Thursday, December 15, 2005

 

Googlers' Blogs Syndicated

All the Googlers' Blogs syndicated on a single page

I will have a Winter vacation starting from today and till the 7th of January. It is quite unlikely, that I would be able to maintain the posting rate. So I opened the Googlers' Blogs - simply all the Googlers' blogs on a single page. At the moment there are only blogs listed by Philipp Lenssen, but that's already a lot and I'll add a few more from my own collection as soon as possible.

Enjoy having all the Googlers in your reader!

RSS 2.0
Subsribe on Bloglines

Read more at www.googlersblogs.com/


Wednesday, December 14, 2005

 

SEO Mistakes: crappy doorway pages

Matt Cutts discusses an example of spam web page and how is it treated by Google

Okay, spam-reading posse, ready to roll? This time, I’m going to cover two spammer mistakes in one post. Take a look at www.rosaevelien.com in Internet Explorer. Looks fine, right? Something like this:

Good florist page

No problems? Okay, now load the page in Firefox 1.0.7 or so. Interesting, huh? The page looks like this:

Spammy doorway page

So why do you see a spammy doorway page in Firefox, but not in IE? Because the SEO company messed up the doorway pages, and their sneaky redirects only work in IE! The page loads some external JavaScript from http://www.rosaevelien.com/Principal.js, which looks like this

document.URL=’Html/main.asp?res=’ + screen.width + “x” + screen.height;

In Internet Explorer, this does an immediate redirect away from the spammy doorway page–the user never sees the keyword-stuffed page. But Firefox doesn’t parse that code, so 5-10% of visitors are left staring at a crappy doorway page!

Okay, that’s mistake #1. Mistake #2 is shorter. Look at the bottom of the page. See this text:

Anescu

That’s right, the SEO that couldn’t even get a sneaky redirect right was *also* adding links to itself from the client’s pages. I see this all the time: clients who didn’t know what their SEO was doing can actually get their PageRank sucked away to the SEO or the SEO’s other clients. Classy, huh? That’s why our SEO guidelines tell you that you need to understand what your SEO is doing on your domain. To the SEO that did this to a mom and pop florist site: after your site is removed from Google’s index, your reinclusion process is going to be.. difficult.

Here’s my takeaway points:
1) Do not hire an assclown SEO that makes doorway pages with sneaky redirects.
2) If you do hire an assclown SEO, make sure they don’t half-ass your sneaky redirects so they only work in one browser.
3) If you’re staring at broken doorway pages that your lazy-ass SEO made, go ahead and check if they were hiding links back to themselves or to their other clients.


Original post by Matt Cutts

Monday, December 12, 2005

 

Review: Spam Kings

Matt Cutts posts a review on a book about spam
Ah, happiness is a day without meetings. This was a good day. If you’re looking for an interesting read this holiday season, I highly recommend Spam Kings. It’s about email spam, not webspam, but if you are an SEO you’ll probably like this book. There’s even a blog for the book.

If you’re an SEO, you’ll get an extra dimension of fun out of this book. When it mentions nonsense domains, you’ll be curious and check them out. When they mention XBL, you’ll be interested to hear more about blacklisted proxies. It’s a completely different but equally fascinating subculture.

I’ve often wondered what the overlap between SEO and email spam is. I don’t think I’ve ever met an SEO who copped to doing email spam. Then again, I’ve never met an SEO who admitted to trying to rank porn pages for innocent phrases like [disney cartoons] or peoples’ names, but I know that some folks try to do that because we see the attempts. Anyway, I hope no one recognizes a friend or even themselves in this book. :)
Original post by Matt Cutts

 

How to find people who listen to the same music. Seamlessly

Kimbalina posts about the service, that can track the music you listen to in your Winamp, iTunes or whatever and then proposes you a similar music and even helps with findng people with similar interests in music.
last.fm tracks the music you listen to, let's you create your own music profile, find people who like the same type of music as you, and see what your friends are listening to. It also creates a personalized radio station with the type of music it thinks you might like.

I love it.

So often, a song can describe how I'm feeling so much better than I could ever put into words. Wondering how I'm feeling today?

