December 26, 2013

Now Commerce: Trying to Solve Demand for Instant Gratification

Over the last two decades, the world of retail has transformed from one led by big box retailers who courted shoppers through coupons and print advertorials or splashy television ads, to one where online commerce takes an increasing share of information gathering and eventually, purchasing behavior. Names like Blockbuster and Circuit City will soon be as quaint as Woolworth, Mervyn's and Gemco - symbolizing a generation of stores that didn't adapt quickly enough to take on more nimble competition, who won on scale and speed.

With Christmas 2013 now behind us, the headlines are not just of yes, more shoppers flocking online, mixed in with uncertainty over just how many people were impacted by Target's massive card hacking, but of a completely unexpected surge in last minute buying that doomed shipments by UPS and FedEx, the alpha and omega of delivery systems, connecting the virtual world world with the physical world. But it's clear what's happening. As an increasingly connected Internet populace abstracts the physical world of commerce to an online shopfront, so too vanishes the perception of physical limitations - such as distance, time, and weight.

We are progressing toward a world of "now commerce", where we can order it now, and expect the results practically instantly. The end of 2013 shows we're getting closer, but the system's not yet quite ready for the pressure, even if consumers are.

Simply put: Nobody expected everyone to wait until the very last minute to order Christmas gifts, but everyone did. As UPS told BusinessWeek: "We had our peak projections, and the volume has passed our projections." So all the models failed.

Web giants like Amazon and eBay learned over their young existence to do whatever possible to keep their sites up and keep transactions flowing. Slow load times, inaccurate shopping carts and price mismatches can sap users' patience and reduce trust. So they've prepared for massive amounts of scale - leading to Amazon's supporting upward of 426 transactions a second at peak time, without crashing. But it becomes even more challenging to prepare a physical delivery system like UPS or FedEx for scale of 2 to 3 or 10 times expectations, which is where the system broke, and barring big changes, we should expect this again.

2013 Brought Google Shopping Express to the Bay Area

Take a look at two notable bits of news from two big players in 2013 - the first being Google Shopping Express (disclosure: I work at Google) and the second being Jeff Bezos' announcement of shipment by drones. The promise of both? Even faster fulfillment to customers. In Google's case, they've partnered with retailers in the San Francisco Bay Area to ship under the Google Shopping Express brand, and deliver in specified time windows, just like or traditional meal delivery. Amazon's promise is to take its already fast Prime shipping down from a few days to possibly a few hours. Now, instead of wondering what day you could get something, you just have to know which hour.

Four-plus hours from order to delivery at my door.

Like many others this Christmas season, I put e-commerce to the test with a last-minute order - looking to cross some items off my shopping list, having them come at the last possible moment, to avoid discovery and reduce clutter in my home. So with the knowledge that Google Shopping Express had a noon cutoff on Christmas Eve to deliver that day, I placed an order just after 11, and selected a time window for delivery between 1 and 5 pm that afternoon. As you can see from the screenshot in my email, the gifts were delivered just over four hours later, to my door - not only saving me a trip to the store, but providing near instant gratification.

Often, one's vision of the tech future is colored by the Star Trek computer - one which responds to voice commands, and can produce physical objects by request. It's been said Google is obsessed with building the Star Trek computer, and innovation like the world of 3D printing makes this vision of virtual to physical conversion seem more possible. But before we get that, we're already seeing a generation of people who expect things to happen instantly. One can instantly turn on Netflix or iTunes or YouTube and see practically any piece of video ever made. One can turn to Spotify or Google Music and get any song on demand and play it on any device, practically anywhere, assuming you have enough bandwidth. We expect it immediately, and growl if buffering makes it imperfect.

So you can see this coming, can't you? The consumers are expecting instant gratification. We're getting incredible service when it comes to entertainment. We can order practically anything virtually and delivery windows are tightening. We know what we want, and we want it now.

Disclosures: I work at Google, which runs Google Shopping Express and in various ways competes with Amazon. Google also owns YouTube and in various ways competes with Netflix. My house is an Amazon Prime household and our kids watch way too much Netflix.

December 10, 2013

How the Moves App Can Track Your Steps, Places and Commute

Ever since jumping feet first into the Fitbit fanclub last year, I've been quantifying just about every step, finding excuses to take a walk, parking further away, and generally being more active. I lost 30 pounds from my peak weight, and have found many people doing the same, as we battle on the weekly leaderboard for the most steps. If I don't have my Fitbit tracker on, my activities simply don't count. But on top of my daily Fitbit habit, for the last few months I've been tracking my comings and goings with the Moves app for Android, and have found it a strong companion that tells me information about where I've been, even if it lacks the social component that has Fitbit play such a big role in my need to be competitive.

Unlike Fitbit, which requires a dedicated device, be it a tracker or armband, to glean data from your walking, running or cycling, Moves leverages the built-in accelerometer and GPS data from your phone to pick up on your step count. So if you're someone who doesn't want to carry yet another device, and you just want to keep tabs on your own activity, Moves does exactly that.

A Big Day On Moves Shows A Long Walk on the Steven's Creek Trail

Moves initially didn't get a lot of interest from me for three reasons, after colleague +Scott Knaster introduced me to the app. The first is that when using Fitbit and Moves in tandem, Moves almost always counts 10 to 20 percent fewer steps than does Fitbit, for the same ground covered. Having been a staunch believer in Fitbit's data, and always wanting the higher numbers, Moves lost. Second, Moves always requires you to have your phone on you, so if you run low on battery, your steps don't count. Fitbit's battery goes for days and that's never been an issue. Third, Moves is done in complete solitude. There's not yet any ability to follow people or share with them your activity - which is a keystone of Fitbit's intrigue.

You Know It's Bad When It Takes an Hour from Mountain View to Milpitas

With all that out of the way, Moves gets more interesting for what it does do. As I move from place to place, Moves makes a best effort to find destinations along my path. If I go to the office, Moves taps into Foursquare's map data to find the office building. If I am on a scenic trail, again, Moves taps into Foursquare. And Moves is smart enough to know, based on my speed, whether I am walking, running, cycling or driving - which is labeled as transport.

The latter bit, transport, now makes it easier to show my wife just when I left the office, or how long I was in the car, or can be shown to demonstrate just how ridiculous traffic is getting in South Bay with the tech economy doing so well.

Two weeks ago, Moves made its first move (see what I did there?) into making their data get out of your phone and possibly onto the Web (like Fitbit) and into new applications with their launch of accounts and connected apps. One can easily see a future with your historical data on the Web or sharing with friends by email or other connected services, including Moves Export, which promises to take the activities you're already doing and take them to RunKeeper or compare with Facebook friends, further bringing the two apps closer.

