Archives for August 2009

Straight from Google: What You Need to Know

Update, August 19, 2009: The video of this talk is now available. I added it below and I’m re-publishing this post.

I recently gave a talk at WordCamp San Francisco 2009. Thanks to Matt Mullenweg and the Automattic folks for a great time! The video of the talk is here, but you can also watch the video below:

If you want to browse the slides, here they are:

You can also download the talk in PowerPoint format.

30 day reports

For the month of May, I didn’t watch any TV. I learned that I don’t miss summer TV that much.

For the month of June, I tried to walk 10,000 steps a day. I learned that a walk in the evening is a nice way to wind down and relax.

For the month of July, I biked into work. I learned:
– I don’t much like to bike to work. Part of it is probably that I have pretty old/crappy bike that doesn’t change gears quite right. The fastest path to work is on car-dense road, which also isn’t much fun.
– For the iPhone, I found a program for $3 called MotionX-GPS that does a very solid job of recording times and GPS tracks.
– But the best program I found was for Android. It’s called My Tracks and it’s free. It’s better than MotionX-GPS for a couple reasons. First, in addition to “total time,” the My Tracks application also tracks “moving time.” In other words, if you’re stuck at a traffic light, your “total time” keeps counting but your “moving time” doesn’t. Second, the My Tracks application can easily upload your GPS track to a Google Map.
– I can tell a notable improvement in my fitness level. It’s deeply satisfying to shave a few seconds off my biking time every day.
– The easiest way to improve your speed is to ensure that your bike tires are fully inflated.
– I get hungrier when I bike to work. I can also eat more without gaining much weight.
– Google has a program that lets bike-to-workers earn donations for their favorite charity.

After biking to work for July, I ended up doing a short sprint triathlon (swim 400 yards, bike 11 miles, run 3 miles) this past weekend. I did it in about an hour and 20 minutes, which I’m pretty happy with–especially with my crappy bike. 🙂

For the month of August, I’m shooting to read 15 books in 30 days. I’ve only read 6-7 books so far, so I’m behind, but I figure I’ll read 15 books and if that takes a little while longer, no biggie. I love to read.

Send To trick for Google Reader: Autotranslate

You can use Google Reader’s “Send To” feature for lots of fun things. Suppose you subscribe to a blog in another language, such as this French blog. You can add an “Autotranslate” custom link:

Enter a custom link

I used the values

Name: Autotranslate
Icon URL:

Then when you’re reading the blog, just click Send To -> Autotranslate:

Click the link

And you’ll open the blog in Google Translate and be able to read the blog:


Fun stuff. 🙂 What other web services would be fun to add as “Send To” custom links in Google Reader?

Google Reader adds “Send To” feature

I’ve wanted this forever. Google Reader just added a feature where you can send items directly to Twitter, Reddit, and a bunch of other places:

Google Reader 'Send To' feature

To enable it, click on “Settings” in Google Reader and then click on the “Send To” tab to choose which services to add. Note: make sure you disable pop-up blocking so that Google Reader can pop-up a new window on (or wherever) to share your item. You can even add custom services:

Adding a custom link

Suppose I subscribed to a bunch of different blogs, or subscribed to the Twitter feeds of a bunch of people. I could make a custom link that sent individual items to (say) a custom web service that I wrote. For example, any time I saw someone report a Google bug, I could send that to a web service that might let appropriate people triage or vote on that bug. I love the flexibility behind this feature. Thanks to the Google Reader team for adding it!

More info on the Caffeine Update

Google recently opened up a preview of our new Caffeine update, and I wanted to give a little more background on this change. At the Real-Time CrunchUp a few weeks ago, I joked that the half-life of code at Google is about six months. That means that you can write some code and when you circle back around in six months, about half of that code has been replaced with better abstractions or cleaner infrastructure. Six months is an exaggeration, but Google is quite serious about scrutinizing our codebase regularly and rewriting the parts that don’t scale well to make them more robust, more elegant, or faster.

Here are some questions and answers:

Q: How do I check out the Caffeine update?
A: If you search on you can get a preview of how the search results will change over the next few weeks and months.

Q: It doesn’t look any different to me?
A: The Caffeine update isn’t about making some UI changes here or there. Currently, even power users won’t notice much of a difference at all. This update is primarily under the hood: we’re rewriting the foundation of some of our infrastructure. But some of the search results do change, so we wanted to open up a preview so that power searchers and web developers could give us feedback.

Q: Is this Caffeine Update because of Company X or Y is doing Z?
A: Nope. I love competition in search and want lots of it, but this change has been in the works for months. I think the best way for Google to do well in search is to continue what we’ve done for the last decade or so: focus relentlessly on pushing our search quality forward. Nobody cares more about search than Google, and I don’t think we’ll ever stop trying to improve.

Q: The url doesn’t seem to work for mobile phones? I can only test on, not
A: That’s right. For now this is a only a preview, so we didn’t hook up a mobile version or an international version at this point. You’ll have to search on to see the results right now.

Q: How do I give Google feedback?
A: If you want to give us feedback on how the search results are different, look on the search results page for a link at the bottom of the page that says “Dissatisfied? Help us improve.” Click on that link and type your feedback in the text box. Make sure to include the word caffeine somewhere in the feedback.

Q: Is there a way to give feedback in person?
A: Yes! If you want to give me feedback in person, I’ll be at Search Engine Strategies San Jose this week. I’m doing a site review panel on Thursday, or just walk up and say hello!

You can also read more about this change on Techmeme if you’re interested.

Update, August 11, 2009: I did a video interview about the Caffeine update with Mike McDonald. The Caffeine info begins about 1:15 into the video. You can also enjoy seeing my very-short summer haircut in the video. 🙂

Update, August 12, 2009: Embedding the video interview directly: