Friday, December 28, 2007

[G] Looking back on the year in public policy

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Google Public Policy Blog: Looking back on the year in public policy

What a difference a year makes. This time last year, Celine Dion was still performing in Las Vegas, Jamie Lynn was the "good" Spears sister, and I was Time's reigning Person of the Year (you were too).

The holidays are a good time to look back on what the past 12 months have brought for Google's public policy efforts.

This blog is now a toddler
It's hard to believe that we took the wraps off this blog only six months ago. When we launched in June, our hope was to create a resource to inform policymakers -- as well as our users -- about our positions and efforts to keep the Internet a revolutionary medium for freedom and innovation. Since then we've welcomed tens of thousands of visitors each month, including folks from the House, Senate, FCC, and other agencies. For the curious, here were this year's most popular posts:
  1. What Do We Mean By "Net Neutrality"? (June 16)
  2. Eric Schmidt's summer of public policy (July 26)
  3. The promise of open platforms in the upcoming spectrum auction (July 10)
  4. Signs of real progress at the FCC (July 31)
  5. Candidates at Google: Barack Obama (November 15)
Would-be presidents take the "Google Interview"
In what Newsweek called a "must-stop on the 2008 trail," eight (nine?) presidential candidates visited our headquarters in Mountain View, California: Senator Chris Dodd, Senator Barack Obama, Senator Mike Gravel, Representative Ron Paul, Senator John Edwards, Senator John McCain, Governor Bill Richardson, and Senator Hillary Clinton.

With the Iowa caucuses fast approaching and the 2008 election less than 11 months away, these visits allowed Googlers (and voters, via YouTube) to hear the candidates' thoughts on the war in Iraq, technology, immigration, trade, health care, and the most efficient methods for sorting one million 32-bit integers.

Issues, Issues, Issues
This year we were very proud of our efforts to promote changes in U.S. spectrum policy. We called for international privacy standards and took steps to further enhance privacy for our users. Patent reform moved forward, and we reminded people of the value of fair use. At year's end, we were gratified that the FTC approved our acquisition of DoubleClick with no conditions -- agreeing that the deal will help consumers and doesn't hurt competition. And, last but not least, we continued our work to keep the Internet free and open.

Debates, YouTube style
Democratic and Republican presidential candidates descended on Charleston and St. Pete, respectively, for the first-ever CNN/YouTube debates. Nearly 4.5 million viewers tuned in to the Republican debate, making it the most-watched primary debate in cable television history. More than 3,000 questions were submitted for the Democrats; over 5,000 for the Republicans. One Nebraska high school teacher even asked his students to submit questions as a homework assignment. And who said school was boring?

Googlers on the Hill
Four Googlers testified before Congress this year. YouTube's Chad Hurley talked about the future of online video. People Operations VP Laszlo Bock talked immigration. Chief Legal Officer David Drummond promoted our acquisition of DoubleClick, and JL Needham talked about our work to make federal government websites more searchable.

From all of us to all of you, best wishes for a happy holiday season. And stay tuned to this blog for much more in the new year.


[G] Google: the chainmail version

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Official Google Blog: Google: the chainmail version

From time to time we highlight the non-work interests and pastimes of individual Googlers. - Ed.

I have been working with chainmail, and metal working in general, for nearly 5 years now. I picked it up when I started college. My first major in college was history, and I was going to focus on the Middle Ages because of my fascination with the medieval period. After I changed majors to Computer Science, my hobby remained medievalism.

I have apprenticed under a blacksmith and learned some general metal working techniques. But I could not build my own forge then, so I turned to chainmail, which is a "cold" metal craft. Now I can take a bag of rings with me anywhere I go, and any time I have free time, I can work on whatever my current project is.

The crafting of chainmail is a relatively inexpensive hobby -- for the cost of a single videogame I can have enough chainmail supplies to last me months. The best part is that is requires very little thought most of the time, so you can multitask; watch TV, or movies, or even browse the web while working on chainmail.