You can find Moves free on Google Play. If you're an iOS user, don't fret, Moves is on the App Store for 99 cents too. It may be double counting for me to track all my steps twice, but as you can see, there's a good reason. Even if you already use Fitbit, check out Moves. And if you don't, there's really little reason you shouldn't give it a shot.

Disclosure: It could be assumed Foursquare Maps compete with Google Maps, and yes, I work for Google. But then, I don't see how that makes this post biased more or less. I just like writing disclosures.

November 26, 2013

Working at Google is Living in the Future

It's been about two and a half years since I joined Google.

After years of getting to know the company's people and culture nearly as well as I knew their products as a user and as a blogger, I picked up a badge in 2011, and have spent most of my waking hours during the weekdays since in Mountain View. I currently run Google Developers Live.

There are many assumptions about Google out there. I read lots of them. I hear others. Knowing the company and its people as I did when I joined meant I wasn't dramatically surprised by much - but one of the core things that is assumed to be true externally and remains true internally is that working at Google is like working in the future. That's true not just for visibility into longer-term projects which are secret or fall into the category of speculative, but also when it comes to day to day.

It's not uncommon, as an employee, to be aware of future announcements, to be using new services and applications, and more commonly, future versions of these services. Those of us who actively participate in 'dogfooding' of new things have to do an internal check to remember just what features are already out and which ones aren't yet, which devices are launched and which ones aren't, and where's a safe place to use apps to avoid curious eyes and hands. It can even get exciting when one makes a screenshot on their computer or phone, and has to take a quick scan to make sure nothing that's not supposed to get out to the public yet does.

Keeping a mental checklist of what's launched, about to launch, and hasn't launched requires some sort of cerebral gymnastics - making public discussion a challenge for those who have an engaged community, and cementing some introverts' decisions to remain quiet, for the best avoidance of risk is to say nothing and let those who run comms to run comms, after all.

Getting my occasional glimpse into the future here at Google was a definite contributor to the slowdown of posts and observations of the tech industry at large, starting in 2011, after regular daily posts for years many of you got used to. It wasn't just that people assumed I had newfound biases and conflicts due to working for one of the most active and influential companies on the planet, but also because, as you can expect, knowing our future roadmap made comments on current deliverables by us or by others more problematic.

For example, since the world adores car analogies, it's hard to get excited about the 2013 Audi S4, if you work in BMW's concept car division. "Hey! Nice car... now get back to work."

Google's openness is no ruse. It's well-documented that the company, for the most part, has an open sharing policy internally, so those working on one product likely know what the other products are doing. One can easily discover launch schedules and product cycles company-wide. Often, products depend on the other to release improvements to bring value to their own. Instead of a completely siloed organization where working on one project means that's all you know, the average Googler can know, with some small effort, what's next from most places. And this is a good thing in my view. For some incremental risk of leaks, you gain improved collaboration, expanded testing, additional rounds of feedback and reduced paranoia.

Living in the future can be good, especially when you get access to the newest phones, apps and Chromebooks, all in the name of testing. It can be fun to test new services, like Shopping Express, all in the name of being a good corporate citizen. And yes, it can also be challenging, especially, as you can imagine, if you're using two new things in combination, and can't figure out which team should get your filed bug - only that you know it should work better. So yes, we file the bugs so you don't have to see them. We also shield you from a good amount of user experience awkwardness, and in rare cases, can completely change the face of a product before it reaches your computer or smartphone.

By definition every technology company is by some extension working in the future. What's shipped is usually the most stable version of whatever build had to be cut that day, or the highest quality device that could be shipped to the retailer or in time for the scheduled launch event. The one that's not shipped has more features, costs less and is faster, or so they always say. But Google is a different beast, given its incredible ambition.

The company that was once easily defined as "the Mountain View search giant" is doing much more and thinking about ways to leverage technology to improve many facets of our existence. You could be measured by what you used to be, or who you are today, or you could set your sights further ahead, toward the realm of improbability. We call them moonshots. And that stretch goal is where the future is. That's the excitement. We may be experiencing the future every .1 upgrade at a time, or with every notification on Android that our apps need to be updated, but there's more to it, and being inside the Googleplex is a unique experience.

If you want to join us at Google, check out and send me an email.

Disclosure: I work for Google. That's what this post is about. Nobody reviewed this.

November 12, 2013

Are the Big Phone Carriers 'Good Enough' These Days?

Last week, I got my hands on the brand new Nexus 5, and, as you might expect, I've been quite happy with it. The screen is fantastic. The size and weight are perfect, and the battery life is beyond anything I've had so far. But this isn't a post about the Nexus 5. It's about what I also switched when I changed phones - my carrier.

In the process of moving from my aging 2011 Galaxy Nexus on Verizon, I'm now on T-Mobile. This means in the space of five or so years, I've gone from an iPhone on AT&T, to an HTC Evo and Samsung Epic 4G on Sprint, to the Galaxy Nexus on Verizon and now the Nexus 5 on T-Mobile. You could say I've tried all the big carriers here in the US, and experienced their positives and negatives. And in my experience, what they deliver, for the most part, is good enough.

Those of us who were early adopters on the first iPhone here in the US remember that AT&T was the only option - and the service's flakiness was well-chronicled. Many thousands of words were spent in blog posts here and elsewhere decrying AT&T's seeming inability to scale up to the unprecedented data demands brought on by the iPhone. (See: Thoughts on AT&T: What Steve Jobs Should Have Written) Calls that would complete without dropping, even with both parties staying completely still, seemed impossible, and it wasn't unusual for the first words after calling back were something to the effect of "Stupid AT&T".

Moving to Sprint for me was as much a function of switching to Android from iOS as it was leaving AT&T. In 2010 I was making a bet on momentum, app choice and quality, and that choice looks to have played out correctly. But when my family moved across town, we unhelpfully ended up in a place where Sprint coverage was not great - meaning most of my successful calls would have to be made in the backyard. For a year, that was just fine, and we made do - especially as most of the time, we use our phones for data, including email or texts, than we do with phone calls.

In 2011, I switched to Verizon when the Galaxy Nexus came up, and data/voice have been very good. No complaints. But they weren't a partner on the Nexus 5 launch, and while I had considered either going Moto X on Verizon, or keeping my creaky Galaxy Nexus around just a bit longer, I wanted to take another experiment and move to T-Mobile. As Pokemon was best known for saying: "Gotta Catch 'em All!"

Prior to making the switch, I polled people in person and many whom I didn't (via Twitter), to see how they rated their own carrier, on a 1-10 scale, and what mobile OS they were using. Surprisingly, the overwhelming majority of people rated their carrier with a score of 8 out of 10 or above. I had expected to see a lot of lower scores, and to see some trends play out, be it low scores for AT&T on iOS, or lower scores for the smaller carriers, specifically T-Mobile and Sprint. But by and large, people seemed pretty happy - leading me to wonder openly if the only safe business to be universally disliked is that of airlines - who never get any credit.

