Thursday, March 29, 2007

Google Notebook goes multi-lingual



I can read English. If you're reading this blog post, you probably can too. But if you're like me—someone who is not one of the 300 or 400 million native English speakers in a world of more than 6 billion people—you might be more comfortable on using your own language for personal activities. I know I am, and I can still remember the days 16 years ago when my dad and I were tweaking the home PC-XT to make a database application work in Chinese instead of in English. Now being a software engineer myself working in this great company whose products are used by people around the world, I would almost feel guilty if my product doesn't speak in the same language as you do.

Fortunately, my feeling of guilt is coming to an end. When we released the Google Notebook in its shiny, fresh new look, we also made it speak 17 other languages besides English. We have German, Polish, Turkish—to name a few—and of course Chinese. Admittedly, there is still a long way to go for us to reach everyone in the world in all the thousands of languages. Rest assured, though, that just because your language isn't one of the first doesn't mean that we have forgotten you.

In case you haven't heard about it before, Google Notebook lets you conveniently collect, organize and share information while searching and browsing the web. If you've tried it already, I urge you to try again, as its new interface is much smoother to use than it was—and I'm not saying that just because I'm looking at it in Chinese.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

How do you know you're getting the best care possible?



When I talk to people using Google to search for information about their health questions and how well search answers these questions, I hear several common concerns. I want to list them and discuss our thoughts about them.

How do I know if the information is trustworthy and reliable?
There is a lot of material out there about drugs, diseases, procedures and treatments. How do you know what is trustworthy and what isn’t? Search is great at finding us places with relevant information, but it is hard to know which links are reliable and which are less so.

Honestly, this is a hard problem. At Google, we have tried, as I said in an earlier post, to enlist the help of the health community to help us know which links contain medically reliable information, sift these reliable links so that they tend to show up relatively earlier in the search results, and then let you decide which groups in the health community you trust. If you go to Google and type in [Lipitor], for example, and then you click on the “For patients” link and look carefully, you’ll see that the search results often include at the bottom the word “Labeled By,” followed by words like NLM and HON. NLM stands for the National Library of Medicine, the world’s largest medical library, and HON stands for Health on the Net Foundation, an organization which is in the business of certifying web sites with health content that is reliable. These are organizations that have marked the part of the web that this link in the search results points to as medically reliable. It seems that we at Google may not have done a great job of making this clear enough. Unfortunately, many of you either don’t notice these words when you’re searching about health questions at Google or have no idea what they mean. Clearly, we can do better at making this kind of labeling noticeable and your ideas on how we could make it clear to you that a site is medically reliable or trustworthy would be greatly appreciated as we think this through.

Am I getting the best standard of care?
There is, actually, a lot of information out there about generally accepted medical guidelines for care. For most diseases, the medical literature lists the medically agreed-upon standard of treatment, rules to follow, and guidelines for which tests to administer and the best course of treatment - although it is hard to pull together from the various medical organizations and texts as it is constantly evolving. Experts determine which drugs make sense based upon a patient’s condition, other conditions and drugs, age, gender, weight, and so on. There are of course always cases where doctors need to make exceptions to these rules about which drug to administer due to side effects and/or prescribe an alternative drug due to the patient’s specific medical history. The point is that there are guidelines to help doctors with these decisions. However, this information isn’t really accessible to those of you who aren’t health professionals.

Speaking, I think, both for those of us at Google and most of you, given our specific condition or conditions and medicines, just knowing what the guidelines and generally accepted standard of care is for us specifically would be hugely helpful in knowing what to discuss with our doctors and what to research further. Today, even if we can figure out which sites upon which to rely, it is hard to find this out. We don’t know where to start. Our treatment scares us, or our drugs have worrying side effects, or we’re just frightened that we’re not getting the treatment we should be getting.

Honestly, this information can even help our doctors sometimes. They are over-worked and often pressed for time and it cannot ever hurt to double check. Sometimes they didn’t get accurate or complete information from us. While most drug-to-drug and drug-to-condition interactions are known to our doctors, they do change and the doctor might miss a new one or not know about all your drugs because we forgot to tell your doctor about one. The statistics show that mistakes happen. In fact at some point in a patient’s life, the odds of them being treated in a way which doesn’t follow the guidelines and rules is about 45%. There are estimates that somewhere between 44,000 and 98,000 Americans die every year from a preventable medical error at a hospital — or about 150 to 300 preventable inpatient death a day. And approximately 770,000 people are injured or die each year in hospitals from an adverse drug event. There are roughly 5,000 preventable medical errors a day taking place at doctor’s offices.

So it seems that it would really help to let people know. It is tricky, however. Everybody’s condition is unique. It isn’t possible to just play doctor and tell you exactly what your treatment should be and why. Even doctors have a hard time with this because of the incredible and ever changing complexity of modern medicine. What is the best way to help people searching for answers to their health questions to know the right standard of care they should be receiving, what treatments or classes of medicines they should be researching, and what procedures might be indicated?