A while back I was wanting to try my hand a chainmail inlay, but I did not have a design in mind. Most people make a chainmail shirt that has some dragon, or rampant lion design on it. I wanted to make something more unique. After a few weeks of thinking about this, I realized that I could use the Google logo.

I started construction in late April 2007, my plan was to only work on it while on my lunch break, or other downtimes. But I soon realized it would take me years at that pace. And the opening of our new office area was going to happen later in the summer. So I began to work on it whenever I was not actually doing my job. I spent around 4 to 5 hours a day every weekday weaving the banner.

Four months later, I had a completed banner, which now hangs in our office.

For the numbers-minded, here are some details:
  • The entire project is exactly 25,829 rings.
  • Dimensions: 67 units by 44 units (c. 66" x 27")
  • Rings: 1/4" 16-gauge aluminum; the silver is bright aluminum and the inlay uses colored anodized aluminum.
  • The entire thing is the traditional 4 in 1 pattern turned 90 degrees.


Thursday, December 27, 2007

[G] The most wonderful time of the year

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Official Google Mac Blog: The most wonderful time of the year

2007 has been an amazing year for Apple users, beginning with the iPhone announcement and culminating in the highly anticipated release of Mac OS X Leopard in October. The Google Mac team has been busy too, starting with the MacFUSE release and finishing strong with the launch of Google Gadgets, an updated Google Desktop, and our Developer Playground.

But for Mac fans, the holidays don't end on New Year's Day. We all look forward to Macworld Expo in January, when Apple pulls back the curtain on its latest cool stuff. And for the first time, we'll have an official Google booth at Macworld. If you're at the show, we hope you'll drop by and say hi. Until then, enjoy your holiday season, and we'll see you in January.


[G] AdSense inspiration

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Inside AdSense: AdSense inspiration

A few weeks ago we posted the winner of the AdSense Story Contest, and as promised, here are a few more of the stories and video submissions we received. This one comes from AdSense publisher Amit Agarwal of Agra, India.

Amit is a professional blogger and personal technology columnist for the Financial Express and The Hindustan Times. He maintains a technology blog called Digital Inspiration, which draws readers from all over the globe and covers software reviews, web technologies, and social media. His latest venture, India Inc., carries news and analysis about business and finance. Amit also runs a message board where he personally answers reader questions on blogging, online monetization and software.

In the early days, Amit was only making a few cents on Digital Inspiration. After optimizing the site, however, his revenue went through the roof. Now AdSense helps Amit lead a very comfortable life. Amit says, "I have tried a couple of other advertising programs on my website, but none of them have been so successful as AdSense. That's because AdSense contextual ads are always so relevant to the content."

Amit has also found success with several other AdSense products and features. He currently uses referrals to recommend software to his readers, and has implemented link units to efficiently use space on his site. He also uses the Google Custom Search Engine, linked to his AdSense for search account, and so is able to monetize his search results while helping visitors navigate through his site's pages with greater control. As he notes, "Currently 75% of my site revenue comes through the Google AdSense program. And I get more time to focus on writing new content for my readers rather than hunting for advertisers. AdSense has helped change my life forever."


Wednesday, December 26, 2007

[G] Managing your shared items

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Official Google Reader Blog: Managing your shared items

We've gotten a lot of helpful feedback about our new sharing feature. We'd hoped that making it easier to share with the people you chat with often would be useful and interesting, but we underestimated the number of users who were using the Share button to send stories to a limited number of people. We're looking at ways to make sharing more granular and flexible, but in the meantime there are several ways to share items without letting all of your Google Talk friends see them (you can also add or remove friends via Gmail or Google Talk).

You can still share any tag, or items you've starred, by clicking on Settings and selecting Tags. Each tag you share will get its own public page and feed URL, the same way shared items has a public page and feed; these tags will not be shared with anyone unless you send them the public address. Once you've shared a tag, simply click "Edit tags" at the bottom of any item to share it under that tag.

