Saturday, August 21, 2010

[G] 5 Questions for Mark Horvath, Founder of InvisiblePeople. tv

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YouTube Blog: 5 Questions for Mark Horvath, Founder of InvisiblePeople. tv

We're always inspired by the people who use YouTube as a way to document how the other half lives, and Mark Horvath is a great example. As the founder of Invisible People. tv, a project that encourages homeless people across the United States to tell their stories on YouTube, he has sparked a discussion on the site about poverty and hunger. Mark's videos are a raw and real depiction of what it's like to live in a tent city, under an overpass, or within a cardboard box. Today, we're featuring a few of these videos on the YouTube homepage, and we’re pleased for Mark to speak further about his work right here.

1) Why did you start Invisible People. tv, and specifically, Road Trip U. S. A. ?

Sixteen years ago, I had a very good job in the television industry. Fifteen years ago, I became homeless, living on Hollywood Boulevard. I rebuilt my life to a point where I had a three-bedroom house and a 780 credit score, then in 2007 the economy took a nosedive. Like many Americans, I found myself unemployed, living off my credit cards, and hoping for the best. The best never came, but several layoffs — along with foreclosure on my house — did.

By November 2008, I found myself once again laid off. I was mentally and emotionally exhausted and, to be honest, I was scared of once again living on the streets of Hollywood. I could see homelessness all around me, but I couldn’t bear to look. I was turning away because I felt their pain.

Don't waste a good crisis. It’s a simple concept and it’s how InvisiblePeople. tv started. For the most part I had lost everything but some furniture, my car, a box of photos, laptop, small camera, and my iPhone. My laptop could not cut video because it had a 5400 drive. Videos need to have a music bed, nice graphics, b-roll and be well-produced. But after looking at what I didn't have and all the problems that were stopping me, I decided to just use what I had. I registered a domain, changed the header on a WordPress theme, grabbed my camera, and started to interview people.

I honestly didn't think anyone would even view the videos. I was really doing it to release something that was deep down inside me, and to be candid, to keep busy. It was a really dark time and InvisiblePeople. tv gave me a purpose.

I'll never forget going into the first tent city. It was 400 yards in a wooded area where no help could easily arrive if I found myself in trouble. I questioned my sanity walking in there with a camera and a bag of socks. One smart thing I did was blast what I was doing all over social media so people could feel like they were right there with me. That day my life changed. People started to tweet me encouragement and all kinds of support. The InvisiblePeople. tv road trip was born.

Last year I traveled 11,236 miles around the U.S. in a three-month period. I went under bridges, into tent cities, and walked through many shelters and rundown hotels. There was no way anyone could foresee the impact. I became a catalyst for change in several communities. Housing programs were started; feeding programs were started; 50 homeless kids who could not go to school because they didn't have shoes suddenly had brand new shoes within an hour of my visit thanks to social media. A farmer even donated 40 acres of land that is now even being used to supplement low income families in a local school. I could go on and on.

2) Do you consider your work citizen reporting, activism or a combination of both?

I am a storyteller. I also empower people to tell their own stories. Not sure you could frame me as a citizen journalist or activist even though there are elements to both in what I do. Beth Kanter coins the term "Free Agent" in her book “The Networked Nonprofit.” I like that.

3) Is there one story that has particularly inspired you to keep doing what you're doing?

Last year I met Angela, who is living under a bridge in Atlanta and she changed me. She is dying under that bridge...

When I asked what was being done to help her, the response I received was, "We bring her sandwiches.” Sandwiches are not enough. Up to that point I thought that people should do whatever they can do to help – even if it’s just baking cookies. After meeting Angela I realized people need housing, jobs and health services. So maybe your support level is just baking cookies. That's fine. But don't just randomly hand them out. Take your cookies to an organization that is providing housing, jobs and health services.

4) You've collected hundreds of interviews with homeless people around the world. Why do you think folks are willing to talk to you about their experiences? Are there any special tactics you use to draw out their stories?

The #1 rule is: respect everyone. I never force a story. In fact, the best stories are the ones I never get on camera. That's kind of why I don't feel citizen journalist fits me. I honestly put people before the story.

I also use socks to break the ice. Socks on the streets are like gold. Almost all organizations, churches or groups will feed homeless people. In most parks where homeless hang out churches will feed the same people all day long, but rarely are socks handed out. By handing a homeless person a clean pair of socks, even without saying a word, they know I know a thing or two about street life.

