December 25, 2012

Christmas Flashback: 1977, 8 Months Old, Immersed

+Travis Wise posted a fun picture of him at a much earlier age in Santa's lap in the 1980s. I thought I'd dial the wayback machine to December of 1977, before I was even a year old. This photo was taken and scanned by my mom (+Terrie Gray), and all my photos are on Google Drive, which makes it super easy to share, even if we never would have thought then of the technology we have today. Imagine how we'll share photos 35 years into the future... and start making those things on your Christmas wish list now.

/via My Google+ Profile.

December 22, 2012

Google Search: Not Just Keywords Anymore

Sometimes I feel like we take amazing things for granted. I asked my wife a minute ago if it was supposed to rain tomorrow. She said, "Good question." So I asked Google. "Is it supposed to rain tomorrow?"

Google was smart enough to figure out I wanted tomorrow's weather forecast for my location. Boom. As for the answer? Yeah, looks stormy. I think I'll file a bug somewhere with the search team to see if they can manipulate the actual results.

December 18, 2012

I Sold 5 Chromebooks in 10 minutes at Best Buy

Pro tip: Can't find one of the cool Samsung or Acer Chromebooks for sale in time for the holidays? Here's one solution... head to, and search for Chromebooks in your area. If a store near you has them on display, go forth and get one (or more), even if you have to drive a bit. Here's a shortcut:

I went in to get a few for Christmas, and ran into people who were amazed at what the Chromebook could do for such a low price. Fun to see what a quick demo of +Gmail, Google+ Hangouts (thanks +Erica Joy!) and +Google Drive could do. Needless to say, there are going to be some under the trees of my family this year.

/via My Google+ Profile.

December 14, 2012

4 Year Old Sarah Loves the Nexus 7

Quoting from today: "Daddy, you taught me how to use your tablet. You taught me everything I know."

She (and her twin brother, Matthew) are constantly talking to the tablet.

"Google, show me pictures of gorillas."
"Google, show me pictures of a blue lizard."
"Google, show me videos of a zebra."

Google Now is amazing, and this generation knows they can get anything in the world and go anywhere, if they just know what to ask.

/via My Google+ Profile.

December 02, 2012

Auto Detailing the Droid Way

Until you can buy self-driving cars, this is probably the best way to tell all other drivers that your family has gone +Android. Besides, all those other family stickers on minivans could be vastly improved.

/via my Google+ Profile.

November 29, 2012

The Best Mistake I Ever Made

Editor's Note: In response to my good friend Kevin Fox, who shared on his blog today how the college selection process, aided by a youthful blunder on his part, helped launch his career. Unsurprisingly, I've got a similar story, and that makes it time to share.

In 1994, I was applying to colleges. The oldest in my family, I was the first to move on from high school, and beyond the occasional lecture from guidance counselors at school, I was pretty much finding my own way. My best friends and I essentially banded together, comparing SAT and ACT scores, and scoured the college ranking and comparison books, even mocking the terms "Selective" and "Highly Selective", used to separate the good schools from the great.

Money constraints and a non-perfect high school record wouldn't have led me too far out of state. My best friend and I eventually settled on UCLA as our dream school. He was going to major in Film Studies, and I had picked Communication Studies, as close as I could get to Journalism. I applied to UC Berkeley, UCLA and UC Davis, as well as Brigham Young University (BYU) in Utah, which would have pleased some of my friends at church, while keeping me intellectually bored, and, in the event of complete disaster, I even filled out a form for Chico State, playing the role of obvious safety school.

Between my friends and me, we thought we had the process nailed. I wrote the essay over and over and had it reviewed by my teachers, knowing I might be on the bubble. I packaged up the essay with all my materials and sent it in the mail on the first day possible to UCLA, Berkeley and Davis, along with $120, $40 for each of the three schools' admissions fee. For UCLA, I listed Communication Studies as my major, with Political Science as the alternate. Berkeley placed me with Mass Communications as my major and Political Science as the alternate. If I remember correctly, Davis was English.

Three weeks later, I got a thin envelope back from the UC Regents. Expecting some kind of confirmation, instead the letter included a $40 refund from UCLA - stating that Communication Studies was open only to junior transfers, making me as a freshman ineligible. As I had selected other UC campuses, and the Regents assumed each school of equal valor, they just sent me my $40 back, instead of what I thought was the more obvious move - moving my application forward with Political Science.

Needless to say, I was panicked, and nobody had any real good advice. I essentially reapplied to UCLA and sent back the same $40 admissions fee, with Political Science as my intended major this go around, but this time seeing the envelope leave my house near the end of the 30 day period, not the beginning. I'm pretty sure this didn't help, as open slots for the impacted schools became more scarce.

In the ensuing months of my senior year in high school, we all played the waiting game. BYU was the first to respond, and I got in. I didn't see that as a big deal, although many friends of mine from church had received rejection letters. Chico State let me in, to no surprise. But the big wins were to come in March, from the UCs, especially UCLA, as my best friend and I shared these aspirations of being roommates and challenging one another for four more years and as we started our careers.

Come early March, Davis led off with a big fat acceptance envelope. I remember marking off an X in the Yes column on an index card at home, with UCLA and Berkeley yet to respond. I was 3 for 3, with 2 to go. But the next day brought a big shock. Instead of the big envelope, a small one from UCLA came with the well known refrain, "We regret to inform you... blah blah blah... lots of applicants... don't let the door hit you on the way out... blah blah." I was stunned and felt hollow - faced with the concept of not being with my best friend, and facing a reality of having to pick between the nearby but non-thrilling UC Davis and the complete life change that would be shipping off to Provo to be a Cougar.

This being at the very beginning of the era of constant communication, I had my mom's cell phone, playing chauffeur for my younger siblings, so I couldn't call her, and when I called my best friend, I just started to tell him before the reception was so bad that hung up on me. I was devastated, and it's all I wanted the world to know - that my dream had been dashed. In the days afterward, as I saw other friends get their welcome notes into the Bruins fold, the school counselors would pause their congratulations, turn toward me with concerned faces, and ask, "Now, how are you doing..."

After the promised deadline for acceptance letters, I finally heard back from Cal. A big, fat, glorious acceptance envelope filled my mailbox in late March that changed everything. My mom, lacking irony, exclaimed, "That's like getting into Stanford!" when I proudly announced I had the opportunity to become a Golden Bear, ruling out the Aggies of Davis and putting BYU way back in second place. The acceptance letter from Cal put UCLA as less critical, and started me feeling like I had accomplished something. I wasn't going to be palled up with my best buddy, chasing our dreams, but instead got the opportunity to stake out my future on my own at an incredible school.

