What do the WordPress VIP Workshop & the Google exec team retreat have in common?

While reading this post about Google & Larry Page on Business Insider, I ran across this blurb:

In February 2013, Google’s senior executives flew in from around the world to meet at the Carneros Inn, a rustic resort in the hilly vineyards of Napa Valley. This was Google’s annual two-day, top-secret retreat for senior executives.

Carneros Inn is a magical place – and is also home to our annual VIP Developer Workshop.

New Yorker article: Sergey Brin’s case for driverless cars

Great piece from the New Yorker this week: AUTO CORRECT: Has the self-driving car at last arrived?

Most of the coverage I’ve seen on driverless cars has been focused on the convenience factor and the safety ramifications given how super distracted drivers are today – which are important. But it’s interesting to see Sergey Brin quoted in this article talking about the cost to our infrastructure that cars have today, impact on the environment given some estimates showing 30-50% of gas wasted on people looking for parking, and how that might all change:

“As you look outside, and walk through parking lots and past multilane roads, the transportation infrastructure dominates,” Brin said. “It’s a huge tax on the land.” Most cars are used only for an hour or two a day, he said. The rest of the time, they’re parked on the street or in driveways and garages. But if cars could drive themselves, there would be no need for most people to own them. A fleet of vehicles could operate as a personalized public-transportation system, picking people up and dropping them off independently, waiting at parking lots between calls. They’d be cheaper and more efficient than taxis—by some calculations, they’d use half the fuel and a fifth the road space of ordinary cars—and far more flexible than buses or subways. Streets would clear, highways shrink, parking lots turn to parkland. “We’re not trying to fit into an existing business model,” Brin said. “We are just on such a different planet.”

It’s a great overall read and touches on the early DARPA competitions, and what massive leaps were made from year 1 to year 2 – and how those people are now at Google:

It was a triumph of the underdog, of brain over brawn. But less for Stanford than for the field as a whole. Five cars finished the hundred-and-thirty-two-mile course; more than twenty cars went farther than the winner had in 2004. In one year, they’d made more progress than darpa’s contractors had in twenty. “You had these crazy people who didn’t know how hard it was,” Thrun told me. “They said, ‘Look, I have a car, I have a computer, and I need a million bucks.’ So they were doing things in their home shops, putting something together that had never been done in robotics before, and some were insanely impressive.” A team of students from Palos Verdes High School in California, led by a seventeen-year-old named Chris Seide, built a self-driving “Doom Buggy” that, Thrun recalls, could change lanes and stop at stop signs. A Ford S.U.V. programmed by some insurance-company employees from Louisiana finished just thirty-seven minutes behind Stanley. Their lead programmer had lifted his preliminary algorithms from textbooks on video-game design.


Live @ TC Disrupt: Google+ & WordPress

Just got off stage at TC Disrupt 2013 where we announced that we’ve added an integration of Google+ on WordPress.com and Jetpack.

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You can now share content from WordPress to Google+, comment on WordPress using your Google+ account, and Google will display WordPress content across it’s platform with richer info such as the author’s photo:

Linking to your Google+ Profile creates an official connection between your WordPress.com content and your Google+ account. The benefit? It adds a layer of verification, confirming you are the author of your posts, and helps Google understand who created certain pages, which helps to increase the accuracy of search results.

Check out the full details on the WP.com announcement blog.

And big thanks to Seth and his team for working with us on this, and to our lead developer Beau for making this all happen on our side.

A Couple of Months with Android

For the last few years I’ve found myself putting away the iPhone about once a year, for a couple of months of trying out the latest Android device. I do it mostly for work reasons to see how our various integrations behave on Android, but I’m also curious to see how Android is continuing it’s march of rapid innovation and improvement.

So I took a few notes the last couple of months, and then today saw this post, “Android is Better” – which I’m not sure I fully agree with the conclusion, but it offers up the best arguments I’ve seen on why you should give Android a second look if you haven’t tried it recently.

So go read that post, and then jump back for a few extra thoughts:

The Good:

  • I picked up a Samsung Galaxy Note 2 (aka “Phablet“) from AT&T – after some words of encouragement by Peter Pham a couple of months back. The form factor is actually pretty awesome — it still fits in your pocket — and for maps, reading, and web browsing it’s pretty amazing VS an iPhone screen.
  • samsung-galaxy-note-2-xlI live in a Google world — google apps, voice, maps, contacts, docs, etc — and all of that stuff “just works” on Android.
  • On Android there is an app for everything including customizing the lock screen.
  • Apps are much more polished than they were a year ago.
  • Overall Android interface is faster and more responsive.
  • Notifications rock — you can reply to an email or tweet right from within the notification.
  • Little things like choosing which app runs a certain action is very liberating. Annoyed that on iOS it launches Apple Maps from various map links. On Android it asks for your preference, and you decide.

The Bad:

  • The new user experience was terrible compared to a pure Google device such as a Nexus4. AT&T loads up so many useless apps that it’s hard to know who actually uses them. I saw a wacky contact manager, a wifi app (why ?), AT&T Locker (no idea), AT&T Navigator (I’m a Waze guy), and more. Reminds me of Walt Mossberg’s craplets issue that still haunts PCs.
  • Can’t stand that the power button is on the right side of the phone. I nearly turn off the device 5 times/day by accident.  iPhone has the perfect button placement IMO, others should follow that model.
  • The device is still running Android 4.1.2 b/c Samsung hasn’t updated Android yet. That’s a problem.
  • Overall UI still feels about 80% polished compared to iPhone. Little things like the settings screen are intuitive on iOS, almost a throwaway on Android.
  • Couple of things I rely on don’t work – like Spotify working on AirPlay.

