Wednesday, November 30, 2005
Games googlers play: Civilization IV
Nelson Minar talks about the Civilization IV and how the religion is handled there. Personally I didn't play Civilizations II-III a lot, but the first one was one of my favourite, I played it day and night whenever I could. Maybe I should try the last one - it looks like Firaxis guys managed to create a really good game.
The newest entry in the Civilization franchise is out. The new UI is great, nice use of 3d and lots of info packed on the main screen. Gameplay is improved but familiar, with one major addition: religion. Original post
Religion is a fun twist on the culture system. Cities occasionally found new religions. Religions spread to other cities along trade routes. You can hurry the process along by sending out missionaries. Cities get bonuses for being part of your state religion; you also collect tithes. And religion affects your diplomacy with other civs.
I can't think of another mainstream game that's significantly touched the topic of religion. There's no Sims Church, is there? The developers were quite cautious, including this charming disclaimer in the manual:
The religion implementation is fun, a nice complement to fighting army men and growing culture blobs. And the implementation is as realistic and tasteful as the rest of Civilization's concepts. I just find it striking how gingerly they're moving. Maybe in a few years religion in games will mature and Rockstar will offend everyone with "Crusades: Fist of Righteousness
by Nelson Minar
Journals googlers read
Matt Cutts a Google SEO specialist tells which IT -related journals he reads. Looks like he prefers the European Linux editions.
Lately I’ve been playing with magazine subscriptions. There’s stuff like Maximum PC, CPU, and Wired, and I’ve also enjoyed Make, the new magazine/book from O’Reilly. But the most fun to read lately are Linux magazines. For some reason, I don’t enjoy the U.S. magazines (Linux Journal and Linux Magazine) quite as much, although they’re quite good. My favorite are the magazines from Europe, which often come with a DVD or CD. They’re just a lot of fun. They range from sassy to opinionated as all hell, and have great features like “software projects on the move” or descriptions of Linux kernel controversies. I’ve subscribed to Linux Pro magazine, Linux Format, and just recently I added Linux User and Developer. Highly recommended.
One magazine has an article on building your own Linux distro. You want to get links? Making your own Linux distribution is a great way to get links.
by Matt Cutts
Google Base - blog
David Krane points out, that Google opened yet another blog. This time about the Google Base
This time, devoted to Google Base.
by David Krane
Tuesday, November 29, 2005
Bugs at Google
Every software contains bugs and the Google software is not nesessarily that better that it has no. Ron Garret shares his memories about a huge AdWords bug, that hit the advertisers.
The AdWords launch went fairly smoothly, and I spent most of the next two weeks just monitoring the system, fixing miscellaneous bugs, and answering emails from users. (Yes, I was front-line AdWords support for the first month or so.)Original post
I pulled up the biller window and saw that a whole bunch of credit card charges were being declined one after another. The reason was immediately obvious: the amounts being charged were outrageous, tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands, millions of dollars. Basically random numbers, most of which no doubt exceeded people's credit limits by orders of magnitude.
But a few didn't. Some charges, for hundreds or thousands of dollars, were getting through. Either way it was bad. For the charges that weren't getting through the biller was automatically shutting down the accounts, suspending all their ads, and sending out nasty emails telling people that their credit cards had been rejected.
I got a sick feeling in the pit of my stomach, killed the biller, and started trying to figure out what the fsck was going on. (For you non-programmers out there, that's a little geek insider joke. Fsck is a unix command. It's short for File System ChecK.)
It quickly became evident that the root cause of the problem was some database corruption. The ad servers which actually served up the the ads would keep track of how many times a particular ad had been served and periodically dump those counts into a database. The biller would then come along and periodically collect all those counts, roll them up into an invoice, and bill the credit cards. The database was filled with entries containing essentially random numbers. No one had a clue how they got there.
Now, it's a complete no-brainer that when something like that happens you add some code to detect the problem if it ever happens again, especially when you don't know why the problem happened in the first place. But I didn't. It's probably the single biggest professional mistake I've ever made. In my defense I can only say that I was under a lot of stress (more than I even realized at the time), but that's no excuse. I dropped the ball. And it was just pure dumb luck that the consequences were not more severe. If the problem had waited a year to crop up instead of a couple of weeks, or if I hadn't just happened to be there watching the biller window (both times!) when the problem cropped up Google could have had a serious public relations problem on its hands. As it happened, only a few dozen people were affected and we were able to undo the damage fairly easily.
You can probably guess what happened next. Yep. One week later. Same problem. This time I added a sanity check to the billing code and kicked myself black and blue for not thinking to do it earlier. At least the cleanup went a little faster this time because by now I had a lot of practice in what to do.
And we still didn't know where the random numbers were coming from despite the fact that everyone on the ads team was trying to figure it out.
by ex-Googler Ron Garret
Monday, November 28, 2005
Job at Google for a tech blogger
Chris de Bona announces
the position of Developer Relations Specialist at Google. Basically it is about speaking to developers and promoting the Google APIs. Sounds like a job for a blogger who knows the site scripting, doesn't it? ;)
- BS in Computer Science, or equivalent experience.
- Experience with scripting languages including Python, Java and PHP.
- Experience interacting with and creating large developer communities.
- A basic understanding of issues surrounding source code licensing.
- Technical speaking experience.
- Experience working with the technology press, online journalists and bloggers.
- Strong interpersonal communication and project management skills.
- Ability to create effectively written communications in support of project goals.
How Google hunts for people
It is not that easy to become a googler, but if Google is interested in you, they will do really a lot to get you. Even invite your wife to the Googleplex.
Of all the random shit that has affected my life surely none has had more impact than the fact that Google would not take no for an answer. They asked if they could fly me up again to try to change my mind. And they wanted me to bring my wife along as well. Well, heck, a free dinner for two, how could I turn that down?
The person assigned to win me over was Urs Hoelzle, at the time VP of Engineering. Three things impressed me about him. First, he told a really good story about how Google was planning to make money (one that turned out to be pretty much right on the money, so to speak). Second, his technical background was in programming languges, which was a big plus for me for reasons that I will explain shortly. And third, he had a really huge dog that he brought to work with him. (Yoshka, the Leonberger, has since become the stuff of legend.)