Attending Berkeley ended up being a godsend, placed remarkably close to Silicon Valley as the tech revolution expanded through the first dotcom boom, and placing me with startups before I even claimed my double major degree in Mass Communications and Political Science.

Had I attended UCLA, I could have transferred into Communications Studies my junior year. It's probable my best friend and I would have even more great stories to share beyond those we still dredge up from high school. But it's just as likely we'd have met fewer people because we were too comfortable and cliquey. It's especially likely that I'd have ended up well outside of tech, and the unique experience that is the Silicon Valley. Maybe I'd have ended up writing for the LA Times or joined MySpace or Mahalo - spending my unfair share of time on the Web in Southern California and not the Bay Area. But my mistake of entering a major unavailable to freshman entrants changed my life - pushing me in a direction I'm happy with and continue to be fulfilled by.

As Kevin writes in his own parallel story, the mistake in the short term may have been awkward and disappointing, but the long term benefits of this choice ended up probably being the best mistake I ever made. By the way, if you're not reading Kevin on his blog or on his Twitter stream, you should.

November 27, 2012

Real Valley Stories: Rejecting the Closed Envelope

Editor's Note: Part 8 in an irregular series of stories from my 13 years in Silicon Valley. Part 7 talked about the leveraging your assets to get your way. This time, a real example of knowing when you're undervalued, and how to get what you deserve.

Not every Silicon Valley company has a smooth trajectory, and neither does the average career. Startups fail and career paths stall. You can run into bosses that don't get you, miss promotions, or find yourself excelling as a rare star at a company that simply isn't going anywhere. Fairy tale stories are often just that - fairy tales. In the real world, you need to be executing on what you've been asked, but constantly assessing your place, if you are rightly fit, or on a path to what you want to achieve.

Being a long-time employee for most of the last decade at a startup that went through many funding rounds and saw a practical carousel door in the VPs and CEO office, it probably comes as no surprise that I accrued a solid amount of company history and irreplaceable knowledge, but had to continuously reprove myself to new people who had just joined. Sometimes, the convincing was easy, through consistent work, but other times, it seemed nearly impossible, as if we were two people speaking a completely different language.

If explaining one's work product or role in a shifting company was hard, it was equally challenging to assess if an employee was compensated appropriately relative to their peers, if promotions had regularly taken place, and if one's stock options were valuable or worthless, depending when they came into the company, what round of funding we were aiming for at the time, or how well they had negotiated coming in the door.

After one recapitalization round, which had essentially wiped out our existing shareholders and started over, I found myself in a meeting with our VP of Marketing, talking about my job performance and how the company planned to reissue options to employees so we weren't completely underwater, having watched our existing stock reverse split to hell. As he tried to put me at ease that I was being taken care of, he reached forward, past his computer monitor, to a stack of white envelopes, the top of which had my name on it.

Inside the envelope, presumably, was the latest stock option grant - a new gift of shares in the company, which, once again, would maybe be worth something if we went public or were purchased, but were just as likely to expire worthless, as all the others had. As he lifted my envelope up and tried to give it to me, I interrupted and said, in a rare point of clarity, that I didn't want it, and no matter what it said, it wasn't what I deserved.

This startled him a bit, and I explained that I was familiar with how stock options were allocated, with the CEO and board of directors taking their share after the VCs had their stake, followed by the senior management team, the VPs, the Directors, and eventually, the working stiffs like me. I knew that my previous humility and hard work had set me up to get screwed, again, because I hadn't fought harder for a bigger title and all the rewards that came with it, from salary to stock.

Following on, I addressed the issue directly, saying I'd never been one to fight for promotions and titles, that I just wanted to do a good job, but that I had seen the only way one could get promoted or get a raise at the company was to solicit an offer from a competitor, only to rescind it later. I looked my boss straight in the eye, and coldly said, "Let's skip that step."

The move was a gutsy one, but one I felt I had every right taking, having committed untold hours and several years of my career already into the company, without being promoted, and getting the stock options others with higher job titles were no doubt getting. My boss and I spoke further, and he heard me loud and clear. The envelope went back on his desk, and we wrapped the meeting, my heart beating quickly, but my mind feeling steady. As I headed back to my desk, he did exactly what I had hoped he would, taking a two door trip down to the VP of HR's office to discuss the situation.

A few weeks went by, but shortly afterward, I was invited back into his office, this time with a plan that included a new envelope, with new numbers on it. In addition to the new stock options offer, I was given a promotion, and a plan to work my way into a second promotion the following year, that would see a commensurate salary increase and stock option bump. As time went on, true to his word, and due to my own efforts, of course, that too took place - as the company, with my VP, recognized the value I had brought for years, and continued to bring, and helped me take on more responsibility and finally be compensated the way I thought I should.

As I wrote in July about leveraging one's assets to get one's way, the risk I took was one where I was arguing from a position of strength. I was confident that I was delivering good work that I could be proud of, which could be measured. I had seen other great colleagues get stuck in their careers, and have to get alternative offers from competitors before seeing a career bump with our firm. I knew nobody wanted that headache, and that I could get other jobs if my brazen act went sideways. But it didn't. I knew the sealed envelope didn't have what I wanted, and I knew I was in the position to call them on it.

There are times to be humble, to keep your head down and do your work. There are sometimes economic realities at companies and industries which might prevent you from getting what you think you deserve. But if there's a mismatch between what you're delivering, and you see an opportunity, assess where you are and take the opportunity to make it right. Good people and good companies never want to see the strong talent go out the door, and happy employees usually end up working even harder and being more loyal. I'm glad I finally found a VP who got it and was willing to listen. And that's a real Valley story.

October 24, 2012

Built Like a Blogger? Lose Weight on the Fitbit Diet.

My dresser drawers are overflowing with extra large shirts with logos from tech companies - most of them Google at this point, after more than a year at Mountain View headquarters.

That someone with my otherwise slight frame would require extra large shirts on a regular basis was the unsurprising result of the activity usually surrounding a desk jockey - typing, interrupted by occasional bouts of eating, and a combination of the two for true dexterity. I called the condition being "Built Like a Blogger", accurately captured by Claire Chang at SXSW in 2011 and immortalized on Twitter.

Now it's possible I need to discard a ton of these shirts, not because I need dresser real estate back, although I do, or because some of the logos are for companies that no longer exist, although that's true too, but because, largely in part to my adapting of the Fitbit fitness tracker this last Spring, I've managed to increase how much I walk each day by as much as 75%, and I've dropped twenty pounds. I know few people find that intriguing on a tech blog, but as I had mentioned in my first post on Fitbit way back at the end of March, "Virtual badges influence real world behavior", and that change in real world behavior has hit me with real results.

