Friday, June 7, 2013

[G] What the ...?

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Official Blog: What the ...?

Dear Google users—

You may be aware of press reports alleging that Internet companies have joined a secret U.S. government program called PRISM to give the National Security Agency direct access to our servers. As Google’s CEO and Chief Legal Officer, we wanted you to have the facts.

First, we have not joined any program that would give the U.S. government—or any other government—direct access to our servers. Indeed, the U.S. government does not have direct access or a “back door” to the information stored in our data centers. We had not heard of a program called PRISM until yesterday.

Second, we provide user data to governments only in accordance with the law. Our legal team reviews each and every request, and frequently pushes back when requests are overly broad or don’t follow the correct process. Press reports that suggest that Google is providing open-ended access to our users’ data are false, period. Until this week’s reports, we had never heard of the broad type of order that Verizon received—an order that appears to have required them to hand over millions of users’ call records. We were very surprised to learn that such broad orders exist. Any suggestion that Google is disclosing information about our users’ Internet activity on such a scale is completely false.

Finally, this episode confirms what we have long believed—there needs to be a more transparent approach. Google has worked hard, within the confines of the current laws, to be open about the data requests we receive. We post this information on our Transparency Report whenever possible. We were the first company to do this. And, of course, we understand that the U.S. and other governments need to take action to protect their citizens’ safety—including sometimes by using surveillance. But the level of secrecy around the current legal procedures undermines the freedoms we all cherish.

Posted by Larry Page, CEO and David Drummond, Chief Legal Officer

[G] Google Code-in Grand Prize Winners visit Google

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Google Open Source Blog: Google Code-in Grand Prize Winners visit Google

In late April, the Google Open Source Programs Office hosted the 20 grand prize winners of the Google Code-in (GCI) 2012 contest. From November 2012 - January 2013, 334 students from 36 countries completed coding, documentation, user interface, quality assurance, research, outreach and training tasks for ten open source organizations. At the conclusion of the contest, the 10 open source organizations each chose two students as their grand prize winners based on the student’s comprehensive body of work.

The 20 grand prize winners received a five day trip for themselves and a parent to Google’s headquarters in Mountain View, California. These students traveled from 12 countries (Argentina, Australia, Bulgaria, Canada, China, India, Ireland, Poland, Romania, Ukraine, Uruguay and the midwestern and eastern USA) to enjoy some northern California hospitality.

Grand Prize Winners in front of Android statues at Google

Day 1: Meet and Greet Dinner Party

The first event of the trip, a meet and greet party at our hotel near Google’s campus, was designed to break the ice and get the students talking to one another and to shake off a bit of their jet lag. With two students from each of the organizations the students had already virtually ‘met’ at least one other student before they arrived in California. Students immediately started sitting around the tables and introducing themselves while enjoying a variety of appetizers. We handed out the first batch of swag items and enjoyed an ice cream cake before heading off to catch some sleep before a full day at the Googleplex.

Day 2: Googleplex

The morning started with a short introduction about the Google Code-in program (for the parents) and the distribution of some Google Code-in attire for the students. Students were excited to get started with the day to hear from a variety of Google engineers and to have the opportunity to ask them questions.

Next, Chris DiBona, Director of Open Source Programs at Google, talked about the history of open source at Google and how the GCI program started. Chris then led the award ceremony where he distributed plaques to the winners and posed for pictures with the students. We had two students who were Grand Prize Winners in previous Google Code-in programs who were back for their second trip to the Googleplex. Chris wrapped up by answering questions the group had about Google in general.

Students were then treated to an interactive tutorial by Jeremy Allison on how to design a file server. Justin Mattson gave a talk about life as an engineer at Google and what it is like working on the Android team. We then broke for lunch at the nearest Google cafe where Googlers from many of the student’s home countries sat with the students to chat with them over lunch.

Students in front of self-driving car

After lunch students were treated to a short video and a talk by Dmitri Dolgov about Google’s self-driving cars, complete with a trip to the parking lot where the group could see a self driving car in person, posing for some pretty cool pictures. 