Once someone agrees to an interview and the camera is recording, I simply do my best to be a good listener. That's not always easy when my heart gets wrecked.

5) At the end of each video, you ask your subject, "If you had three wishes, what would they be?" What are your three wishes?

Back years ago, working as a TV producer, if an interview went dry I would distract and refocus by asking people their three wishes. When I first started InvisiblePeople. tv, I did it once in a while. I didn't know the impact that question had on the viewers. Then last year, when I spoke at the University of Arkansas, the organizer secretly had everyone in the audience write on large, white poster board their three wishes. When I was done speaking, they all held them up to show me. Talk about a powerful memory! From that moment on I have asked everyone what their three wishes are.

My first wish would be that people really see the reality of homelessness; second, that we develop communities and work as a team to solve this social crisis. The third? I would like security and normalcy in my life, but with a name like Hardly Normal, it's never going to happen!

Please always remember: the homeless people you’ll ignore today were much like you not so long ago.

Ramya Raghavan, Nonprofits & Activism Manager, recently watched "Cliff".


Friday, August 20, 2010

[G] Interviews @ GUADEC, part 1

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Google Open Source Blog: Interviews @ GUADEC, part 1

Jeremy Allison, co-founder of Samba and member of the Google Open Source Programs Office, recently returned from GUADEC, the GNOME conference held in The Hague, Netherlands. Jeremy was kind enough to bring his video camera along with him so he could interview some open source community notables and share the recordings here on this blog.

Jeremy’s first interview is with Bradley Kuhn, who is a board member of the Free Software Foundation, the president of Software Freedom Conservancy, and the Policy Analyst and Technology Director at the Software Freedom Law Center. Jeremy and Bradley discuss the GPLv3 and Bradley’s work as an advocate of free and open source software.

By Ellen Ko, Open Source Team

[G] The transmission of art by television (and now YouTube)

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YouTube Blog: The transmission of art by television (and now YouTube)

Inspired by YouTube Play. A Biennial of Creative Video, the Guggenheim has launched a terrific blog called The Take, featuring writings by scholars, artists and other experts on topics like online video, digital content, the history of video art, and the effects of the Internet on art and culture. Naturally, some of what’s being covered has strong connections to YouTube, and so the kind folks at the Guggenheim have allowed us to cross-post here.

This post is from writer/curator Michael Connor, founder of the
Marian Spore contemporary art museum in Brooklyn and co-curator of the permanent exhibition “Screen Worlds” at the Australian Centre for the Moving Image in Melbourne. Connor also teaches at the School of Visual Arts and New York University's Interactive Telecommunications Program. You can read his original post here.

"The transmission of art exhibitions by television is the beginning of an era when the public will be taught to appreciate great works of art, seeing them in their homes.”

This was the prediction made in a report written by one E. Robb for the BBC way back in 1933, less than a year after their first experimental television broadcast. For Robb, art on television meant pointing a camera at a painting or sculpture.

More than three decades later, a German filmmaker named Gerry Schum had a similar idea. In those days, West Berlin was cut off from the rest of West Germany by the Iron Curtain. In 1968 Schum wrote that “not only must works of art be flown into the city, also critics and visitors from West Germany experience difficulty in reaching Berlin.” Television, he realized, could allow artworks and visitors to be connected across such long distances and closed borders.

West Berlin’s plight is partly what inspired Schum to start an art gallery on television. Fernseh-Galerie (Television Gallery), as it was called, was a pioneering series of video art commissioned by Schum, including two broadcast exhibitions in 1969 and 1970. The first exhibition, Land Art, was broadcast on the public station Sender Freies Berlin (SFB) on April 15, 1969. Many notable artists contributed films that were then transferred to videotape, including Jan Dibbets, Richard Long, Walter de Maria, Dennis Oppenheim, and Robert Smithson.

My favorite piece produced by the gallery is Jan Dibbets’s TV as Fireplace. Between December 25 and 31, 1969, public television station WDR III in Cologne rebroadcast Dibbets’s video of a burning fire every night for three minutes. The logs were lit on the first night, and the fire grew in intensity before slowly dying on the last one. Perfectly site specific, Dibbets’s piece turned the home’s cathode-ray tube into a flickering fire for just a few moments at a historical moment when the TV set had gone a long way toward replacing the hearth as the focal point of domestic space.

Watching TV as Fireplace on YouTube would of course be completely different. Online video shatters the direct link that Dibbets made between physical viewing environment and moving image. Given that audiences may now watch videos on an iPhone at the beach or a computer at the office, is it still possible for artists to create this kind of dialogue between the physical space of viewing and the space on-screen?

