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September 30, 2011

A First Grade Math Nerd

When I was in 1st grade (back in 1983-84), we had breaks in the middle of class, that rotated so a small group of kids had a few minutes of recreation. I distinctly remember at one point heading to a hanging easel which was nothing more than a chalkboard with some chalk. Being a math nerd even then, I wrote up a 1 followed by 100 zeros.

At the age of six, I was writing a googol. (It would be decades before Google came about, of course). I remember writing the 1 with 100 zeros, pausing to make sure I had gotten it right... and then writing 100 more. The numbers filled the chalkboard. By the time I'd written the 1 with 200 zeros, and commas appropriately placed, "playtime" was over and it was back to my desk. But I remember the words googol, googolplex and googolplexplex being thrown around with my friends to represent the biggest possible things imaginable. Fun to know that word (slightly changed) would mean so much more now.


/via My Google+ Profile

Network Effects and the Power of Recommendations

In the world of social networking, there is little more valuable than a trusted referral from a friend. Whether it be Twitter's "Follow Friday" phenomenon, where users point out accounts that have value once a week, or bloggers creating lists in their blogroll (at least back in the old days), it is a good rule of thumb that someone you trust probably has good insight into more new people who you would like to know, but haven't found yet.

As people have expanded their online interactions beyond those who they already know offline, the barrier to adding new people to lists, groups and circles is reduced. And if a respected cog in the network sees their recommendations pushed further downstream, the network effect is something to behold indeed. Popular social networkers can drive dozens, hundreds or even thousands of new connections in a single day. Whether its driving pageviews, like the Slashdot Effect, or mentions, like the Scoble Effect, a big push from a major participant can have ripples downstream that last for days.

Yesterday, I took some time and shared a list of women who interact with tech and media who I follow on Google+. Working on the Google+ team, I think a lot about how I consume content and want to make sure other people have the same opportunity to see the updates I enjoy. So I made a quick post highlighting about 200 or so women from the service, and said the circle would make your stream more "diverse, engaging and smart". That's my belief, and I'm sticking to it.


Felicia Day's share of Veronica Belmont's list, building from a circle I shared.

As the shared circle made its way through the stream, from person to person, share to share and comment by comment, it reached the view of Tekzilla's Veronica Belmont, who thoughtfully added on a few dozen more to the circle and shared it herself. With 100,000 or so people following her, this expanded the number of people who could see it dramatically. But it got even better when The Guild's Felicia Day shared the list. Felicia has almost twice as many connections as Veronica and so, again, the velocity of discovery and following was accelerated.

For years on this blog, I recommended new blogs to follow each month, and during FriendFeed's heyday, I shared new accounts to follow. I think doing this made sense as it helped solidify the community and help bring visibility to many people who were doing great work, but possibly not getting the awareness they deserved. There's little more exciting to me as a participant in these networks to help give a boost to high quality people. That doesn't mean that everyone following will agree with my recommendation, but putting somebody on the list puts a stake in the ground and ties my personal reputation to theirs. By endorsing someone, I am saying that I personally vouch for their content, and hope you will see value.

The Web gives us amazing potential, good and bad, for content to zip around the globe quickly. Seeing how the network shares information and builds on it in real time, is incredible. So when you are participating online, don't just think about yourself and your numbers and how you are being seen, but instead of how you can pay it forward and bring value to everyone else. This knowledge is power.

Disclosures: I am on the Product Marketing team at Google working on Google+, of course.




September 23, 2011

Subscribing to the Stream of Consciousness

There's no question more people are on the Web, consuming greater amounts of content, sharing more and expanding their networks online. Social networking has eclipsed previous web pasttimes, including email and porn, in sheer use. As many different activities become social, different services have emerged to center around specific niche activity - for example, Foursquare for location sharing and discovery, Last.fm for music listening and artist discovery, and at least for a while, Blippy, which tracked my spending habits.