Who is the best doctor or institution for you?
Isn’t it strange that you can find out a lot about a restaurant on the web or about a movie, but not about a doctor? In fact you usually don’t even know who to go to and just accept whoever your general practitioner recommends? You clearly don’t just eat at restaurants other restaurants recommend, even though you might take it into account. Now admittedly there is a difference here. When it comes to food, you know what you like and the worst that can happen is you don’t like it. But when it comes to your health you may not know what is best, and you can’t necessarily tell if we’re getting the best possible care. Still, here is a common situation: You’ve been diagnosed. Your primary care physician and you have discussed it and it is clear that you need a specialist and your doctor has referred you to one, but you’re wondering how you know who is the best out there for you. How do you know whether they cover your insurance? How do you find them? Today, often you just take your doctor’s referral.

Normally there are lots of doctors who could treat or diagnose you. And in point of fact there is a lot of information about doctors floating around in the ether. Where they went to school is known. Whether they are board certified is known. What is their specialty is known. CMS (Medicare) and insurance companies actually know how many procedures of various types most doctors regularly perform. And this turns out to matter. There is an excellent book out called Complications by Atul Gawande discussing a lot of these matters, but in particular the book notes that practice really does make perfect.

But how do you know who is well seasoned? Do you always judge who to take care of you by how long they’ve been in practice? What does “best” really mean? This is a hard question. Mortality rates, for example, may not be a good indicator. Some specialists only treat the patients that others can’t handle, and so, naturally, even though they are the best in the world, their rates might not be the best. Sometimes your choice may be dictated by other considerations. If there are two possible specialists, one is a man and the other is a woman, then sometimes people care about that.

It isn’t clear how we can best help. We don’t want to inadvertently steer you away from a brilliant doctor just because his or her mortality rate appears too high. What do you think, and what would you like to see made available on the web when you are searching for doctors?

Summary
At the end of the day, all these questions are about how you find the information you need. They are deceptively simple. If they were about restaurants, they would be trivial. But they are actually matters of life and death in the extreme and quality of life in the common case. In short, they matter profoundly.

I’d like to say that we have all the answers. But we don’t. Mostly, at the moment, what we have is questions and we’d love to hear from you.

Update: New contact link.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Google Pack cures the PC blues



Google Pack comic

Google Pack makes it easy to setup and protect your PC, and now we've added two new applications to make your PC even safer: Symantec's Norton Security Scan, which detects and removes viruses, and PC Tools' Spyware Doctor Starter Edition, a top-rated anti-spyware utility. Both are free and include automatic protection updates with no paid subscription required.

We've also substantially updated our screensaver. Now you can turn your computer into a digital picture frame that displays pictures from photo feeds—continuously updated streams of photos from the web. Many of your favorite photo-sharing sites support them already, so it's easy to keep in touch with your friends and family this way.

We think you'll enjoy the improvements, so call in the Google haz-mat crew to spiff up your PC. Get the Google Pack for your PC today.

Walking, Talking, Searching, Finding.



For the last few weeks, some of our users have been test-driving our new mobile search and providing us with feedback so we can make it better. Now, we've actually been using your feedback to improve our mobile search since 2001. But the steps we've taken recently have everyone here pretty excited, as they increase the power of our search technology, helping you get the answers you need with minimal effort and distraction.

Starting today, we're making our new mobile search openly available, so everyone can take it for a spin. The next time you visit Google.com on your phone, you'll see a link that will take you to a mobile search experience that's more tailored to your needs and enables you to:
  • Get the information you care about, right from your homepage. Because it can be difficult to manage small screens and small keypads, and because mobile search is often more about seeking specific information than browsing for extended periods, we've made it possible to add the information you're interested in directly to the mobile homepage. Ranging from movie listings to stock-market updates to website feeds or news snippets, these gadgets can be added with a simple click. You can then reorder, replace, or modify your gadgets however you like.
  • Get the answer you want with an absolute minimum of clicks. No one likes having to click on link after link to get the information they need. With our new mobile search UI, you'll never be more than a click or two away from the answer that you're after. One of the ways we've made this possible is to remember your recent search locations to serve relevant local results in subsequent searches—no need to retype the location every time; just select your location from the dropdown menu. Once you've entered a location, try searching for [movies] to see top movies playing in your area. Clicking on one of those movies directs you straight to the movie showtimes; one more click and you can even purchase tickets.
  • Get to the results that best fit what you're looking for. We realize that when you're on the go, you usually just want an answer to your query, rather than everything and the kitchen sink. So we're continually refining our algorithm-based search to intelligently produce the results you want. You won't need to sift through both mobile and regular web results, or specify your search type—local, image, web, etc.—as our new search experience will offer you results based on the nature of the query itself. So if you search for [bbc] on your device, you'll get a link to the mobile-friendly BBC website. Search for [us post office], and you'll get listings for the branches that are closest to your set location, and so on. No extra stuff that gets between you and the information you need.
So break out your phones, head to Google.com, and give our new mobile search experience a whirl. And, of course, don't forget to tell us what you think.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Flying high with Google SMS



Ever spent 15 minutes on the phone shouting answers at the automated airline attendant while rushing to the airport? How cool would it be to get real-time flight info just by sending a quick text message? Well, now you can, using Google SMS.