Next up, Nathaniel Manista talked to the students about physical spaces that foster creativity and life as an engineer. Then Mark Diaz discussed Google life and working as a Field Tech at Google. Shawn Pearce wrapped up the afternoon with a chat about Git and Gerrit Code Review.

And next, one of the activities students had been waiting all day for — a tour of the Googleplex. The tour isn’t complete without a stop at the awesome Android statues depicting all of the Android releases, where the students and parents posed for a slew of pictures.

Grand Prize Winners and Parents at Google

After a walk in the fresh spring air around the main campus at Google, the students settled in for Grant Grundler’s talk about Chromium. Sudhakar Chandra chatted about the internationalization (i18n) efforts at Google, a perfect fit with this group speaking so many different languages.  

The final talks of the day were from Google Open Source Programs team members, Carol Smith and Mary Radomile. Carol talked about the Google Summer of Code program, our program for university students (18 years and older) where students spend an entire summer writing code for an open source project. The program is a natural next step for these students and, in fact, we have one Google Code-in Grand Prize winner who was recently accepted as a student for Google Summer of Code 2013. Mary Radomile wrapped up the talks at Google with answers to some general internship questions that students had been inquiring about.

Students went shopping at the onsite Google store then after a hearty dinner at Google everyone boarded the bus to San Francisco to get a good night’s sleep before a very full day 3.

Day 3: San Francisco Fun Day

Students in front of cable cars

The busiest day of our trip started off early with a third of the group boarding the ferry to Alcatraz for a self guided tour of the historic San Francisco prison and the other two thirds of the group heading off on segway tours of the Fisherman’s Wharf and North Beach neighborhoods of San Francisco.

After our morning adventures the group met up for a picnic lunch in Aquatic Park by Ghirardelli Square where we then boarded 2 motorized cable cars (we couldn’t all fit on one) for a tour of all of the highlights of San Francisco, including stops atop Nob Hill, Civic Center, and Twin Peaks. 

Students in front of Golden Gate Bridge

After a windy ride we stopped at the Golden Gate Bridge for everyone to tour the bridge on their own and take some classic San Francisco pictures.

The final activity of the day was a definite favorite, a dinner yacht cruise on the San Francisco Bay. Within the first 15 minutes of boarding the boat the students had pulled chairs and sofas together on the upper deck where they had their own ‘inner circle’ going on. The yacht traveled under the Golden Gate Bridge, around Alcatraz and we even saw a couple of dolphins playing near the boat. The cruise was a great opportunity for everyone to visit and hang out on the deck with amazing views of San Francisco.

Students on Yacht, final evening of trip

Day 4: Farewell brunch at Google San Francisco office

Our final morning allowed everyone to sleep in a little bit and then walk through the breakfast line at the Google San Francisco office. The smiles really got big when the students received their final gift, a Nexus 4 phone with the charging orb. Before leaving Google the students had time to say their goodbyes and to relax and visit with each other after three nonstop days. We practically had to kick the students out of the room because they were all having so much fun designing a file transfer protocol together that took up 4 entire whiteboards!

This was the largest group of Google Code-in winners that we have ever hosted. It was such a treat and privilege to chat with the students and to watch them engage with one another about ‘tricks of the engineering trade’ and make lasting friendships. For the majority of the students the Google Code-in contest was their first introduction to open source software development and now they are hooked!

Some fun quotes from the students:

“GCI (the contest itself) was easily the most rewarding experience I've ever had - coding for a FLOSS project, with mentors that were always there to help me was challenging and fun. And the best part was seeing the code I had actually written live on the official project repositories.  About the trip, it was amazing to be in the so-called "Silicon Valley", at the heart of one of the most important IT companies! The experience of visiting the Googleplex and attending speeches from experts will certainly last in my memory for my lifetime. I especially enjoyed "designing" a file transfer protocol with the other students on a whiteboard.”  --  Nicolás Satragno, Argentina 

"Most awesome birthday ever! One probably cannot imagine the feeling of celebrating a birthday at the other side of the globe, on a boat with Googlers, going beneath the Golden Gate Bridge, while speaking with 19 other cohorts about all kinds of top-tier computer-related stuff and them actually understanding it. It's amazing."  -- Vladimir Angelov, Bulgaria 