As an early adopter and one who likes sharing, I've embraced practically all these sites. I enjoy sharing and learning from the community, finding friends and shared interests. I like that I can explicitly use my NOOKColor to tell you I finished a book. I like that I can explicitly use Spotify to share playlists and my favorite tunes of the day, and I like that I can explicitly share from Google Reader to bring you the best from the Web I am reading. The human element, I believe, is an important one, where I signal to you what I find most valuable of all these things - what I have hand-selected for you and you specifically, to know.

There are two defining attributes of the services I've mentioned that I think are critical to enabling a positive user experience. The first is that the users who I am sharing with know just what they are getting into. They joined Foursquare to follow location updates. They joined Blippy to see purchases. They joined Last.fm to see music plays. The second, if the site is more of an aggregator, like FriendFeed in its heyday for example, is that filters exist, so I can avoid seeing your tweets, or your Foursquare updates, or your Flickr photos. Both of these ensure that the user, as the consumer, maintains control over what content they see and the publisher has a choice as to what they publish.

There is value in explicit sharing with selective audiences. There is value in the audience anticipating what they will see when they choose to connect with you, and in you having the opportunity to share what you want, when you want - an inherent, unwritten, contract, that if you violate by sharing too much, too often, or too off-topic, means your connection can be broken.

Spending a lot of time listening to mainstream social networkers, such as my wife, who is not quite as embedded as I am, I hear a lot about the minutiae of people's lives that go into these networks, and the resulting annoyances about such updates. Initial responses to sites like Twitter or Foursquare was typically skeptical, in terms of why people would want the small updates, seemingly unfiltered. Obviously, as both services have reached a good level of traction, thanks in part to power users and casual alike, there is some value to microsharing, and some are on the services constantly. But quality and filtering adds value - something I've obviously been focused on with my work at my6sense and constant testing of new products to make our social networking even smarter.

Sharing is going up. This is fantastic. Enabling more apps to share and people to connect is great too. But I hope quality and curation don't fall by the wayside.

September 21, 2011

10 Google+ Searches You Can Save or Modify

1. TechCrunch OR ReadWriteWeb OR TheNextWeb

For top tech news. If you have other favorites, change the words.
https://plus.google.com/s/TechCrunch%20OR%20ReadWriteWeb%20OR%20TheNextWeb

2. Google+ Search for Google+

Never miss an update about Google+
https://plus.google.com/s/Google%2B

3. Beautiful OR Majestic

What the world finds visually appealing.
https://plus.google.com/s/beautiful%20OR%20majestic

4. lolcat

Hat tip to +Ben Huh 
https://plus.google.com/s/lolcat

5. San Jose (or any location of your choice)

Searches for your city or community.
https://plus.google.com/s/San%20Jose

6. Millions OR Billions

The world of big numbers.
https://plus.google.com/s/millions%20OR%20Billions

7. Rumors

Don't miss a single potential leak.
https://plus.google.com/s/Rumor

8. Obama (or your favorite politician here)

Stay on top of politics or other celebs
https://plus.google.com/s/Obama

9. Oakland A's (or your favorite sports team)

Go teams go!
https://plus.google.com/s/Oakland%20A's

10. Breaking News

Make Google+ your news feed.
https://plus.google.com/s/Breaking%20News

Let us all know some great saved searches you like. +Danny Sullivan is partial to "lol" and "Earthquake".


/via My Google+ Profile

September 19, 2011

Chasing the Rainbow: Startups and Incentives


Depending on one's role, the allure of working for a startup is the product you are building, the people you're impacting, or selfishly, what you can bring home at the end. While many talk of improving the world or impacting many users, or innovation, many others are driven by the potential that through IPO or acquisition or any other method, there is an opportunity to make money fast. It's the same reason "Get Rich Quick" ads on the backs of magazines were always popular. People love making money, and most don't always want to wait around for it. So you can buy lottery tickets, you can write an app, or you can be in business development.

The dot com boom that followed Netscape's IPO in 1995 seared Silicon Valley with the belief that anybody could turn an idea into riches. While obviously many companies before Netscape, like Apple, Oracle, Sun and Cisco, to name a few, had gone from idea to leader in a few years, the prolonged boom cycle that followed instilled what I see as a permanent chemical change into the collective psyche of the region. While many startups failed, enough did well so they were themselves participating in the next wave of new companies, playing roles as VCs or angel investors, if lucky, or setting off for a second, third, or even fourth time to hit it big, having caught the startup fever.