Simply text your flight number to 466453 (‘GOOGLE’ on most mobile devices), and the status information will be sent back to you. Or text a specific airline name, and Google will send back the main phone number to call.

Google SMS is available for flights departing or arriving in the U.S., and all of the information is provided by flightstats.com. And as always, it’s free. Give it a try, and let us know what you think.

The wisdom of orkut



Wish you could use the wisdom of crowds to help make decisions and get all your
questions answered? Well, starting today you can post polls and discover the
wisdom of orkut!

Now all you orkut users can create and post polls in any community that you are a member of. Just click a button in your favorite community, type in your question, and add pictures (if you like), and voila!—community members can
vote and leave comments on your question of choice.

Having trouble deciding where to go to spend your holiday weekend, who to vote for in the next election, or how to solve a tough brain teaser? Login to orkut and see what your orkut friends think! You might not see this right away in your favorite communities, but the feature will be rolling out to everyone soon.

Friday, March 23, 2007

Dog Day at Kirkland



A big round of paws to our Kirkland, Washington, office for hosting the First Annual Dog Day today. The local landlord does not allow dogs in the co-tenant building, so we planned a special day and received approval for the first ever dog party in Kirkland. Eighteen Dooglers—ranging from the smallest a Shih Tzu named Cino and a Lhasa Apso named Pooh, to the largest, Ronin, a Rhodesian Ridgeback, and Squirt, a Bernese Mountain Dog—showed up to enjoy a day of activities and meeting other canine pals.

They celebrated the day with doggie massage and acupressure (woof, woof), were pampered by a mobile grooming team, experienced a dog whisperer, and survived a dog training lesson. Of course, we held a "Best in Show" contest to recognize the smallest dog, largest dog, and best trick. No AKC (American Kennel Club) rules here, just some minor Google-imposed rules.

Each Doogler received a welcome bag filled with their very own Google security badge, fresh organic treats, Bully Sticks, tennis ball, travel poop bag kit, emergency pet evacuation sign (for home), and flyers for area service providers (grooming, day camps, natural foods, etc). It was a great day for Kirkland Dooglers, and we look forward to another day for the dogs.

Searching for HR innovation and community



You might say that innovation is in Google's DNA, and we on the People Operations team strive to keep up with the high standards set by our technical colleagues -- we're always looking for new ideas. So last week, we rounded up some of the most creative and successful people in human resources (HR) for an evening of brainstorming.

Our panelists were leaders from Adobe, Cisco, Genentech, Intuit, Network Appliance, and Yahoo! -- the Bay Area companies featured in Fortune Magazine's list of the 100 Best Companies To Work For. In the audience were hundreds of HR professionals representing more than 100 companies. The group touched on everything from performance management to diversity to corporate culture.

Before the last appetizer was consumed, people were asking, "When can we all get together again?" We're starting to plan the next event, but to expand the conversation, we've started a Google Group for HR professionals for those who want to seek kindred spirits to explore new topics. If you're interested, you can sign up for the SF Bay Area group or the US group.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

To watch a guide-dog fly



From time to time, our own T.V. Raman shares his tips on how to use Google from his perspective as a technologist who cannot see—tips that sighted people, among others, may also find useful. - Ed.

You might well wonder what interest I might have in image search given that I cannot see. You might be even more surprised to learn that I own a digital camera. :-) I acquired one a few years ago because the cost of taking photos with a digital camera is zero. It only took a couple of weeks before I could take relatively good pictures of my handsome guide dog. I post many of these pictures to my website -- obviously not for viewing by me, but all my friends.

But how do you easily tell friends how to find that special picture? Here Google Image search comes to the rescue. Whenever I'm surrounded by Hubbell's fan club, I want to tell people how they can view specific pictures of her on the web. Universal Resource Locators (URLs) -- those long address strings that make the web work -- are nice, but they have one major disadvantage: they're unspeakable! Thanks to search, I've not had to speak a URL in a long, long time. Instead I usually tell friends to search for [Hubbell Labrador flying] to locate pictures of her sitting on the pilot seat of an aircraft that I posted many years ago to the web.

One can think of such focused search queries as "conversational bookmarks" -- the spoken equivalent of bookmarks one saves within a traditional web browser. Notice that such conversational bookmarks are not specific to image search. I often tell people that they can find me on the web by searching Google for [raman labrador] and clicking the I'm Feeling Lucky button.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

More than meets the eye



We're very excited to unveil Plus Box, a new search feature that lets you see more information about individual search results. Whenever you see the plus box icon - - click on it to see the additional rich data expand below the original search result. With Plus Box, you'll get a visual snapshot of related information, so it is faster and easier to find exactly what you're looking for.

Right now, we're showing two types of Plus Box results: stock information and maps. You can find a plus box next to the home pages of companies listed on NYSE, NASDAQ, and AMEX. Clicking the plus box icon for any of these companies displays the latest stock price, chart, and company information. Searching for stock prices on Google becomes much easier—for example, look up Apple to find their stock information next to Apple's corporate home page. If you want to see a more detailed company profile, click on "More information" to go to Google Finance.