“Although it wasn't my first exposure to open-source development, it was the most rewarding open-source collaboration to date (not even considering the grand prize it resulted in). I met interesting and new people, and even learned an entirely new framework out of it (Qt). But then I had the grand prize trip. So far, it was the best four days of my life. I got to experience the headquarters of a company I've always loved and hope to work for one day. I met other kids like myself from all over the world. I listened to and spoke with brilliant and passionate engineers. So thank you for creating a program to get teens like me more involved with open-source development, and for creating such a fun and rewarding trip.”  -- Drew Gottlieb, USA

Congratulations to all 20 Grand Prize Winners and to all of the students who competed in the Google Code-in 2012 contest, we hope to continue to hear more great things from all of you in the years to come.

By Stephanie Taylor, Open Source Programs


[G] Forget perks and pay: IT may be the secret weapon in the war for talent

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Official Google Enterprise Blog: Forget perks and pay: IT may be the secret weapon in the war for talent

Posted by Claire Hatton, Industry Director, Google Australia

(Cross-posted on the Google Australia Blog)

Editor's note: Today's post comes to us from Down Under where a new report from Deloitte Access Economics Australia highlights finds that there is a direct link between workplace IT and employee satisfaction.

In the last few years, forward-thinking businesses have come to the same conclusion: it’s not only perks and pay that matter when it comes to attracting and keeping top talent. Up-to-date IT systems that support and encourage collaboration are also very important.

In the last year we’ve seen companies like Woolworths, Fairfax and Dick Smith move their communication and collaboration software to the cloud. These businesses cite the benefits of being able to have their remote teams work on the same document in real time, have editorial meetings via video conference or give their casual staff access to company updates and videos via their mobile phones.

Today, for the first time, we’re starting to get a clearer picture of the bottom-line benefits of giving employees the kind of IT systems that make them happy and productive. A new report from Deloitte Access Economics Australia now shows a direct link between flexible IT policies and employee satisfaction and retention.

Deloitte’s The Connected Workplace — War for talent in the digital economy shows that:

  • Employees who are happy with their workplace IT are one third less likely to leave the company than those who are unhappy
  • Large companies with 500 employees could save up to $350,000 annually simply by investing in flexible IT policies. Over a ten year period this amounts to $2.6 million. 
  •  Similarly, small businesses could save up to $22,000 a year by investing in flexible IT policies.

The Connected Workplace report comes at a time when Australian and New Zealand business leaders are experiencing a critical shortage of skilled employees. According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, 20% of businesses reported that an inability to find skilled workers within the labour market or within their company was a barrier to innovation.

Deloitte found that the businesses whose employees were most satisfied with their IT policies had a few characteristics in common. They allowed people to bring their own devices to work. They permitted access to social media while on the job. They let them work from home. They encouraged them to use collaborative technology.

The report also found that when people are given the opportunity to use their workplace IT to do personal activities, they spend an equal amount of time at home doing work tasks. So every 30 seconds an employee does something besides work will be balanced out by another half-minute of productivity later in the day.

Around the world, businesses are finding that it pays to be more flexible and let employees collaborate and work in whatever way suits them best. This includes more than 5 million businesses that now use Google Apps for Business to work from anywhere, anytime on any device. Businesses looking to win in the war for talent may find the same.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

[G] Increased rewards for Google’s Web Vulnerability Reward Program

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Google Online Security Blog: Increased rewards for Google’s Web Vulnerability Reward Program

Posted by Adam Mein and Michal Zalewski, Security Team

Our vulnerability reward programs have been very successful in helping us fix more bugs and better protect our users, while also strengthening our relationships with security researchers. Since introducing our reward program for web properties in November 2010, we’ve received over 1,500 qualifying vulnerability reports that span across Google’s services, as well as software written by companies we have acquired. We’ve paid $828,000 to more than 250 individuals, some of whom have doubled their total by donating their rewards to charity. For example, one of our bug finders decided to support a school project in East Africa.