What's a bit off in that initial post from March was my promising I had no real interest in changing my behavior -- I just liked the stats. That may have been true, but I let my competitive nature overrule me.

Each month, my average steps per day increased.

When I first was measuring my steps per day on Fitbit, without any changes, I was well under 10,000 steps in a usual 24 hour period. I considered 8,000 good, 10,000 a stretch, and 15,000 ridiculous. For the normal human who thinks in distance, 2,000 steps is about a mile's walk, or 3,000 steps can be about 2 kilometers. But after friending more active colleagues at Google, such as Matt Cutts, Travis Wise and Adam Lasnik, I found my own step counts to be slovenly, as they, and others, routinely averaged well above 10,000, hitting 12,000, 15,000 or even higher with ease. So I got competitive.

Beyond taking the stairs instead of elevators, and walking further away for lunch, or pacing in my office at night, I picked up the Fitbit Aria scale when it was announced, which let me watch my weight online, starting in May.

Fitbit has tracked my decreasing weight daily since May.

Again, this started out as a curiosity, but it's well known that if you watch your behavior, you're more likely to behave with better patterns. I found I could very easily track my calories burned on the Fitbit, guess on the amount of calories coming in, and see the results the next morning. Soon, with heightened awareness of the combination of walking more and taking less in, I burned through 5 and 10 pounds, and crested through 15.

At that point, my jeans barely fit, and I was on the last hole on my belt. I even had to go to Target to get new jeans, dropping a full 5 inches on my waist. This was certainly unexpected when I first got the Tracker and scale. And this morning, for the first time, Fitbit reported I lost a full 20 pounds, and I'm easily less than the lies my driver's license had been telling the state for the last five years plus.

Achievement Unlocked: From my email this morning

The competitive nature I originally had, battling colleagues and friends for steps and badges, had evolved into a battle against myself. One major reason I haven't been posting as regularly, aside from interruptions by work or the usual family needs, has been because I've been walking a lot late at night, when I used to crank out posts like these. I now know practically all the routes in my neighborhood by heart, and know the best ways to crank out 3,000, 5,000, or 7,000 steps, if necessary. I find excuses to take my own kids out for walks, or I'll call up a friend and talk on the phone as I navigate the dark corners of the suburban Peninsula until I bore them to death or hit my steps goal - whichever comes first.

October 6's 38,000+ step day, with many spikes

On the consumption side, I haven't really done much dramatic. Being more aware of day to day weight makes some fast food less appealing, and having healthy snacks at work so readily available makes choosing correctly easy. I see it as the reverse of the famed Slim Fast diet (a shake for breakfast and lunch, with a healthy dinner), instead having a lighter breakfast and dinner, and scoring a high quality and full lunch on campus. It's also good on my pocketbook, by the way, of course.

Now I've somehow picked up this reputation for wanting to walk everywhere, simply for Fitbit steps. A  one mile building to building trek that you could bike only provides 300 steps, while going on foot gives about 2,000, so you know my choice. I now park furthest away from my destination, instead of as close as possible. I convince friends who want lunch to go the extra blocks to get something specific, and can get home above 10,000 steps before even tackling my evening efforts. It's been a fun challenge.

Now that I've lost 20 pounds, I have to consider if the new weight is a low point, which will see me rebound to a higher mark, if it's a stepping stone to an even lower number, or the new mark I should get used to. Truth is, what this experience displays to me is that I am in control, and if I can watch the numbers, I can honestly choose what I want to be. It's part of the quantified self that Mark Krynsky, Larry Smarr and many others are pushing for. All Fitbit did was sell me some gear to count it and compare, but the rest I did on my own. As for tonight, it's almost 10, so I'll share this with you and then go on another walk. I've got a few thousand more steps to do.

Find me on Fitbit here: All the graphs are real. And don't miss my follow-on post: "Fifteen Signs You're a Fitbit Fanatic".

October 01, 2012

FriendFeed Turns 5. The One-Time Pioneer Is Still Here.

Five years ago today, a small aggregation startup called FriendFeed opened its doors, in beta, to intrigued early adopters who wanted to bring all the updates from different services they used into one place and follow friends. As was evident from initial coverage of the site from outlets such as the New York Times and TechCrunch, what grabbed attention as much as the product itself was its founders - a group of four former Googlers who had made their name on products like Gmail and Google Maps.

After an admitted slow start, the product gained incredible attention from the Silicon Valley digerati through 2008 as the team expanded and features rolled out with regularity, including the launch of the "Like" button, which became the hallmark action at Facebook, the company's eventual acquirer, a pioneering approach to real-time, and many other aspects which have shown challenging for other startups, including photo display, topical rooms, participation by email and more. By August 2009, less than two years after its initial launch, FriendFeed was gobbled up by Facebook, and work on the site essentially stopped. Now in 2012, two thirds of FriendFeed's initial 12 employees have left Facebook, and yet somehow, the site is still up - despite the occasional outage.

Now that we have the benefit of looking backward, with FriendFeed being part of Facebook much longer than its lifespan as an independent company, it is worth reviewing why the company was significant, relative to many other startups at the time, and why people would keep using the service, even as alternatives to take one's time on the web sprout constantly. Also -- keep in mind I am speaking as an individual, not as a Googler, and this is no reflection on any of Google's products...

Good old FriendFeed, with Lists, Rooms, Likes, Comments, Photos and Search

FriendFeed Took On Challenging Problems -- Here are 10.

1. Rapid Aggregation

The first challenge for FriendFeed to approach was the retrieval of near real-time aggregation from the Web's many services, constantly looking for updates on sites like Flickr for photos, blogs for posts, Twitter for Tweets, and YouTube for your shared videos. The assumption was that when you made an activity elsewhere, it would appear on your feed practically instantaneously. Initiatives that helped this included their own Simple Update Protocol (SUP) and Pubsubhubbub.

2. Interaction - Presenting the Like

The second challenge was converting from a site that highlighted activity elsewhere to a thriving community of its own. A feed of all your friend's activities could be hollow without your ability to interact. That was solved with three steps - the first being a bookmarklet that let you share content from other sites directly to FriendFeed, the second being the introduction of commenting and liking articles shared by your friends, and the third, the ability to add a status update directly to the site - which converted from just a catch-all for content started elsewhere to a starting point for new conversations.

Nowadays, the like button is so closely associated with Facebook that it's assumed to have been born there. Yet, it was FriendFeed, in a trend that took place regularly, who initiated it only to be mimicked quickly.