If you've already shared some items, you can click "Manage friends" in the upper-left box and then "move or clear your shared items"; from there you can select a tag to which you can transfer your list of shared items, or you can clear the list completely and start sharing anew. If you haven't logged into Reader in a while you'll be greeted by a pop-up window titled "Share with Friends", and you'll have the option to move or clear your shared items from there - your items will not be shared with your friends until you've clicked "Continue" from this window.

Thanks to all our users for helping to make Google Reader better, so please keep your feedback coming. From all of us on the Reader team, best wishes for a happy and healthy New Year!


Tuesday, December 25, 2007

[G] The year in YouTube politics

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Official Google Blog: The year in YouTube politics

Candidates caught singing on camera. Dorm-room presidential interviews. A martial arts master endorsing a presidential candidate. Citizen-created campaign commercials. And two presidential primary debates. 2007 was quite a year for YouTube Politics.

At this time last year, YouTube had developed a reputation as a place where "gotcha!" videos posted by ciitzens were changing the political landscape. Some even called the 2006 U.S. midterm elections "the YouTube election" after several candidates were caught on camera saying things they probably shouldn't have. But in 2007, that changed. Seizing the YouTube opportunity, presidential candidates came rushing to the platform themselves, setting up official campaign channels on our You Choose '08 platform. Seven of the 16 presidential candidates even announced their candidacies on YouTube.

Candidates and voters now speak to each other through video. At their best, campaigns use YouTube not as a shrunken TV screen through which to distribute their soundbites, but as a window through which to have a dialogue with the American people. YouTube's leveling effect is this: anyone can upload a video with their political message, and the best content rises to the top through community view counts, rankings, linkages, and embeds. Any voter with a video camera and access to the Internet has the opportunity to be seen and heard.

Our two presidential debates with CNN highlighted this phenomenon. Eight thousand video questions were submitted for the two record-setting debates, which opened up a traditionally closed event to the rest of the world via YouTube. Time was, you had to be in New Hampshire, Iowa, or Florida to get access to candidates at a debate. With questions coming directly from voters via video, our YouTube debates helped to break down some of the geographical barriers that have so sharply defined American politics in the past.

So what's ahead in 2008? Things are only going to get more exciting. As Congressional and Senate races heat up, you'll see more and more candidates coming to YouTube. And as the presidential races narrows down to two candidates, YouTube will be a critical battlefront in the general election. With voters, candidates, issue groups, media companies, trade associations, lobbyists and activists all interacting on the same level platform, 2008 promises to be a true "YouTube Election."


[G] Thanks for telling us your story

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Google Analytics Blog: Thanks for telling us your story

One of the most exciting things about having such an extensive ecosystem of Google Analytics users is the variety of ways people are using the product. Each website has a unique personality and appearance and if you're a website owner, you're often thinking about how to combine navigation, design, and language to most clearly communicate your message to users. And then repeating that process.

We love to hear stories from Google Analytics users so we can share the flexibility of the product and understand unique success metrics. We recently heard one such story from the folks at, who switched to Google Analytics and let us know that they are now not only saving $5,600 dollars every month but are also more satisfied with their web analytics reporting. CEO Oney Seal reports, "I paid money and I wasn't getting any value. I can look at the data now and I understand it."

Here's their story:

As a large internet retailer selling ink cartridges, toners, and printer supplies, price competition is a significant challenge for DataBazaar. The same products can be bought from many different vendors and customers can easily take their business elsewhere. Having a seamless site from landing page to checkout is vital to their business - both in getting first time customers as well as keeping repeat shoppers. Before switching to Google Analytics, DataBazaar felt they weren't getting the content optimization insights they needed, despite spending a hefty sum on reporting. Frustrated, they decided to transition their site — all seventeen thousand pages — to Google Analytics. In doing so, DataBazaar discovered a collection of stumbling blocks on their site in their navigation reports. They used Google Analytics in conjunction with Google Website Optimizer to make changes that increased the conversion rate on some pages by over 43%. Also, they learned what not to change on their site, noticing that many of the conversion funnels that were already in place were working surprisingly well. They are continuing to use Google Analytics to raise conversion rates even higher. Thanks for sharing and congratulations DataBazaar!