You'll also find Plus Box results when a business comes up in search results and we are able to map its address. The Plus Box link tells you the address of the business and clicking the icon or the link shows you the address on a map. To see this at work, search for Babbo.



You won't see this feature yet for all businesses, but we're working hard to increase its availability. If you're a business owner and would like to see something like this associated with your website, here's how to get your information to us.

We'll be using Plus Box for other kinds of information in the future, so stay tuned and keep an eye out for the .

Personality goes a long way



Whenever I get a new cell phone, the first thing I do is change the background theme. It seems like such a small thing, but for whatever reason adding a beach or a dancing pig or something else makes me feel like it's my own.

We wanted to offer you a way to add some personality to your Google homepage, too, but we had to ask ourselves some tough questions. How do we add personality without taking away from the information? How do we make sure people don't get sick of looking at the same theme every day?

Today we're releasing six themes for the personalized homepage that try to solve these challenges: a city, a teahouse (super cute -- this one is my favorite), a winter scene, a sky, a beach and a bus stop. All of our themes are dynamic: they change with your own local time of day, current weather conditions or season. If you add the beach theme, for example (changes with time of day), it will ask you for your Zip code and adjust itself to match your local sunrise and sunset times. So if you happen to be stuck in a windowless office, you can at least crack open a cold one and watch the sun set over your desktop.

You can add a theme by first setting up a personalized homepage. One your homepage is set up, click the "Select Theme" link on the right-hand side of the page. From there you can choose between the classic theme and the six new themes we've designed. We hope this feature makes the Google homepage feel a little more like, well, home.

We implemented our themes using a CSS framework so we can scale, and plan to push out many new themes beyond these six. So tell us what themes you want to see.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Google Apps now south of the Sahara



Tens of thousands of university students in Rwanda and Kenya are now on their way to using Google Apps. As a result of two separate partnerships that we've signed today with the Rwandan Ministry of Infrastructure and the Kenya Education Network, nearly 20,000 students from the National University of Rwanda, the Kigali Institute for Education and the Kigali Institute for Science and Technology, plus 50,000 more from Kenya's University of Nairobi, are joining their colleagues at Northwestern, ASU and around the world with access to Gmail, Google Calendar, Google Talk, and Google Docs & Spreadsheets under their university's domain for free.

Offering Google Apps in Africa means more to us than connecting students and teachers to conduct that special exchange of ideas, innovation and creativity so unique to universities (we should know). In Africa and in the developing world, it also means doing our part to make sure that everyone has access to the same services wherever they live, whatever their language, and regardless of income.

We can't be more delighted about our Google Apps partnerships with Rwanda and Kenya, and there are more to come.

Friday, March 16, 2007

Let the passion continue! We're acquiring Adscape



Asteroids, Space Invaders, Centipede and Tetris—remember when you could only play these games at an arcade? I would line up behind at least 6 people for my chance at Asteroids.

Time warp—now it's 2007. Games can be played anywhere and at anytime. In this mobile world, games have evolved to become a part of our lives. Unlike television, gamers can make games their own—customizing their experience in new ways—and we are helping them do that big time.

But of course developing these sophisticated games can be very expensive. Back in the 80s the cost of producing a single game was about $100K. Today it can cost $25M to produce a game. The good news is there are some very passionate gamers out there that have come up with some interesting new ways to introduce non-intrusive and targeted advertising in order to make gaming accessible and affordable for all.

Our charge at Adscape has always been to honor the game that was developed and find new ways to enable that game to continue so others can enjoy it. That's why we are so stoked to join Google—because these guys get it, and are committed to helping us continue our mission.

A world in motion



Mark Twain said, "Facts are stubborn, but statistics are more pliable." We're pretty sure Twain's definition of pliable is different from ours. Building flexibility into search, email, and other Google products is critically important as we seek to organize the world's information, and it's only natural that we should continue to look for ways to make the use of such statistics more "pliable" as well.

In this regard, we are excited to announce that we have acquired Gapminder's Trendalyzer software, and we welcome the Trendalyzer team to Google. Trendalyzer generates moving graphics and other novel effects in the display of facts, figures, and statistics in presentations. In its nimble hands, Trendalyzer views development data—such as regional income distribution or trends in global health—as literally a world of opportunity. Like Google, Gapminder strives to make information more useful, and Trendalyzer will improve any function or application in which data might be better visualized.

Gathering data and creating useful statistics is an arduous job that often goes unrecognized. We hope to provide the resources necessary to bring such work to its deserved wider audience by improving and expanding Trendalyzer and making it freely available to any and all users capable of thinking outside the X and Y axes.

That's our definition of "pliable." Please stay tuned, and we'll tell you more as soon as we can.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Webmasters, Google Sprechen Deutsch



We love our webmaster community, and with Webmaster Central, we provide as much information and interaction about how Google crawls and indexes websites as we can, in 18 languages. We also regularly provide information and tips in our webmaster blog. The blog has been available only in English. Until now. We're very happy to launch our first non-English webmaster blog: the German Webmaster-Zentrale Blog. If you speak German, head there to read German versions of the English blog posts, as well as news and tips specifically for the German market. Willkommen!