(Another interesting bit of trivia about Urs: he always wore red socks. Something to do with him being Swiss, I believe, but I never fully grokked it.)
by the ex-googler Ron Garret
How Google benefits from NON-snobbery
I believe, every major corporation states, that they benefit from the diversity of their multicultural employees, from the diversity of their experience, that from the very beginning the employees can have a real input to the process. Well, see how Google brings the use of the clever juniors to another level. Though I should say it is not that easy to hire such juniors
, that actually can argue with a big and clever both using the arguments of real value.
One of the things I admired about Google was its lack of intellectual snobbery. That will sound like absolute bullshit to a lot of people, who are sick of hearing about how smart Googlers are and how hard it is to get a job there unless you've evolved into some sort of higher level human with a brain the size of Beldar. So let me clarify: there was no intellectual snobbery at Google -- toward other Googlers.Original post
I remember a meeting in Larry and Sergey's office attended by a half dozen Googlers from engineering and marketing. One of the people there was a new assistant product manager who I suspect hadn't even returned his Stanford graduation gown yet. When the meeting broke up, I hung around to harass Sergey about some marketing question he had been avoiding. Time like this was precious because it was often the only way to force a decision on issues that weren't key to keeping the site up and running.
As the group filed out, I started making my case to Sergey, expecting to have five minutes mano-a-mano in which to persuade him. I was surprised when he looked over my shoulder at Nikhil, whose curiosity had caused him to linger, and asked him his opinion of my argument, then listened carefully as Nikhil laid out a cogent, well-argued response.
I confess, I wasn't happy that this... this... whippersnapper with no experience at Google was being asked to sit in judgment of my proposal. Didn't he realize he was a junior staff member and shouldn't be hanging around this conversation to begin with? This would never have happened at the Good ol' Merc, where proprieties of rank were carefully observed and it would be unseemly, impolitic and career-threatening to blatantly refute a manager in front of the company's top executive. And dammit, he was poking holes in my idea left, right and center, which Sergey duly noted.
After mainlining my blood pressure medication and walking a few times around Mountain View, I came to realize that Nikhil had some valid points. I also came to realize that I shouldn't have been surprised. It didn't matter that he'd only been on the job a short while. He was incredibly smart and he required no long experience in the Google milieu to construct a logical argument when asked to do so.Original
by ex-googler Doug Edwards
Sunday, November 27, 2005
How people came to Google
Ron Garret, a new ex-googler an Xooglers, shares his story of coming to Google. I'd like to note, that one of his points is exactly what periodically makes me think about moving to US and applying to Google. It must be so exciting to work at the plcae where finally, eventually, at last all the usual clever guys are in the bottom 25%
. I am not sure if I can qualify for the Google position, but if I lived in a Google country I would definetely try. It is so exciting to work with a clever people, with those who just understand the geek thoughts about perfectizing the software.
Please, don't get it wrong. I am happy to work with clever people at my current workplace. But if
I lived in a Google country instead of a mobile phone country, I'd try entering Google.
A very brief summary to set the stage: I worked as a robotics and artificial intelligence researcher at the Jet Propulsion Lab from 1988 until 2000 when I went to work for Google as a software engineer. I was there for just over a year. I worked on two main projects, the first release of AdWords, and a little known widget called the Translation Console. If you go to Google's preferences page you will see that Google is available in well over 100 languages, including Klingon and Elmer Fudd. (There used to be a Swedish Chef option, but that seems to have succumbed to political correctness.) All those translations are provided by volunteers around the world. The interface they use to do the translating is the translation console (officially called the Google In Your Language Program). As far as I can tell it hasn't changed much since I wrote it. I'm pretty proud of that.Original post
I guess the #1 FAQ for people who have left Google is why did you leave. My main reason for leaving was that I was commuting from Los Angeles. I'd fly up on Southwest early Monday morning, fly back on Thursday evening, and telecommute on Fridays and weekends. That regimen was pretty stressful even under the best of circumstances, but when 9/11 happened it became completely untenable. I had already given my notice before 9/11, but I don't think I could have stayed on after that even if I had wanted to. But I'm getting ahead of myself.
As I've said, my story is not entirely rosy, so I want to make a sort of blanket disclaimer, and to do that I have to indulge in a little bit of tooting of my own horn. I have a Ph.D. in computer science. I was a senior scientist at JPL when I went to Google, and when I returned to JPL I was promoted to Principal, the highest rung on their technical career ladder. (Actually, it turns out there are higher rungs, but their existence in not publicly known.) I am generally considered to be a pretty bright guy.
I am tooting my horn to put the following assessment in perspective: at Googe, if I were to rate people on general smartness I would have put myself in the bottom 25%. It was pretty much the first time in my life that I found myself not at the top of the intellectual pecking order. It was not an easy adjustment for me.
by Ron Garrret
Funny e-mail spam
Funny e-mail spam from firstname.lastname@example.org :)
Does anyone believe an email like this? Someone I know got this email recently:Original post
From: Google Info [mailto:email@example.com]
Sent: Wednesday, November 23, 2005 6:19 PM
Subject: News - You’ve just been Googled
All search engines cracked.
We can send your web site to the top of Google legitimately before Christmas and keep it there.
Yes I mean the top.
Give me up to 20 keywords and the URL of your site and we will switch Google on and another 40 top engines to deliver immeasurable keyword targeted surfers to your web site to join and buy from you.
This works for replica sites, affid, php and asp and also joining and opt>in pages belonging to programs.
For each of your 20 keywords your site is guaranteed to appear at the top of Google.
Oh, okay. Let’s see. I’ll take the top keywords in porn, pills, and casinos (also known as the other acronym for “P.P.C.”). Also, how about Google, viagra, krankenversicherung, britney spears, matt cutts (no wait, I’m doing okay for that one), search engine optimization, and maybe just for fun, how about making me #1 for the phrase: “you would have to be on crack to believe all guarantees in spam emails about SEO.”
by Matt Cutts
Matt Cutts, the Google SEO specialist finds beauty in keyword spamming. Well, probably one need to work very extensively with spam to start finding something nice in it :)
If you’re going to hide text, doing “#EEEEEE” instead of solid white isn’t really an improvement. In fact, it can look worse, as if you’re trying to choose a text color that won’t be exactly the same as the background color, but still won’t be noticed. Check out this entertaining hidden text spam from a gift frame site. The interesting thing is that the phrases aren’t sorted alphabetically, but by keyphrase length. If you view-source, the net effect is some very artistic looking spam. I’ll abridge the number of phrases and just pull out a representative set:
home furnishing and decorating
wedding reception centerpieces
homemade christmas gift ideas
personalized christmas gifts
promotional business product
wedding reception decoration
personalized gifts for girls
custom promotional products
personalized picture frames
personalized picture frame
personalized wedding gifts
home made christmas gifts
personalized wedding gift
bridal shower gift ideas
discount picture frames
gifts for teenage girls
unique valentine gifts
unique gifts for women
valentines gift ideas
wedding picture frame
wholesale gift boxes
valentines gift idea
valentines day gifts
unique wedding gifts
cheap wedding gifts
bridal shower ideas
unique wedding gift
dog picture frames
bridal shower idea
wedding gift idea
small fish tanks
gifts for women
gifts for girls
gift for woman
gifts for her
Kinda pretty, huh?
by Matt Cutts
Would you like spyware with that?