What do you think? Please comment below (note comments are moderated due to spam) or directly on The Take.


[G] Going Google across the 50 States: Google Apps “just works” for Massachusetts-based marketing firm

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Official Google Enterprise Blog: Going Google across the 50 States: Google Apps “just works” for Massachusetts-based marketing firm

Editor’s note: Over the past couple months, thousands of businesses have added their Gone Google story to our community map and even more have used the Go Google cloud calculator to test drive life in the cloud. To highlight some of these companies’ Gone Google stories, we decided to talk to Google Apps customers across the United States. Check back each week to see which state we visit next. To learn more about other organizations that have gone Google and share your story, visit our community map.

In Massachusetts, we find Sean Leach, Systems Architect for EPS Communications — a strategic marketing firm near Boston. With experienced staff, EPS marries multiple disciplines to offer client services including direct response media, interactive development, design, and custom content and publishing. EPS is so excited to have gone Google that Sean created the picture below showing each of his co-workers, and shared the story of why the company switched to Google Apps.

“In late 2007 we made the switch from a traditional email POP server and a ‘whatever you can find’ calendar and docs solution to Google Apps. We haven't looked back since.

Within Google Apps, we mainly use Gmail, Calendar, and Docs. Because of the tight integration between the three services, as well as the ‘it just works’ nature of the products, we've definitely had a marked increase in productivity and user happiness. No more POP server being down, no more having to try and track down an email or document. It's all there in the cloud, all the time, and easy to find because of Google search.

By using Google Docs, we’ve been able to help keep our projects on track and our teams working more efficiently. Everything starts as a Google document, often with multiple team members working on one at the same time. We can see who’s in the document and what changes are being made in real time. It’s collaboration at its best. We’re also able to organize and manage complex projects that have a lot of different stakeholders, like website redesigns. Our team will use a spreadsheet to list out which components of the website need to be updated, the corresponding owner, and the status of the updates.

Our other favorite part of Google Apps is that everything is accessible from any computer or mobile phone with a web browser, no matter where our jobs take us. Our employees can be just as productive outside the office as they can inside it. That is a big deal for a small company. It allows us to be both flexible and productive. It's something we truly can't live without.

If you haven't tried Google Apps, you really owe it to yourself (and your company) to give it a shot. It's wonderful.”

Posted by Michelle Lisowski, Google Apps team

[G] Google Apps highlights – 8/20/2010

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Official Google Blog: Google Apps highlights – 8/20/2010

This is part of a regular series of Google Apps updates that we post every couple of weeks. Look for the label “Google Apps highlights" and subscribe to the series. - Ed.

Over the last few weeks, we made it easier to find more kinds of information in Gmail as well as use multiple Gmail accounts at once. Google Docs and Google Sites both added new features, and we released improved tools to move existing data to Google Apps.

Find docs and sites quickly from Gmail
On Wednesday we cooked up our newest Labs feature in Gmail—a more powerful version of Gmail’s search feature. Now, not only can you search for messages and chats, you can also search for information in Google Docs and Google Sites from your inbox. This is a big time-saver when you don’t remember where the information you’re looking for is saved. We also recently added the ability to drag attachments from Gmail to your desktop if you use Google Chrome.

Use multiple Gmail accounts at once
Life is now easier for people with multiple Gmail accounts. With the new multiple sign-in feature, you can toggle back and forth between accounts, or even have Gmail open in two tabs with different accounts. To learn more about this feature for advanced users, head over to the Gmail Blog.

Improvements to documents, spreadsheets and drawings in Google Docs
We rolled out a rapid-fire string of useful features for Google Docs over the last couple weeks, including alternate page sizes and resizable tables in documents, spell checking in spreadsheets, and a new curve rendering tool in drawings. All these features make creating and collaborating with others in real-time on documents, spreadsheets and drawings easier.

New site navigation choices in Google Sites
Google Sites got in on the action this week too, with the ability to add horizontal navigation buttons, tabs or links to your sites. We also added the option to include a site-wide footer on your pages, and made it easier for people to open embedded documents in a new tab where users with access can make edits.

App Tuesday: Nine new additions to the Apps Marketplace
For organizations, a key advantage of Google Apps is immediate access to productivity-enhancing innovations from third-party software companies. This month, nine new applications were added to the Apps Marketplace. Instead of struggling with patches and updates each month, Google Apps customers can activate new functionality with just a couple clicks.