What I'm listening to.
Original post by Kimbalina

Sunday, December 11, 2005

 

Sometimes Internet evolution is too fast even for Googlers


Social networks is one of the "new things people talk about". I know several friends just 5-10 years younger who actively use those and for about two or three years already I am going to try it. Well, I was going. Eventually I decided not to try things I don't really need unless I anticipate some fun or I need it for work. I guess Nelson Minar "was also going to try" these social networks and stopped at the similar point :)
I just went to myspace for the first time. I've still never been to facebook. I don't know anyone who has pages on either site. I normally pride myself on being hip to Internet culture, but I think the lowest on the age curve I go is LiveJournal. I wonder what the natural generational groupings on the Internet are? I naïvely thought there wouldn't be any, but of course the net is all about community and culture and, therefore, generation.
Original post by Nelson Minar

 

How to get personal contacts with Google employees


Quite simple, just be a person interested in the same things they are interested in. For example, you can meet some googlers in the specific IT-related mailing lists.
P2P-hackers is a well-regarded mailing list frequented by p2p developers and researchers. It brings together academics, industry developers, and gray hats, and hosts topics ranging from DHTs to error-correcting codes to punching through NATs.

I've happily subscribed since college, so when David Barrett suggested a meetup for the bay area members, I jumped at the chance. We met at Ryoko for sushi, which was a lot of fun. Any place that has a grand piano with two turntables on top of it gets my vote!

Over 20 people turned out, and the conversation was lively and far-reaching. We chatted about food, gadgets, games, movies, and of course, p2p. Lots of well-regarded universities and companies were represented, including Amicima, Berkeley,CivicSpace, Limewire, Gnutella, Gnuterra (Morpheus), NYU, Red Swoosh, andStanford.

Sure, we talk about p2p and distributed systems on list all the time. Still, it was fun to shoot the breeze about the latest developments in person, and especially to meet so many people in the community face to face.

Original post by Ryan Barrett

Saturday, December 10, 2005

 

How Google decided to stay with MySQL

Ron Garret posts his memories on how Google tried to switch from MySQL to a commerical product, but failed and remained loyal to the GPL product.
After AdWords launched, Jane, the ads group manager, decided that now would be a good time to switch over to a "real" database. "Real" is one of those words that Doug ought to add to his list of words. It means "expensive". Many managers seem to have this idea that it is invariably true that you get what you pay for, and that therefore nothing that is available for free can possibly be any good. Using MySQL was acceptable as an expedient to get things up and running quickly and with a minimal of capital outlay, but now that things were settling down it was time to recognize that this was really, fundamentally, a mistake, and it should be fixed sooner rather than later.

The flip side of this philosophy is the one more commonly espoused by engineers, which is nicely summed up by the old aphorism, "If it ain't broke, don't fix it." Yes, MySQL was missing some features, but it wasn't broke(n). We had spirited debates in ads group meetings over what to do.

We finally decided to go with a commercial database (I won't say which one) over the objections of a number of engineers, including myself. To ease the transition it was decided to convert AdWords over to the new system first, and to do the main ads system later. It was a project on a par with the internationalzation effort in terms of the tedious work required to comb over nearly all of the AdWords code and change all of the database queries. (Databases are supposed to all be compatible with one another, but in reality they pretty much aren't.)

To make a long story short, it was an unmitigated disaster. The new system was slower than molasses in February. Some heroic optimization efforts eventually produced acceptable performance, but it was never as good as the old MySQL-based system had been. For a long time we were stuck with the worst of all possible worlds, with the two ads systems running on two different databases. It was still that way when I left Google in October of 2001, but I have heard through the grapevine that they eventually went back to MySQL. (Since then, MySQL has added many of the features that had been missing at the time.)

The moral of the story is that sometimes, and in particular with free software, you get more than what you pay for. There are a lot of companies out there paying dearly for commercial databases (and operating systems for that matter). As far as I'm concerned they might as well be flushing that money down the toilet. Actually, they might be better off. We certainly would have been.
Original post by ex-googler Ron Garret

Friday, December 09, 2005

 

Random things about the first month at Google

Doug Edwards posts about things he remembers about his first month at Google
“Wow. That’s a really cool roller coaster. How many sets of K’Nex did you have to use to make that?”

“No. I’ve never made cappuccino before. How does it work?”

“Um, is it okay that all these bikes are blocking the fire exit?”

“Okay, so there are eight shelves full of HTML and Linux reference books. Where do we keep the dictionary and thesaurus? Yeah, I know I can find stuff online, but I’d still like a hard copy. No, I can’t just print out the words when I look them up.”