Cedric criticizes the highly irritating "upgrade now" banners without the "Don't propose upgrade anymore" option.
I don't get irritated easily but I have observed a growing trend recently that is driving me absolutely nuts: upgrade nags.
Well, to be precise: upgrade nags without any possibility to turn them off.
You know, these dialog boxes that pop up whenever you launch the application and that let you know that a new version of the application is available. The arrogance of the authors of these programs is absolutely baffling, and they should know by now that you don't get mindshare by forcing products down users' throats.
Here are the worst offenders as of today:
- Yahoo Messenger. It didn't used to be the case, but their recent "Yahoo Messenger with Voice" is obviously so important to them that they absolutely want you to install it, whether you have a microphone or not (or whether you want it or not). Look, Yahoo, I like your client and you are welcome to let me know a new version is available, but how about a checkbox to allow me to pass on this great offer, uh? Because right now, I am migrating away from Yahoo Messenger and urging my friends to do the same.
- Acrobat Reader. A veteran in the art of irritating users, and it's only getting worse as time goes by. The most disturbing part is that the recent versions are actually worse than the previous ones: longer start-up (do I really need all these plug-ins? And why would I care about all these patents you filed?), pathetic scrolling and window management, miserably slow searching. They must have seen that their users were reluctant upgrading, so they found the best way to make you: a forced upgrade nag. Keep up the good work, guys.
- iTunes. Probably the worst offender. Why? Because it suffers from the same problems as Acrobat Reader plus the fact that every new version seems to restrict your rights on your own songs further. When you upgrade iTunes, you can never really be sure that your iPod is not going to be wiped clean of songs or whether some of the songs you didn't buy through the iTunes store won't mysteriously stop playing. Of course, it doesn't exactly help either that the Apple forums opted out of Google, so searching for answers to your iPod problems will typically not yield anything. And finally, here is the latest offense to date.
Where AdWords name came from
If you ever wondered how they invented AdWords brand name at Google, Doug Edwards shares his memories about the process
Speaking of Google advertising, the branding of the program in 2000 was an interesting challenge. We debated a number of names, with "BuyWords" and "AdsDirect" rising to the top among a list that included "PrestoAds" and "AdsToo." The keyword-targeting concept was still relatively new and we wanted a name that would give people some idea of how it worked.Original post
As the email debated waged on, I threw out "AdWords," as a compromise. It seemed to meet the requirements and, as I pointed out to the ads team, it had a comforting familiarity about it. "AdWords." "Edwards." Hmmm...
We checked with the owner of the BuyWords domain and he wouldn't sell and we agreed that AdsDirect was too much like direct mail. So, AdWords it was.
And that's how my name came to be enshrined in Google's revenue stream.Original
by ex-googler Doug Edwards
Saturday, November 26, 2005
Xooglers stand for ex-Googlers
Matt Cutts points out a blog
by the ex-googler and not just an ordinary googler. It is a blog by Doug Edwards
, Director of Consumer Marketing and Brand Management for Google from 1999 to 2005. That guy decided to go the Google way in writing a book about his experience. To me it looks like he is trying to gather the ex-googlers' thoughts in a blog. I am posting the most interesting (to me) thoughts of the current google employees. It is a great idea to have an opinion also of those, who quit. I am going to watch for Xooglers
and report the most interesting (again to me) stuff here.
While you’re waiting for me to get my posting gusto back, check out Xooglers. It’s a blog that Doug Edwards started to reminisce about his experiences at Google (other ex-Googlers may join in at some point). Doug’s a great guy and he helped shape Google culture in many ways. If you’ve read the copy on the spam report page, you’ve seen some of his polishing work.Original post
Friday, November 25, 2005
Donate to the warped sayings collection
Everybody has his own ways of entertaining himself. Some people prefere collecting of the warped phrases. If you like the idea, take part in creating the warped phrases dictionary.
I like saying something slightly different from what people ordinarily expect and seeing if they notice the difference. A sort-of example is when, as a kid, I asked my mother if chocolate milk came from brown chickens, and she replied, no, they come from regular chickens.
Here are some sayings from my (nominally) adult household:
- Cleaner than a baby's bottom
- I feel like a needle between two haystacks.
- More fun than a bowel full of monkeys
I welcome additions.
Happy Thanksgiving and now a word from our sponsor...
As a consumer product web is still a very new thing. At least in its size category. And while it maturizes, it becomes more and more like the usual consumerist junk. Is it bad? Not really - after all I really prefer buying things on the web. Web is so big, that you can see it from whatever perspective you like. If only consumerist perpective wouldn't push itself (via spam
) in the every other place..
I remember a few years ago around Christmas or during the Superbowl when a url was presented under a TV ad, almost beaming with pride that someone was using the internet as a way to publish and get the word out about their product. Today as I sit watching some Turkey day television most advertisements have some web component. I have collected for your browsing pleasure five such sites pulled from their cathode ray tube endorsements. I almost feel bad for Tim Berners-Lee. On with the show: Original post
Happy Thanksgiving and Black Friday everyone!
- Itsagizmo.com a Black and Decker mini-site promoting can-openers and whatnot.
- Musicspace.com the best place to pick up that Brian Setzer X-Mas CD you've been longing for.
- Bowflexdirect.com c'mon you lazy lump buy a Bowflex to put next to your Ab machine.
- Spacebag.com for people who like their clothes vacuum pack fresh.