Who’s gone Google?
We have a long list of new customers to share who have recently switched to Google Apps. A warm welcome goes out to Roberto Cavalli, HÔM Real Estate Group, Luna & Larry’s Coconut Bliss, Bergelectric, the cities of Westerville and Wooster in Ohio, as well as the State of Maryland, which will be making Google Apps available to all 1.4 million of its K-12 and higher education students.

If your business or school is ready to “go Google”, we’re happy to report that making the switch is even easier with new data migration options. In addition to our existing tools to migrate email, contacts and calendar data from Microsoft Exchange, hosted Exchange and Lotus Notes, last week we simplified the process to migrate from IMAP systems and PST data files.

I hope these updates help you or your organization get even more from Google Apps. For details and the latest news in this area, check out the Google Apps Blog.

Posted by Jeremy Milo, Google Apps Marketing Manager

[G] Site maintenance on Saturday, August 21

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Inside AdSense: Site maintenance on Saturday, August 21

This Saturday, our engineers will be performing routine site maintenance from 10am to 2pm PDT. You'll be unable to log in to your AdSense account during this time, but we'll continue serving ads to your pages and tracking your clicks, impressions, and earnings as usual. In addition, your ad targeting won't be affected.

We've converted the maintenance start time for a few cities around the world:

London - 6pm Saturday
Alexandria - 7pm Saturday
Hyderabad - 10:30pm Saturday
Jakarta - 12am Sunday
Perth - 1am Sunday

To learn more about what goes on during these maintenance periods, check out this Inside AdSense post.

Posted by Katrina Kurnit - Inside AdSense Team

[G] A Better Developer Doc Experience

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Google Analytics Blog: A Better Developer Doc Experience

Now that the excitement of the new Management API launch has just passed its zenith, you might have also noticed that there were some interesting changes to the Analytics for Developer pages on Google Code.

Since Nick, Alex, and I were under the hood making docs and sample code for the Management API, it also seemed like a good time to spiff up the site and add some structure to handle this burgeoning developer resource.

New Look and Feel
Nick went to town on our new home page. If you attended his talk at the Google I/O conference this May, you might notice that the Analytics data model diagram has reappeared, but this time as a gateway into the key parts of our documentation on Google Code. We surfaced the most important links to provide deep access to the key parts of each section of the site.

New Landing Pages
Since we now have 3+ major sections on our site, it was time to provide landing pages for all the news and updates relevant to Tracking Code configuration, Management API, and Export API. Here you will always be able to see the latest release news and best practice guides for each API without having to dig down into the site.

We’ve also redesigned our navigation bar to be more visually appealing and consistent across all three APIs.

New Groups Pages
We have three major developer groups to help you out with your Analytics coding--Async tracking, Management API, and Export API. Not only that, but our general Help Forum is great for issues with general tracking topics. Since we have so many different groups, we created a new groups landing page to help you figure out which group will help you best.

Our Management API and Export API groups use the new Google Discussion Forum, which is embedded right in the page--a pretty nifty feature.

We hope that you find the new design makes it clearer and easier for you to find what you need for Analytics development. We’d love to hear your feedback, so please post any comments on one of our developer groups pages and let us know.

Patricia Boswell on behalf of the Analytics API team.

[G] Share your reflections on Hurricane Katrina, five years later

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YouTube Blog: Share your reflections on Hurricane Katrina, five years later

Five years ago, on August 29, Hurricane Katrina began battering the Gulf Coast region, destroying homes, schools and businesses, and submerging the city of New Orleans under water. The deadly hurricane claimed over a thousand lives, left hundreds of thousands without homes, and caused tens of billions of dollars worth of damage, amounting to one of the worst natural disasters in the history of the United States. Despite these challenges, the resilient spirit of the Big Easy has helped the city and its residents rebound and rebuild.

In 9 days we will commemorate the anniversary of Hurricane Katrina with a collection of videos on the YouTube homepage created by New Orleans area residents. In partnership with ABC 26 (WGNO), a local television station in New Orleans, we invite Gulf Coast region residents to reflect on the five years since Katrina and submit videos using YouTube Direct on ABC 26’s website. A selection of videos will also be featured on, ABC 26’s YouTube channel, and broadcast on ABC 26.