So what’s next ? Waiting to see what Apple rolls out in September, but also keeping an eye on The Google Play Edition phones, which are made by partners, but run pure Android. That Galaxy S4 looks like the phone to get if you are shopping for one right now.

WordPress on Google App Engine

I’m at Google I/O right now and they just ran a demo of WordPress running on App Engine and using Jetpack to tweet out via the Publicize feature. Cool stuff:

UPDATE: here is the video of the session:

A Google Thank You from 2004 (delivered with 128 MB goodness)

Ran across this 128 MB USB drive while cleaning up a bit today. Desktop search was pretty hot back then:

Hitting the Reset Button on my Address Book Contacts

This is by no means a brag – more of an embarrassing admission — that up until yesterday I was in the 9,000+ range of contacts in my address book.

It was years in the making, starting with Eudora (I still miss that app), then Outlook Express, Outlook, and then some Google/Plaxo/BlackBerry sync magic, Linkedin imports, iPhone contacts, etc — all resulting in a messy address book with lots of dupes, out of date contacts, and bloat. I would guess maybe 1/4 were actually accurate, if that.

Along the way I tried a bunch of “scrubbers” and ran Google’s find & delete — which only served to create more of a mess.

Then while watching a video stream of the Le Web conference (or maybe it was another conference) in the summer of 2011, I saw a presentation for Evercontact (fma Write.That.Name) which looked pretty interesting.

It worked by connected to your gmail/Google Apps email and based on the data in the signatures of inbound emails, would update your contacts in google contacts with the new info. So I switched to using Google’s contacts manager as the canonical source of all my contacts, and during the course of that last year+ it has updated hundreds of contacts and kept things up to date.

But what I starting noticing over time was that my iPhone apps that needed to use my address book were either super slow or crashing completely. Auto complete in the gmail app was painfully slow to the point of being a problem.

So yesterday I did a quick backup of all my contacts, and then went to delete everything !

What I found actually was that Google only allows you to delete 250 at a time. It does that pretty quickly, but if you want to delete more, you can actually use their old v1 interface which allows you to delete many more at once:

After erasing them all, I imported in only the ones that Write.that.Name had updated, and I’m now using their Flashback tool to scan prior emails for other contacts.

Next, I’m testing Rainmaker, which looks to complete other relevant contact info for your contacts based on your Linkedin, Twitter, and Facebook.

I must say, it’s like a good spring cleaning, and obviously these days between Facebook, people’s blogs, Twitter, Linkedin, etc — it’s pretty easy to reach people even if they aren’t in your address book.

UPDATE: A couple of years in, and I’m super happy with Evercontact. I get these moments when a call comes in and my phone already recognizes them because Evercontact added it to my address book automatically. Magical!

Google’s Augmented-Reality Glasses — Microvision technology ?

Really fun video today from Google on what they are working on in terms of augmented reality glasses – pure concept at this point, but we can all see where this is heading 🙂

Plus if this came out a couple of days ago it could have been mistaken for an April Fool’s joke 🙂

As I watched this video, i couldn’t help but think that this is very close to what Microvision has been working on for a very long time. (disclosure, I own some nearly worthless MVIS stock). They’ve been building wearable see-through displays for the military, doctors, and one day for consumers:

Google Apps Account Transitioned — No Migration — Now What ?

What strange timing.  In a comment on my Google Plus thoughts I mentioned that my Google Apps account was still stuck and could not be transitioned to the new Google service platform that allowed using that account on other services (such as Google Voice – which previously required a gmail account)

Minutes later, I checked, and my account was amazingly ready to be transitioned.   My expectation was that I’d be able to merge accounts, address books, etc — but as you’ll see below — that wasn’t the case.

So for context how did this all happen.

  • I started using Google Apps so I could run email on my own domain but with the awesome gmail interface
  • Certain servies like Google Voice then required either a gmail account or a separate google account.  I used my gmail account for a while and lived with multiple logins and two separate address books
  • I then got a notice from Google that they were ready to “transition” Apps to the unified platform, but that my account was “conflicted” and that I was using the same email address on Apps and on other services.  The thing was, that other email was simply my Apps email address.  But alas, I (incorrectly in hindesight) switched my Google Account to a new address that was an alias of my main Google Apps account.

If you are still with me, this is what I saw next when I initiated the transition:

So for some reason I was not going to be able to transition the data from one to the other.





This was followed by the choice to create a new gmail account or use a non google email address:

I chose a non-google account for this, and that part went smoothly.

But now I’m a bit stuck.

  • When I log in to Google Voice, it wants me to create a new account with a new phone #. I have to go back to using the account switcher to pull up my original account
  • My Google contacts / address book is still split across two separarte accounts, which is a real pain when using Google Voice
  • And now I have two Google Plus accounts — but people only seem to find me on the original gmail/google account one
  • When I click on links from Google Apps gmail I’m often loading up the wrong Google account — for things like Calendar — not good.

So all in all — not great, but not much worse than what I had previously. My hope was that I could merge things a bit, and just have a single account for everything – especially with Google Voice.

Anyone else stuck in this world ?  Any suggestions ?

Daniel Bachhumer has already chimed in to my tweet complaining about this 😉 :