3. Search With Brains

The third challenge was delivering intelligent search. With backgrounds at Google, it was assumed when FriendFeed would deliver search, it would be done well, and they didn't disappoint. Their advanced search lets users find comments and posts from specific people, all friends, or from everyone. It lets you search on the type of content or any combination. With Twitter remaining unable to produce a search engine with any history, FriendFeed's search archive remains valuable for anything published on the social sphere beyond the last month.

4. Organizing Your Friends

The fourth challenge was helping users organize friends into lists. As is seen with Google+ circles and Facebook lists, sorting people into smaller groups is important and challenging. FriendFeed introduced lists in August of 2008, which let people not only put people in the right buckets, but take especially noisy people off their main stream -- extremely helpful. This also delivered what TechCrunch called a "fake follow".

5. Real time at the Core

The fifth challenge? Moving away from a load and refresh model to one of real time. The concept of new content flowing in from the top of the page, and conversations bumping comments back to the top of the page made FriendFeed have real time at its core. Combine that with advanced search, and realt-time search on FriendFeed became the place to gather for breaking news events, like Apple keynotes.

6. Topical Rooms

Challenge number six... delivering topical rooms that let people with shared interests participate, with granular sharing models, so rooms could be public, private, or moderated. This could be as simple as a room for intranet-like discussions, organizing the week's poker tournament, or to debate politics endlessly with friends and foes.

7. Smart Display of Photos, Video and Audio

Text is easy. Getting photos and other rich media is hard. Twitter took years to graduate from a text-only site (with links) to one with embedded images. Even then, they are a click away. FriendFeed made it easy to share multiple photos, or even embed Mp3s so your friends could listen on the site. Shares from YouTube and other services, like Vimeo, could be easily viewed and detected by the service.

8. Selective Viewing of Shares

Not every post from everyone is gold. This is not a surprise. FriendFeed made it so you could hide all updates from specific services, or people, or any combination. If your buddy who writes a great blog tweets too much, FriendFeed had a solution for you. This remains a challenge in most places.

9. Posting from Email or Mobile

Thanks in part to outside developer Gary Burd, later hired, users could post to FriendFeed by sending updates to an email address. Attached photos were attached to the post itself. Very clean. The site also had an iOS-friendly version at which worked very well on a sub 4 inch screen.

10. Embedding On Other Sites

Though not used a ton, you could embed FriendFeed conversations and feeds on external blogs or websites. Have the conversation in one place and want to showcase it elsewhere? FriendFeed let you do that. Most social services have widgets, but can be as limited as links back to the original source. FriendFeed was much more portable.

These innovations, in addition to a growing loyal community, had us hoping FriendFeed could cross the chasm and reach a wide audience beyond those of us who were tech-centric. Interestingly, many of the conversations evolved as users of the platform talked less about startups and platforms, and made the site a place for pictures of kids, silly memes, and glorious food pics.

And it Stayed Up When Others Didn't

At a time when Twitter was as known for its fail whale as anything else, FriendFeed refused to crash. The team had learned how to scale the product so that even under periods of peak load, sluggish behavior was practically absent. Only in the seemingly annual event of datacenter failures, and eventual site rot due to abandonment for practically three years, has seen the product unavailable. In fact, as the legend tells it, one of the caveats for signing off on the 2009 acquisition was one of the cofounder's wives making the request that FriendFeed stay alive as an independent service indefinitely - which has happened.

So Now What?

The initial gut-wrenching response to the acquisition by those of us participating FriendFeed regulars was one of distrust and pessimism, that the pace of innovation and open behavior the small startup had was going to become opaque post-acquisition. It was assumed the relationships built in the community would disappear. Not too long after the purchase did you start to see news that one engineer after another would turn away from Facebook to start something else or simply take time off.

There is no question the acquisition of FriendFeed by Facebook was a lucrative one for its employees, and particular its cofounders and earliest hires. While the initial price didn't set records, the acceleration of Facebook's value, recent events notwithstanding, made the purchase an impressive one. Split among a dozen employees and a minor investment from Benchmark, and you can see they did well. Features initially in FriendFeed later made their way to Facebook, for the most part, and the team dispersed to various corners of the social monolith.

Of the 12 employees at time of acquisition, 4 are still employed at Facebook, including Ben Golub, Casey Mueller, Sanjeev Singh and Tudor Bosman. Ana Yang Mueller left last week, following the arrival of her first child. Former Facebook CTO and FriendFeed cofounder Bret Taylor recently left to launch another startup. Jim Norris, another cofounder, is at AeroFS. Dan Hsaio left. Ben Darnell, at Facebook for about half a second, is at DropBox, following Thing Labs and later AOL. Kevin Fox is at Electric Imp. Paul Buchheit is at Y Combinator. Gary Burd left 2 months after the acquisition, preferring not to telecommute from Seattle.

Given the array of places these folks have gone after Facebook, it's obvious top talent finds top roles. The FriendFeed team was ahead of its time in a number of ways in developing what it did at the pace it did - even offering up a changelog to show checkins to the site, which updated rapidly. The site turned out a community which I've watched stay fairly solid, despite the neglect, and one that's moved from network to network. At the end of 2009, I even said I would find value from FriendFeed if I were the only one left on the site. Keep in mind Google+ debuted two years later, and that's where many similar interactions take place today, but at the time, it was true.

In the thousands of blog posts I've added to this site, I've covered hundreds and hundreds of unique services. There are the rare ones which are so clearly innovative and inspire real community that demand loyalty as FriendFeed did. For those who opted out of the FriendFeed experience, you missed out. For those still hanging on, it's maybe time for a group hug. The small team accomplished incredible stuff, and surprisingly... it's still here. I wonder if it will stay on another five years.

Full Disclosures: I work at Google and work with the Google+ team through Developer Relations. I am good friends with multiple former FriendFeed employees on the list. We're buds, essentially.

September 19, 2012

The Future of Local Storage Is Practically None At All

Stand Back or Your Hard Drive Is Going to Get It

First they came for our floppy drives. Then, they came for our CDs and our DVD drives. It won't be too long until the concept of a hard drive, or any local storage, beyond that needed for temporary offline use, is itself antiquated. After decades of dramatically increasing PC hard disks, from megabytes to terabytes, saving local data is more likely to put you at risk of loss, relative to remote backup, than it is to keep your data safe, helped along by many trends pushing toward cloud storage and applications.