Since starting my own career in Silicon Valley in 1998 under the umbrella of everyone chasing after these riches, while in parallel starting companies, everywhere I have worked has had a future horizon that could potentially have a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, even if it seemed hopelessly naive at times.

Even Internet Valley, which had only three of us slaving away, talked about going public, revenue or not, and I joked that I hoped we would have a stock ticker of INTV, so that when Intel buyers accidentally hit INTV instead of INTC, we could get an artificial bump. At 3Cube, we raised $1M at a $10M valuation, then went back for another round that would see the valuation creep higher toward $50M or $100M. In 2000, that wasn't totally impossible, but we didn't exactly get there fast enough as the bubble was crashing, and the company was eventually sold to Oracle. At BlueArc, on the second day I joined, in January of 2001, I had a colleague say I was lucky to get in "before the IPO". We eventually filed six years later, and withdrew in 2008. Only this month did the company finally get acquired by HDS, giving the company's current employees and past shareholders some closure. No doubt my involvement with other companies as an advisor has had the potential for acquisition as well, although only BuzzGain has been acquired so far.

Even in hard times, the potential for financial magic remained on people's minds. I remember in one all hands meeting during the recession, after our CEO informed all of us that we had once again missed our internal sales targets, and that future news wasn't good, that one lonely engineer in the back raised his hand and asked about stock options and the potential to go public. I remember sitting, baffled, as to whether the engineer had heard the same news I did. Apparently he didn't, or he didn't connect one as impacting the other. While I had been happy to keep a consistent job during times of challenge, for others, the missed promise of riches versus reality made them frustrated with management, colleagues, or anyone who would listen. For them, creating something cool and bringing value to end users wasn't enough.

Being a key player in a startup where things seem to be just out of reach, but around the corner, can also be an incredible challenge. Too many times, I would have to tell my wife or friends or extended family to wait a few weeks until something would change. For an entire season, it could seem like things were "two weeks away", but the impetus to make change lay in someone else's hands.

Living a startup lifestyle for more than a decade has made me expect and accept many things that seem odd to those who haven't made it part of their fabric. The avoidance of vacation and sleep. The odd hours and inconsistent meals, the regular peaks and valleys of launches, releases, and announcements, and having to say no to things a lot more than one would otherwise want, seems odd to people who I know who are in the public sector, in education, or unchanging businesses. As we know, unfortunately, teachers can't have a liquidity event, even if they are just as deserving as some of the people you know who chose their career paths well.

Entrepreneurial behavior should be rewarded, and risk, coupled with innovation, sets one up on a track for seeing value in one's work. I have to wonder how many startups you run into that would behave differently if there were no potential to catch the rainbow. How much differently would they approach their product, growing their user base, and hustling from deal to deal, quarter to quarter?

September 16, 2011

Is There a Digital Divide In Your Family?

Do the Men In Your Family Do Tech Different Than the Ladies?

In my family, I have two brothers and two sisters, so our nuclear unit is made up of seven people, four men and three women. It has been interesting to watch how my parents and my brothers and sisters have approached and adopted technology - to see if they are early adopters, fast followers, laggards or simply opt out. No matter the tech, be it new gadgets or new Web services, the pattern is pretty standard in our home.

After me, I can expect my mother (+Terrie Gray) and youngest sister (+Malinda Gray) will try a product. They may not get deep into every single one and want to tell the world, like I do, but they form an opinion and generally know their stuff. In fact, at one point or another, both my mom and sister have worked for Apple. My mom worked for PowerSchool, which was part of Apple at one point, and my sister works in Apple Retail as an Apple Genius.