In recognition of the difficulty involved in finding bugs in our most critical applications, we’re once again rolling out updated rules and significant reward increases for another group of bug categories:
  • Cross-site scripting (XSS) bugs on now receive a reward of $7,500 (previously $3,133.7). Rewards for XSS bugs in other highly sensitive services such as Gmail and Google Wallet have been bumped up to $5,000 (previously $1,337), with normal Google properties increasing to $3,133.70 (previously $500).
  • The top reward for significant authentication bypasses / information leaks is now $7,500 (previously $5,000).
As always, happy bug hunting! If you do find a security problem, please let us know.


[G] St. Joseph students create their own education with Chromebooks

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Official Google Enterprise Blog: St. Joseph students create their own education with Chromebooks

Posted by Lisa DeLapo, Director of Technology at St. Joseph School

Editor's note: Our guest blogger today is Lisa DeLapo, Director of Technology at St. Joseph School, part of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Oakland. See what other organizations that have gone Google have to say.

Learning shouldn’t be limited to pen and paper, nor the computer lab. Rather than taking tests or filling out worksheets, the 270 students at St. Joseph’s spend most of their time creating projects using digital tools that show off their knowledge. Whether they’re telling stories of famous heroes using Google Sites, making group study guides with Google Forms, or listening to voice comments on their science fair projects in Google Docs, our students learn more from creating than they ever could from only consuming information.

My job as Director of Technology at St. Joseph’s is to make sure our educational tools are available everywhere. We have found Chromebooks to be the perfect tools – they’re portable and easy to use, have a keyboard and a large screen, and are secure. We’re piloting Chromebooks with several teachers now, and soon our entire faculty and staff will use them exclusively. We will also supply carts for the Chromebooks so students in different classrooms can share computers as freely as they swap lunches.

Because our teachers already use the Chrome browser and work largely in Google Apps, moving to Chromebooks has been easy. In addition to Google Apps, we also use Pearson PowerSchool to track grades, test scores and attendance, along with giving us a collaboration platform for parents. Accessing PowerSchool is extremely important but because it uses an older Java technology that is not supported in Chrome, I had to find a way to access it securely and easily from the Chromebook. I found out about the Chrome RDP app by Fusion Labs; it was exactly what we needed.

Chrome RDP lets users connect to any Windows desktop or server directly from within the Chrome browser. Since it uses Microsoft’s native Remote Desktop Protocol, no additional configuration or setup is needed after you install the app. It gives us secure access to PowerSchool and other legacy applications, and it’s straightforward for teachers to use. They download the Chrome RDP app from the Chrome Web Store, open up the app, and enter their login information for secure access to PowerSchool through the school’s firewall.

The introduction of Chromebooks to St. Joseph's has broadened what our teachers and students are able to achieve in the classroom. Chromebooks have helped everyone at St. Joseph’s enjoy the benefits of technology without expensive, complex maintenance. And now our students will have a new outlet for learning that helps familiarize them with technology and what we see as the future of learning.

[G] Ocado Delivers Your Groceries with Automation... and the help of Google technology

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Official Google Enterprise Blog: Ocado Delivers Your Groceries with Automation... and the help of Google technology

Posted by Paul Clarke, Director of Technology of Ocado

Editor's note: Our guest blogger this week is Paul Clarke, Director of Technology at Ocado, the world’s largest online-only grocery retailer based in the UK. See what other organizations that have gone Google have to say.

Ocado isn’t your typical corner grocery store. For one thing, there’s no corner as we’re the world's largest online-only grocery retailer reaching over 70% of British households, and now with a fast growing non-food business alongside. Our customers shop online using our award winning webshop or mobile apps and then their orders are picked and packed in one of our huge automated warehouses, the largest of their kind in the world; hours later, our vans deliver to their kitchens in one hour delivery slots. On a normal week we ship over 150,000 orders - that's over 1.1 million items each day. Google Enterprise solutions are playing a major, and expanding, role in helping us run such a time critical 24/7 operation across multiple sites.

Google Apps allows us to do things our way, wherever and whenever we want. Our staff use Gmail, Google Calendar and Google Drive to stay on top of their day to day work, and Google+ is helping our teams stay in touch, share information and build local communities. Ultimately, all of these tools help to make sure our customers get the groceries they order, on time and in the best possible condition.