“Hi Larry. Hi Sergey. What happened to your office? Well, it’s just… uh, nothing. Hey, which one of these remotes works with the VW Beetle? No, that other one. There, under the couch between your hockey jersey and the LEGO Mindstorms...”

“So… you really notice a difference when you build your own rollerblade wheels like that?”

“Oh sorry. Didn’t realize anyone was napping in here.”

“They’re laying the carpet tomorrow? I kinda like it open and industrial like this. Cubicles? You really think we’ll need that many workplaces?”

“See, you can knock down more of the garbage cans if you bounce the ball instead of just rolling it straight at them.”

“How long does it take the sauna to get hot? You think it’s okay to go in the women’s locker room to get some towels since we’re out in here?
Original post by ex-googler Doug Edwards

 

Googlers on audiobooks

Graham Waldon posts an opinion on the recent changes of the Audible.com

I logged in to Audible.com for the first time in a while last night, and they've changed up a bunch of stuff since I saw it last. I haven't done an exhaustive investigation yet, but I like what I've seen so far. In particular, several old pet peeves are now (finally) solved:

  • Links have been unjavascriptified, so you can do normal link things with them, like open them in new windows/tabs, etc.
  • It might be possible to link directly to particular books now (try it out on one of my favorites). I've been having mixed luck with it though, and I think my browser cookies are confusing the issue, so I'm not sure. Try it. It's kind of sad when something like that would be an improvement, rather than taken for granted, but oh well.
  • The ridiculous session timeout (which didn't even require you to sign in again, but just screwed up your navigation) doesn't seem to happen anymore.
  • Sound samples now open in a little flash player in a new window, rather than making me download a RealAudio file and play it in another app.
Original post by Graham Waldon

Thursday, December 08, 2005

 

Ads in GMail

Natala Menezes posts about the progress in the GMail ads
So i've been noticing lately that the ads in gmail are getting really good -- and by good i mean useful, relevant and things i just want to click on for more information.

This may in part be to seasonality - right now a lot of my e-mails deal with shopping (gifts for the holidays, my mother's birthday) and travel (i'm going to thailand and my sister and I are writing back and forth about where to stay and what to do)....

The other thing I've noticed is that the number of ads changes. Sometimes I get 3, sometimes 4, sometimes 3 on the rail and one in the web-clip. Sometimes I get a search link. Sometimes not. Hmm. Those google kids are definitely getting crafty!

There are of course those really, really irrelevent links...like the link to buy sushi at Target:
Sushi
Sushi online Shop Target.com
www.Target.com

Sushi? at Target? I love target but not for fresh fish.

I'm curious, are others finding the links to be better? More useful?
Original post by Natala Menezes

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

 

Who authorizes software? Not you

Nelson Minar thinks of XBox 360 as of a the first step in the new definition of "trust" or more exactly "trusted computing". Computer programs are supposed to be safer, but you have no control on the one who decides what is safe and what's not. I wonder what is the Google position on certifying every program a user can get.
The Xbox 360 is a dry run for "Trusted Computing". The new console has a slew of anti-modder technology to make it impossible to run unauthorized software. Who authorizes Xbox 360 software? Microsoft.

Intel, Microsoft, IBM, etc are colluding to bring the same sort of technology to PCs to prevent you from unauthorized software. Who authorizes software? Not you.

It's a sure bet "Trusted Computing" is going to bring us a new level of digital rights management hell. Sony won't have to do something stupid to stop you from legally copying music; the operating system and processor will do it for them. Your monitor will collaborate. Dell is about to ship LCDs with HDCP so that your screen won't display unauthorized video. Who authorizes video? Not you.
Original post by Nelson Minar

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

 

Search engine from a googler

Nelson Minar, a San Francisco Google engineer, released his very own search engine for e-mail. It might sound unbelievable, but it is exactly what it sounds like: a Google employee made his own tool [somewhat] competitive to its employer's Google Desktop Search.
The released Funes search engine indexes mbox e-mail archives (that's a Thunderbird native format, most of the other e-mail clients can at least export into the mbox format) and is used from the command line.

I have eight years of email archives. These archives are my memory. But my memory is awkward, it is hard for me to find things in it. When did I last write my old friend? What all have I thought about Jorge Luis Borges? Who wrote me email in early April, 2001?

Funes is a Java program that enables you to search your memories. At its core is a search engine: Funes indexes all of your email into a quickly-searchable database and then lets you query that database. The search engine itself is implemented with Lucene. Funes adds the glue to parse mailboxes and interact with you via a command line interface.