- Selectcomfort.com for people who buy beds based on the Bionic Woman's recommendation
by Jason Shellen
Thursday, November 24, 2005
E-mail is obsolete
Sometimes, when I check my inbox after 3 days vacation, I find it so full of useless spam, that I have a temptation of closing my e-mail account forever. Apparently, I am not alone:
According to an article in the November 11 Chronicle of Higher Education, today's college "students favor connecting with others via cellphones instead of e-mail, which they view as an obsolete technology used 'to communicate with old people.'"Original post
by Ellen Spertus
Wednesday, November 23, 2005
How googlers can be times more productive, than the average engineers
Most of the readers of these blog are probably aware, that best software engineers, programmers , analysts, testers (and the best means such as are hired by Google) are by the order of magnitude more productive, than the average person
. Piaw Na presents an intersting evidence, that this fact is not unique to the software development industry, that in every field there is this kind of professionals.
I personally believe that so big difference in prodactivity is possible, because our brain is not a fixed structure, it evolves during the lifetime. If you (and your parents) helped it to evolve well, the results will be similar to fine-tuning the car from fifties to make it as fast as today's Ferraris :)
Watching the Chosen Collection, I come across a segment where Joss Whedon is talking to the other writers on the show...Original post
Writer 1: "Then Joss told me that he was writing a musical. I asked him, so who's writing the music! He said, I'm doing it! My response: yes, we know you're going to write the lyrics, but who's going to write the music? He said, I am! I'm teaching myself to play to piano, and I'm going to write the music."
Writer 2: "So he shows up after his vacation and gives us the manuscript and a CD. We grabbed it, assigned roles to each other, and read through the script. Every time we hit a song, we'd push play on the CD. After it was over I wanted to go back to my office and burn the place down. This was what he did in his down-time!"
Most of us know that the best software engineers are more than 300 times more productive than the median software engineer (in any organization). But we don't frequently stop to think that this applies across all creative/technical professions! It just boggles my mind that someone could teach himself to play the piano (in his downtime) just to write a musical, and then compose music. I am in awe. Piano lessons for me were incredibly painful, and I can't imagine being able to pick it up like that.
by Piaw Na
Googlers against republicans
Google is all about individuals, isn't it? It looks like dislike for the big corporations is built into Googlers. And of course they don't consider Google being a usual corporation. Even republican googlers are against the backbone of the republicans - against the big companies and their ideas
Consider two groups of people, both of whom call themselves "conservatives." One is the Republicans of Bush, Frist, DeLay, Enron, and the oil companies. They believe that unregulated business and low taxes are the cures for all ills. They also claim to believe in small government, but they really believe in big government that gives subsidies, handouts, and favors to their friends.Original post
The second group are true believers in the tenets of conservatism written over the last 30 years. At the risk of mischaracterizing their beliefs, these people want to restore life as it was in the 50s. They long for the days when families were strong and communities were close-knit, when crime was low and the economy was such that two parents didn't have to work.
I can respect the second group. I can't respect the first. Fortunately, the second group can't respect the first, either. And the Republicans I respect are generally in the second group. More than that, I agree with many of their core principles, if not their end policy goals. They and I part company on social issues, like choice and same-sex marriage - I don't think abortions or gays have anything to do with the decline of America's communities - and it's easy to forget that life back then was completely different for the poor and minorities.
For the Bush crowd, the privatization of the public space is great. It makes it easier for a small oligopoly to hold power and increases the dependence of the American people on consumerism to fill the void in their lives. Runaway copyright, too, is about privatizing the public spaces, in this case creative spaces, to the same detrimental effect. Whether in art or physical layout, it's not good for America.
by David Alpert
Tuesday, November 22, 2005
Google in Comics
David Krane advertises
the fact that one of his favourite comics introduced a story about Google.
What a pleasant surprise ...I've always loved this comic.
Doctor Awesome name
The story of how Doctor Awesome got his name:
I don't know if I ever told the story of the name of this blog. During the Summer of 2004, I was living with Pete (and eight other people) in a house on Saint James Court in Madison. Being that we didn't have air conditioning, the lot of us would frequently spend summer evenings with each other and a case of beer out on the front porch, playing cards or chatting.Original post
One night, the conversation turned to good band names. I made up a story about how, some day, I will have a band called "Doctor Awesome and the Awesomenauts" (I'd imagine my subconscious thought process there was based on Béla Fleck and the Flecktones). The name was the hit of the night. It became an infrequently used alternative moniker for me and eventually made its way to becoming the name of my blog (which, incidentally, was named "My Blog" at the time). This is the third home of that blog, which started life as SERFing in what's coming up as two years now, though I blogged sporadically before that.
Monday, November 21, 2005
Five things about San Francisco to miss
You could never guess the top five things googlers can miss about San Francisco
Five things about San Francisco I missed while in Zürich Original post
- Morning bathrobe, coffee, newspaper
- Speaking English without guilt
- Seedless grapes
- Campy salesmen at Nordstroms
- The smell of urine in the streets
by Nelson Minar
Sunday, November 20, 2005
Google shirts are dangerous
Piaw Na shares his concerns on how the Google popularity can be annoying for regular googlers.
Last year, while waiting to ride with John and Pamela Blayley, I wore a Google jersey (so I would be distinguishable) and waited at the corner of Canada Road and Woodside Road. There, some other cyclist recognized the jersey, rolled up to me, and said, "Can I borrow a million bucks?"Original story by Piaw Na
Then this summer, while Touring the French Alps, Mike Samuel and I wore almost nothing but Google jerseys, but only one person even bothered to comment on it, so I thought Google-mania was over.
Then this weekend I made the mistake of wearing a Google sweatshirt to Las Vegas (to attend a wedding). The guy at the Thrifty Rental Car counter spotted it (and asked me about it --- I was quick to say that I got the sweatshirt as a result of a favor I did for someone), and my orbitz negotiated rate went up immediately. (Not by a lot, or so much that I wanted to immediately shop for car rental prices, but enough to annoy me) I don't know whether it was just standard practice for them to bait and switch customers like this, or whether it was the guy behind the counter, but...
The cost of fun: Computer games are at least five times cheaper, than movies
Cedric analyzes how much money do different types of entertainment cost per hour
Surprisingly computer games, especially MMORPGs are 5 to 15 times cheaper, than going to the movies. And it is the cost without taking into account the pop-cord an Coke! This analysis means, that Cedric spends a lot of time in the virtual worlds, but it also explains why computer games are that popular. They are just cheaper!