In April of last year, I talked about how I planned to forego the purchase of physical media, disavowing books, CDs, DVDs and other printed materials, when digital would do, and I haven't looked back - getting to my media from any device that recognized my signed-in identity. Meanwhile, as chronicled, starting in early 2010, when I first got a MacBook Air, and accelerated as I've turned toward ChromeOS as my primary device, I have almost entirely stopped the use of desktop applications. If it can't be reached via web browser, it's probably not worth having.

Goodbye Desktop Applications. Your Time Is Past

May's introduction of the latest Samsung Chromebooks (see my review) left me using my Mac only once per day, for a specific task - synchronizing my FitBit. Until recently, FitBit didn't have a completely cloud-capable service, so each night around midnight, after a full day's neglect, I open the Mac, sync the FitBit in the cradle, confirm the data's gone through, and close the Mac again, until the next day. With the recently announced FitBit One series promising wireless syncing to iOS or Android, I'm just one device away from being done.

For the rest of the day, without exception, I am on my Chromebook, or my Android devices. All my music, emails, photos, documents and other web services can be accessed and managed on the cloud through the browser.

Knocking Down Lagging Apps One By One

The evolution of software and its intersection with platforms is an intriguing one. We Mac users in the 1990s and early 2000s occasionally had to make sacrifices, not having access to apps available only on Windows. Similarly, as iOS and Android increased in market presence, there was the occasional app missing from one platform or the other. But over time, practically all applications, or their equivalents, make their way to the top platforms, and while my move to Android more than two years ago came with some apps missing, all the ones I needed quickly followed me there.

No Seriously, Have You Seen Pixlr on the Web? It's Great.

Now the web itself has proven capable enough for almost any task, and reasons why not to go all Web are dramatically reduced, especially the improved capabilities of documents, spreadsheets and presentations in Google Drive, the release of high quality image editing software like Pixlr, and promises that popular desktop applications like Spotify are set to reach the cloud very soon now, to stream music in addition that which you can purchase from Google Play.

Time to Move on From the Desktop and File Mentality

With solid reasons to not go all Web rapidly eliminated, this evolution also brings up the opportunity to revisit old paradigms we've always taken for granted, as how we use our computers and mobile devices has changed.

Consider, for example, the desktop and files metaphor. Decades ago, we adapted our PCs to be similar to those environments we knew offline. The desktop, folders and files all hearken back to this original model. Even the hyperlinks of today's Web follow similar structures with directories and files owned by top level domains, and today's leading cloud storage vendors, including Dropbox and Google Drive, mimic a traditional desktop environment to bring ease of adoption to users migrating from local storage. But this shouldn't always be the case.

While clean directory structures once were enough for me to almost quit a job over a decade-plus ago, machine-generated links to content are good enough, and it's possible we just need to know how content relates to one another, or what you're searching - for example, email, and tags that generate metadata, providing you with what you need even if you don't know exactly where to look.

All Your Computers Are Mine. Seriously.

The notion of this being "my laptop" or "your PC" doesn't even make sense any more if you think about it. All I need is access to my "stuff", and that stuff is tagged to my identity, be it one that is affiliated with Apple, Google, Microsoft, Facebook or any other provider. While Chromebooks have made it most clear that you can sign out of one account and sign in as another and retain access to all your things, the truth is that so long as you are using a leading provider of identity, you should be able to get to all your files, bookmarks, and media from any device with a modern browser. Go ahead, steal my laptop. I'll just get another one that will do the same things and be up and running in minutes.

Kids These Days... They Don't Need Hard Drives

Consider also that my children should never need to use or know about local storage. At ages 4 and 2, my children will enter elementary school in 1 to 3 years. They have been raised with web-connected TVs, tablets and smartphones, have an expectation of anytime access to data, and shouldn't be trained to store data that is tied to any single device. To them, every device has Netflix. To them, every device can get to Google, and anything they want to see, hear or watch can be found by asking Google for the right image or video, instantly - no buffering allowed.

Just two to three years is enough for us to see how rapidly USB thumb drives went from being the hot tradeshow giveaway to now seeming almost completely useless, with online sharing being the norm. Just two to three years was all I needed as a student attending Berkeley in the late 1990s to move from carting a floppy disk across campus to the computer lab for printing my freshman year, to instead email the document to myself as an attachment my junior year.

Oh. So You Don't Have Pervasive High Speed Wireless?

It's easy to sit in Silicon Valley's ivory tower and say that with pervasive high speed Internet, eliminating any dependency on local storage is a brilliant idea. It's easy to overlook potential power outages, cloud disruptions, dependence on third party services, and spotty web. Nobody likes being out of range for phone calls, let alone all your data, and nobody truly wants to be helpless if their account is compromised. Those are not minor and trivial concerns. But neither is ensuring data compatibility as the data is stored on multiple local machines, and backed up to temporary local storage which may or may not be less reliable than a service provider that serves millions or more.

Years ago, it may have seemed silly to move to web-based email instead of desktop applications, and the same could be said for other apps that have now become default on the web - including calendaring, address books, event planning and more. Digital media for entertainment, once the province of physical media delivered to your home or picked up at a retailer, is now accessible anywhere on any device. So too will be your photos, music, documents, and more. I even moved all my family's photos off spinning disk on an array of Macs from the last 4 years and put them on Drive.

The key to staying prepared for the next evolution of computing is to be willing to take a leap of faith - knowledge that you don't need desktop devices when a laptop will do, knowledge that you don't need to have DVDs in your living room when Netflix or iTunes have all you need, and that what you've been used to and taught over decades just might not be entirely the same any more.

Disclosures: I work for Google and yes, Google makes many services that provide for cloud storage and computing, as well as those nice Chromebooks, one of which I gained for free earlier this year and am using right now to make this post (as well as all the screenshots and images in the post, edited in Pixlr).

August 02, 2012

All Hands Meetings: Good, Bad and the Ugly

Whether at a startup or a Fortune 500 company, culture and communication with colleagues can have an incredible impact on morale and the bottom line. Amass enough naysayers, and the negative inertia can drag down the optimists. Similarly, a well-timed rallying cry can spur troops to close out the quarter on an up note, and help others be willing to work extra hours for a shared goal.

One of those opportunities for shared discussions is the company-wide all hands meeting, led by management, typically starring the CEO. In my dozen-plus years in the Valley, from the tiniest of startups, to my current role at Google, as you can imagine, I've seen a variety of ways a company's culture was approached, and how these all hands meetings could take on a life of their own. A recent story by All Things Digital's Kara Swisher regarding rumored changes at Yahoo! following Marissa Mayer's joining the company as CEO has had me thinking about some of the crazy things I've seen since the end of the '90s in such meetings, both good and bad.