There are other search tools out there for email, for example grepmail or mg. I wrote Funes because I wanted my own tool to work my own way, because I needed something to keep out of trouble while I was looking for work, and because Lucene was so cool. Mostly, I wrote it because my memory is important to me.

Funes is currently minimally usable and has much work to go. I am not likely to work on it in the near future. It is available as free software according to the GNU Public License. If you try it, please let me know.

I will give it a try and let you know how it works.

 

Talk on user interfaces at Google

Chris DiBona posts on the attractiveness of the good user interface
Edward Tufte visited Google today to give a talk. He talked about Sparklines and the famous Minard Russian Invasion graphic among other topics. Great stuff. I've been a great admirer of Tufte since I first got my greasy fingers on his book The Visual Display of Quantitative Information. and I only hope that one day I can present information as wonderfully as he. This is one of the reasons I love working at Google: The interfaces are almost all pretty fantastic.
Original post by Chris DiBona

Monday, December 05, 2005

 

Meet googlers in New York

Chris DiBona, open source program manager from Google will be speaking in New York on the 14th of December.
if you'd like to find me, I'll be speaking at Interop in New York on the 14th. I hope to visit Peter Luger and Barney Greengrasswhile I'm there.

I like New York, a lot. Hotels are kind of spendy though.
Original post by Chris DiBona

Sunday, December 04, 2005

 

How Google banned the whole France one day

Ron Garret shares his memories on how much power and responsibility was (and is?) given to the technical engineers at Google. It looks like guys there worry more about not doing something useful, than about the occasionally doing something bad. Well, over-analyzing consequences can take hell a lot of time, while the potential error can just be fixed. I wonder if France will agree..
Ray took unauthorized automated queries very personally. If he could figure out the spammer's email address, he would send a terse cease and desist warning to them. If he couldn't, he might block their IP address from accessing Google altogether. In an extreme case, he might request that a spammer's ISP kick them off of their service. And, if the ISP wasn't responsive enough, he might block all of the ISP's other IP addresses, too. That's how Ray turned off access to Google for most of France one day. It got the ISP’s attention, all the more so because it happened to be one of Google’s larger customers at the time.

One engineer holding that kind of power speaks to the assumptions inherent in Google’s culture. Individuals were considered capable of weighing the effects of their actions and presumed to have the best interests of the company (and Google’s users) at heart.
...
Google emphasized acting over deciding.

Of all the elements of “big-company thinking” I had to unlearn, that was one of the hardest. I constantly sought reassurance that I was empowered to move to the next step, only to be asked, “Why haven’t you done that already?”

The upside of this philosophy is that Google did many things quickly, most of which turned out to be positive. The downside is that Google sometimes did things with unforeseen effects and individuals occasionally misinterpreted exactly how much power they possessed. The tradeoff appears to have been worth it.
Original post by the ex-googler Ron Garret

 

Top six games googlers play

Top six computer games that a googler plays. Well, not any googler, but just one particular googler - Nelson Minar. In fact, I have already gathered some statistics on the games, googlers play. Would anybody be interested in seeing the "global" Google stats? :)
Between being in Switzerland for three months and all the new games out for the Christmas season I have a giant backlog of interesting computer games to play. Should last me for six months! If you're thinking of a gift for the gamer geek in your life, maybe this list will help you.
Shadow of the Colossus (PS/2)
Poetic and innovative platform game for the PS/2. I've played a bit and it's really beautiful.
Civilization IV (PC)
Empire building and wargames, many hours time sink.
Burnout: Revenge (Xbox)
Arcade racer; not clear it add much to last year's standout Takedown, but it's fun.
Battlefield 2: Special Forces (PC)
BF2 is the only online FPS worth playing. This expansion pack is getting mixed reviews, but it's sort of unavoidable.
The Warriors (Xbox)
Cheesy 70s gang movie made into a Rockstar ultraviolence game. On a quick play it's pretty damn silly, but amusing.
Puzzle Pirates (PC, Mac)
I actually got into this while still in Zürich. It's a very innovative game, a cross between an MMOG and a bunch of Tetris-like puzzle games. Pleasant diversion.
Sniper Elite (PC, Xbox, PS/2)
Sniper simulation. The reviews are pretty poor, but I'm a sucker for this kind of gameplay.
Rag Doll Kung Fu (PC)
Indie game excitement of the year, distributed online via Steam. I haven't seen a review yet, not sure if it's worth my time.
Original post by Nelson Minar

 

Free WiFi is coming to the whole US. Step by step

I am looking forward to the day, when all the US and European cities will have the free WiFi access. And yes, I am ready to see the advertisements if it is the price I have to pay if I want to post something right away.