Sunday, December 23, 2007

[G] The best of the blog

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Google LatLong: The best of the blog

Since the start of Google Lat Long back in May, we've had fun keeping you updated on all the exciting new developments in the geo world -- from product launches and innovative user-created content to the evolution of the geoweb in general. As the year comes to a close, we thought we'd take a moment to look back at some of the greatest moments in news and notes by the Google Earth and Maps teams.

Street View
Since the launch of Street View in May, our post introducing the service remained one the top five most read posts consistently throughout the year. And "street view" was one the most common search keywords. So just as we did earlier this month in announcing 8 new Street View cities, we'll be sure to keep you posted on new city rollouts.

Google Earth Outreach
We heralded the arrival of this exciting new program for non-profits with a post that pointed to video footage of our kick-off event at our New York office. The video featuring an appearance by Jane Goodall was viewed over 22,000 times.

My Maps and Disaster Relief
When the My Maps tab was added to Google Maps earlier this year, we were eagerly anticipating all the cool and creative custom maps folks would be coming up with. However, we were positively floored to find the incredible maps made to aid areas in need. From flood maps created by "citizen journalists" and by BBC Berkshire to the San Diego fire maps and the Google Earth layer of Southern California imagery, the astonishing number of views pointed to new ways to help.

Sky in Google Earth
Another top post of the year, our note introducing the addition of a new Sky view in Google Earth, caught the attention of many Lat Long readers. Google Earth aficionados are able to zoom in on distant galaxies and explore constellations and supernova explosions from the comfort of their computer screens. A list of great tips on how to use Sky in Google Earth for educational purposes followed, and you can expect more updates in the new year.

YouTube videos in Google Earth
Ever watched a funny, intriguing, or outrageous YouTube video and wondered where it came from? Well, we have too. That's why we were so excited to announce the addition of a new YouTube layer in Google Earth. Videos geotagged in YouTube are included in this browseable layer, making it easy to view clips associated with a location of your choice.

Maps Mania!

2007 saw the addition of a number of great new features in Google Maps, perhaps too numerous to count. Early on in the year, the creation of the My Maps tab and the addition of countless Mapplets enabled just about anyone to create their own mashups. Throughout the year, searching for accurate and helpful directions got a whole lot easier with the launch of draggable directions and the ability to read and write user reviews of businesses, as well as edit address markers. Finally, mapmakers enjoyed the addition of cool new Maps functionalities towards the end of the year, including the ability to both collaborate on customized maps and embed them wherever you see fit, as you might a YouTube video.

As you can see, this year's been a busy one. We're all looking forward to a few days of rest and holiday cheer. And with that, we must bid adieu -- happy holidays and a wonderful new year from all of us at Google Lat Long! Stay tuned for more geo news and notes in 2008, and don't forget to track Santa!


[G] NORAD tracks Santa with Google

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Official Google Blog: NORAD tracks Santa with Google

Now Dasher! Now Dancer! Now, Prancer and Vixen! On, Comet! On, Cupid! On, Donner and Blitzen!

We're counting down the hours until Santa's flight around the world. On Monday, December 24th, starting at 1 am PST, visit to track Santa with NORAD on his annual trip.

NORAD will use Google Maps to track several hundred of Santa's stops in over 200 countries and territories, and will embed videos of Santa's stops captured on their Santa Cams on the Google Map and post the videos on the NORAD Tracks Santa YouTube channel.

Want to see more of Santa? NORAD will also provide a downloadable Santa Tracker file to track several thousand of Santa's stops in Google Earth. Santa's visits are only a few seconds long, and then -- poof, he's off to the next location. Click on the gift icons in Google Maps or Google Earth to learn more about the cities that Santa visits.

Happy holidays from all of us at Google!