Three summers of open source



Everything is ready. All systems are go. We're now accepting applications for the third Google Summer of Code, Google's program for introducing college students to open source software development.

Not everyone knows it, but open source plays an enormous role at Google. Each time you use the Google search engine, you're using open source software. Google relies on the Linux kernel, GCC, python and Samba and commits code into each of those projects.

We also work closely with the open source developer community. Googlers have released hundreds of thousands of lines of code, both as patches to existing projects and as new and wholly open source projects, such as the Google Web Toolkit. We've funded great work at universities and we host many thousands of active open source projects on code.google.com's project hosting facility. Just shy of a year old, this hosting system has become one of the largest online development communities ever developed, second only to our friends at SourceForge.Net.

But back to the Google Summer of Code. Last year we paid 630 students from 450 schools in 90 countries $4,500 each to work on open source software projects. These projects, selected by some 100 open source mentoring organizations from over 6,000 applications, provided students with invaluable real-world programming experience.

Many of our former students are still actively involved with their mentoring organizations. Angela Byron, for example, started working with the Drupal project during Google Summer of Code 2005; she went on to become an organization administrator for the project for Google Summer of Code 2006 and now sits on the board of the newly created Drupal Association. Other students, such as Steffen Pingel, have been voted in as committers to their projects. Steffen began working with the Eclipse Mylar project for Google Summer of Code 2006 and was voted in as a committer just as he was completing his project work. Still others have gone on to internships or full-time jobs with us or other companies, including IBM and NetApp, or have even started their own consulting businesses.

This year we're happy to say that we're expanding the program to accommodate an additional 200 students and some additional open source organizations. If you're a college student who'd like to program over the summer for the good of open source, we're taking applications until March 24. We look forward to seeing yours!

Google News in Hindi



Millions of Hindi speakers across India and the rest of the world have a reason to cheer: Google News is now available in Hindi.

Google News gathers news stories from the various Hindi news sources on the web and presents a ranked one-page summary with all the links to your favourite news sources in the various sections. One of the interesting challenges we faced in this edition was the fact that not all our Hindi news sources are in UTF-8 format. Though we strongly back and urge the adoption of the Unicode-based UTF-8 standard by all Indian language websites, we didn't want to deprive our readers from reaching content on some of their favourite news sources which are not yet there. So we internally translate this information to the UTF-8 standard and do all the processing necessary to provide links to these sites. We hope that this edition will enable the huge Hindi-speaking Internet population to easily reach all of your favourite news content across the web, and also help news publishers to connect to their audience better.

We at the Google Bangalore office are pleased to launch our first Indian language edition of Google News -- and we will certainly be following up with more Indian languages in the future. On a personal note, this launch also marks the completion of a fun-filled and exciting first year for me at Google.

And now I'm off to tell my beloved family members and friends all the great news --or should I say Google News?

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Taking steps to further improve our privacy practices



When you search on Google, we collect information about your search, such as the query itself, IP addresses and cookie details. Previously, we kept this data for as long as it was useful. Today we're pleased to report a change in our privacy policy: Unless we're legally required to retain log data for longer, we will anonymize our server logs after a limited period of time. When we implement this policy change in the coming months, we will continue to keep server log data (so that we can improve Google's services and protect them from security and other abuses)—but will make this data much more anonymous, so that it can no longer be identified with individual users, after 18-24 months.

Just as we continuously work to improve our products, we also work toward having the best privacy practices for our users. This includes designing privacy protections into our products (like Google Talk's “off the record” feature or Google Desktop’s “pause” and “lock search” controls). This also means providing clear, easy to understand privacy policies that help you make informed decisions about using our services.

After talking with leading privacy stakeholders in Europe and the U.S., we're pleased to be taking this important step toward protecting your privacy. By anonymizing our server logs after 18-24 months, we think we’re striking the right balance between two goals: continuing to improve Google’s services for you, while providing more transparency and certainty about our retention practices. In the future, it's possible that data retention laws will obligate us to retain logs for longer periods. Of course, you can always choose to have us retain this data for more personalized services like Search History. But that's up to you.

Our engineers are already busy working out the technical details, and we hope to implement this new data policy over the coming months (and within a year's time). We’ll communicate more as we work out these details, but for now, we wanted you to know that we’re working on this additional step to strengthen your privacy.

If you want to know more, read the log retention FAQ (PDF).

Update (April 2008:) After the explanation above concerning our decision to anonymize our server logs after 18-24 months, we subsequently decided on 18 months, which we explain here.

Talk on your Personalized Homepage



We created the Personalized Homepage to help you gather all the things you care about on Google and across the web in one place. And since one of the things we all care about is communicating with friends, today we're excited to unveil a new version of Google Talk for your Personalized Homepage. The Google Talk Gadget lets you see your contacts and chat with your friends right on your homepage, and you don't have to download anything to start chatting. We've also added a few new features to make your chats a bit more colorful, like the ability to view YouTube videos and Picasa Web Albums photos in your chats. And just like many other gadgets, you can also add the Google Talk Gadget to your own webpage or blog.