At the time, my curiosity was as much tied to MotoMaker for the Moto X launching first with AT&T. Was AT&T good enough again to be forgiven for their 2008-10 era quality gap? Could I possibly think of getting back with AT&T after all the frustration I'd seen? I saw people on iOS, Windows Phone and Android all giving AT&T scores above 7, and those from other carriers also being quite favorable. There were no clear laggards.

So when the Nexus 5 came available on Google Play, my internal debate over how to move forward was a pretty simple one. I saw that T-Mobile's LTE coverage includes my work and home. I saw the pricing for T-Mobile was in line (and actually a bit cheaper) than Verizon, and practically the only risk I'd be taking is if it was weak when I traveled outside of my usual stomping grounds. And so far... no complaints.

There's no question that as more and more of us as consumers and businesspeople are expecting more from our smartphones and tablets, that the demands we're putting on our telecommunications infrastructure is dramatically increasing. We've gone from a society that exchanged voice calls and simple texts to one where we expect full HD video and streaming live audio. We expect high speed access on all our devices, practically everywhere.

To build and support that demand, all the carriers are racing to be sure they're not the one who ends up left behind, as all the smart consumers end up attached to the market leaders. It's been a long time since I've read a great rant on AT&T, or seen a wave of people reporting dropped calls. Verizon's commercials promise the widest LTE available, and they do have "the map for that", but the alternatives seem to keep up in users' eyes. So maybe, just maybe, we've hit a turning point when the carriers are pretty good, and the user experience is going to get even better as our hardware improves and the mobile software gets even more excellent. I'm glad we've gotten this far.

Usual Disclosures: I work for Google. Google builds Android, and shaped the Nexus 5. I initially received my first HTC Evo free from Google I/O 2010 before I joined the company. This post isn't aimed to indicate any bias or favor to any Google partners. That'd be silly.

November 05, 2013

Enthusiasts & Evangelists: Pushing Product, Begging for Features

There's a fine line separating an enthusiastic user from that of an evangelist, even if the two terms are often thrown out there as equals. For as excited as a user may be about consuming your product or your ideas, it takes an extra level of effort - working as a partner, testing early versions of products, and seeing where a product is headed to be truly considered an evangelist. An enthusiast is typically on the receiving end, a consumer of the benefits, while the evangelist not only takes in the benefit of your work, but can help accelerate it.

Evangelists are often early adopters of your product, who have been converted to your story and ideas, and are willing to advocate on your behalf. Some of the top consumer-facing companies have turned to evangelists in house, and their fingerprints are all over the successful growth of their customer base, and regularity by which their products are seen in the press, while others rely on end-user evanglists to bring the story to new communities.

Enthusiasts, while excited about your product, are likely to be found breathlessly awaiting morsels of information, be they rumor or news. They may have their fingers on the buy button and refresh your product pages as they get ready to buy, and make cash available. They debate your benefits and beg for feature enhancements, but if their demands aren't met, they'll just as soon as wait for the next one, debate amongst their peers where you went wrong, and suggest why it just might be high time to switch to a competitor. Enthusiasts are never employees of the company, though they may be close to the teams, be courted in user groups and given early access to items to provide beta stage feedback.

Some of the Best Evangelists I Know

The most well known evangelist in Silicon Valley lore is very likely +Guy Kawasaki, who while at Apple in the early Mac days, fought to bring the Macintosh story to developers, schools and customers everywhere. Guy's moved on to promote other products, including +Motorola Mobility, but his Apple legacy remains intact. More recently, the work done by Shak Khan for Spotify and +Thomas Meyer of Sonos put both those products on the map for me. In both cases, Shak and Thomas delivered a 1:1 relationship with me as an early adopter, providing access to products, trading feedback on improvements, and finding ways to get their services in the hands of new users.

The ideal scenario is one telling many who tell more.

The best evangelists can help to convert enthusiasts into evangelists. As discussed in depth as the first stage of early adopter behavior, the enthusiast can graduate from being a consumer of your work, and instead works as an unpaid advocate for your story and your ideas - accelerating the network effect. As the 1:1 relationship at the initial touchpoint cannot scale past several dozen or even hundreds of top-tier influencers, one must hope that they evangelize on your behalf why your product is better, why you can be trusted to keep coming up with exciting new innovations, or, if you're behind in a certain area, why you can be counted on to bridge those gaps.

Seeing Potential Instead of Problems

An evangelist can believe strongly in a direction for a product and buy in early - in the same way as an investor can see potential a company and buy its stock. In 2010, my move to Android from iPhone was done at a time when the case could pretty easily be made that iOS' user experience was better and the list of applications available was longer. The debate as to which installed base was larger was also up for question. But I could see the trajectory, and, as I was later proven correct, the applications caught up, the user growth accelerated, and in the minds of many, the user experience is equal, or at least arguable. Even from a point of perceived weakness, I believed strongly that their choices as a platform were right.

The same could be said for Spotify's early trial back in 2009. While iTunes was the big fish in the pond, Spotify changed the game for me almost overnight - and every online music service has followed their model, even if the product hadn't yet officially shipped in the US, and there were occ

Crossing the chasm from enthusiast to evangelist is a lot like moving from a hobby to a religion. It's one thing to dabble, and quite another to commit. It's no surprise then, that evangelists are most commonly associated with religious institutions and converting people to the one true way.

Like a good religious person, one publicly glosses over the challenging parts, promising only purity and bliss. For example, in a 2007 post I wrote for +GigaOM, I highlighted "five lesser-known tips for being an Apple fanboy". The number one rule? "Never admit fault with Apple around non-Mac people." Giving the perceived opposition a weapon to use against you was never a good idea. It was better to suffer in silence, or quietly find a peer to help you with your issue than to growse publicly. The same goes for the converted evangelist. It is better to report product issues back to the company or their rep, or a fellow user than to complain publicly. Obviously enthusiasts have no such shackles - as they're all too eager to break apart your product and tell the world where you've done wrong.

My father raised me to believe that bad news travels much more quickly than good news. A person with a bad experience will tell seven people, and a person with a good experience will tell three. That requires a higher percentage of positive interactions, and to make this success repeatable. But while an enthusiast will share the good news and the bad news at equal volume, an evangelist will simply amplify the good news, and constantly work in the background to solve the bad stories. It's not blindness, but discretion.

