to-use interface on top of that. I'm not sure these "features" outweigh the cost of the repetitive profile and network maintenance that YASN [yet-another-social-network] incurs.

It seems to me that sites like LiveJournal are infinitely more useful as a social networking service, and provide a compelling enough set of features that I would actually visit on a daily basis. It has a notion of friends (and allows it to be asymmetric in a non-awkward way), strong communication links within your friends circle, and discussion communities.

So, I, for one, believe the "next level" will be when we decentralize the social networks back into people's homepages, be it FOAF, LiveJournal/Xanga adding testimonials and new search features, a LiveJournal/Xanga/Friendster/TypePad/Movable Type/Tribe/Orkut/LinkedIn federation, or whatever technology comes along. Note that this lively discussion popped up here, on your homepage, not on your Orkut/Friendster/Tribe page. [ed: on second thought, decentralization seems to be the "next next level." Simply moving the social networks back onto people's personal Web space seems like a leap in itself.]

apophenia: what is beta in the context of social software?

Me: I think in the context of social software:
beta = not making any money
or,
beta = business plan, please

January 29, 2004

Blogger, finally

Blogger (aka blogspot) is finally allowing sites to publish their RSS feeds. This makes it a lot easier to find out when people on blogspot have added a journal entry.

Unfortunately, they only publish in Atom, which I don't support yet, but now I guess I have a reason. First, though, blogspot folks need to follow the directions below to turn on their feeds:
BLOGGER - Knowledge Base - What is Atom?

January 24, 2004

orkut

I had meta invite me in b/c I was curious. I'm also bed-ridden and am in need of any sort of activity that relieves my boredom. Orkut seems like a cross between Tribe and Friendster, with it's main advantage over the two being that it's really fast. Unlike Friendster, which takes a minute to load someone's profile, Orkut lets you hop around as fast as you can click. It also adds in the notion of karma (trusty/cool/sexy), which seems like a reasonable idea, but then you notice that a bunch of geeky, balding men are rated very sexy, and you have to wonder. (there's no disincentive to giving all your friends max karma)

Another thing we noticed is that the "fan" feature is kinda questionable. If you're already friends with someone, then it doesn't add that much to say you're a fan. If you're not friends, then it kinda comes off as creepy. As an example, meta and I noticed that someone had added himself to her fans list. We thought that was weird, so as a test I started clicking on photos of women I thought were cute. Sure enough, the guy was listed as a fan on all their profiles as well.

Orkut seems to be aware of the potential for these creepy situations, as the guy's profile has now been deleted with the useful message: "Removed by evil all-powerful Orkut workers."

meta's comments on orkut

November 6, 2003

Cool new Google tool

Instead of having to open Internet Exploder to have your Google Toolbar, you can now add Google searching to your start menu bar. I've tried it out and it's really fast and saves the annoying step of having to open a browser window. The only drawback is that it uses an embedded Internet Explorer control (Mac users are again SOL).
- Google Deskbar

August 14, 2003

Google Knows All

Some of you probably already know about the new Google Calculator. It started to prove some worth yesterday when metamanda asked me how far a league was, but little did I know how powerful this sucker was until I stumbled upon this waxy.org post. Clearly an MIT student programmed the thing, because the calculator can convert smoots to feet, or even tell you the diameter of earth in smoots. If that weren't enough, who would have thought that a calculator would have the answer to life, the universe and everything?

Update: via Jed - hbar in slug smoot^2 per fortnight. Also, to follow-up on the waxy.org post, here's a table for you mp3 rippers:
- 30GB iPod with 128kbps mp3s = 22.8 days
- 30GB iPod with 192kbps mp3s = 15.17 days
- 30GB iPod with 256kbps mp3s = 11.4 days
- 30GB iPod with 320kbps mp3s = 9.1 days

Update 2 (8/15/03): Jed has written an article on k5: Fun with the Google Calculator

March 11, 2003

Googlewhack: French Military Victories

Someone forwarded me this funny googlewhack: "French Military Victories"

In the event that this no longer works, here's albino white sheep source.

March 6, 2003

Forum: Google

Eric Schmidt of Google gave a very interesting talk at PARC. The first half of his talk was about information movements and the second half was anecdotes/information about Google. Schmidt started off with a comparison to electricity: it started off as a big boom, then it became a utility. Similarly, it started off with thousands of companies, and then became very few. Schmidt argues that all big bubbles have followed the model of thousands then few: railroads, auto, dot com. To me at least, this seemed hand-wavy: the auto industry, for example, has a huge parts and support industry around it, and railroad/electricity are inhibited by infrastructure - a company doesn't have to own Internet backbone to produce a product or service.

The funniest anecdote he gave was about the "bias" of Google News. He was giving a talk and someone in the audience asked him what Google's slant was when it displayed articles. Schmidt tried to explain that a computer selected the articles, and thus there was no slant, but the audience member insisted that every news source has a slant. As Schmidt tells the story, he went to the researchers/engineers that were responsible for Google News and asked them if it were possible that Google News had a slant. As it turns out, the researcher that created the program is Indian and put in two biases: (1) International news is favored, and (2) cricket. I had actually noticed (2), because it seemed improbable to me that there would be a cricket sports link everyday on the front page.

Another funny anecdote he had was when he was making a point that cost drives everything. When Google was still at Stanford, they needed to build server casings. What did they use: legos or duplos? Duplos, because they are cheaper.

More stuff below and in the extended comments.

Abstract:
Eric Schmidt, Google Talk
- "Scarcity to Abundance Drives Everthing Tech"

Continue reading "Forum: Google" »

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