To see the Google Talk Gadget in action on the Google Personalized Homepage, check out this short video. You can also read more about it on the Google Talk Blog. Then go ahead and add it to your homepage.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Google Code Jam Latin America 2007



On March 1, we celebrated the Latin American coding community by hosting the first-ever Google Code Jam Latin America competition. Registrations definitely exceeded expectations: more than 5,000 eager programmers from around the continent signed up. The Code Jam consists of two online rounds, in which participants compete to solve three coding problems more quickly and accurately than their competitors. Then we invited the top 50, who came from across the region (and included one woman!), to compete in the onsite finals at our engineering office in Belo Horizonte.

This year's grand prize went to Fábio Dias Moreira, a student at Pontifícia Universidade Católica do Rio de Janeiro. The winner of the 2004 Global Code Jam, Sergio Sancho of Buenos Aires, took second place. Here's a photo of me with Fábio just after he'd won.



This Code Jam also featured Google engineering presentations and information about our R&D activities in Latin America. We're delighted that so many of the finalists expressed their interest in joining Google. If you're interested yourself, visit our global jobs page.

World Cup action is upon us



If you're not into cricket, read no further. But if you are, you must know that everyone has an opinion on cricket and each point of view is unique. You sometimes choose to share your views with friends and family over a ‘dinner and watching the cricket match’ get-together ritual. Your uncle often interjects with his usual support for Shane Warne's superb bowling, even though Shane is now retired and not playing for Australia in this year’s World Cup.

Whatever your favourite mode of cricket expression might be, the Google cricket campaign in India allows you to join in the world cup excitement in more ways than one. Howzzat?

Talk cricket on Orkut
Cricket discussions that started in the elevator can spill over to the Orkut network. Especially this season, in association with us, cricket expert and former Indian cricket captain Krish Srikkanth has created his own community on Orkut to interact with cricket lovers, debate the latest happenings and just share cricket views.

Express yourself on a blog
Write your own views about cricket on Blogger, and then publish and share them with the world online. If you would rather read about cricket than write, Krish has also created his own blog on this year's World Cup action. Get to know him and his take on the games and his memories of his 1983 victory at close quarters. And if you've taken a fancy to blogging, submit your own blog this World Cup season to our cricket blogging contest for Indian audiences.

Get cricket scores & news
If work or school are getting in the way of your cricket enjoyment, keep up to date with match scores and World Cup cricket news by personalizing your Google homepage with the latest cricket gadgets. If you prefer, you can also get cricket scores, exciting images and cricket videos straight to your desktop with Google desktop cricket gadgets.

So if you're a cricket aficionado, join the World Cup fun with Google. And if you're not? More for the rest of us to enjoy!

Monday, March 12, 2007

Places you never thought you would visit



Not long ago, after tending to official meetings in Yaounde, Cameroon, I had an opportunity to drive seven hours southwest of the capital to one of WWF’s project sites—the Campo-Ma'an National Park—which you can now visit on Google Earth.

Created in 2000, the Campo-Ma’an park is a nature lover’s paradise with 80 species of mammals, including endangered elephants, gorillas and chimpanzees, as well as at least 302 species of birds, 122 species of reptiles, more than 80 species of amphibians, 249 species of fish, and a high level of endemic plant life. However, it is the local people who make this area so special. The communities living near the park are keen to protect their natural resources, but also desperate for economic development. WWF is working in partnership with them to promote community-based nature tourism as one solution.

By opening Google Earth and selecting the new WWF layer under "Global Awareness," you too can visit this extraordinary place. Watch this and over 150 WWF projects across the world and connect with WWF’s global website.Track Campo Ma’an’s progress; it will take some time, but if we succeed in this project, both the local communities and the park will benefit.

A bird's eye view of mountaintop destruction with Google Earth

The first time I flew over southern West Virginia and saw mountaintop removal coal mining from the air, I knew that if everyone could see what I had seen—mountain after mountain blown up and then dumped into streams in the neighboring valleys—they would think twice about where their electricity came from the next time they flipped a light switch.

That's why we at Appalachian Voices, and our partner groups, created the National Memorial for the Mountains, using Google Earth to tell the stories of more than 470 mountains that have been lost, as the centerpiece of our website www.iLoveMountains.org. We never imagined that those stories would now be available to over 200 million people as part of the latest release of featured content in Google Earth.

Now it's your turn to fly over the region. I invite you to take a look at the mountaintop removal layer in the new featured content for Google Earth. Look for "Appalachian Mountaintop Removal" under the "Global Awareness" folder of the "Layers" sidebar. You can take the site tour of a mountaintop removal operation, explore the featured mountains and affected communities marked with blue flag buttons, and use the slider bar to see high resolution images of these mountains before and after mountaintop removal. To view all the locations of the over 470 mountains that have been destroyed, please visit the full featured version of the Memorial on www.iLoveMountains.org.

Thanks for visiting and helping us spread the word, and thanks to everyone at Google Earth who worked so hard to help us bring this important information to life.