The first company I worked, Internet Valley, didn't ever grow to the point where All Hands meetings made sense. We had 3-4 employees, and our boss simply had to scoot his chair back and speak to the two of us worker bees to have a discussion.

After that dalliance came and went, at my second company, 3Cube, I was one of about a dozen people, mostly engineers, we had All Hands discussions to announce good news on product, business development or in fund raising. I remember when we raised $1 million in seed funding back in 1999, at a valuation of $10 million, and spoke of plans to get the next round at $10 million with a $100 million valuation, if our goals were met. Our CEO, and the rest of us, were excited. As drinks were poured, we joked that the million bucks, split about 10 ways, would be a fun run to the Mexican border, if nothing else. We also used the All Hands format to discuss new partners, and ready product rollouts.

I joined BlueArc in 2001, and initially, during our glowing phase when we came out of stealth and made our first customer shipments, our All Hands meetings rallied the company for a common good.

But almost immediately afterward, due to our own issues and economic uncertainty, those disappeared. In a year's time, the three All Hands meetings we had were to discuss two separate rounds of significant layoffs, with a CEO change in the middle for good measure - on April Fools' Day, no less. We knew that if an All Hands meeting popped up on our calendar for the upcoming Friday, there was a good chance you should back up all your email on Thursday. All Hands meetings were brutal and scary.

As those of us left behind muddled through, we gained a new Marketing VP in 2002, and we survivors recounted the situation. Unsurprisingly, he was appalled, and helped us restart semi-regular meetings, where we didn't fear for our jobs or the company's livelihood. For the most part, the meetings, held once a quarter or so, recapped the last three months of sales, and highlighted our pipeline. But even those meetings started to take on a Twilight Zone feeling, as it seemed our CEO would talk about how we had not met sales expectations for the quarter, but we would still get some bumbling engineer to ask how his stock options were doing - seemingly oblivious to the fact that we were going nowhere fast.

Those meetings were also memorable for the inevitable sales guy calling in to the conference line in the car with the top down, and not being muted. Nothing like the entire company waiting around while the CEO barked into the Polycom for whoever it was to "PLEASE MUTE YOUR PHONE."

After a few years of this nonsense, and a few Marketing VPs later, I previewed to the latest guy exactly how the quarter's All Hands meeting would go down, with specifics on the CEO's nuances, the sales guys' excuses, the engineers' begging for stock updates, and more. When he viewed his first All Hands meeting in person and watch it unfold in front of him, just as I had told, he swore to me it was all he could do to stop from laughing. How could it have been allowed to be so bad for so long? Such a great opportunity to communicate transparently and freely with the whole company wasted.

From that day forward, we took ownership of the All Hands meetings, working with the CEO and management, to make sure the content was planned in advance, that there was a variety of speakers, and value to everyone who joined - not just a droning on of excuses that had little bearing on employees' day to day. The results were clear, as employees felt better informed, understood product roadmap and big sales opportunities, and, when appropriate, what was needed to keep the company funded or solvent. It was a remarkable change from the three straight doomsday All Hands meetings and the cries for options to mute phones on the conference line.

Google's TGIF experience is well documented on the Web. It's open to the employees and closed to the outside world, to protect the discussions and keep people informed and engaged. That Yahoo! would now be getting the same kind of regular updates and visibility into management they deserve is something that should be exciting to their team, for those who have suffered after wave after wave of bad news, in the same way our 2001-2003 All Hands seemed to flow.

Meetings for meetings' sake don't make a lot of sense. Meeting as a company, in the spirit of updating, discussing and enriching employees does, and having seen well intended executives fall flat, and others do quite well, I know there's value to getting the All Hands meeting regular, open and engaging, even if your company is small.

Disclosures: Yes, I work at Google. No, I won't tell you more about details of TGIF. Yes, Yahoo! is an assumed competitor. No, this is not an endorsement of any rumors by ATD or any official commentary on Marissa or Yahoo!.

July 05, 2012

Real Valley Stories: Leveraging Assets to Get One's Way

Editor's Note: Part 7 in an irregular series of stories from my 13 years in Silicon Valley. Part 6 talked about the a trade show booth nightmare. This time, an example of how you can leverage opportunity to achieve a goal.

Practically every employee has had a point in their career when they have run into friction with management on ideas or strategy. How you deal with this conflict, explain your ideas, and try to convince those who aren't yet sold can have a big impact on what gets implemented and how you are perceived by your colleagues. Hold to your guns too strongly, as I almost did back in 2000 over URL structure, and you could be out of a job. Become too passive, and it's unlikely you'll do much besides become a wallflower.

In the 2006-07 timeframe, about when I started posting on this blog regularly, I was sure of the impact social media and blogging would have on the way customers interacted with each other and brands. But while I was blogging in the evening hours on strategy and playing the part myself, during the daytime hours at the office, I was struggling to get my management team to go along, no matter the examples I brought up, the guidance from our current PR team, or the links I found on the web.

As sure as I had been in 2003-04 that leveraging Google Adwords ahead of the competition would give us increased visibility to customers, buying keywords for our industry, I was sure that we once again had the opportunity to be leaders in what was a fairly slow moving market. But my boss, the VP of Marketing, said my time would be better used doing a demand gen campaign than writing a blog. When the PR team and I appealed to the CEO, and asked him what blogs he read, he drew a blank, looked up, and said "those Louis sends me." Aside from being frustrated at what I perceived to be a lack of intellectual curiosity, I felt like a fraud - unable to  get my company to do what I was telling others they should. My Clark Kent and Superman cape was showing holes.

But opportunity struck, surprisingly, when I was asked to solicit additional public relations firms, as we ramped up for what would be our first approach at entering the public markets and filing an IPO. The main reasoning for taking on an elite firm was that we wanted one to assist with not just the standard marketing and PR, but also analyst relations and investor relations.

While that in itself was a lot to do, I tagged on more. In creating my requests for proposal (RFPs), I made it mandatory that any firm bidding also had to propose a thorough social media and blogging strategy. In phone calls with each of the firms I reached out to, I made it clear that this was mandatory - and I would not consider anyone who did not lead with a comprehensive strategy that explicitly suggested I lead the company's blogging effort. Everyone, no doubt wanting to win the contract, agreed.

In the next few weeks, firm after firm came through our doors, telling us about their PR, AR and IR acumen, their industry expertise, and one after one said that our company should initiate a deep social media strategy, including blogging, and each one told our VP and CEO that I should lead it. After hearing this three or four times, my boss turned to me, and smiling, said, "What the hell? Did you tell them all to say this?" I played dumb, but eventually they wore down, and social media and blogging, including activity on Twitter, Facebook, Google Reader shared links and FriendFeed was part of our standard activity - at a time when larger competitors were still figuring things out.