Especially in the fickle world of consumer marketing and outreach, you need to find evangelists, who will find you enthusiasts. If your product can't convert people to share your story, your story probably isn't that good. Your service has to be that much better that an early adopter or evangelist will take that bet and invest their time and effort to tell your story - like I did with FriendFeed and Google Reader years ago, later Spotify and Sonos, and now with great stories like ChromeOS - which I strongly believe presents the platform of the future. People like Shak and Guy and Thomas are rarities, but they can be the accelerant that moves your flame to an inferno.

Usual Disclosures: I work at Google. Google is the proud owner of Android and ChromeOS, of course. We also make Google Play Music All Access, an assumed competitor to Spotify. Any bias is my own and I'm not speaking on behalf of Google at the moment.

October 29, 2013

Video: GDL Root Access: The Intersection of Skill and Luck

In the seven-plus years I've run this blog, one of the more frequent discussions is around how the factors of skill, effort, opportunity and luck intertwine to result in a positive outcome (or not) for companies and individuals. Earlier this month, we talked about how you need to do more than just show up in Silicon Valley to gain traction, and back in 2009, I took on the required intersection of skill and luck, wondering aloud how good employees at unsuccessful ventures differentiate themselves from bad employees at successful places. Unfortunately, no magic.

So fellow Googler +Don Dodge and I talked about this very thing on a +GDL Root Access event last week, making it clear that for every great story of startup success you read about on the Web, there are handfuls more that you might not ever hear about, or close down with a whimper. I've long said that celebrating failure never helped anyone, but we should be aware of it, and learn from it. Tune in to our embedded YouTube discussion below. The debate runs just over seven minutes.


Video: GDL Root Access: Timing and Market Conditions

Earlier this month, I wrote about how, even in the fast-paced, big opportunity world of Silicon Valley, you don't get any participation medals just for showing up. Sometimes fantastic ideas are ahead of their time, or by virtue of personnel and personality decisions, customer issues, scaling or any manner of factors.

As part of +GDL, the program I own for +Google Developers+Don Dodge and I sat down to talk about some technologies that took a while to catch on, including Sun's Javastation and the Network Computer. Our discussion on Root Access is captured on YouTube and embedded below, taking about 10 minutes.

October 22, 2013

Real Valley Stories: "The Missiles are in the Air... Please Stay"

Editor's Note: Part 10 in an irregular series of stories from my 15 years in Silicon Valley. Part 9 talked about the time I emailed the entire company about impending layoffs days before they took place. This time, a story about how, during a stressful time at the office, I got a job offer at a competitor, and over not much more than a weekend's time, rescinded and stayed instead - all while gaining new promises for career growth.

Ten years ago was a time of change, or so it seemed. I'd just gotten married, and Silicon Valley was in the throes of a deep recession. The once-packed highways became easy to drive again. Parking lots were empty and constructed buildings didn't have any tenants. Two-plus years into my job, we'd already seen our unfair share of peaks and valleys. The CEO had been replaced, as had our VP of Sales, and the Marketing team had almost completely turned over, making me one of the more senior folks, surprisingly. But while I believed in our technology, our future was not certain, so when a former colleague gave me a call, asking me to interview at his new startup, I figured I'd give it a try.

At the time, amid a national recession, and extreme risk aversion by our target customer base to test and deploy equipment from startups, meeting our numbers each quarter was challenging, to say the least. On the marketing side, we found our budgets compressed down to nearly zero, and our options were increasingly limited. Our trade show and travel budget was eliminated. Our online advertising budget was deleted. We even took our PR work completely in house, paying only for the typical wire service fees, followed by strategic emails or phone calls from me to press to push the success stories we did have, or try to take the reporters off the scent of how dire things seemed.

The Friend Throws Me a Job Opportunity

Then came the phone call. A former director of product marketing who'd found a new home asked me to come in and interview for the role of digital marketing manager. I polished up the resume and started the process - talking to the hiring manager by phone, and eventually coming in for an interview.

Stepping into the competitor's office was a dramatically different feeling than the quiet library-like ghost town of the startup where I worked. This one sported bright colors and the fresh smell of new venture funding, being bankrolled by one of the Valley's biggest names. The interviews went well, and I remember specifically driving them to be a pioneer in the space, using Google's AdWords, which at the time were untapped waters for the industry, and could be a fast way to get inexpensive leads.

A few days later, on a Friday, I got a phone call, and they wanted to move forward. I got the job. They wanted me to start as soon as possible, which put the ball in my court, to call HR and let my employer know I was leaving. So the next day, on Saturday, I called the VP of Human Resources, catching him at a kid's softball game. I told him I didn't want a lot of drama around my leaving, that I just wanted to be done by that Friday of that week. The sooner out, the better. I was excited about moving on.

The Best Phone Call from HR Ever - and a Note from the CEO

The next morning, Sunday, I checked my work email and saw a rare message from the CEO, with a simple subject line: "please stay". The body of the message too was short, but said he was traveling to Europe, didn't want to lose me, and to reach out any time. That was interesting.

Later that day, the VP of HR emailed to say he wanted to talk that night. So I awaited his call. Overnight, I'd gone from having two feet out the door and feeling like a low-level peon to someone who'd gotten the attention of senior management. My wife, appropriately, rolled her eyes, and told me to be wary.

Which Direction to Take?

That night, he called. It was after 10 in the evening, and I paced back and forth in my apartment kitchen, telling him how with our company's situation, and recent changes in the marketing team, I just didn't see a route for us to be successful. Citing Bush's comments at the time as we started battles in Iraq, I said, "Marketing needs a regime change." Seconds later, he answered with the coolest line I've ever heard from HR. "Louis, the missiles are in the air."

From that moment, the tone changed - not from one where I was on the way out, but to one where I said what I would need to stick around, including the obvious meeting or exceeding in compensation, but additional responsibilities, and transfering to a new boss, whom I'd already had a ton of respect for.

Never Take the Counter-Offer?

That made Monday awkward. In addition to putting through my usual tasks, I met quietly with the HR VP again and practically every roadblock I saw as preventing me from staying was knocked down. I was promised the salary match, a title change, and a changed reporting structure. The people who had limited my ability to succeed were going to be out of the way. And all it took was my sending a note back to the competitor that I had rescinded the offer. I obviously couldn't tell them why, but I had to let them know.

You read in career guidance books to never take the counter-offer. Despite any financial gains, the reason you were interested in leaving is usually still the same. The people are usually the same. But I drafted a "Sorry but..." letter and sent it off. This no doubt surprised them, and it really burned my friend, who'd brought me in, as he left me a livid voice mail which landed me on his bad list for years to come.

And yes, I was immediately worried I'd flubbed the decision - especially as I saw this company eventually launch, put out their share of positive releases, and have glitzy booths at our mutual events. But their star faded, even as I got more opportunities to own our strategic direction and help the company grow out of its darkest points through new product introductions, several cycles of upgrades, dramatic customer expansion and eventually, an IPO filing - although we never did quite make it.