Free WiFi coming in Sunnyvale! It's about time! Mountain View is getting it from Google, but Sunnyvale should definitely be right up there in terms of tech savvy Silicon Valley residents as well. The ads are a small price to pay for free access everywhere. I'm excited.
Original post by Piaw Na

Saturday, December 03, 2005

 

Why high taxes don't make people work less hard

Douwe Osinga argues that higher taxes can in fact make people work harder.

In the end people don't care about taxes and all that. They only care about how much money they make. And when it comes to money, it is just like anything else. The more you have of it, the less extra happy another dollar will make you. If you are starving then you'll gladly work long long hours to make enough not to starve. If you are quite affluent already, you need quite big incentive to start working more (luckily enough are society comes build in with all kinds of tricks to make us work harder anyway).

So what happens if we increase taxes to say 90%? It just means that people have only one tenth of the money, so they are a lot poorer and will suddenly have to work again for a car instead of getting one anyway.

The problem of course is with the other side of equation; governments have a tendency to spend money more wasteful than average people. If you raise taxes you put more money in the hand of the government and if then that money is wasted, the economy suffers. But it is not the low taxes for the rich that make the rich work so much harder that in the end everybody profits.

Original post by Douwe Osinga

Friday, December 02, 2005

 

Player created content in online games

Neslon Minar posts on how ability to change the world changes the massive multiplayer games
I wish today's MMOGs lived up to the promise of player created content that was in the earliest online games. LambdaMOO set the pace. Pavel Curtis had a fanatical devotion to player-generated content. The whole world was player created. Players could build rooms and program new behaviours in MOO. Players even came up with their own government.

The first commercial MMOGs continued to let players shape the world. Ultima Online in particular had a significant amount of effort devoted to a player created economy and players building their own houses. But contemporary games like World of Warcraft and City of Heroes are essentially stateless worlds. Players can't make permanent changes. Players can't create a building, or modify a sign, or even leave a hat in the middle of the desert. And there's nothing at all like being able to write code to run in-game.

The one shining example of player created content in the commercial world now is Second Life. While not quite a mainstream MMOG, it's interesting for its devoted player-creators, impressive authoring tools, and successful player created games. Even the problems are interesting. Let's hope the business works out.

Player created content is hard. The gameplay and quality issues significant, it's hard to build server technology that scales when you don't know what the content will be, and it's hard to build good creation tools. But player created content is the interesting thing possible for an MMOG, both for the creators and the consumers.

Original post by Nelson Minar

Thursday, December 01, 2005

 

Firetitle extension for the Firefox browser

Cedric points out the Firetitle extension for Firefox. It allows you to prepend every tab in the same browser window with the same string. This way, you could have a window of "e-mail", a window of "blogs" and a window of "work". You'll need it for fast switching via the Alt-Tab.
FireTitle was written by Jon Nowitz, a Google colleague, and it lets you name your FireFox windows in very flexible ways. If you do a lot of tab browsing, it's nice to be able to keep a consistent title for one window regardless of which tab it is currently displaying (e.g. "weblogs", "email"). Press Ctrl-; and you can name the current window (which will be preserved for future FireFox invocations). The version on mozilla.org is still for pre-1.5 FireFox but Jon already has updated it to 1.5 (I'm running it as we speak) and it will be uploaded there very soon.
Original post by Cedric

 

Saved searches folders for GMail

Mihai Parparita, a Google employee, created a Firefox extension, that was included into the "Greasymonkey hacks" book. Greasymonkey is an extensible Firefox extension. The extension is for adding "saved searches" folder to Gmail.
I finally received my complimentary copy of Greasemonkey Hacks. I'm also glad to see that my saved searches user script was selected as one of the sample ones. Reading the contributors section was somewhat amusing due to the homogeneity of the entries (e.g. more than half mentioned blogs). The book is also already out of date, with Greasemonkey and Firefox both having undergone major releases. I also doubt the wisdom of printing the full code behind each hack - especially some of the longer ones that were already online. Commentary attached to interesting snippets might have worked better. However, as a whole the book seems very well put together and it brought to attention some scripts I hadn't heard of before.
Original post by Mihai Parparita

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