Today at the Gmail Behind The Scenes panel at the SXSW festival in Austin, Texas, key team members of the Gmail team revealed the true secret of the service: Shit umbrellas.
Product manager Todd Jackson made the humorous revelation when explaining how the Gmail team works as a group of about 100 people, the vast majority of which are engineers. “You can either be a shit funnel or a shit umbrella,” Jackson says.
What he means by that is that as a product with hundreds of millions of users (and a company with thousands of employees) there’s a lot of stuff constantly being hurled at the team — as a shit umbrella, the product managers protect the engineers from getting distracted. It’s not enough to be a “shit funnel” where they would pass some of the junk down to engineers, they need to fully protect the engineers.
This sentiment was echoed by Edward Ho, who is known as “Mr. Buzz,” as he’s the one who built up the Google Buzz team (a sub-unit of the Gmail team). Ho noted his hatred for unnecessary meetings, and has made sure that when the Buzz team needs to have them, they are based around demos, not talking about things. “It’s all about what you’ve done,” Ho says.
Some other interesting notes about Gmail:
The original invites system wasn’t a marketing ploy, it was simply an engineering decision to make sure they could scale
There’s a 30-1 engineers to products managers ratio in the Gmail team — it’s certainly one of the biggest ratios at Google
The Gmail team is spread over a few offices around the world (including Zurich), it used to be more, but they consolidated to help the product.
There are “hundreds of million of users” — the third-largest email provider
In India, Gmail is the number one email provider
Gmail is growing fasters internationally than in the U.S.
Gmail is available in 53 languages
Internally, the Google Buzz team was known as “Team Taco Town” after an SNL skit
Google uses Gmail internally (obviously), switched over from Microsoft Outlook at launch (about 6 years ago)
Many people (including myself) have come to the conclusion that Gmail, with its threaded messages, spam filtering, and vast storage space, is one of the web’s best webmail providers. In fact, we like it so much that we use it for both our personal accounts and work accounts using Google Apps. But that also poses a problem: many of us wind up having to maintain two separate Google accounts, which means we have to swap logins whenever our Gmail, Reader, or other data is stored under the other account. Fortunately, there may be an end in sight for this juggling act.
As today’s SXSW panel on Gmail came to a close, the panelists revealed one last juicy tidbit: they’re working to resolve the problems with multiple namespaces that users have to deal with. The team didn’t get specific — they simply repeated that they have to deal with the same problems, as they have “@google.com” accounts for work and standard Gmail accounts for personal use. And they know it’s a pain.
There’s no time frame, and we have no idea what form the feature will take. But at least we know Google is working on it.
Last year, Google released a public data search feature that enables people to quickly find useful statistics in search. More recently, we expanded this service to include information from the World Bank, such as population data for every region in the world. More and more public agencies, non-profits and other organizations are looking for ways to open up their data and expand global access to this kind of information. We want to help keep that momentum going, so today we’re sharing a snapshot of some of the most popular public data search topics on Google. We’re also launching the Google Public Data Explorer, an experimental visualization tool in Google Labs.
Popular public data topics on Google
We know people want to be able to find reliable data and statistics on a variety of subjects. But what kind of statistics are they looking for most? To help us better prioritize which data sets to include in our public data search feature, we’ve analyzed anonymous search logs to find patterns in the kinds of searches people are doing, similar to the patterns you can find on Google Trends and Insights for Search. Some public data providers have asked us to share what we’ve learned, so we decided to put together an approximate list of the 80 most popular data and statistics search topics.
You can read the complete list at this link (PDF), but here’s the top 20 to get you started:
11. Last names
13. Oil price
14. Minimum wage
15. Consumer price index, inflation
17. Cost of living
18. Election results
19. First names
20. Accidents, traffic violations
You’ll notice some interesting entries in the list. For example, we were surprised by how many people search for data about popular first and last names. Perhaps people are trying to decide what to name a new baby boy or girl? As it turns out, people are interested in a wide range of statistical information.
To build the list, we looked at the aggregation of billions of queries people typed into Google search, using data from multiple sources, including Insights for Search, Google Trends and internal data tools — similar to what we do for our annual Zeitgeist. We combined search terms into groups, filtering out spam and repeats, to prepare a list reflecting the most popular public data topics. As a statistician, it’s important for me to note that the data only covers one week’s worth of searches in the U.S., so there could be seasonal and other confounding factors (perhaps there was an election that week). In addition, preparing a study like this requires a fair amount of manual grouping of similar queries into topics, which is fairly subjective and prone to human error. While imperfect, we still think the list is helpful to consider.
The Public Data Explorer
As you can see, people are interested in a wide variety of data and statistics, but this information is only useful if it’s easy to access, understand and communicate. That’s why today we’re also releasing the Google Public Data Explorer in Labs, a new experimental product designed to help people comprehend data and statistics through rich visualizations. With the Data Explorer, you can mash up data using line graphs, bar graphs, maps and bubble charts. The visualizations are dynamic, so you can watch them move over time, change topics, highlight different entries and change the scale. Once you have a chart ready, you can easily share it with friends or even embed it on your own website or blog. We’ve embedded the following chart using the new feature as an example:
This chart compares life expectancy and the number of births per woman over the last 47 years for most economies of the world. The bubble sizes show population, and colors represent different geographic regions. Press the play button to see the dramatic changes over time. Click “explore data” to dig deeper.