The biggest surprise in all this, even during the darkest times for us as a company and as an industry wasn't that I could find a new role, or that things ended up right after all, but that I had allies higher in the food chain than I had ever anticipated - people who agreed with my views, and respected me to the point that they would give me an opportunity to succeed on a path I saw made sense.

And those missiles that were in the air? They landed, and eventually the people that were slowing us down and making roadblocks for me and the company found new roles somewhere else. As for the company that almost pulled me away? They never went public, instead selling back to their primary investor. They burned bright for a short minute and eventually faded away. It turned out I had made the right choice.

October 15, 2013

You Don't Get Any Participation Medals for Just Showing Up

"I need some record of you being in this class," hissed my 8th grade math teacher, looking at me and pointing to my lowly 5% grade to date in his course after ten assignments, by far the lowest mark in the class. My not so glowing 50 points out of a possible 1,000 was the product of many days' not turning in homework, as my continued refrain of "I'll get to it tomorrow" started to become an impossibility to tackle.

Each day I told myself I'd eventually get to the previous day's assignments, taking a penalty for my lateness, but part of me knew I'd just float through the day to day and try to make it up on the tests. For me, it was proving I knew the answers - conveying mastery of the subject. Yet for my grade, it was proving that not only did I know the answers, but I was willing to do the work. Just showing up wasn't enough.

For the past 15 years, I've been working in Silicon Valley, and I've encountered an incredible mix of people who perform as if they are on different gears. Some work incredibly hard, and are driven to succeed at practically any cost, refusing to let traditional limits get in their way. Others seem almost crestfallen if they can't keep up with those gracing magazine covers simply by being in the right place at the right time. And the truth is that life's not perfect. There is an intersection of skill and luck that very often sees great employees at bad businesses punished for their career choices, while less impactful employees at incredible companies gain the benefit of their colleagues' work.

From the outside looking in, Silicon Valley might look like a technology-centric Disneyland, where the future can be experienced today, where dreams can get funded, and you can't walk down the sidewalk without knocking shoulders with millionaires. But every success story you read, and those people who become household names, be they Steve Jobs, Meg Whitman, Larry Ellison or Marissa Mayer, came not as a product of pure luck, but the application of effort against risk.

Risk Is Often Required If Something Is Worth Doing

I remember sitting around our corporate boardroom one afternoon ten or so years ago, as an account manager on our team explained why we had been unable to close a once-promising deal. He said, paraphrasing with some angst, "In his business, the IT manager's job is to reduce risk. At our stage, we're all about risk." And it was true. While our more established competitors didn't have all the whiz-bang capabilities our devices did, what they did offer was a track record of success, integration with top partners, security, and all those things that moved risk out of the data center. We had to look elsewhere to find customers more willing to take a bit and absorb some risk, in exchange for our differentiation.

Which brings us back to "just showing up".

I spent my first three years in the Valley working at two very small startups. The first didn't have any revenue, and some odd ideas. When the founder was let go, the sister company asked me to stay on, and we worked hard at bringing traditional office tasks to the Web. The work was good, and our customers liked our products, but we weren't growing fast enough. When we went out to raise a $10 million B round, we came up light, and that was the end of my tenure. But as we were plodding along with our incremental growth, it seemed like everyone around us was going public, making money and buying homes - which to us was pure fantasy. Some of our best engineers took other jobs, and spoke openly about the frustrations they felt when all their friends were getting rich, while we were still bringing our food in a bag lunch and eating at our desks.

Even in a bubble, showing up wasn't enough. At my next company, where I spent 8+ years, we had enough spikes and troughs to fill a novel. Maybe some day I'll write it. We scored several rounds of venture funding, several rounds of layoffs, and filed to go public, not once, but twice. The company eventually sold for a good amount after I had left, but not before a number of upstarts had soared past us, having much more profitable exits, at valuations anywhere from 4 to 5 what our exit had been. And while we could feel bad about not having hit a home run, I was all too aware of the many other players in our industry who had already gone bankrupt, or returned money to the original VCs, lacking a business model, and other former colleagues who had bounced from company to company in search of something that stuck.

I've always been raised with the mantra that nine out of ten startups fail. I've seen other ratios with different numbers, but the truth is that the overwhelming majority of small business concepts, even those with venture funding, don't have a positive exit, and it's a much rarer one that sees the founders and employees strike it big. For every market sensation like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Tesla or Spotify, you have scads of others with software products few wanted, or website plays that have seen their URLs turn into dead links.

In the big race of keeping up with the Joneses, especially in an area ripe with exceptional people who have impacted history, seeing others' success can make it seem easy. Easy to start a company. Easy to start a venture fund. Easy to find customers. Easy to do practically anything. But it's not. I remember the wave of aspiring dotcom millionaires who came from around the country sporting MBAs, only to return when things got tough. And I remember the stories of former Business Development managers loading luggage at the airport when jobs were scarce. Success is not doled out equally and fairly, and the best products and best people don't always get rewarded. But the equation improves with incredible market study, exceptional effort, and the self-awareness to make change where it's required at the right time.

Do read up on the world's successful people, as I remember doing in college, checking out "The Difference Between God and Larry Ellison" from the Berkeley city library. Do make yourself aware of their smart strategies and innovative products. But don't forget the hard work and effort required that set them up with a greater likelihood to succeed. Or you'll be like I was in 8th grade -- getting dressed down publicly by my teacher who questioned why I was even there at all if I wasn't going to do the bare minimum.

Disclosures for fun: I worked at BlueArc from 2001-09 and owned options, as well as stock acquired in the company's 2005 AA round. These converted to shares when HDS purchased the company in 2011. I currently work at Google, and any references to their competitors or partners are just part of the story and presented without intended bias.

October 09, 2013

Balancing Act: Building for Both Future and Current Users

As companies mature and gain an installed user base, it can become easy to continue forward with incremental and iterative updates that bring features that improve customer satisfaction, but much more challenging to step outside the comfort zone and try something new. Usually, with rare exceptions, to create a new idea and marketplace, it takes new people and a new company with a new goal.

In Silicon Valley, it's more accepted that you will challenge the status quo and take a higher level of risk. Companies' ability to innovate is often measured by how much they spend on research and development, but new products that haven't yet debuted often take attention away from users on the products that are bringing in revenue today. How you manage this balancing act of preparing for a future, while managing the present, can have dramatic impact on your quarterly earnings sheet, and how you're perceived by your customer base.