Friday, March 09, 2007

2nd Annual Google Test Automation Conference



For those who are interested in automated testing as a way to improve software quality, there's info on the Google Testing Blog about on our second annual conference on automated testing. It'll take place in New York in August; the deadline for submissions is April 6.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Hitting spammers where it hurts



I spend my days and nights here on the Gmail team fighting spam. From stock spam to empty spam to you-won-the-lottery spam, we expend a lot of energy—human and machine—on keeping our users' inboxes clean. So when I saw the SEC's announcement today about suspending trading on stocks that are frequent targets of spam scams, I was thrilled. Hit them where it hurts!

Stock spam is a particularly nasty problem because it is particularly difficult to find the perpetrators, and its after-effects can be so devastating to individual investors who've been lured in. These spammers are often the most creative too, and we've put many person-years of effort into keeping up with their latest tricks.

We know how much Gmail users love their clean inboxes. Every day we look for the relatively few messages that slip through our filter and work to deploy solutions quickly to catch them the next time. It's hard work, but we're proud that even though more spam is being sent these days, less of it is getting into Gmail inboxes. But even if Gmail can catch a lot of it, spammers will continue to send the spams in the hopes that someone else's filter will fail to catch them. It's so nice to see a root cause be addressed, as the SEC has done today, which will make the world a better place for both Gmail and non-Gmail users alike. Bravo!

Don't get me wrong: this is not a magic bullet, but it will help. There's still lots more that needs to be done.

How can you help in the fight? Your most powerful tool is the "Report Spam" button. Use it early and often. That isn't just there to get the spammy message into the spam folder. It sends valuable information back to the spam team that helps us flag messages and senders so we can keep future messages out of your and millions of other inboxes.

Coffee Talk in the Teachers' Lounge



Since we launched our resource for educators in October, many of you have been in touch with us. "Hey, Google," you've said, "Thanks for the site. Now how 'bout letting us talk to you--and more importantly, to each other?"

You wanted a place where you could send feedback, lesson ideas, and classroom activities, or just meet some of your fellow teachers. Ok, ok! We're good students. We know how to learn from the experts. Thanks to your input, we've created the Google for Educators discussion group. We invite you to visit the group today, to let us know your thoughts and to reach out to other folks in the world of classrooms and libraries. Help us understand how to make Google for Educators a more valuable tool for you—and share the kind of information that can help give students the best education possible.

Oh, and, while you're at it, why not give our site another visit? We've added tools, activities, classroom posters, and a new RSS feed to the Infinite Thinking Machine, a Google-sponsored blog written for teachers by teachers. We look forward to seeing you there.

Photos on Google Maps



They say a picture is worth a thousand words, which is why we've added photos to Google Maps local search. Now you can compare the sea views and room interiors for beachfront hotels in Honolulu or drool over the dishes served at steakhouses in Boston. Google Maps also includes pictures of buildings, storefronts, signs, and logos—especially helpful if you're going somewhere for the first time. For a tourist trying to find the Sony Building in Tokyo, a photo of the building exterior is probably worth a *million* words.

If you're a business owner, you can now upload photos of your business to Google Maps using the free Local Business Center.

Music, Movies, Mayhem, and the Metro



I’m thrilled to report that, as of today, the Capital Metro Transportation Authority of Austin, Texas is the 10th agency to become part of Google Transit Trip Planner.

Some of you may notice that we're announcing this new partnership just in time for the South by Southwest (SXSW) Conference and Festival, which is taking place in Austin from March 9 to 18. And there is a reason for that...

This year, SXSW has gone carbon neutral. And thanks to the efforts of the Capital Metro team, the thousands of visitors that come to Austin for the 10-day music, film, and interactive festival can do their part to reduce carbon emissions by planning their SXSW experience using public transportation. As an added incentive for SXSW attendees, $1 day passes are available for purchase on board Capital Metro buses and provide unlimited use of Capital Metro services for an entire day.

Using Google Transit, I now know that when I arrive in Austin, I’ll be taking Capital Metro from the Airport to the Convention Center, and, from there, I’ll do my best to take in as much of the action as possible. So, if you're part of an agency that offers regular bus, light-rail, train, or ferry service, come find me amidst the movies, music, and interactive panels at SXSW, or drop the Google Transit team a line.

Update: You should also check out this awesome Google Calendar that a couple of our User Experience Designers whipped up to help themselves and other attendees visualize the SXSWi schedule.

What happens on Wall Street...



... doesn't stay on Wall Street. It gets broadcast on Google Finance in the form of quotes, news, blogs, discussions, financials, and much more. Today we're releasing three enhancements to Google Finance to help you stay in touch with Wall Street: the addition of videos, plotting of extended hours data on charts, and an easier way to sort portfolios.
  • Each day you'll find a great assortment of finance-related videos from leading sources such as CBS, Forbes, Reuters, and even fun ones from WallStrip on the Google Finance homepage. Enjoy these videos and stay up-to-date on the latest financial market activities.

  • Can’t wait to see how your stock performs when the company announces earnings in extended hours trading? Company charts now include prices from the extended hour markets, so you can view stock performance at any time.