Animated charts can bring data to life. Click the play button in the chart to watch life expectancy increase while fertility rates fall around the world. The bubble colors make it quick and easy to see clusters of countries along these variables (e.g., in 1960 the European and Central Asian countries were in the lower right and Sub-Saharan Africa in the upper left). The bubble sizes help you follow the most populous countries, such as India and China. These charts are based on the Trendalyzer technology we acquired from the Gapminder Foundation, which we’ve previously made available in the Motion Chart in Google Spreadsheets and the Visualization API.
With a handful of data providers, there are already billions of possible charts to explore. We currently provide data from the same three providers currently available in our search feature: the World Bank, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics and the U.S. Census Bureau. In addition, we’ve added five new data providers: the Organization for Economic Co-Operation and Development (OECD), the California Department of Education, Eurostat, the U.S. Center for Disease Control, and the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis. We’re excited that all around the world new data providers are deciding to make their information freely available on the Internet, enabling innovators to create interesting applications, mash up the data in new ways and discover profound meaning behind the numbers.
We hope our list and new tool help demonstrate both the public demand for more data and the potential for new applications to enlighten it. We want to hear from you, so please share your feedback in our discussion forum. If you’re a data provider interested in becoming a part of the Public Data Explorer, contact us.
Posted by Jürgen Schwärzler, Statistician, Public Data team
The future of productivity applications is in the cloud. We’ve always believed the web is the best platform for creating and sharing information, and Google Docs has already helped millions of people become more productive. But we recognize that many people are still accustomed to desktop software. So as we continue to improve Google Docs and Google Sites as rich collaboration tools, we’re also making it easier for people to transition to the cloud, and interoperate with desktop applications like Microsoft Office.
For example, we recently made it possible to use Google Docs to store and share any type of file that you have on your computer, not just the ones you create online. Today we’re excited to announce another step towards seamless interoperability: we have acquired DocVerse.
DocVerse is a small, nimble team of talented developers who share our vision, and they’ve enabled true collaboration right within Microsoft Office. With DocVerse, people can begin to experience some of the benefits of web-based collaboration using the traditional Microsoft Word, Excel and PowerPoint desktop applications.
A huge “welcome” to the DocVerse team and their customers! Current DocVerse users can keep using the product as usual, though we’ve suspended new sign-ups until we’re ready to share what’s next. Stay tuned!
Posted by Jonathan Rochelle, Group Product Manager, Google Apps team
Remember Google Wavee No, not Google Buzz — Wave, that other social information pump that Google launched last year. It’s hard to blame you if you don’t. While Google’s goals are ambitious with Wave, many users couldn’t figure out what to do with it, or why they needed it in their lives. Perhaps more importantly, it was basically impossible to know if someone was talking to you in Wave unless you had it open all the time. Not anymore.
Wave is finally turning on email notifications to alert you about new and updated waves. From the Inbox menu, simply select the new “Notifications” option to set how often (if at all) you’d like to receive them. The Wave team recommends that if you’re not a heavy user of Wave, you should get notified “immediately” upon a change. For more active users, the team seems to have a smart approach:
When you’re added to a new wave, or a wave that you are on changes, we’ll send you an email with a short summary of the text and links to go straight to your updated waves. Rest assured, we know waves can change a lot, so we will only send you one notification about a changed wave until you have logged in to look at it (i.e.: if a wave changes 10 times after we send the first notification, we won’t send 10 more emails). Waves you have open also won’t trigger updates.
While Google Wave and Buzz are completely different, they do share some similarities, and are fundamentally about Google pushing newer, more social ways to communicate. Of course, with Wave, Google didn’t shove it into the massively-used Gmail, so it seems that Wave hasn’t been able to gain the footing that Buzz has — even though Buzz arguably needs more work than Wave right now. As of December, Wave had sent out a million invites, but there are probably several times more people already using Buzz — again, just because of the Gmail thing.
The Wave team notes that this feature is still a work in progress and that there are some bugs (the ones listed don’t seem major).
Google has just sent out an Email to select Android developers informing them that they are eligible to receive either a Verizon Droid or a Nexus One, as part of its ‘Device Seeding Program’. The criteria for getting one of the phones is to have an application with 3.5 stars or higher and more than 5,000 downloads, which sounds like it could include quite a few developers.
In an odd move, Google isn’t actually allowing the developers to pick which device they’re receiving — if you’re in the US, you’ll get a Droid or Nexus One, at random. If you’re in Canada, the EU, Norway, Lichtenstein, Switzerland, Hong Kong, Taiwan, or Singapore, you get a Nexus One. If you’re not in any of those, you don’t get a phone at all (Google explains that the phones aren’t certified in other countries).