Or is there anything wrong? Should we take into account the cost of a gaming station? Some day, I will do the calculations for myself and will post them here.
What about you, what is the most costly entertainment in your life?
I must have spent easily that much in my first week of World of Warcraft. And probably just as much in all the weeks following, for a period of several months. Which led me to wonder about the cost of entertainment, and how each type compares to each other.
Here is a quick breakdown:
|Name ||Upfront cost ||Cost per hour ||Explanation |
|World of Warcraft ||$50 + $15 / month = $185 ||18.5 cents per hour ||$185 / 1000 |
|Quake IV ||$50 ||$1.02 per hour ||$50 / 40 hours |
|TV Show ||$30 per month (basic cable subscription) ||$2.70 per hour ||$30 / 12, assuming you watch 3 series, each showing 4 episodes per month |
|Movie (rental) ||$5 ||$1.7 per hour ||$5 / 3 hours (movie + extras) |
|Movie (theater) ||$10 ||$5 per hour ||$10 / 2 hours |
Of course, there are plenty of other activities we could add, such as sport (mostly free: basket, volleyball, etc... and not so free: golf, scuba diving, horse riding. etc...) and other ways to pass the time (hiking, walking, running, reading, etc...).
...the general idea is this: World of Warcraft, and massively online games in general, have often been chastised for not only the monthly fee they charge but also for charging for the game in the first place. In light of these numbers, one might actually wonder why they don't charge more...
Doctor Awesome posts his thoughts about the Amazon Prime mechanics and targets
. For those who haven't heard about the Amazon Prime, it is a US-only membership program. You pay $80 in a year and get all the order shipped fast and cheap, even free for the "two-day shipping".
Anyway, while checking out, something about my history and information triggered the Amazon system to offer me four free months of Amazon Prime (normally, it's $79 a year for free two-day shipping). A bit of Google blog searching seems to indicate that some people, but not all people are getting this offer. I theorize I got the offer for two reasons. First, I'm a fairly frequent user of Amazon, so they probably see me as somebody might get hooked on Amazon Prime. Second, I bet my location in the Bay Area (I have most of my packages sent to the Googleplex) is probably rather cheap to ship to, as I bet there's a distribution center nearby. This makes providing the Amazon Prime service much cheaper for them than if I was living in northern Wisconsin, so they'll make more money off of me. Geography has a lot to do in this business. Barnes and Noble still does the same-day delivery in Manhattan. Distribution centers are like Akamai for real stuff.
In Amazon's case, Amazon Prime is a way to "sink" the shipping costs for the consumer up front. I'm sure they believe this should increase the amount Prime customers end up purchasing--it encourages loyalty. Even if you abuse the system and order massive amounts of stuff, it's still doesn't hurt Amazon very much--that's all business they wouldn't have gotten others. Additionally, it makes all the prices on Amazon that much more attractive as compared to other merchants, as shipping costs (though paid) are zero for every additional item you buy (the marginal shipping cost to the consumer is zero, and the average cost keeps on dropping).
Amazon is smart to do this. For me, it now makes Amazon more convenient than Target (consider the additional time and opportunity costs involved with driving to Target, parking, shopping, checking out, and driving back home). I'm not sure if I'll be paying the $79 in four months, but, of course, I haven't made a decision, and Amazon's doing this to try to change my mind.
Saturday, November 19, 2005
Democratcs against innovation
David Alpert criticizes
the intentions to force the whole world follow the American copyright laws.
"Protect the intellectual property of American innovators worldwide, strengthen the patent system, and end the diversion of patent fees."
I don't have any problem with ending diversion of patent fees, but "protect the intellectual property of American innovators worldwide" is code for creating more and more draconian copyright penalties in trade agreements with other countries, which further stifles innovation around the world and comes back to bite American innovators when the content companies then push for "harmonizing" US law with the very laws that the US itself has pushed for internationally. And if anything, the patent system in many industries is too strong right now
Friday, November 18, 2005
Blog buttons effect
are. Buttons have been added to the Google Planet sidebar. Now you can subscribe to the feed
or add it to your Bloglines
in one click. You can also see all the Google Planet posts on del.icio.us
. Well, at the moment only the last ten posts, but every new post will automatically be tagged on del.icio.us. Just search for the googleplanet tag
How do you like the buttons? Do they look nice? Will they assist the readers? I am a little bit unsure about the del.icio.us button. It uses somewhat different color scheme. Does it make it unusable?
Update: Buttons have been added
How do you like these buttons. Do they look standard enough to be understood in less, than 0.1 second? Or do you think there should be more buttons? Please, comment. I am a rookie blogger and the audience opinion is extremely important to me.
No Google Planet post is tagged on del.ici.us at the moment. I am going to tag some in an our. Updates will follow
Thursday, November 17, 2005
Yahoo! customer service. Quite poor
David Krane criticizes
the Yahoo customer service. About 6 months ago I also had a problem with their customer service. I was confused about the conditions of the extending one of my domains - the bill came from Yahoo subcontractor, not from Yahoo itself. It was rather difficult to discuss situation by e-mail. However, I was lucky to solve the problem after.. a couple of phone calls. That's too complex to just confirm, that it was ok to tell the credit card details to their subcontractors.
This site has been dark for a number of days. Most of you that have stopped by recently were likely greeted with this image, and not my mug. Details to follow in a longer post...it was yet another exasperating experience dealing with Yahoo! customer service. Thankfully, service has been restored...but not without ~ 10 e-mails, and 2+ hours on the phone (with lots of hold time). Thanks to Lisa for digging up a support phone #...otherwise, I'd still likely be down. More soon...Technorati tags: Google googler Yahoo
Matt Cutts live. Interview
Technorati tags: Google googler Matt Cutts
For those interested in search engine news, your blog has become a great resource. To my knowledge, it’s the first in which someone from Google actually talks about Google in-depth. How has the blog worked for you so far?
It’s been wild, and I’ve enjoyed it. It’s a really good way to get the word out about some things and answer questions. I didn’t expect it would attract as many comments on the posts though. I wish I had more time to answer every single question, but I have to eke out posts at night and in my spare time already. Overall, it’s good that it provides another channel of communication with webmasters, and I have a better feel for webmasters’ questions and priorities.
So is your Google gadgets blog the “20%” Google gives you for your own projects?