But we didn’t stop there. We looked at other ways we could use Google’s technology to help us run our business and started using Google App Engine for building internal applications. For example, we used App Engine to create a new version of our "Where's My Order” application, which our customers will soon be using to find out where their orders are within our production cycle. Once their order is on the road, the integration with Google Maps allows them to see exactly where their delivery van is. So we’re taking what used to be a chore, grocery shopping, and making it a simple experience that you can do from the convenience of your own home, or wherever you may be.

Our most recent project was on Google Compute Engine. Within our warehouses there are certain tasks that are repetitive and arduous for humans to do, like picking heavy six packs of bottled water into customer orders. So our robotics team is developing solutions that use robots to automate these sorts of tasks and thus release staff for other more important work. But these robots need sophisticated 3D vision systems to enable them to see what they are doing. These are very computationally intensive applications and by providing the instantly flexible and scalable computing power to crunch all those numbers, Compute Engine provided the perfect solution. And, we are already using the cloud to store and process some of the huge volumes of data that our business spits out every minute. But with an eye to future growth and international expansion, we have plans to use Compute Engine and Cloud Storage to move other parts of our production systems to the cloud.

So walk into an Ocado warehouse in the future and you might run into a robot if you’re not careful. Like I said, we’re not your typical corner grocery store.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

[G] Getting the most from your 336x280 ad unit

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Learn More Study Less: Getting the most from your 336x280 ad unit

To ensure you are always getting the best results from your ad units, we recently introduced some updates to our ad serving process enabling our larger ad units to serve similar-sized display ads. We’ve already updated this for our 300x600 and 970x90 ad units and now we’ve extended this flexibility to our 336x280 ad unit, allowing it to serve a 300x250 ad when doing so will maximize the performance of that ad unit for the publisher.

With this change you may now occasionally see a 300x250 ad served in your 336x280 ad unit when that unit is opted in to showing image ads. 300x250 and 336x280 image ads will both compete for your 336x280 ad unit with the most competitive ad served thus maximizing the earnings on your ad unit. When a 300x250 image is served it will be centered in the 336x280 ad unit as illustrated below.

300x250 display ad served within a 336x280 ad unit

Aside from ensuring that you’re getting the most from your ad units, this change gives advertisers the opportunity to expand their reach with their existing ad creatives. To maximise your earnings potential with this change, don’t forget to enable both text and image ads for your ad units. You can opt out of having similar-sized display ads served in your ad units but remember this may impact your earnings. When you opt out, this applies on an account level and not just on an individual ad unit. To opt out, go to the Allow & block ads tab in your account, click the Ad serving tab in the top horizontal bar and select the block option under the “Similar Sized Display Ads” header. Tell us what you think about these new changes on our AdSense +page.

Posted by Amit Mhatre - AdSense Software Engineer

Was this blog post useful? Share your feedback with us.


[G] re-imagined with Google Maps Engine

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Official Google Enterprise Blog: re-imagined with Google Maps Engine

Posted by Pat Doyle, Manager IT, FedEx

Editor's note: Today we announced the availability of the Google Maps Engine API, letting organizations build their own applications on Google’s cloud infrastructure. Hear from guest blogger, Pat Doyle, to find out how FedEx helps its customers locate their nearly 50,000 retail touchpoints on, using Maps Engine.

Delivering packages to almost any location in the world is just another day on the job at FedEx. On average, we ship more than one million packages daily and guarantee they’ll arrive on-time, at the right place and unharmed. However, our commitment to a superior customer experience extends far beyond delivering packages. To make it even easier for people to find the information they need online, we launched a new store locator site using Google Maps.

Using Google Maps, and more specifically Google Maps Engine, allowed us to completely re-imagine We turned to Maps Engine because it gave us a powerful platform to build and share our own FedEx maps. By integrating features that so many people use everyday, like Google Street View and driving directions, visitors can easily find the nearest FedEx.

In addition to providing a much easier way to locate us, Google Maps Engine gives us another big advantage: global accuracy and consistency. Central to the cloud-based offering, we can rely on Google’s core infrastructure to host our always-changing and growing database of store information. By hosting attributes, such as street addresses, opening hours, holiday schedules and local pick-up times on Maps Engine, we can update details for nearly 50,000 retail touchpoints in real-time and share this information to visitors within minutes. This helped us replace a patchwork of region-bound store locators with a single, global site.