I'd like to say the story ended up with roses. We ended up filing the IPO and later withdrawing it, and the quiet period disrupted some of our ability to be more active. Later, after I left the company in 2009, they filed again, before being acquired last year. But for me, it was good to see I could leverage the assets I had to achieve what I wanted, even when seeing executive debate. You don't always get a chance to get an external team to preach your ideas to your management, but if you do find the opportunity for leverage, it can't hurt to give it your best shot.

June 15, 2012

Pictures, Or It Didn't Happen on Mobile

Foursquare made waves two weeks ago with the launch of their newest application, which more broadly emphasized recommendations, discovery and tips from friends than the original use of the app - a simple checkin, alongside the race for badges and mayorship as you traveled from place to place. Some sites called it the death of the checkin altogether, not wanting to miss an opportunity to be sensational.

But the application's refresh did more than take the focus of all my minor comings and goings. It made photos an even greater part of the experience, putting pressure on me, more than ever before, to include something visibly pleasing as part of the checkin. With the upgrade, Foursquare joins many other leading social apps that have rallied around photos as a major part of their approach to mobile.

Images from my Path and those from a friend.

Instagram's recent sale to Facebook for a gaudy $1 billion thrust them into the spotlight, as the photo sharing app had users preferring its emotion-grabbing images and filters to the standard fare seen on the largest social networks. Given Instagram's iOS-only approach during its early period, I'd never gravitated toward using it, but many embraced its simplicity - the presentation of photos, and encouragement of light social signals for friends to react.

In some ways, this is similar to the Path app, which initially made waves for going mobile only, and focusing on a 50-friend limit, when other networks let you friend freely into the thousands and tens of thousands. Their push for an intimate network, making every share a selective one, where you can see who has liked a moment, or even just seen it, puts more focus on the user to share something meaningful and personal, instead of the mundane.

Now that Path's on Android, and with people I respect, like Shak Khan (formerly of Spotify) and Dylan Casey (formerly a colleague at Google) on board, I've been using the app a lot more, even if it's just as a simple way to send high quality photos to Foursquare. It's been fun to tap into the casual photos and moments from those friends on Path and see things from their view, in color.

Now I Feel Guilty If I Check In Without a Photo, Even At Home

Of course, like Path, selective sharing has been a hallmark of Google+ since the network's launch a year ago. The idea of getting the opportunity to share the right content to the right people at the right time, parallel to that of how you share offline, has struck a chord for privacy-seeking individuals, families and groups. But it's also been a good showcase for photographers who want to bring the images to the world. Prominent camera slingers like Thomas Hawk and Trey Ratcliff had gained followings in the millions, and there was even a  conference in San Francisco for the Google+ Photographers community at the end of May.

On mobile, as many noted, the refresh of the Google+ app, first on iOS and quickly following on Android, made photos take center stage. Like Instagram, Path and Foursquare, the mobile app displays photos to the full width of one's screen, letting the images do the talking. While Google+ also is home for lengthy comment threads, and longer text-centric posts, if there is an image available to display in the post, it gets the headline, and everything else is below the fold.

Google+'s Mobile App Delivers Full Bleed Photos and Full Color

The move toward photo-centric experiences in social mobile apps is one that reflects a few things - that smartphones are increasingly capable of taking high quality images, but also having improved displays to bring pictures to life, that wireless download speeds can handle the increased demands of a photo-centric experience, unlike the days of WAP and text-only mobile sites, and that users love it when updates from friends come to life.

Facebook Also Pushes Large Images In Its Mobile App

Google's Chrome browser was famously named as a reverse expression of its qualities. Chrome referred to all the borders and features that surrounded the app's content. Chrome took them away, for the most part, going to the edges and trying to put the emphasis on the pixels inside the browser window. These apps, including Facebook, on the news feed and individual timelines, are doing the same - putting photos in the center of the experience, and encouraging lightweight social actions.

As many people are turning to social interactions with micro-updates and away from lengthy text-centric blogs, something beyond incredible prose has to catch one's attention, and it's becoming photos - from memes to LOLCats, Instagram, Path, Foursquare or others, you can see how the photos on mobile really have become as powerful as a thousand words.

Disclosures: I am a Google employee, and have worked closely with the team focused on Google+ Mobile. One can assume that in some way Facebook, Path, Foursquare, Instagram and others could compete with various aspects of Google's different products.

May 31, 2012

Fifteen Signs You're a Fitbit Fanatic

Two years ago (to the day, surprisingly), I highlighted four squared (16) ways to tell if you've become a Foursquare addict. In the ensuing two years, I've continued to enjoy my regular checkins from place to place, but I've got another obsession that also tracks my comings and goings - not in where I go, but what I do, with the Fitbit. Fitbit, as I described in March, has the potential to take your every day activity and match you up against friends, rewarding you with virtual badges and making you exercise more than you might otherwise.

I'm having a blast telling everyone I know who doesn't already have a Fitbit tracker to go get one, and those who do, I'm recommending we connect so we can trade stats and urge each other on. I even picked up a Fitbit Aria scale to wirelessly track my daily weigh-ins and see if that number is trending the wrong way. With that in mind, I thought it was time to trot out fifteen ways you can check if you're a Fitbit fanatic.

1. You take the long way everywhere - and find yourself scheduling meetings or lunches at a place far more convenient for those you're meeting than yourself. You walk, of course.

I'll take the stairs, thank you.

2. You look incredulously at people who take the elevator, even if you're going to the top floor.

3. You've figured out what optimizes you for the most steps across a distance - walking, biking, skipping or jogging.

Time to fall asleep: 5 minutes! I can beat that!

4. You'd pretend to be asleep when your partner wants attention at night because you don't want to mess up your "Time to sleep" statistics, and you think you can set a new record.

Yes, that would be me, pounding out 20,000+ steps on the last day I'd get credit.

5. You read that Foursquare was about to discontinue their 20k step Fitbit badge on June 1st, so you spent much of May 31st walking around in circles, just so you could get it.

6. If people ask to friend you on Fitbit, you ask them their daily average of steps, and only accept their friendship if you think you will beat them. (I'm looking at you, Matt Cutts)

7. You don't talk about how far things are in the number of miles or kilometers, but instead in steps.

8. You consider getting one of those fancy walking treadmill desks.

9. You find yourself wanting to look at how many flights of stairs you've climbed in the middle of the flight, and you have to restrain yourself until you get to the top, just so you make sure it counts.

