Archives for October 2009

Where have you been in the USA or world?

Googler Douwe Osinga has a great personal project that demonstrates the Google Chart API. Just by clicking a few boxes, you can make an image to show the countries (or states in the USA) that you’ve been to. Here’s where I’ve been in the United States:

Where I've been in the USA

Clearly I need to do a trip across the northern part of the country. ๐Ÿ™‚ If you run a website, the Google Chart API is a great/free way to add pretty charts to your website or dashboard easily. You can even make google-o-meters

Google-o-meter

and QR codes

QR code

in addition to maps:

World map

If you haven’t tried out the Chart API, give it a whirl sometime; it’s pretty easy.

Disclosure

I was glad to see that the FTC unanimously approved new guidelines regarding endorsements and testimonials. The updated guidelines affirm the principle that material connections behind endorsements should be disclosed. This seems like a great time to offer my own disclosure information.

As of December 31, 2016, I am no longer an employee of Google. I continue to own some Google stock.

I don’t accept any money or other gifts of value from any companies or individuals. I don’t accept speaking fees, consulting fees, honoraria, or trips. I don’t accept free, discounted, or loaned products. When I receive unsolicited gifts of value from companies or individuals in the scope of work, I give away those gifts.

When I speak at a conference or event, I generally do not pay a registration fee for that event. Some conferences also waive registration fees for that event for one or more of my colleagues or a traveling companion. Either my organization or I pay my own travel and hotel expenses when I speak at an event.

I do not run advertisements or otherwise receive any monetary compensation from the operation of my website.

A few years ago my wife and I formed a non-profit foundation, which we later switched to a donor-advised fund. Neither of us were paid a salary from the foundation. Example groups that the foundation donated to included the Electronic Frontier Foundation, MAPLight, Change Congress, the Sunlight Foundation, Free Press, the Poynter Institute for Media Studies, Committee to Protect Journalists, Public.Resource.Org, Khan Academy, Code for America, charity: water, and Room to Read. The Employer Identification Number (EIN) of our foundation was 203865461.

Also, I have invested in Perfect Third (the company that makes the WakeMate), Zencoder, Cardpool, Tasty Labs, Drchrono, Grubwithus, PoundPay, Apportable, Mailgun, and Parse. I have also invested in CircuitHub, PlanGrid, Pixelapse, ZenPayroll, Trigger.io, Zenefits, True Link Financial, Lumi, Bankjoy, Tynker, Jewelbots, Begin, Eligible, Nuzzel, Unima, X-Zell, TRAC, Boom, Meter Feeder, Airfordable, and Elemeno Health.

I have also invested in Lowercase Capital (Lowercase Ventures Fund I), Y Combinator (Y Combinator Fund II), Lowercase 140, Lowercase Spur, O’Reilly AlphaTech Ventures, and OpenPath Investments.

BusinessWeek articles on Google

A few weeks ago we had a visitor at the Googleplex: Rob Hof, the Silicon Valley bureau chief at BusinessWeek. Rob talked to a bunch of Googlers and sat in on one of our weekly quality-leads meetings. The resulting story is out now. The first part of the story covers some of the challenges facing Google, but the second part gets into more detail than we normally get into.

What’s even more interesting is that BusinessWeek put up transcripts of some of the interviews. You can read interviews with:

  • Eric Schmidt, Google’s CEO
  • Udi Manber, vice-president of engineering and head of the search quality group
  • Amit Singhal, head of Google’s core ranking team in the search quality group
  • Scott Huffman, head of the group that evaluates quality in the search quality group
  • me (Matt Cutts). I’m the head of the webspam team in the search quality group

Org-chart-wise, it looks like this:

Google org chart

Eric Schmidt would be at the top of the cloud, Udi would be the “Search Quality” box, I’d be in the webspam box, and Amit and Scott lead teams within the “Other groups” part. ๐Ÿ™‚

The two interviews I liked the most were Amit’s and Scott’s. Amit sums up Google’s philosophy toward real-time, he discusses our pragmatic (yet algorithmic) approach to search, and our attitude toward our users:

Q: I think the criticism is: Whereโ€™s the money in those [non-search/ads parts of Google]?

A: The right way to look at it is not the money. Is there value to the users? If you bring value to the users, I think we will succeed in the long run. Some things make more money than others, but as long as we keep bringing value to the world, we will be successful.

I liked Scott’s interview because he goes into more detail of how we evaluate search quality than I’ve seen in the past. Evaluating search quality is really hard to get right. I also liked this quote:

But the other thing we always do is we go in and look in more detail at what are some of the individual positive and negative things that weโ€™re getting out of this. Are the positive things really that positive, will they really make a difference to our users? And maybe more important, for the negative things, how important are they, can we live with them?