Providing a store locator that is easy-to-use, accurate and reliable helps us deliver a brand experience that our customers can trust. Google Maps Engine is critical to better customer service and it helps users quickly find and access our stores online. With our new store locator, powered by the Google Maps Engine, we can concentrate on what FedEx does best - delivering packages on-time.

[G] Google Maps Engine: Changing the way enterprises create and use maps

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Official Google Enterprise Blog: Google Maps Engine: Changing the way enterprises create and use maps

Jen Kovnats, Product Manager, Google Maps for Business

Maps tell stories about the world around us. With a single map, an organization can locate underground pipelines, decide on the best place to build their next store, or inform customers about cell phone coverage areas. Today we're announcing the Google Maps Engine API, allowing developers to bring the power of Maps Engine into their own applications.

Maps Engine lets organizations use Google’s fast and reliable cloud infrastructure to layer their data on top of a Google Map and share their custom-made Google Maps with employees, customers or the public-at-large. At the push of a button an organization can share their maps internally or publish them on the web, making it easy to access their data from anywhere.

The API provides direct access to Maps Engine for reading and editing spatial data hosted in the cloud. With the API, organizations can develop on any platform - web, Android, iOS and server-to-server - and build applications like store locators, crowdsourced maps or crisis-response maps. For example, uses the API to query its more than 50,000 retail locations and IRIS creates applications for utilities to track underground pipelines.

Google Maps Engine is changing the way enterprises create and use maps - replacing complex GIS technologies with accurate and comprehensive Google Maps-based tools. Contact sales if you are interested in Google Maps Engine or learn more about today’s newly launched API.


[G] Meet your On The Rise nominees for June

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YouTube Blog: Meet your On The Rise nominees for June

In our monthly On The Rise program, we identify four partners whose channels drive significant YouTube watch time but haven’t yet reached the 100,000 subscriber mark. Your interest has helped us find four partners who are getting closer to that milestone. They’re already driving a lot of watch time for YouTube, and you can help them grow their channels and audiences even more. It’s June, which means school is out, but our nominees this month could each teach you something new: learn how to coat your car in plastic, how to make an original greeting card, what happens when you add water to a super-absorbent polymer, or when to use “a lot” versus “allot” (versus “lots”).

Here’s where you come in--you actually have the chance to help push these partners even further on YouTube. Review their videos below, vote for your favorite here, and one of these candidates will have the opportunity to be featured across YouTube later this month. In addition to your votes, each channel will be evaluated on criteria such as viewer engagement and channel optimization techniques to decide which partner we’ll feature.

In past months, featured On The Rise partners like ManjulasKitchen and hauntedsunshinegirl have gained many subscribers and seen their careers take off, in large part due to your support. This month’s poll will be open until June 11, 5 p.m. PT, so don’t forget to vote for your favorite channel. Check back to see which channel will be featured on June 28.


If you’ve ever considered modifying your car’s paint job, powder-coating it, or changing the look of your hubcaps, you might be interested in DipYourCarcom. The channel features all manner of how-to videos, including how to apply Plasti Dip to your car, wheels or grille.



Need a card for an upcoming birthday or special occasion? Learn how to make your own with one of Kristina’s card-making tutorials. She studied graphic design and has even designed some stamps for crafting companies in the past, so she definitely knows what she’s doing.



Jason’s channel is full of fun and educational videos of science experiments, toys and projects. Watch him demonstrate a variety of scientific concepts like photovoltaics and polyacrylate water absorption, to name a few.



Emma is TESOL-certified and has been an ESL teacher for several years. On YouTube, she uploads videos that teach students (and even life-long English speakers) about everything from basic grammar to the intricate idiosyncrasies of the English language.


If you’re interested in participating or have suggestions for partners you think should be featured, we encourage you to visit our On The Rise homepage. You can check out all of our past featured partners on the Featured Partners tab, or nominate a YouTube partner to be considered for the program on the Nominate tab. Feel free to submit nominations for your own channel, or for channels you follow that you think deserve more attention or could be the next YouTube sensation. We’ll continue to feature promising partners who drive YouTube watch time, have fewer than 100,000 subscribers, and produce engaging content on a regular basis.