I haven’t done a 20% project since... hmm. That phonetic “soundslike" search demo was a few years ago. I haven’t been using my 20% for the last couple years, but my regular job is pretty interesting, so that’s fine. The blog has mostly happened in my not-so-copious free time: nights and weekends. I’ve been getting less sleep the last 2-3 months. :)
Matt Cutts at PubCon
Matt Cutts reports
on the WebmasterWorld Pubcon
Technorati tags: Google googler PubCon
I’m here at WebmasterWorld Pubcon. Jumbled bunch of thoughts so far:
- The timing worked out to announce a new webmaster console on Google Sitemaps. I signed up today and it’s pretty sweet. For example, you can now see crawl errors, timeouts on pages, robots.txt errors, unreachable urls, etc. Just really useful hard data that tells you if you have crawl problems and what they are. And you do not need a sitemap to use this functionality. You just create an empty file to verify that you own the domain. Check it out.
- Yahoo! knows how to throw a party. They threw a fun shindig at Pure last night with good food and free drinks. I stuck to Sprite, but several webmasters were drinking with both hands.
- Lots of people liked the price of Google Analytics (free). More to post on Analytics later.
- I finally got to hear Jeremy Zawodny speak (we always seem to be on different panels at the same time). He’s making hundreds of dollars a month from AdSense, and he hasn’t gotten around to using YPN yet. He’s said he’s gotten a “talking to” three times over the last three years. I haven’t gotten a “talking to” from my company yet, and would prefer not to.
- The conference went pretty smoothly, or at least the talks I was on. The coffee talk Q&A was full of juicy questions that I’ll try to recap later. Lots of people have said hello today, which is nice. I’ll be at pubcon tomorrow, so please come up and say hi if you see me.
I’m heading downstairs to the hotel lobby to hang with webmasters for a few hours; catcha later..
Wednesday, November 16, 2005
Google It You Moron
Doctor Awesome reposts
somebody's funny picture
Someone at work forwarded this to me:Technorati tags: Google googler fun
Google It You Moron.
Ironically, this will be incredibly useful for some of the questions I get at work (from other Googlers).
See if Blogger autosave feature is not working
Sometimes Blogger autosaving doesn't work for some time. It can happen due of poor internet connection or just because of some Blogger problems. Anyway now you can see if autosave is working
We briefly lost internet connectivity here at work while I was writing my last post. Fortunately, Pete's new outage notifier let me know! That rocks.Technorati tags: Google googler Blogger
(Note this was a "my internet at work wasn't working" outage, not a "Blogger's down" outage.)
Tuesday, November 15, 2005
Google hires people to work on Firefox
Google eventually starts devoting full time programmers to Firefox. Does this mean that from now on Google is "official" Microsoft competitor?
Chris de Bona, Open source program manager at Google announces
the Firefox Software Engineer position. The unusual point is in that you can contact Chris directly if you are interested. I know that direct contact is important for many qualified job seekers in IT.
If you are a solid developer, check out this req: Google Jobs - Software Engineer, Firefox. Email me if you like.Technorati tags: Google recruiting Firefox
MIT will give every Chinese kid a laptop. US kids are not eligible
Bob Lee considers
that though helping poor countries get Internet is a decent goal for a US university
, there is a lot of people to help in the US itself.
From the F.A.Q.:Technorati tags: Google googler internet access poor countries
How will these be marketed? China, Brazil, Thailand, and Egypt... Let's not forget about the 12.9 million children living in poverty in the United States. Can you believe that a mere $1.3 billion could equip every poor child in the U.S. with a laptop? Think how much we could save in text book costs. Who is working on this? Are we really going to sell laptops to countries half way around the world without giving one to the kid down the street?
The idea is to distribute the machines through those ministries of education willing to adopt a policy of "One Laptop per Child." Initial discussions have been held with China, Brazil, Thailand, and Egypt. Additional countries will be selected for beta testing. Initial orders will be limited to a minimum of one million units (with appropriate financing).
Europe is getting older
Douwe Orsiga blogs on the fact, that old europeans are moving out of their countries
, while immigrants go in. In particular there are more people moving from Netherlands, than moving into it:
Technorati tags: Google googler Europe
Moving out the grey masses
The old Europe is getting older. Not only the old, apparently the New Europe isn’t quite that fresh anymore either. The simplest solution to do something about the coming lack of young people in Europe would obviously be to import more young people from countries where they have rather too much of them. Unfortunately the popularity of this solution has decreased quite a bit the last years, making for example the Netherlands for the first time since the years just after World War II a country where more people emigrate from than emigrate too (how that reflects well on the current government is another question of course). If we can’t import young foreigners, the other solution to stabilize the population pyramid is of course exporting the old locals.
It should be simple enough. There might be a pension crisis, but the total of pensions and private savings should surely be enough to make for a comfortable old age in a cheapish Third World Country, shouldn’t it? Right now it seems a lot of doctors educated in the Third World don’t stay around due to lack of career opportunities; moving millions of European pensioners around should create a nice market for these guys. And these poorer countries tend to have warmer climates, which is nice if you have a lot of free time on your hand. Sure, they’d want to see their children and children’s children, but in these days of cheap telecommunications and air tickets that shouldn’t be that much of an issue anymore.
And while the old enjoy their well deserved rest on the beaches from Ghana to Sri Lanka, their old home countries can focus their energies on keeping up the wealth that allowed them to send their retired oversees. I’d like a place in Goa, I think.
Monday, November 14, 2005
US Googlers in London
US-based Cedric (sorry, don't know his real name) comments on visiting Europe
Technorati tags: Google googler London
I was in Paris and London this past week, here are a few random thoughts...
Maybe we really live in a connected world after all.
- I tamed jet lag. I have traveled internationally so many times that by now, I have it down to an art. Here are a few simple rules:
* Start shifting your time before leaving your country. Stay up late (very late) and don't sleep in too much. Note that the point is not really to make yourself tired so you will sleep on the plane (which doesn't help at all with jet lag) but just to start adjusting to your new time in your own environment.
* On your first day in the new country, don't nap, don't sit (especially on comfortable couches), and don't go to bed before 10pm.
Also, try not to abuse coffee: the more you confuse your stomach with unusual quantities of drinks and meals taken at odd times, the harder it will be for your body to get used to your new schedule. Ideally, you simply want your metabolism to believe that instead of a 24-hour day, you are just going through a 33-hour day and that your sleep pattern doesn't need to be altered to handle it.