Beyond those two, however, there is a gap. My second sister and my oldest brother may get accounts, but participation is pretty slim. And if you go further down the line, my dad and youngest brother are the least like to have any accounts or gadgets. Neither one of them has a Google+ account, and neither one has a Facebook account either. I remember years ago my dad wouldn't even sign up to the company newsletter I wrote until he had read through the company's privacy policy to ensure I wasn't going to give his email address away.

If you read much of the press, you'll come away thinking that men are the overwhelming early adopters. We're certainly the loudest. But on Google+, my wife (+Kristine Gray), mother and sister are here, and the rest of the family will need a small push. In extended family, I have aunts and female cousins who are here, but again, the men need a push. It's quite interesting to me to see that.

What is your experience? Does your family have the same digital divide, and how are you seeing geekiness spread by gender in your home?


/via My Google+ Profile

September 12, 2011

In-App Purchases: By Account or Device?

In a world where the Web is increasingly consumed on mobile devices, and applications on iOS, Android or other platforms continue to proliferate, developers are turning to in-app purchases to drive revenue, not just for premium applications, but for free applications that often get you in the door, but entice you to pay up for additional features. But what many developers aren't preparing for is a world where consumers have multiple devices, but carry the same apps - putting the customer's data at risk, tied to a single device, even when a centralized cloud solution seems like a reasonable and much more modern, alternative.

Traditionally, premium software vendors have asked customers to pay on a per-install basis. Want to run Adobe Photoshop on multiple computers? You have to pay a multi-user license. Want to run Microsoft Office for the whole family? Get a family pack. But on the mobile side, thanks in large part to Apple's leadership on the iTunes store, and other app stores, including the Android Market (tied to one's Google account), premium and free applications are synched on a per-user basis. Want to upgrade your iPod or iPhone? A sync with iTunes should get your apps back. Purchase the latest Android tablet or phone? Log into Google with your account, and the Android Market will start feeding you your apps.

That said, synchronization of content between devices is comparatively poor. For every cloud-based app like Gmail or Spotify that recognizes your ID and displays your information on every device, one finds applications that live on your phone or tablet, and don't communicate to any parallel installs you have. (See iTunes' guidance on this issue) This leads to the very common issue known by any Angry Birds addict, who finds themselves conquering the same levels from phone to phone to computer or even on Chrome, instead of starting where they left off. If you love killing pigs and burning time, that's wonderful, but I'd bet many people would find it valuable to log in with their account on any device, and continue where they left off. Some apps, like Barnes and Noble's NOOK app, do this very well, but many miss the target.

The situation becomes even more complicated with the advent of in-app purchases. Forget about the Mighty Eagle (just one dollar per level!) in Angry Birds. You can purchase weapons and tools galore for sports games and strategy games on your smartphone, but many application developers are making the purchase much like they did in the traditional sense - assigned by device, not tied to your Apple account or your Google account. That means that not only do your premium purchases not follow you from device to device, but even worse, if you have to reinstall your mobile OS for whatever reason, you've lost the in-app purchase data, and probably a bunch of the app's history as well.

Living on the bleeding edge of early adopterdom as I do, I've learned to be flexible with the occasional bumps. I got hit with this in-app issue this summer when I had the chance to reinstall Honeycomb on my Android tablet from Samsung, only to lose the in-app purchases I'd made on the 9 Innings baseball game, along with dozens and dozens of games played and players acquired. While I didn't have to rebuy the app itself, which is great, I was starting on Opening Day all over again. That's nuts.

I can understand application developers wanting to ensure they receive appropriate payment for their apps being downloaded and enjoyed. I think the functionality of in-app purchases is a great expansion of mobile commerce. But in a Web-centric mobile world with centralized accounts, storing one's application data on the device, without backup in the cloud, seems short sighted. Many of us carry multiple devices, and may some day upgrade our phones and tablets. It'd make more sense for me that we can do so without fear of losing our progress and our premium buys.

September 07, 2011

HDS Acquires Network Storage Player BlueArc

This morning, Hitachi Data Systems, a subsidiary of Japan's Hitachi Global, announced the acquisition of network storage provider BlueArc, one of the last independent storage startups that survived the economic turndown of the previous decade. The deal, an all cash transaction, closes a chapter in my own work history, for as many of you know, I spent 8 1/2 years at the startup on the marketing side, from our initial first customer shipments back in early 2001, through being a key part of the team that readied the company for its first attempt to enter the public markets, back in 2007. We eventually withdrew in 2008, before the new team, after I had left in 2009, filed again earlier this summer.