Did you live through Hurricane Katrina and have a story to share? Upload your video here:

Olivia Ma, News Manager, recently watched “Vaccarella Family - Hurricane Katrina


[G] Use Linux? Now you can video chat too

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Google Talkabout: Use Linux? Now you can video chat too

(Cross-posted from the Gmail Blog)

If you’ve been wanting to use voice and video chat on Linux (our top video chat request), then we have good news for you: it’s now available! Visit to download the plugin and get started. Voice and video chat for Linux supports Ubuntu and other Debian-based Linux distributions, and RPM support will be coming soon.

Posted by Tristan Schmelcher, Software Engineer

[G] AdWords system maintenance on August 21st

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Inside AdWords: AdWords system maintenance on August 21st

On Saturday, August 21st, the AdWords system will be unavailable from approximately 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. PDT due to our regularly scheduled system maintenance. While you won't be able to log into your account during this time, your campaigns will continue to run as usual.

AdWords system maintenance typically occurs on the second Saturday of each month during the above times. We'll continue to update you here as we always have, but you may want to take note of our intended dates and times to help you plan for any scheduled downtimes further down the road.

Posted by Miles Johnson, Inside AdWords crew

Thursday, August 19, 2010

[G] New Google Blog For SMBs

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Google Analytics Blog: New Google Blog For SMBs

Most every business, including Google's, starts small. These days, technology is giving businesses even more ways to grow bigger, faster.

In a recent series on the Official Google Blog focused on small businesses, a handful of real-life entrepreneurs shared their experiences building companies from scratch and embracing internet tools that have taken their businesses to the next level. The team received fantastic feedback about these posts, and realized that there’s a healthy appetite among small- and medium-sized business owners who want to know all about the latest web tools and tricks. And obviously, Google Analytics is one of the best, in our humble opinion. :-)

That’s why we’re giving an introductory shout out to the new Google Small Business Blog here on our blog. It's a central hub that brings together all the information about Google products, features and projects of specific interest to the small business community. Rather than having to sleuth around in many different locations for details about templates for creating video ads on YouTube, tips for your employees using Gmail or how to respond to the business reviews on your Place Page, you can find all of this helpful information right here in one place. And we'll be contributing content on Google Analytics there as well.

They already have a few great posts, with more to come, and we're confident their audience will continue to grow, much like a small successful business.

Posted by Jeff Gillis, Google Analytics Team

[G] Ready, Set, Go

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Google Open Source Blog: Ready, Set, Go

Rob Pike, Google Distinguished Engineer and co-creator of the Go programming language, presented an OSCON keynote last month about his motivations for creating Go. For those of you who weren’t able to catch Rob in person, you can now watch the video of his talk.

If you’ve been curious about an open source programming language that offers, in the Go team’s words, “the development speed of working in a dynamic language like Python with the performance and safety of a compiled language like C or C++,” check out the video and then get Going!

by Ellen Ko, Open Source Team

[G] More ways to find the right Chrome Extension for you

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Google Chrome Blog: More ways to find the right Chrome Extension for you

A few months ago, we launched several categories of featured Chrome extensions to help you find the right one. Today, in addition to updating these pages with new extensions, we are also launching more categories to enhance your web experiences in News and weather, Photos, Productivity, Search tools and Social.

If you have a busy life online and offline, extensions in the Productivity category can help you be more efficient and productive on the web. With Start! or Incredible Start Page, you can customize your New Tab page to quickly access your favorite sites. Extensions like StayFocusd and Time Tracker can help you keep track of your time spent on various web sites.

Chrome extensions can also help you view, edit and share photos and images easily. You can take screenshots of web pages using Awesome Screenshot and Webpage Screenshot. You can also transform your favorite photo sites into slideshows with iSlide or scroll through images on an infinite 3D wall with Cooliris.

For those who use social networking services like Twitter, Facebook and Google Buzz, there are extensions to help you stay connected with your family and friends. With Shareaholic for Google Chrome or AddThis, you can share web pages to your social networks, email and blogs. For Twitter users, TweetMeme to retweet any article you find on the web. There are also full-featured Twitter extensions like Chromed Bird or Chrowety that allows you to follow and send tweets, retweets and direct messages from your Google Chrome browser.

I hope you enjoy these new categories of extensions. We are working to make the categories in the gallery more dynamic so you can easily find the Chrome extensions you want.

Posted by Koh Kim, Associate Product Marketing Manager

[G] To 100 million and beyond with Google Maps for mobile

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Google LatLong: To 100 million and beyond with Google Maps for mobile

[Cross-posted from the Google Mobile Blog]

Almost five years ago, we launched Google Maps for mobile to help you get where you needed to go from your phone instead of a paper map. Today, more than 100 million people a month are now using Google Maps for mobile to get from point A to point B, find nearby places, and more.