So why is Google doing this? Android is already having to deal with fragmentation issues, as a large number of users (and developers) have older phones that aren’t running Android 2.0. Now that the Droid, which runs 2.0, comprises a big part of Android’s market share, it’s in Google’s best interest to make sure that Android’s best developers are building software that’s compatible with the latest devices. The free phones also serve as a nice carrot to entice developers to build quality applications.
Here’s the Email Google is sending out:
Due to your contribution to the success of Android Market, we would
like to present you with a brand new Android device as part of our
developer device seeding program. You are receiving this message
because you’re one of the top developers in Android Market with one or
more of your applications having a 3.5 star or higher rating and more
than 5,000 unique downloads.
In order to receive this device, you must click through to this site,
read the terms and conditions of the offer and fill out the
registration form to give us your current mailing address so that we
can ship your device.
You will receive either a Verizon Droid by Motorola or a Nexus One.
Developers with mailing addresses in the US will receive either a
Droid or Nexus one, based on random distribution. Developers from
Canada, EU, and the EEA states (Norway, Lichtenstein), Switzerland,
Hong Kong, Taiwan, and Singapore will receive a Nexus One. Developers
with mailing addresses in countries not listed above will not receive
a phone since these phones are not certified to be used in other
We hope that you will enjoy your new device and continue to build more
insanely popular apps for Android!
Update:: And here’s a followup statement from Google about the program (it’s real, for those of you who are worried that it’s a scam):
A thriving developer community is an important part of creating a better mobile experience for users around the world. We hope that offering devices to developers will make it easier for them to create and test great applications. This is inline with other efforts to support developers, which also includes our Android Developer Labs World Tour and our upcoming participation at the Game Developers Conference.
Google Buzz might have been pushed out too soon, but there are already at least a dozen apps for Google Buzz, most of them unoffical. That’s not a lot, but it’s enough to start BuzzAware, a Google Buzz app directory. BuzzAware is started by the same folks behind Twitdom, a Twitter app directory with more than 1,500 apps.
Just two days in and Google is already sharing some Google Buzz stats and improvements. Notably, the company says that there are already “tens of million of people” checking out Buzz, and that 9 million posts and comments have been created in these first two days. They’re also seeing over 200 posts per minute from mobile phones. But amid the huge usage, Google is getting a lot of criticism for the way Buzz is currently implemented. The good news is that they appear to be listening and quickly responding.
Later today, Google says that they will create a more obvious way to hide your follower count. This has been an issue as it potentially exposes who you email and/or chat with the most. Also new is the immediate ability to block anyone who starts following you. Finally, Google will make it easier to see what people will show up on your “following you” public page. This was (and still is) tricky because only users with public profiles show up there, but it wasn’t obvious who that was.
It’s good to see Google reacting so quickly to some of the feedback they’re getting. That said, there remains a lot of work to be done with Buzz. The main problem I have with it is that it’s entirely too noisy and there is no good way to turn that down without unfollowing people. Basically, you have to take the “social” out of the social network for it to be most useful. It seems that there are simply some UI/UX tweaks they could do to correct this.
There’s another another potential security issue with Buzz that we’ve been looking into and will be posting on soon. These updates apparently do not correct that. Stay tuned.
Google is getting into the broadband business. The company plans to deploy its own “experimental” fiber-optic network to at least 50,000 homes, perhaps as many as 500,000. The fiber-optic network will deliver speeds of 1 gigabit-per-second, which is more than 20 times faster than residential fiber optic services offered today in the U.S. The company writes on its blog:
We’re planning to build and test ultra high-speed broadband networks in a small number of trial locations across the United States. We’ll deliver Internet speeds more than 100 times faster than what most Americans have access to today with 1 gigabit per second, fiber-to-the-home connections. We plan to offer service at a competitive price to at least 50,000 and potentially up to 500,000 people
The service will be competitive in price to today’s broadband services from cable and telephone companies, but it will be much faster. Verizon and Comcast must be thrilled. Google says it is doing this on an trial basis to promote new killer apps that will take advantage of the faster speeds, experiment with better ways to deploy fiber to the home, and create pressure for more open access to broadband in general. It sees its effort as complementary to the U.S. government’s national broadband deployment plans, which it also supports. Communities and municipalities who would like to be considered for Google’s service can apply here.
Google owns its own vast network of dark fiber around the globe to connect its data centers, speed up search, and lower its cost of streaming billions of videos a month on YouTube. With this project, Google is taking its first step in connecting that fiber backbone to consumer’s homes. It is not clear what Google services will come with a broadband subscription, but it is a safe bet that Google will be the default search and Gmail will be the default email. Maybe they can throw in Google Voice service and an Android phone that lets you talk over WiFi.
Cocodle , powered by Google Custom Search, is an initiative towards helping underprivileged and
differently-abled children with the revenue generated through online search.
What all we are asked for is to just use the site, nothing more. With Cocodle, you will get the
same results you get in Google for any particular search, but it gives you one more
good reason to search with your favorite search engine – and that is ” helping underprivileged
and differently-abled children across the globe “.
We finally have got the chance to help these children without having to donate any
money or do any extra work.
If you think internet is one of the biggest boon to mankind, let’s share a little of it with those
children who never got to see it . http://www.cocodle.com/