One of the most well-known quotes bandied about in front offices comes from sports legend Wayne Gretzky, who said, "I skate to where the puck is going to be, not where it has been," which can be boiled down to preparing your company and product line for future years, not for what's already happened. Companies like Google (where I work), Apple, Tesla and others are well known for creating new product lines for future customers and helping convince new audiences that their inventions will have an impact on their lives.

But to create new services best categorized as potential can come as risk if you take your eye off the ball and discard existing customers and their interests. I remember having a discussion with Apple's Ellen Hancock way back in 1997, when she was speaking at Berkeley's Macintosh Users' Group (BMUG). To hear her story, Apple, deep in a mess of trouble at that time, had big plans to revamp their operating system to a next-generation OS called Copland, but hadn't planned any updates to their existing product for more than a year.

Her quote, from my story in the Daily Cal that day: "I said, 'What do we have planned between July 1996 and December 1997?' and they said, 'Nothing...' I said, 'I think that's strange -- we have 25 million users; don't you think they want anything?'"

Somehow, in the excitement over Copland, Apple had asked their 25 million user installed base to wait around and be patient for them to get their act together. Hancock, who no doubt painted her role as a glowing benefactor, pushed the company to make improvements to the aging Mac OS in parallel, bringing value to that installed base, while the company continued efforts on the future product that never did quite make it out the door. (Postscript: Hancock was later demoted by Apple CEO Gil Amelio and had run-ins with Steve Jobs, according to the Wall Street Journal

In my own career, I've seen this push/pull relationship between future product lines and enhancements to existing lines rear up regularly.

In my eight years working in Marketing at BlueArc, a network storage provider, from 2001-09, I often found we would put practically all our engineering resources on one product line instead of another, instead of assigning some product leads to one task and a second group to the other. We would go "all in" on the high end product, launch it, and then turn around and go full bore on the low end product, and then repeat. There was no balance at all - the result of having a scarcity of people available and trying to compete with market heavyweights with significant resources.

In the meantime, while working on the successor to the current generation of hardware, our existing users practically served to annoy us with their problems which we hoped to eliminate once the new new thing came out. There always came a point in the support chain when we would find them an upgrade path to the next generation - if simply to alleviate the problems with the existing one.

Even earlier, when I was at 3Cube from 1999-2001, we had two product lines. One was a Web faxing service that wasn't sexy, but brought in practically all our revenue, especially from broadcast faxing customers. The second was a conference call and early stage Web meeting service. As I highlighted way back in 2006, our meeting platform was the first volley into building an online office suite called OfficeCube. Our small engineering resources were all focused on this future product - to promote the next stage in our growth, even while our existing customers saw innovation in our core service stall. I remember aggressive and frustrating discussions from our business development and sales lead who begged for us to do something to promote the product we were getting our money from, going so far to call our future suite vaporware - which eventually turned out correct.

For smaller companies, especially startups, where revenue has not materialized, a change in course to a future product is well-known as a pivot. It's easier to pivot when you're not walking away from an installed base and needing to have revenue each quarter than it is to tell an established company to change course. Apple's pivot from PC maker to lifestyle device maker took years and incredible effort - and their success is so well-known in part because it's so challenging. Other companies previously well-known for their hardware and software leadership turn, like product managers going the VC route, in companies that live off service and consulting revenue instead.

The topic of branding and marketing is a long one, with libraries full of books on what defines a company's personality and culture. When I see brand extensions from companies I know, I'm always curious what they're trying -- if this new product is a move to evolve their story, a grab at a growing market, a desire for an increased balance sheet, or if they can solve an issue for customers that nobody else can. When you start to tell your own customers that you represent something new now, and that what they've known you as and expected from you is changing, you had better know you're making the right move, and not abandoning what's concrete for something grounded mostly in potential.

Usual Disclosures: I work at Google, which is in a variety of businesses. This isn't intended as a commentary on any of those projects. I don't currently own any stock in Apple or Tesla, but have before and might again if the price is right.

October 01, 2013

Developing for the Web or for Classic Mode

Apple's transition away from Mac OS 9 to Mac OS X is more than a decade old at this point, which means an entire generation of computer users may never have been exposed to the "Classic" Mac OS, which launched in 1984 and evolved for the next few decades before being put out to pasture.

I remember, as if it were yesterday, my own delight at hearing the deliveryman knock on the door and leaving behind a package which contained a retail box with Mac OS X 1.0 on compact disc, which promised to completely change the way I interacted with my computer, bringing with it a new and modern look, a new kernel and more.

It Looks Great, But What About Printing?

Living on the bleeding edge by installing this first version of Mac OS X meant it had some obvious holes. For one, I couldn't print. For another, I couldn't play any DVDs. So while some of the features were exciting, it was clearly limited. These limitations, and general skittishness over new technology, led many people not to dive into Mac OS X right away - and some software developers, most notably Quark and Adobe, dragged their feet on committing to the new OS, waiting for the market to demand it. In the meantime, we users had to live in a "one foot in, one foot out" experience, with "Classic" applications launching inside of Mac OS X, displaying the traditional Apple menu bar, the traditional Finder and all other bits one would expect from an older Mac.

This awkward time had developers forced to make a choice. Would they create applications solely for OS X, continue on a path of developing for OS 9, or ship both and risk a gap in features? It's, pardon the pun, a classic dilemma of developing for a known and existing market, or preparing something for a future market. In time, Classic faded away, with Steve Jobs famously holding a burial for it at the WorldWide Developers Conference in 2002. All the big vendors, from Adobe to Microsoft, shipped for Mac OS X. Printer drivers eventually came along, as did the ability to run DVDs and do everything Mac OS 9 could.

The Desktop is the New Classic. The Web is the New OS X.

I feel we're at a similar crossroads now in development, at least on the desktop. As a fulltime ChromeOS user, I don't ever install proprietary software outside of my browser - but I also don't feel limited in what it is I can do. I can print, using Google Cloud Print to my Canon printer at home. I can play all my videos on Netflix or Google Play and my music through Spotify or Google Music. I can run all my productivity apps on Google Drive, edit photos in Pixlr and so on. Even at a time when traditional operating systems are the significant market share leader, I think we've reached a point where developers looking to reach the widest numbers of potential users are better off making a product for the Web than they are by picking a desktop platform - and in those very rare cases where I find out an application needs to be downloaded to even run, I'm surprised.

When you fight against the momentum of the Web, you lose. And while this doesn't mean every part of the Earth has ubiquitous high speed broadband - far from it - I do believe we are at an inflection point, like all those Mac developers were 10+ years ago, where one would need to choose between building for the platform that's known or to the platform that's unknown. And just like in the Mac OS X scenario, the Web as a platform may have a few holes, but the Web's modern browsers are becoming stronger and more robust at a pace I'd argue is outstripping improvements in our traditional desktops.
The Pixel is My Machine of Choice and It's All Web.