  • Since you might not like having your own portfolio stocks ordered alphabetically, there's now a way to choose the order with a very easy-to-use drag and drop interface.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Store and find even more photos on Picasa Web Albums



We have a few long-awaited improvements at Picasa Web Albums today. A new Community Photos search feature helps you discover and explore the public web albums of others on the site. Free storage is now 1GB (and counting)—that's room to post and share around 4,000 standard resolution photos. And we've made albums and photos easier to link to from any email, IM or website—simply copy and paste the code we show you.

Google Maps Send to Car



On the Google Maps team, our goal is not only to help you find local businesses, but also to enable you to quickly connect with those businesses, wherever you are. To that end, we recently introduced the ability to call businesses in the U.S. directly from Google Maps, and, as of today, users in Germany can send a business listing found on Google Maps Deutschland directly to cars enabled with the BMW Assist service. Drivers can then set it as the destination for the in-car navigation system, or they can call the business from within the car. No more having to write down the address and re-enter it in the car -- now you can just click and drive! Here's a video showing how this feature works (German version). We've partnered with BMW because they're a leading innovator in the automotive space, and they share our vision for a network-connected world.

As additional devices come online, we're excited to see what is possible, and we'll continue working to make the information that you need available to you when and where you need it.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

New and improved Desktop



For the past several months, we've been working on ways to let you better get information on your desktop through gadgets and sidebar. We've also thought about improving how you search your computer. Today, we are happy to be releasing the Google Desktop 5 beta application.

The most prominent changes you'll notice are to our gadgets and sidebar. Some of the gadgets have been redesigned to provide you with the same useful information but in a more easy to read and visually appealing format. The sidebar has also been changed to blend in even more with your desktop.



In addition, we've also improved:
  • Desktop Search - Now when you do searches, Google Desktop enables you to preview your search results right inside the browser, so you don't need to wait for an entire application to open just to make sure you’ve found the file you were looking for.

  • Security - We take your security very seriously, and have added some new features to help make your search experience safer. Whether you’re clicking on links from documents, IMs and email or browsing the web, if we have information that the site you're visiting might be trying to steal your personal information or install malicious software on your computer, we'll give you a warning first so you can decide if you want to use the site.
Improving the way you get information on your desktop is important to us; we hope that these changes help you do that. To find out more about what's new with Desktop 5, read this post on the Google Desktop Blog.

Friday, March 02, 2007

I'm feeling lazy...

Kai Shih, Software Engineer

A few nice updates to the Personalized Homepage this week for those who are feeling too lazy to customize it. If for instance you're feeling lazy about browsing for new content to add to your homepage, there's a new feature that will give you item-to-item recommendations. For my part, I have the Digg gadget on my page. If I click on the gadget's drop-down menu and select "You might also like..." I'll get a bunch of stuff that other people who like Digg also liked, including Slashdot, Wired News, Macworld, and more.

For those who are too lazy to create new tabs to organize stuff, here's a bit of magic. If you add a new tab to your homepage, you can name your tab and have the option of letting us select the content for you based on your chosen name. Say I create a tab called "Astronomy" to get the latest news and info on that topic. We'll populate the page with the NASA image of the day, the current moon phase, and a bunch of feeds related to astronomy. Less lazy folks are welcome to try to stump us with tab names.

And if you just don't know what you want, we've added ratings and reviews to our directory, so you can see what other people have to say before committing to a new gadget.

Let us know what you think. We're never too lazy to listen.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Suggest a better translation



We think automatic translation is really cool, and we're excited to provide useful translations so you can surf web pages in unfamiliar languages. Still, translation is a very hard problem, and we know that when you use translate.google.com to read web pages in other languages, you sometimes encounter translations that we get wrong.

We have a system that can learn to translate better if we know where the problems are. In the past, there was no way to tell us about problem translations. Now there is. Next time you see a sentence that makes you go "hmmm," just hover over it to display the original text tooltip and click the "Suggest a better translation" link. Tell us what it should have said, and we'll use your suggestion to improve translation quality in future updates to our service.

This feature is available when you use one of the language translation pairs developed by our research group:
  • English to/from Arabic
  • English to/from Chinese (Simplified/Traditional)
  • English to/from Russian
  • Chinese (Simplified) to/from Chinese (Traditional)
So the next time you can think of a better translation, be sure to use this new interface and share your wisdom! That way, everyone will benefit from it.

Feeling sick? Go home!



From time to time, our resident physician at Google headquarters weighs in with her thoughts on healthy living. (You can find more on her personal blog.) Please note that she is not dispensing medical advice; you should check with your own doctor before pursuing any particular course of action.

Attention workaholics: I would like to remind you that your medical needs should take precedence over your work duties. We are in the midst of the flu season and I see people with fevers of 102 degrees dragging themselves in to work. Recently I've found myself practically escorting sick employees out to make sure that they go home as advised.

This phenomenon of presentee-ism is not unique to Google, of course. But wherever you work, while your dedication to your work is admirable and appreciated, when you're sick it is harmful to you, to your colleagues, and to your company's bottom line. So please take care of yourselves. Work from home if you must, but don't come in -- or I will have to hire some bouncers to keep you out!