That's it. Follow these simple instructions and even a nine hour time difference will have absolutely no effect on your body.
- I flew on one of Virgin Atlantic's latest aircrafts on the way back, and it featured the best entertainment system I have seen on an international flight by far: about fifty movies to choose from, entire seasons of TV series, news, games, etc... It's all there. You can also pause, rewind and fast forward everything at leisure. Absolutely fantastic if you're not the reading type on planes.
- Cell phone interoperability has come a long way and works close to perfectly now. My trusted 6630 (which took the pictures above) worked beautifully and never lost GSM connectivity. I actually travel with two phones and interestingly, they picked two different roaming carriers while in France (Orange and Bouygtel). This is quite puzzling since both are Cingular, but it was a good opportunity to experiment. No surprise there: both phone calls and SMS worked seamlessly, the only glitch being that one of the two carriers refused to give me caller ID. Not a big deal.
I also experimented with sending SMS messages back to the US and between England and France, and everything worked fine. Better: even EDGE performed beautifully and allowed me to connect to the Internet through the Bluetooth modem while riding the Eurostar on my way to London (except in the tunnel, of course, but my phone quickly regained coverage when we came out and latched on O2 on the British territory).
Matt Cutts on Pubcon
Googlers have no business cards
. Well, actually if they don't bother to get them :)
Technorati tags: Google googler Pubcon
I’m getting stuff together for Pubcon. I’ve got a USB drive, a long-ass ethernet cable for Wi-Fi unfriendly hotel rooms, cell phone charger, breath mints, a bitchin’ laser pointer, and plenty of mini notebooks for writing down feedback. I have Bejeweled on my cell phone for wasting time in airport lines. You’d think I’m 100% ready, but I’m not.
The one thing I don’t have is business cards; lately, I never have business cards at conferences. My initial batch ran out a year or two ago, and I never bothered getting more. Googlers can order them with almost any job title, and I’ve been struck with business card writer’s block. Should I just go with the tried-and-true but generic title of Software Engineer? Or I could put something more out there, like “The guy who knows the spam you made last summer” or “Whitehat.” I’ll figure it out, but what do you think I should put on my business cards? And am I missing anything important for my travels in the next couple weeks?
Google talk on SEO in Las Vegas
If you happen to visit Las Vegas this Tuesday (Nov 15), don't miss a chance to meet Matt Cutt
, Google SEO specialist
Technorati tags: Google SEO Pubcon
I’m heading to the WebmasterWorld PubCon on Tuesday, and the week after that I’m in Kentucky for Thanksgiving, so it might take me a while to approve first-time commenters. I’ll be on a panel with other search engine reps on Wednesday afternoon.
Most SEOs should enjoy the Coffee Talk session where Brett will lob questions at me for an hour on Wednesday morning. It will be at 9 a.m., which is early (especially for PubCon), but I’m expecting lots of fun questions.
Finally, I often prowl around the lobby of the conference hotel late at night looking for webmasters/SEOs to talk to. Don’t be shy about introducing yourself. If you’re at PubCon, please come up and say hello, tell me what industry you work in, and give me any Google feedback you want.
Google are about to put the entire web statistics and analysis industry out of business
Google released it's free web-statistics tool
. Free and damn powerful. A must-have. What else could you add? Oh, yeah, it's not Beta :)Matt Cutt
Technorati tags: Google Analyitics web statistics
Sweet, it pays to be a night owl. I just noticed that Google Analytics is live. This is a result of Urchin joining Google. I tried it out and here’s what I’ve noticed so far:
- It’s free. Technically it’s free for sites with 5 million pageviews/month or less. If you have more than 5M pageviews, you need to sign up for an AdWords account, but it sounds like there’s no minimum spend once you sign up. In other words, it’s free.
- If you’re using WordPress with a theme like almost-spring, you would edit your header.php file, e.g. wp-content/themes/almost-spring/header.php and put the JS just above the tag. That’s it. Do a view-source on this page and search for “urchin” to see where to drop the code.
- The help pages are pretty good, and it looks like the system is available in 16 languages. If you use weird tricks like reloading the same url with different params as someone submits information, you can add virtual stages so that you can track the progress of users on that url.
- They’ve done a very nice job of emphasizing that conversion data is well-protected. Take this quote from the benefits page, for example:
ZDNet also has a good quote from Paul Muret, one of the Urchin founders who is now a director at Google:
Though in theory people who are using Google Analytics and competitive services to monitor their ad campaigns could be exposing information to Google on how those rival services work, Muret said Google would not get any competitive advantage from that.
“We have very strict controls on the data. It is only used to provide reporting to customers and people using the analytics,” he said.
Blackhat SEOs may be leery of using Google for analytics, but regular site owners should be reassured.
The timing on this is great for me. I often advise site owners to check out their server logs, but I hadn’t done much rooting around on my own logs since I started my blog. In fact, the first webhost I signed up for didn’t include access to server logs! To be fair, I did sign up for the “I am a cheap bastard” plan though. I only got error logs, so I had to estimate visitor levels by looking for misses when browsers tried to load a favicon from my site and failed. My current web host gives me server logs and offers a couple packages for reporting (Analog and something else), but they’re not set up by default and it looked like a hassle, so I never bothered. I guess being lazy paid off this time.
I feel a little guilty using a massively powerful analytics package to track visitors to my halloween costume, but hey: it’s free. Swatting a fly with a Buick may feel like overkill, but if the Buick is free, I’m not complaining. The only downside so far is that you have to wait 6-12 hours for the first report to show up. I’ll head to bed and let you know how it looks when I get some reports. Or, you know, try it yourself and see what you think.
Overall, Google Analytics should be a hot topic at the WebmasterWorld conference this week. Some people will care a lot about the AdWords features, but plenty of people will want to use it just for tracking. Now, I wonder who I’d talk to on the Analytics team to get them to offer a web counter service.
Sunday, November 13, 2005
SEO feed from the Google SEO specialist
Matt Cutts, a known Google SEO person provides
(RSS link) to his SEO-related posts:
Technorati tags: Google googler SEO
thanks for keeping up with supplying us with important info.
I have a simple request though, would it be possible to get a Google/SEO only RSS-feed? Not that I dislike your movie reviews or anything it’s just that internet is a big place, you got to select what you read.