My Data Follows Me On Every Device.

In 2011, just after I joined Google, I talked about how I used Chrome all day long, and used multiple browsers to separate my business profile and my consumer ID. Since then, I've moved completely to ChromeOS and Chrome has debuted on both Android and iOS, so you can sync your data to practically any smartphone and never miss a step. Working closely with the Chrome Developer Relations team here at Google, I get to see the browser get faster, and become an even more robust platform for creating rich applications, with exceptional video and sound.

By living completely on the Web, as I mentioned last year in my post on the future of storage being none at all, any computer that has Web access is my computer. Hardware is simply a conduit for my access to my data and my preferences. Once I log in to my accounts through the browser, I should be able to pick up right where I left off, and I shouldn't be limited based on whatever client software or plugins may or may not be installed on this machine.

Pick the Platform for the Future.

Hindsight is 20/20, of course, and we have the benefit of history to fall back on, which clearly shows developers were right to present a fast track for migration away from the creaky OS 9 and start coding for OS X. While Apple's incredible success over the last six-plus years especially has been due to the company's work on iPhones and iPads, had Mac OS X never delivered on its promise, the company would certainly be a shadow of itself. The direction to a more modern OS proved to be the right one.

Now, again, we have a choice - to a more modern platform with more opportunity for a rapidly-evolving set of users for whom the Web and anytime access are a given, and for whom nearly all their time is spent in the browser. Making the leap as a developer to a lesser-known path may involve some risk, but unlike that time at the beginning of the last decade, you don't need the overwhelming majority of a small market base to upgrade and get to your product. Most of those online are already there - and they want your app.

Usual Disclosures: Yes, I work for Google. I work in Developer Relations and think about this stuff a lot. It doesn't mean I have any bias for or against any of our real or assumed competitors.

September 24, 2013

Two Paragraphs, a Link, and a Cloud of Dust

Our platforms, and their limitations, are changing the way we communicate. Rather than accommodating the many ways we as humans like to share and engage with others, most of the online services we use have limits in how much we can share, how items can be staged, and how easily others can discover or respond.

While Twitter's 140 character platform is only the most well-known of these hard limits, there is an easily observable trend away from long-form content, analysis and conversation, and more toward a brief moment with an ephemeral interaction. Blogs are one of the last outlets we have where the container, like liquid, expands to contain all into it which is poured, while most other outlets are often trying to make us something we're not - be it photographers, clever headline writers or meme artists.

We've moved away from thousand-plus word screeds and dozens of debatable comments over a single item, with a permalink discoverable through search, instead to a moment in a stream that is significantly less relevant tomorrow or next week than it is today. We're valuing our content not in real activity, but in microactivities - be it +1s, Likes, Retweets or Favorites. We're trading points and counterpoints for vague notions of follower counts and popularity.

While it can be a challenge to regularly upkeep an outlet like a blog or a news magazine, consider the permanence and discoverability of this content. One can, with a little effort, read an author's life as it changes, by poring through the archives. Authors can link to previous points and positions to make a deeper case for an idea, and show consistency or evolution of thought. And permalinks can serve as the point of engagement for us to talk something into the ground, or its natural conclusion - whatever comes first.

Consider, if you would, the last really important Tweet or Facebook post or LinkedIn update that you either made or saw. Where would that Tweet stand in the halls of history? While real-time is an amazing tool for the right now, it's not usually a great tool for the later or forever. There's no other solution out there for diving into the world's collective thoughts around television, sports and shared experiences, but it lacks for completeness.

Yet that's where practically all our effort is going.

The most visible entrants and quickly adopted mediums in the social sphere over the last few years are not centered around long-form content. Instagram, for the most part, is a photo sharing site with social interaction. Tumblr, despite the option for longer-form content, is usually a collection of photos or short excerpts -- links to links with the content on the other side. WhatsApp and Snapchat are different beasts altogether, focused on the right now, with the content never intended to have any true longevity.

So our thoughts and our communications are being forced into these neatly approved buckets, wrapping around the presentation of the medium. If you know your network looks best with a headline, a few hashtags, and a sentence, that's all you'll do. If you know it's a beautiful photo with three words at the top, that's what you'll do. Maybe you can make an infographic or a meme out of it and be the most shared image of the moment, only to fade into oblivion the next day.

That's why I'm optimistic about the plans for Ev Williams' work on Medium, as outlined in a dedicated piece for TechCrunch two weeks ago. We've also seen interesting attempts from Dustin Curtis' Svbtle network - a very well designed platform with hand-selected authors. I don't yet have accounts with either, as I'm quite loyal to my +Blogger platform and integrated Google+ comments, but both services seem to be fighting against the stream, so to speak, helping people with longer thoughts share in a better looking way.

I believe as social participants, we can and should do better than a picture with a few words, a tweet that summarizes a link, or a post with a headline and a paragraph. It may satisfy the right now, short attention span theater, but if that's all we have, then what do we tell history that we've done? Do we suggest that those in the future looking back on this age download our archived social stream to best understand who we were? Should they grok our automatically filtered photos and understand our taste for art, or see how many likes a post got to determine its impact?

I would hope we're not letting the containers impact our ability to share the entirety of the message. That's why even while I've got plenty of other work to do, the blog continues to be my foundation in a world of streams, which I first wrote more than four years ago and stand by. So if your favorite social outlet starts to reduce the number of ways you can express yourself, take it somewhere else. Don't cut yourself short, and become dust in the wind.

Usual boring disclosures: I work at Google on Developer Relations. Most of my work is on YouTube videos, short and long. This blog runs on Blogger and integrates Google+ comments. The post is not intended as a post in favor of or against our products or competitors' products. I also like writing long disclosures.

September 19, 2013

Our Fragile Web of Dead Domains and Lapsing Links

For all our talk about how much information is produced every year, and how every little piece of our lives is being shared and instantly discoverable, it is surprising how difficult it can be to find information on the Web, in its original state from just five years ago, let alone ten or fifteen.

While we were once regaled with stories of how the Internet could withstand nuclear war, thanks to a complicated structure of redundancy and geographical backups, simple human mistakes, conflated with the occasional act of malice, have reduced our expectation that data, once posted, will be forever stable.

I believe strongly in the concept of the cloud, and have moved practically all my data to it, relying on a cloud-centric laptop each day and saving my files in the cloud. But not everyone is as careful about selecting providers and maintaining platforms and domains as I have been, and it's not too uncommon for entire sites and bookmarks to vanish from the Web, with only and other clever cachers left to tell the tale.