Good luck Matt! Hope you reach 10,000 by midnight!

10. You find yourself just a few steps away from your usual goal, consider if you can hit that number before the clock hits midnight, and then go do some laps in the kitchen.

11. While on a walk with a friend who also has the Fitbit, you look at each other's starting step count, and ending step count, compare it to yours and wonder aloud as to whether Fitbit is accurate, if your units are calibrated correctly, or if it's something to do with the other person's height and stride. (My mom and I actually did this on Monday)

12. You memorize your daily weigh-ins and body fat percentages from each morning's weigh-in, and can correctly anticipate both the next day to the tenth of a pound or percentage point.

13. You actively contemplate whether it makes sense to adjust your Fitbit goals to match your real world activity, or adjust your real world activity to match your Fitbit goals.

14. When you type F into your browser's URL bar, it autocompletes Fitbit instead of Facebook.

15. Every time you take a step while not wearing the Fitbit, you're annoyed.

Are you as silly about Fitbit as I am? I am loading up on people to connect with on that service. Find me at and we'll compare steps.

May 29, 2012

Fast, Sleek New Chromebooks Bring OS Worthy Hardware

The new Chromebook and a Chromebox to boot.

At the end of 2010, I got my first exposure to a fully cloud-based operating system, when I was an early recipient of Google's CR-48 pilot program. Those of us getting the early gear were guided to be kind to the admittedly clunky hardware, and instead focus on the operating system, which changed the way we thought about local storage. But in addition to the unique OS, which started and ended with the web browser, the machine was intriguing for its long battery life and pervasive wireless capabilities, including 3G connectivity. The second generation hardware, which I obtained from attending Google IO last summer, started where the first gen left off, syncing quickly from my Google account, and bumping up its speed, while maintaining great battery life and wireless.

But in both cases, the devices were my backup devices, secondary to my primary machine, a MacBook Air. Be it specific software, inertia or simple speed and aesthetics, I still found myself using the Apple laptop the majority of the time - except when I was away from home or the office, as the Chromebook has from day one been best for mobile computing. The newest devices, being introduced today, have flipped that argument on its head. I've been using the new Chromebook for the last few days, and the only time I ever got my Macbook out was to sync my Fitbit tracker with its desktop cradle.

Google introduces the new Chromebooks

The new Chromebooks are incredibly sleek, light and fast to boot. That may be hard to substantiate, especially if you assume my pro-Google filter is in effect, so I tested on the WebGL fishtank demo, getting 60 fps at 1,000 fish, lowering to the high 40s if I made that its separate window and kept working on something else, be it Gmail, playing a YouTube video, accessing my docs on Google Drive, or browsing the web.

I've been thinking about and working toward a cloud-centric lifestyle for years now, and since joining Google last August, I spend practically all my waking connected hours in Chrome. I have Chrome on my Android phone, on my TVs with the Google TV, on my Mac laptops and, obviously, at the heart of the Chromebook.    The benefits of having access to all my bookmarks, user profiles and content from device to device cannot be overstated, and the newest laptop no longer makes me feel like I am compromising anything in exchange. The hardware is thin, the keyboard and trackpad are top quality, and its weight is light enough that if it were held next to the latest model Macbook Air, any difference is scarcely noticeable. This is no longer just a evolutionary OS story, but one that has hardware worthy of it.

Disclosures (Per Usual): Yes, I work for Google. I have been testing this new unit free of charge. I also previously received the CR-48 and second generation Chromebooks free of charge prior to joining Google, so life is pretty good. :)

May 18, 2012

Web Data Caps Not Prepared for Pervasive Connectedness

Comcast (Xfinity) made headlines yesterday with its discontinuation of a standard 250 gigabytes a month cap for its residential users, in favor of a new format, which starts at 300 gigabytes a month, with the option to buy more. As a residential customer, I had noticed they stopped tracking our net usage in April, as after continuous growth in our home's Web traffic, the number shockingly (and incorrectly) displayed it was stalled at 56 Gigabytes, following a 162 GB month in March, up about 20 percent from February, and in turn up nearly 40 percent from January.

The main rise in our home for data consumption is two-fold, with my kids' adoption of Netflix and YouTube on our various tablets, and our own use of Google+ hangouts for live video interactions with others on the social network, including extended family and remote friends. As I watched our monthly data consumption increase, it looked like we would be on track to hit Comcast's data cap of 250 Gigabytes somewhere in the second half of the year, barring changes in our behavior or an eventual topping out - and that doesn't include the various megabytes taken down over 3G and 4G from our Android phones and Chromebooks.

Typically, limits imposed on users are indicative of one of two matters - the first being a lack of robustness in the system, which has proven incapable of supporting a change in customer usage, and the second being bad actors within the system, who for whatever reason, consume a dramatically greater amount than the average customer. It's easy to point at illicit file sharing, pornography or piracy as the reason for these caps, but with increased use of cloud computing, high quality video consumption and web communication, including VoIP and video chat, what used to be the exception is threatening to become the new normal. The wonder is if the infrastructure can adapt to consumer needs, or if even more disruption is needed.

The face to face to face video chats of today and near instantaneous downloads of feature films that we take for granted, even in HD, seemed improbable five years ago and impossible 15 years ago. One has to wonder what could be made possible in the next five to 15 years going forward, with advancements in software codecs, fibre outlay and wireless standards. My kids are growing up in a world when they expect any TV show to be accessible on any device whenever they want it, and it's unlikely they'll ever understand the sounds of a dial-up modem, let alone references to floppy disks, analog address books and rotary phones.

Traditional infrastructure providers like Comcast and others who find themselves making incremental changes in a world that seems ripe for significant change and disruption make me feel like they are solving for today's problems without preparing for big changes that are on the way. Even their newest proposal, to start allocations only 20% ahead of previous limits, with warnings to those who hit these new limits, seem short-sighted. The answer, for me, is to prepare for a world with 10 times the bandwidth we have now, when not only every show ever is available to any device at any time, but possibly anything at any quality, anywhere.

If my kids and I, in our casual use, can start to bump up against caps designed to slow down illegal use, just imagine the damage we could do to these artificial caps with a more round the clock schedule and even more devices. Even my thermostat and my scale are connected to the web now. It's time we stopped playing with small percentages and started getting ready for a real Internet of things, or... scratch that... an Internet of every thing.

Disclosures: I work at Google, which is working on Google Fiber in Kansas City, and provides products like Google+ hangouts, YouTube, Android, and Chromebooks, and could be considered a competitor or partner to Comcast and Netlfix.