At the entrance to Google’s main cafe, there’s three doors. Two are normal doors that you pull to open, and they always work. The other door is a spiffy automatic door that slides open for you–except that the automatic door seems to be broken about 5-10% of the time. When the automatic door works, it’s very cool and you’d definitely prefer to use it. But when the door is broken, you’re left standing in front of a glass door and you feel like a dork as you wave your hands, move around, and generally try to get the “automatic” door to open for you. I’ve noticed that many people stopped using the sometimes-broken automatic door and instead always go straight to the reliable doors.

Search can be kind of like that door in a lot of ways. Spiffy features are great, but if they’re wrong or don’t trigger in some reasonable way that your mind can predict, the failure is worse somehow. The same holds true with the organic search results: a catastrophic search failure can stick in your mind much more than the 200 searches that worked well. Search quality evaluation is tricky because you need to take that factor plus hundreds more into account. It’s taken years for Google to really evaluate our quality well, and we still continue to learn important new things.

If you really want to understand more about how Google thinks, I highly recommend Amit’s and Scott’s interviews. They’re a great reminder to me that we have a very deep bench of smart, well-spoken people in the search quality group and in Google in general. I would love to see more Googlers talking about their work.

And finally, on the subject of Googlers talking about their work, a whole bunch of Googlers will be at the Search Marketing Expo East in New York this week. Joachim Kupke will talk about duplicate content, Ari Bezman will talk about maps, Jack Menzel will talk about what’s next in search and universal search, Jeremy Hylton will talk about real-time search, Maile Ohye will talk about best practices for search, Matthew Liu will talk about YouTube, and Frederick Vallaeys will answer questions about AdWords.

Also, don’t miss Bruce Johnson and Kathrin Probst from Google. They’ll be on the “CSS, AJAX, Web 2.0 & SEO” panel. If you’re at SMX East, I think you’ll enjoy that panel.

30 day challenge for October: No Microsoft Software

In September I didn’t do a 30 day challenge because, frankly, I had a lot of work that I really needed to crunch through at the Googleplex and I didn’t have much spare time. But October is a new month, and so it’s time for a new 30 day challenge.

For October, I’m not going to use any Microsoft software. No Microsoft operating systems (WinXP, Vista, or Windows 7) and no Microsoft Office allowed. I will continue to use their keyboards, because they make very nice keyboards, and I will allow myself to use their websites–sometimes I need to do a query on Bing to test how well they do, for example.

I don’t plan to switch to Apple, although I might try a Mac for a week. Apple products are polished and usable, so why not switch to Apple? That would be a much longer blog post. Apple makes great design decisions for the majority of people, but if you don’t like a particular decision, it can be very difficult to change it. Have you ever wanted to see the exact time (including seconds) on an iPhone? It’s hard to do, and I’m that kind of guy. Another big reason is just that I’m huge believe in free and open-source software, and I want to support that sort of software.

So on Friday I installed Ubuntu on my Windows XP laptop. On Saturday, I downloaded all the data from my pedometer (the software only runs in Windows) and shut down my home Windows XP machine. I already had a machine running Ubuntu at home, but I managed to get it driving two out of my three monitors:

Ubuntu Desktop

What have I learned so far? The current version of Ubuntu (called “Jaunty Jackalope”) is really quite nice. There’s a lot of polish to the UI and the day-to-day tasks work very smoothly. At the same time, it’s possible to tinker around with something so much (I’m thinking about fonts right now) that you mess things up. But the dev version of Chrome for Linux has been really fast and stable, even though Chrome for Linux isn’t officially supported yet. I spend a large chunk of each day in a web browser, so having Chrome as an option was critical.

I’ll let you know how the 30 days turns out, but right now I’m optimistic. ๐Ÿ™‚

Search Quality > Politics

[I wrote this in January 2008 but never posted it. I think people might still want to read this, so I’m posting it now.]

In an election year, everybody gets a little more sensitive about politics, so I wanted a write a pre-emptive post in case anyone accuses Google of political bias in our search results sometime this year.

This is my personal opinion, but in my way of looking at the world, search quality > politics. That is, preserving the quality and accuracy of our search results is the best way we can help our users, while skewing our search algorithms to espouse a particular political party’s viewpoint would be anathema. This month I finish my eighth year at Google and begin my ninth (geez, I’m old), and in that entire time I can’t remember even the tiniest suggestion to bias Google’s search results toward any political party. The trust of our users is important, and in my opinion it would be an abuse of that trust to skew our search results toward any particular political view. I suspect that if you checked with old-timers at other search engines, they’d say similar things.

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