For those who watch the storage networking market closely, with the most popular term being "Big Data" these days, BlueArc's relationship with HDS seemed like it had a high chance to become a marriage for a number of years. After signing a reseller contract that made BlueArc's high end network storage products available to HDS' sales people, rumors about a potential acquisition were printed as far back as 2006. So it took a little while, but appears the two companies were able to work something out - a year after some of the biggest deals in the space were consummated, as EMC purchased Isilon for $2.25 billion in November of 2010 and HP acquired 3Par for $2.35 billion in September of 2010. In December of 2010, Dell purchased Compellent for just under a billion dollars, three years after buying Equallogic for $1.4 billion. All solid proofpoints for why I wrote in August of last year that there are big dollars in big data.

That said, BlueArc's road to this exit has been a long one. The company launched with its differentiation being marked by speed and scale, the source being its hardware-centric model, when competitors focused on software-based solutions or turned to clustering to achieve scale and power. Hardware generations were launched every 18 months or so, with software updates in between.

BlueArc's modular network storage system, Titan, announced in 2004.

I joined BlueArc in January of 2001 at an interesting point in the dot com boom and bust. Revenue-light dot coms and Web services were falling apart, and a flight to hardware seemed more stable. BlueArc had an incredible roster of respected industry players, and promised technology that was well above competition. Sitting as part of the marketing team as the initial waves of press lauded our innovation was exciting, and people were flocking to know more. It was the very definition of a hype cycle, as product maturation had yet to occur, and it took a few product generations and tweaks of customer messaging to really get the formula predictable. As you can imagine, through 8+ years at a single startup in the Valley, we had our fair share of bumps and turnover, mixed with good news. Crunchbase shows an accurate listing of our funding rounds and while the process was difficult at times, and other companies had seemingly simpler routes to success, many more failed during the time I was there. Simply holding firm, I saw former colleagues update their LinkedIn 2, 3, or 4 times.

The partnership with HDS, signed in late 2006, signaled a change in strategy for the company that made BlueArc's products available for resale, and gave the company multiple paths to revenue - including a much deeper sales force. In a world where IT managers were typically conservative, and often looked as much at a company's viability as to the products themselves, having HDS on board, or even leading the sales march, helped ease some of those fears, especially at the largest named customers. Meanwhile, I focused on improving our messaging for new markets and announcing our direct wins and customer highlights.

Having left the company two years ago myself, I've been removed to some of the most-recent progress, and saw many former colleagues follow suit while others stayed. The company didn't ever go public, though they filed twice, but they were a storage survivor.

Disclosures: I am a common stock shareholder at BlueArc, due to my years employment there.

September 06, 2011

Being Genuine Is the Best Disclosure Of Them All

Even with the purest of intentions, people have bias, which can rise from an infinite number of sources, be they financial, personal, emotional, career-oriented, or any other. The topic of bias and disclosure flares up often in the increasingly complicated world of blogging and journalism, and as many of us both participate and cover the world in which we work, new rules are being adapted, usually with some push back by those for whom the existing set of rules worked well. In 2009, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) tried to step in and provide guidelines for bloggers with conflicts, asking those who received compensation for their efforts to disclose it. But even if you assume they intend to eliminate bias, they're not even close to answering for all potential bias cases. Not even my gimmicky and fun set of disclosure icons, put together at the end of 2009, can correctly anticipate every situation.

With this weekend's flareup over TechCrunch founder (and AOL employee) Mike Arrington's CrunchFund making headlines again, more lines are being drawn in the sand about what is appropriate for a man of Mike's position to do. His employees have explained they operate independently of his activities. His employer says the rules are different for his organization. His critics have called him names and penned him as having crossed the line. But this topic isn't a new one. It's just got an intriguing name behind it, someone that many of us watch, who draws attention good and bad, depending on your view, thanks to his being visible and arguably, on top, in his field.