Over the past five years, Maps for mobile has changed quite a bit, adding more ways to help you explore the world around you. With My Location, you can quickly find where you are on the map with or without GPS. You can put your friends on the map with Latitude. Navigation even turns your phone into a free internet-connected navigation system with voice guidance and Street View imagery.

Lately, we’ve been especially focused on helping you find the right place at the right time. With recent additions such as Place Pages, you can now pick a nearby place by browsing information such as opening hours and review snippets for the places around you. It’s easier than ever to find those places with Search by voice or the new Places icon on Android. With this latest Android version, we’re happy to see that you’re now searching for places almost three times as often, doubling how many Place Pages are seen a day.

Search result page for Java-enabled phones in 2005 (left) and Place Page for Android-powered devices in 2010 (right).

Search experience in 2005 (left) and Places for Android-powered devices in 2010 (right).

We hope this is just the start of how Google Maps for mobile will continue to evolve and let you explore the world right from your phone. We’re always inspired by how you’re using Maps, and we’d love to hear about a time when you found the nearest mechanic for a flat tire or discovered that hidden gem of a burger joint. If you have a Google story about when Maps for mobile has helped you, please tell us about it. You can also share quick stories on Twitter @googlemobile, and we’ll share our favorite ones. From all of us here on the Google Maps for mobile team, 100 million thank yous for getting your Google Maps to go!

If you’re a business owner, help millions of people find you by claiming your free Place Page available in Google Maps and our most used mobile “app” -- Google Search. Get started at

Posted by Vic Gundotra, Vice President of Engineering

[G] Heroic Defenders of Wildlife organization maps oil spill cleanup efforts

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Google LatLong: Heroic Defenders of Wildlife organization maps oil spill cleanup efforts

For a period of several months, 50,000 to 60,000 barrels of oil per day flowed from the site of the Deepwater Horizon well straight into the Gulf of Mexico. After the initial explosion on April 20th, the first reports of oil sightings on the coastlines began on June 1st. People living and working along the shoreline spanning Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Florida saw clumps of crude oil on their local beaches. That was followed by reports of birds, dolphins, fish and sea turtles covered in slick black oil.

In the aftermath of the largest environmental disaster in U.S. history, environmental groups across the country have been rallying in support of both immediate coastal reparation and long-term solutions for the damage the Gulf Oil Spill has wreaked on the ecosystem. With those goals in mind, Washington, D.C.-based Defenders of Wildlife, an organization dedicated to protecting species and the habitats on which they depend, is doing everything it can to raise awareness and action for greater cleanup and conservation.

The organization is working to educate policymakers about the importance of protecting wildlife and securing a moratorium on further offshore drilling. In addition, Defenders of Wildlife has been issuing ongoing reports on the number of birds, sea turtles and marine mammals found covered in oil along the coast. As many as 400 different species of animals are projected to be impacted by the environmental nightmare. Since massive cleanup activities are being led by a number of environmental groups, Defenders of Wildlife also decided to use their powerful mapping platform called the Conservation Registry to track the collective efforts of all the various groups into one comprehensive map.

Gulf of Mexico Oil Disaster – Oiled Wildlife: *The numbers above reflect only wildlife that has been recovered dead; actual numbers of dead wildlife are likely to be much higher.

Oiled Wildlife Ticker, updated each day to track the numbers of animals that have been impacted by the spill

This Gulf Oil Spill Recovery map was created using the Google Maps API and the Google Earth API. It allows any users, whether they’re part of a non-profit group or concerned citizens who want to report what they observe in their backyards, to upload stories, photos and video to the common shared map. The result is an impressive illustration of all the projects - from beach cleanups to air monitoring surveys to sediment sampling - going on in the region to help rescue and restore affected species and their habitats. The map also shows numerous steps that the Obama Administration is taking to mitigate the near- and long-term impacts of the spill. As the map evolves, you’ll be able to see how the marine environment and coastlines recuperate from collaborative efforts by average people, non-profit organizations and government agencies.

Through this video, our most recent Google Earth Hero, Defenders of Wildlife, shares more about the creation of the Gulf Oil Spill Recovery application. Their hope is that it will not only help people visually understand the scope of the spill and recovery work, but also spur volunteers into taking action and getting involved themselves. Additional data contributed by Defenders of Wildlife, news and user videos can also be found on the Google Crisis Response oil spill recovery site.