I absolutely agree, Huvet. This site leans toward SEO/Google issues right now, but I want to be able to post gadget stuff or whatever without wasting people’s time. My main feed is
but you can limit yourself to a feed of the “Google/SEO” category with this url:
People who only want to get SEO-related stuff should use that url instead of the main feed.
Saturday, November 12, 2005
Googlers bowling team
You can propose a name
for the Google bowling team! Don't miss the chance!
Technorati tags: Google googler bowling
I probably think this blog is about me.
I've been posting a lot of photos of myself lately. On one hand, it looks pretty egotistical. On the other, I'm pretty awesome.
Anyway, I dragged some Google coworkers bowling yesterday. Most of them came willingly to the Palo Alto Bowl
with me. I really enjoyed myself. I reminded me of late nights bowling at Evergreen Lanes
in Nekoosa during high school.
Between the seven of us, I won two of the three games. Of course, my highest game was a 118. We weren't exactly pros.
I'm thinking it'll become a near-weekly event for me. Maybe I'll join a league. Wouldn't a Google team be the coolest thing ever? Four-person teams means we could get bowling shirts: red, yellow, green, and blue.
America rules. Wherever you go, there's a bowling alley that looks like it was built (and decorated) in 1976.
Exercise for the reader: what would be a good name for a Google bowling team?
Somebody from Yahoo! almost tried hiring
Matt Cutts, the Goohle anti-seo specialist (or pro-seo, depending on the point of view).
Technorati tags: Google googler recruiting
I’m taking a stab at clearing out my inbox tonight. I got a recruiting email from Yahoo yesterday, but they were trying to reach a different Matt:
Hello Mr. XXXXXXXXXX,
I found your name on XXXXXXXXX.com and I wanted to reach out to you to see
if you would be interested in exploring opportunities with Yahoo in New York
(or Chicago). I am working on a couple of roles that you may be a fit for
and I would like to know if you are interested in learning about the
How should I reply?
Hi, you have the wrong Matt. No offense, but I don’t think I’ll refer you to the right one.
Jeff, shall we discuss this over lunch sometime to talk? You can meet me at the plex.
Hmm. There’s the tried and true
I nofollow you!
Maybe I’ll just delete it and get back to clearing out the ol’ inbox.
Friday, November 11, 2005
Google job interview
Did you ever wonder what kind of studies should you get to start working for Google?
Piew Na sheds the light
on this questions. And even provides you two text books. If you pass them easily, most probably you are qualified :)
Technorati tags: Google recruiting job interview
Questions from someone looking for an engineering job @ Google
How soon I can apply for other positions at Google if am rejected for a particular position?
There's no limitation. However, Google has a long institutional memory. If you did badly for reasons of cultural fit, it is unlikely that any subsequent application will be successful. If your first set of interviewers are credible, it will take an extremely strong referral notice from an employee who was a previous colleague to give you another chance.
What's the total interview duration in general?
45 minutes each, 5-8 interviewers (including phone interviews)
I am not a spontanious person in nature and hence chances are likely that I don't do good in interviews. But am really excellent on the job. What's your advice in my situation during interview?
Practice, practice, practice. Get a few friends to do mock interviews. Or try an alternate way of getting into google, through one of the many programming contests we sponsor, for instance.
What's the good reference you recommend to get the basics of computer science(I may not know all the fundamentals that I learn thro' my job).
Two classic textbooks: If you can read both books and do the exercises easily, then you are probably qualified. (If you click through and read the reviews, you'll notice that the first SICP reviewer is Peter Norvig, a Google director)
Anti-Internet Explorer ads
Jason Shellen comments
money by showing "Get Firefox" banners to the IE users only.
Jason also proposes his own "lighter" solution:
If you haven't seen ExplorerDestroyer yet, it's a site that offers some fancy ways to either encourage, push or insist that visitors to your site download Firefox. The code will not display a promo if you are already one of the Firefox enlightened and it's a good idea but perhaps a little heavier than I wanted for my own blog. Not to mention a bit violent sounding for people like me who just want to advocate a faster web experience.Technorati tags: Google Firefox ad
If you are viewing this site in IE then you see the advert on the right urging you to give Firefox a whirl. I used a conditional comment called If IE to only display a Firefox enhanced with Google Toolbar promo box by pasting the below code into my blog template. Feel free to copy to your own blog. You may want to change the Adsense ad client id to your own (if you have one) so you get credited with the $1 bounty currently paid for helping folks switch over to Firefox. Enjoy.
google_ad_client = "pub-2004576835187517";
google_ad_width = 125;
google_ad_height = 125;
google_ad_format = "125x125_as_rimg";
google_cpa_choice = "CAAQweaZzgEaCA2ZyYC_NXeAKK2293M";
Piaw Na on the iPod headphones
Technorati tags: Google googler iPod
Piaw's reviews of headphones for the ipod
First of all, forget the earbuds that come with the ipod. They are terrible, and not at all what I would consider either comfortable or practical. Note that despite my mention of helmet compatibility in these headphones I neither endorse nor encourage the use of headphones while riding your bicycle in traffic!!Sennheiser PX 100 Headphones
I paid about $38 for these when they went on sale a while back on Amazon.com, and they are great! Plugged directly into the ipod, the sound is neutral, and almost as good as my Sennheiser 600s
with an Airhead
amplifier. They fold up neatly into a box the size of a spectacle case, and are very comfortable to wear on hikes as long as 4 hours or so. These are my favorite headphones for hiking or general walking around.Koss KSC 75
These are the ones to get if you can't stand having a headband over your head, or have to wear a helmet while listening to your music. They fit nicely on the helmet exterior, and despite the loose feeling connection, don't fall off easily. They sound great for $14, and while not as nice as the PX 100s, are cheap enough that if you destroy them you won't feel guilty about them. The plug is also a very ipod friendly 90-degree plug, which isn't true for the Sennheiser.Koss Sport Pro
At $22, these are disappointing. I bought them when I gave my mom my KSC 75s, and they do work under your helmet, but the headband isn't super-comfortable under the helmet. (You can tilt the headband backwards so it doesn't interfere with the helmet) They do fold up neatly into a nice compact package and clamp nicely to your head so they don't allow as much road noise as the KSC 75s, but despite that they still do not sound as nice as the KSC 75s and are a far cry from the Sennheiser PX 100s. I only recommend these if you've already tried the KSCs and found that they don't fit your ears for one reason or another.