More than three years ago (In August 2008), I wrote that "If you look hard enough, conflicts of interest are everywhere." The first topic I brought up back then was if bloggers should cover companies they invest in, and at the time, I said "Investors in a company usually know it very well, especially if it's an early-stage situation, where they will know it better than the general public. It's no secret they'll likely be more positive on the company, but if they're fair and disclose the relationship, you may learn a great deal." In this post, I also said "disclosure is needed" if bloggers joined boards, took day-job positions with a company, or participated in starting or buying a company. It's always good, at least for me, to have the body of work to point to when issues like this come up, as they do regularly. At the end of 2008, again discussing bias, I said, regarding my own preferences, "Even though I like these products, these people, and their ideas, the idea is to continue to be trusted. What liking a product doesn't do is force me to make up things that they don't do, or gloss over clear issues."


It's not my place, as a mere tech blogger and Silicon Valley marketeer, to assess the appropriateness of Mike's new fund. I am not involved, had zero knowledge of it in advance, and don't believe I am impacted by its existence. The story is interesting, and that's it. But the tumult over the discussion is really all about detecting bias and trying to divine one's intent out of their writing - to see if their words can be less trusted due to their outside interests. And that's the crux. Being genuine, transparent and truthful, despite any perceived bias, will always win. Being honest and direct and overdisclosing to the point of amusement, is always better than having to disclose after the fact.


Maybe I should disclose to you that despite never having worked for Mike (we're still talking about Mike Arrington), and having minimal contact over the years, I have never had a bad experience with him. Every experience has been good, be it in person face to face, be it in conversations on the phone, by email, or even Twitter DMs and Facebook messages. The last time I saw Mike was at a swanky Los Altos gathering where we talked briefly. He shook my hand (not something he likes to do) and said it was good to see me. We even talked a bit about Seattle and how he's writing less at TechCrunch. Mike previously invited me to TechCrunch headquarters in Palo Alto (when they were located there) and even gave me the scoop (by a few days) that he had hired MG Siegler away from VentureBeat. You might even try really hard and say that I am biased in favor of TechCrunch because I've previously worked for a company that was covered by the site (when I was working at my6sense), that TechCrunch covered my joining Google, and maybe it's in my best interests to be nice to Mike and the TechCrunch family if I ever want products I am associated with in the future to be viewed nicely. But this points out how hard it is to really determine what's in the author's head. You can't tell me why it is that I wrote something when I did, and you can't know what prompted me to do it.

Enough about Mike. He's a great firestarter for topics though, right?

At the end of last week, there was a quick story on Mashable that listed a few tips on how you could score your next job using social media. It's a pretty typical story for the site - a list style post that has a small number of things you can do to improve your life using the Internet. In the post, the author referenced my joining Google by saying, "take a tip from Louis Gray, whose demonstrated love and dedication for Google+ got him hired as a product evangelist."


With all due respect to the author, whom I don't know, his fast summary was balderdash. I didn't ever say in my post that my love and dedication for Google+ was the reason I was offered a job with Google and he didn't ask. It should be noted I underwent the same hiring process as any other candidate looking to join Google. The same 10+ interviews you have read about, and the interview process started months ago - before Google+ existed. The way I found out Google+ launched was by way of a tweet from Matt Cutts. I didn't get any early look at the product, and didn't get tipped as to when it was launching. The process for my being hired into the social team at the company was well under way before Google+ launched, and I would like to think that reasons I was hired were more tied to my body of work and job history than any excitement about the project itself. (I also haven't cleared this post with Google PR or anyone at Google, and don't plan on making that a habit)

That leads to another level of bias to discuss. After Google approached me late this Spring about possibly joining the company, I was cautious in terms of what I would say about their products or planning. I was cautious not in the perspective of making sure not to say anything that would talk them out of hiring, but in fact, the reverse. I made sure to be just as fair as I always have been, calling out issues that made sense, and praising where it made sense, so that if I were hired or not hired, readers of the blogs would not see any change in my approach. For example, in the months after our discussions began, I said it would take several days to move my music library to Google music and continued to praise Spotify. I even said in mid-July, after more than a half dozen interviews, that I thought Google+ should leverage smart algorithms to personalize the content. I also railed against people pointing their own domains to Google+ instead of their own content, saying "I am hesitant to endorse forwarding your identity to a third party domain you do not control."