Posted by Tanya Keen, Google Earth Outreach Program Manager

[G] Use Linux? Now you can video chat too

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Official Gmail Blog: Use Linux? Now you can video chat too

Posted by Tristan Schmelcher, Software Engineer

If you’ve been wanting to use voice and video chat on Linux (our top video chat request), then we have good news for you: it’s now available! Visit to download the plugin and get started. Voice and video chat for Linux supports Ubuntu and other Debian-based Linux distributions, and RPM support will be coming soon.

[G] Our latest search story: run on

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Official Google Blog: Our latest search story: run on

This is part of our summer series of new Search Stories. Look for the label Search Stories and subscribe to the series. -Ed.

Recently, a group of Google product managers challenged one another to run 100 miles over 30 days in the interest of encouraging summer fitness. I grew up in Huntsville, AL, where I always loved exercising and experiencing the great outdoors, so I took to the challenge immediately. One hundred and thirty-three miles and a few pairs of new running shoes later, it was an incredible opportunity to push myself further than I’d ever imagined. But, I must admit—it wasn’t easy.

I’m delighted to help introduce our latest Search Story, Healthy Habits. This is a story of one woman’s journey to get back into shape. It shows the difficulties of sticking to a workout routine, and the empowerment that comes with reaching—and even exceeding your goals. It highlights the many tools and tricks that make Google a great workout companion, and I hope it inspires you to incorporate new healthy habits into your own lifestyle.

Enjoy this week’s video, and don’t forget to check out the other videos if you haven’t already. Search (and run) on!

Posted by Avni Shah, Group Product Manager, Geo

[G] Chains to trains: BART provides bike-friendly directions with Google Maps API Premier

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Official Google Enterprise Blog: Chains to trains: BART provides bike-friendly directions with Google Maps API Premier

Editor’s note: Today’s guest writer is Timothy Moore, Website Manager for Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART). Here he discusses how they use Google Maps API Premier v3 to power searches and biking directions on BART serves the San Francisco Bay Area covering 4 counties, 43 stations, 104 miles (167 km) of track, and has an average weekday ridership of 335,000 passengers. It is the 5th busiest heavy rail rapid transit system in the U.S.

Recently the BART website ( launched some cool new trip planning services, including bicycle directions and station area points of interest, using the Google Maps API. The BART QuickPlanner is one of the most popular features on our website. If you live in the Bay Area, chances are you’ve used it. The QuickPlanner has traditionally offered a mix of BART trip plans, directions for walking and driving to the station, connecting transit information, carbon savings and more.

We're always looking for ways to improve the QuickPlanner, so when Google Maps started offering bicycle directions we were green with envy. Our latest research shows that only 4% of BART customers ride a bicycle from their home to a station. With ongoing cuts to connecting transit services and many BART station parking lots filled to the brim, adding bicycling directions to the QuickPlanner will help us promote the option to more than a million website visitors every month.

Frankly we've struggled with the integration of other mapping products into our custom-built BART scheduling application; weak documentation, limited real-world examples, and cumbersome programming requirements. Developing with the Google Maps API was a whole different world. As our lead programmer, Robert Falconer, noted, "It was easy to learn and quick to implement. And the ability to use free-form input terms for addresses, locations and points of interest was a major plus.”

If you've ever had to trap address or landmark input errors you know what he’s talking about. For example, if a user enters in “Frrey Blding” to the QuickPlanner, Google's geocoding service can recognize the user's intent and return the proper term "Ferry Building" with the correct corresponding address. All of this is done seamlessly behind the scenes so that all user sees is the address they are looking for when their trip is mapped out.

Again, using the Google Maps API, we’re able to provide more information about points of interest near BART stations, including directions. If you visit the neighborhood map section you can now use freeform search for station area destinations, and we’re no longer limiting you to searches based on standard address formats or a preset pull down menu. We also use the Google Maps API for services like “Find Closest Station” and for the map images presented on our station landing pages.

Overall this was a really fun project for us. I hope our use of the Google Maps API on will encourage more bicycling to BART and I also hope people will use it to discover all of the awesome things that BART station area neighborhoods have to offer.

Posted by Carlos Cuesta, Google Earth and Maps Team

[G] New features in Google Docs and Google Sites

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Official Google Enterprise Blog: New features in Google Docs and Google Sites

Google’s multi-tenant infrastructure allows us to launch new features to our customers seamlessly, and with over 50 launches in first half of this year alone, the pace of innovation in Google Apps continues to accelerate.