Before this sounds like a sordid tale or anti-Web screed from someone embedded in the Web, let me give you a specific example. Imagine, if you would, a unique URL pointing back to the original dotcom boom - a simple one like No, I didn't type it twice. The domain has long been owned by CNET, part of CBS Interactive. While CNET has undergone a number of owners over the decades since its launch, it's also seen extreme variance in how they marketed their main site and URLs. For those of us who just wanted the news, it was Later would redirect to, as it does today. Shows in a Previous Known Good State

But at one point, redirected to, and for whatever reason, that's the bookmark I've had follow me from browser to browser for years. Suddenly, a couple months ago, this bookmark stopped working, instead showing me a directory of links, which looked like a squatter had seized the URL and taken it over. shows the same. worked and then in July... it stopped redirecting. So that's annoying. While it's simple enough for me to update my bookmark, and no doubt I'm in the small minority of users who kept that URL, to have a potentially high profile URL like do absolutely nothing ... seems foolish.

But Now The Old URL is Pure Rubbish

Enough about What's just as frustrating at times is the short shelf life for links and images from years past. My own blog has been around a little over seven years, and in the 3,000 or so posts I've made since start, each one has had many links. As companies come and go, their websites and the links to their subpages go away. News media sites, which one would hope would present a timeless archive, a long tail of information to the truth seekers out there, are often the worst offenders, as articles of a certain date fall behind a paywall, or site platforms change, forever hijacking link structure and rendering previous links inept.

One of the biggest regrets I have, as far as the web is concerned is one that +Ryan Tate (now with +WIRED) and I share. In the Web's more prehistoric times, back in the late 1990s, he and I both worked at the Daily Californian student newspaper at +UC Berkeley. Both of us wrote hundreds of news stories, covering everything from student elections to campus crazies and the occasional homicide. But at one point, after I'd left the paper, our site was hacked/corrupted, and all the existing content was lost - shockingly without backup. So more than 99% of that data is gone for good, and one will either have to travel to the Berkeley campus and pick up a hardbound paper to see our work, or it's just gone. While few of my stories are worth reading about 15 years later, they are part of my own personal (and work) history which has little record.

From writing on actual death to link death... while CNET's link lapse with is a surprise, it could possibly be due to a sale, to be used by an unknown acquirer, or simple neglect. Worse is when one sees links automatically shortened, only for the URL shortener to disappear, or for the hosting service to invalidate other short links. While I've made my case for URLs to look good and be intuitive, we've gotten used to seeing smaller URLs, best exemplified by the from Twitter, helpful on their service, along with from Google,, and others. But by buying into a short URL service, you require it to be maintained by the original owners and all the tables being intact. So for those of us who long shared with from FriendFeed, it is by the grace of Facebook that those old things are still around, and practically nobody would be surprised if they went the way of the dodo in the next couple years.

My argument is that the Web should be built for permanence. A link I post today should be a link that works later. A permalink to a dedicated page with content should produce that same content, even if the surrounding frame has been upgraded, in the future. And short links and domains should behave in a trustworthy, user friendly manner. It would be a minor tragedy if the start page you use daily suddenly became something else, and a larger one if the domain on which you host your personal stories simply closed shop because the host didn't find it financially feasible to keep going any more. So while the magic of the Web is real, and it sometimes does seem you can practically find anything out there and get it instantly, assuming speedy broadband, the gaps have me thinking we can do better. And yeah +CNET, what's up?

September 05, 2013

Shared Items Might Be Gone, but the LG Stream is Back

Longtime blog readers and social connections know that for years, one of my most fulfilling actions on the Web has been the ability to act as a human filter, passing through hundreds of feeds a day and sharing the best with you, with Google Reader as my workbench, and my shared items being my finished product. With a simple share, followers within Reader, but also those subscribed on FriendFeed, Google Buzz and Twitter, could see my hand-selected picks.

When Google Reader changed its sharing model back in October 2011, not to mention the general demise of most aggregators, this stream came to something of a stop. Reading feeds became a solitary act, and with Reader now retired, one could easily expect the old way of sharing was gone for good. But with a cobbling together of a few products, and thankfully, the continued support for standards like RSS, I was able to reboot the "LG Stream", as friend +Thomas Power has long referred to it, and you can once again subscribe to follow the posts I pick from my journey on the Web, getting a hand-curated selection from the land of tech blogs and beyond. And again, you can follow the stream in your favorite RSS reader or on Twitter.

In a post Google Reader world, here's how it works, and how you can do the same, should you be interested.

First, I, like many others, moved my RSS feeds (via OPML) to Feedly. I've had a more than five year relationship with Feedly and the team behind it, and have found it quite useful, with the same familiar keyboard shortcuts I liked in Reader, and a fast interface.

Feedly Brings My Feeds Through As They Happen

Second, I created a Pocket account to essentially bookmark the top stories I found as they happened. This can be both through the built-in integration Pocket has with Feedly Pro, which I purchased, or through the Chrome Extension. Given I use ChromeOS all day, I've got Pocket a click away all day.

Pocket Captures All My Select Favorite Items

Third, one benefit of Pocket is that it automatically creates an RSS feed for your account. All I had to do was enable the feed to be a public feed to start treating it like any other stream. (Here's how to do it)

Feeding my LG Stream to Twitter is Twitterfeed.

Fourth, I took that RSS feed, and connected it to Twitterfeed, and told Twitterfeed to regularly poll the feed for updates, and push new items to Twitter at my new account, at @lgstream.

Practically the only downside is the non immediacy of posts being shared with Twitter, as Twitterfeed defaults to updating every thirty minutes. This can mean that it sends updates in batches of 2 or 4 or however many new items I've Pocketed in the last half hour, corresponding, typically, with my last sync-up with Feedly. But as with Google Reader's shared items, the delivery of the human filtered stream is there.

For those who don't know my filtering behavior, my goal's not to push any corporate agenda, and my biases are clear. Compared to popular aggregators, I won't be sharing rumors and spy pics and salacious gossip. I especially don't plan on sharing rumors about Google, and confusing everyone who might thing my share implies endorsement or confirmation. That'd be a bad idea, obviously. But what you will find is the top 1% of items that flow through what I see, and what I find interesting - a mix of tech innovation, news, social best practices, and thought leadership. My bias is intrigue and quality. For years, in the Google Reader days, I heard people say they didn't have the time to read through all their feeds, but they always read those I shared.

So we're back, thanks to Feedly, Pocket, FeedBurner and Twitterfeed. You can subscribe to the new LG Stream on RSS or via Twitter. And for those asking about Google+ integration, the service doesn't support feed imports, so there is not yet an equivalent. 

Usual Boring Disclosures: I work at Google on Developer Relations. That may or may not, and probably doesn't impact, any of my comments related to real or perceived competition or partners for any of our products and services.