But where could I have disclosed "I am currently in the interviewing process at Google"? I couldn't, of course.

Similarly, in the past, I could not disclose if a company I was working with was seeking a venture capital round, an acquisition, a partnership or any number of things where the guarantee of non-disclosure, by agreement, trumped the request for disclosure here. What's more important than seeing if you need every single potential source of bias listed out on the page, as I often do, is if the author has established a record of being truthful, genuine and open to their biases. My posts here and elsewhere are biased, and the number of potential biases that impacts my choices of what I use and what I write about is legion.

Maybe Mark Zuckerberg was really on to something when one of the hallmark statuses available to Facebookers was that of "It's complicated." Life is complicated. It becomes more complicated based on who you know, what you do, who you interact with, what value they provide you, what they say to you and all who impact you and so on. I am confident that even though I am working hard to impact a great project at a visible company, my body of work stands for itself and I stand for something. Bias is complicated and the best way to classify bias is if you can find a direct link to an action that delivers another action which would not have happened without the first. You can try all day to divine the intent of the source, but you can't read their mind. Them being genuine first and always clears it all up.

September 02, 2011

Living In the Browser Is No Myth. It's Possible.

Wrapping up my second full week at Google, I'm still very new here - walking a delicate balance of learning from those already here, while also delivering value on my own. There have been few surprises, given how closely I've worked with the company before joining in an official role, but on a technical level, it's interesting to see how truly cloud-centric the company is. Obviously, being a company who believes strongly that you should never bet against the Internet, and whose many Web services help users migrate away from desktop applications, this makes complete sense. But I honestly live in Chrome, all day.

Back in 2009, I wrote a post on how you can clearly separate your work and personal social media personalities, through smart separation of Web browsers and TweetDeck (now part of Twitter). At the time, I told you how I used Safari for personal activity, primarily due to my bookmarks, which also synched with my iPhone, and how I used Firefox for work stuff. Flash forward two years later, and the story is much the same, but I'm using two separate builds of Chrome to do both, and rarely exiting the Web.

For all google.com activity, I use the standard Chrome Web browser, and securely login to my account and those places on the internal network I should have access. In parallel, I run the Canary build of Chrome for Mac OS X, and maintain my personal account there. This means I don't have to get confused about running multiple accounts simultaneously in a single browser, and still see everything I need to. After all, it'd be a mistake to post content intended for a work audience on a publicly facing destination like Google+, and I want to remove the opportunity for such an error.

Aside from separating the two personalities, work and personal, practically everything I need to do is on the Web. Gmail is my launching point for communication with colleagues, including Google Talk for instant chats. Google Calendar tracks others schedules and my own. Google Docs is where all of us collaborate on projects. Think this is a big company secret I'm leaking? Well, it's not. Google uses its own products, and it makes sense.

Early in 2010, I talked about how I could see living in a cloud-centric world when I got my first MacBook Air, dramatically reducing the hard drive space available from my prior model. When I got the option to choose a laptop upon joining here, I again opted for the device with the smaller disk size, instead of a bigger, bulkier, MacBook Pro or its equivalent, as I knew I wouldn't need the bits.

While living in the cloud may not be for everyone yet, the trend toward Web-based applications, faster broadband and expanding WiFi availability, coupled with ever more capable smartphones, makes the opportunity to live in the browser real for more and more folks. It's come to the point where having Microsoft Office applications and Adobe Photoshop available feels like a crutch, or a stopgap as we migrate into the Web. It's the realization, for the most part, of the vision shared by Larry Ellison and Scott McNealy years ago, where the network is the computer, and your profile is portable. Just prove you're you, and get to your data from anywhere.