Today we keep up the innovation with several new updates in Google Sites and Google Docs. We’ve improved Google Sites with several highly-requested features including horizontal navigation, global footers, and a new section for deleted items.

Horizontal navigation enables site owners to easily add links across the top of their sites.

Site owners can also add a global footer that displays across all pages on a site, and we added a new section for deleted items in sites, making it easier to get to deleted pages and attachments.

We’ve also added quick links to open Google Docs that are embedded in a site, making it easier for collaborators to open embedded documents.

For more information on these new features in Google Sites, check out the Google Docs blog.

In addition to these updates to Google Sites, this week we also launched several improvements in Google Docs:
  • Typing links just got a little faster in Google documents. Now when you type something that we recognize as a web address, it will automatically become a link.
  • We’ve also added a few more page sizes for your documents. So if you’ve been craving an Executive sized page (7.25” x 10.5”), you’re in luck. For more information on autolinks and page sizes, head to the Google Docs blog.

  • Correct spelling is an essential part of document creation, and to that end we’ve added spellcheck to Google spreadsheets. For more information on spelling checker in spreadsheets, visit the Google Docs blog.

As with all updates on Google Apps, users can get new features just by refreshing their browsers, and improvements roll out to customers with no need for administrators to manage patches or install software.

Stay tuned for more updates to Google Docs and Google Sites.

Posted by Scott Johnston, Google Apps Product Manager

[G] City of Westerville, Ohio has Gone Google

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Official Google Enterprise Blog: City of Westerville, Ohio has Gone Google

Editor's Note: We are pleased to welcome guest bloggers Todd Jackson, Director of Information Services and CIO, and Bryan Mundy, Network Operations Manager, for the City of Westerville, Ohio – a city that has recently Gone Google. Westerville is nationally recognized as one of "America's Best Places to Live" by Money Magazine. The city features over 46 parks, a community recreation center, and 26 miles of leisure paths for residents, visitors, and businesses. Now one of America's best places to live has an email system to match – Google Apps. Mundy and Jackson use Google Apps to support nearly 500 users. Westerville has also invested in fiber infrastructure (52 linear miles) as well as a community data center/carrier neutral hotel that will serve as a launch pad for local businesses and community partners who need access to cloud-based technology to grow.

Please join Todd & Bryan for a live webcast on Tuesday, August 24, 2010 at 2:00 p.m. EDT / 11:00 a.m. PDT / 6:00 p.m. GMT. Register today.

The City of Westerville has a workforce of about 500 people who rely heavily on email. For many users, email is mission-critical. Police officers, for example, need to send reports by email 24 hours a day. Until recently, we relied on Novell GroupWise, and despite the fact that we were on the latest version, we were suffering constant outages. At last count, we had over 100 known issues, and it was taking its toll. As an IT team, we worked late nights and holidays. We were chasing issues versus adding value.

Adding to the challenge, we were having trouble scaling email. Users were unhappy because they couldn't effectively store important email due to limited inbox quotas.

We also have users on Windows, Mac and Linux – and we want to support them all equally well. Besides reducing IT complexity (and allowing us to have holidays off), we wanted to drive innovation by providing services like document sharing, mobile access, SMS functionality, and the ability for our users to build their own intranet sites. Finally, by freeing up our time from minding servers, we could dedicate time and resources to new projects and drive innovation within the community.

When we decided that GroupWise was no longer feasible for our city, we conducted a comprehensive evaluation that included the top hosted solutions, including Microsoft's hosted BPOS. We came away impressed with Google Apps' value and features. Google's solution was platform-agnostic, so we could easily support users on a variety of platforms. It was also less costly and came with capabilities like document sharing and Google Sites for building intranets. We felt that we could accomplish more with Google Apps for less money.

Our migration of all city departments – which included bringing over every single email, as well as calendar events and contacts – took just six weeks. We didn't lose data and we never had a major issue.

Our move into the cloud has freed IT staff time to focus on projects that provide more value to the city, departments, and the residents. We now have time to invest in new IT initiatives to help us grow our economic base. For example, we are working to build a newly-approved community data center – or 'community cloud' as we call it – which will provide access to services for small and medium business owners that typically only larger corporations enjoy. As far as we know, it is the first community data center in the country.

Today, IT makes jokes internally about how hard we work to "release new features." With Google Apps, we've received a constant stream of innovations that our users love and has allowed us to finally enjoy late nights at home.

Posted by Dan Israel, Google Apps for Government team