Devon Storbeck and Christine Wang, YouTube Partner Support, recently watched “Don't Let Me Down - The Beatles, por Diogo Mello (1 ano e 11 meses).”


Tuesday, June 4, 2013

[G] Teaching awareness at Google: Breathe easy and come into focus

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Official Blog: Teaching awareness at Google: Breathe easy and come into focus

This is the fourth post in a series profiling Googlers who facilitate classes as part of our g2g program, in which Googlers teach, share and learn from each other. Regardless of role, level or location, g2g's community-based approach makes it possible for all Googlers to take advantage of a variety of learning opportunities. - Ed.

Eight years ago, I loaded five boxes into my pickup truck, said goodbye to a career of crunching numbers in hotel management, and started my own massage practice in Washington state.

Soon thereafter, I started at Google as an onsite massage therapist at the Kirkland and Seattle offices, and I was ready for the challenge. But after a few years of massage work, I started to ponder alternatives to massage to further help my fellow Googlers relax and de-stress. Being able to take a moment out of one’s day to relax and decompress is not only beneficial for one’s health, but also may help people be happier and more productive in their day to day lives. So in 2011, I helped launch “MindBody Awareness,” a guided meditation class, as part of the Googler-to-Googler (g2g) program.

It’s no secret that meditation can be an excellent way to relax your body and focus the mind. A plethora of studies have supported that point. That said, one of the hardest parts of meditation is simply giving it a try. For an activity based in calmness and openness, it’s ironic how meditation can, for some, engender feelings of intimidation and even embarrassment at the outset. So we specifically designed “MindBody Awareness” for all levels so anyone can walk through the door and dive right in. Having a friendly, informal meditation class taught onsite by a fellow Googler allows for community building, and immediately relaxes participants whether they’re new to the practice or veterans.

Leading a MindBody Awareness class at our Kirkland, Wash. office

We begin each 30-minute class by going through a Qigong series that consists of 12 different positions held for 30 seconds each. This is how we begin bringing awareness of one’s body and mind into play, shedding the distractions from the outside and becoming more in tune with one’s self. The second portion of the class is a seated meditation, which incorporates changing hand positions, where chimes go off every minute to signal a change in pose. This integrates the mind and the body instead of just one or the other. The chimes help the mind stay focused, and acts as an anchor helping people return to a quiet mind if they happen to get lost in distraction. An engineer who takes my class told me “being aware of what my physical body needs while my brain is busy coding has helped me significantly reduce stress, not get so worn out, and enjoy my job.” Another Googler noted to me that he feels “having a regular chance to slow down, collect [himself] and connect mind and body contributes to a more mindful, lower stress outlook throughout the week.”

Taking a few minutes a day to sync your mind and body can help you relax and stay focused throughout the work day

Through g2g, we’ve made MindBody Awareness and other meditation classes available in 16 different cities, providing an alternative method of stress relief for Googlers around the world. To make it even easier for Googlers to access meditation classes, we offer global meditative Google Hangouts. Googlers can video conference into a meditation hangout for 30 or 60 minutes to practice meditation as a group.

Meditation class offered through the g2g program has also fostered a unique way to build a sense of community. The class has brought Googlers from varying departments together to meet new people by taking a break for 30 minutes to re-charge. The ultimate goal of the class is that Googlers get positive energy flowing that they can bring back to their desks—or anywhere for that matter!

Tips and tricks to help you de-stress
  1. Focus on your breath. Take a few moments to allow your mind and body to relax even if it's just for one or two long deep breaths—make sure you can physically see your belly and chest rise. Taking just one minute a day can make a significant difference.
  2. Think of your favorite things. Positive thoughts can give a way to a more positive attitude and outlook.
  3. Try to focus on one thing. See if you can sit back and tackle your tasks one piece at a time, as if you were working on a puzzle piece by piece. Eventually, it will come together in a systematic way!

Posted by Amy Colvin, Massage Therapist

[G] Powering our Finnish data center with Swedish wind energy

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Official Blog: Powering our Finnish data center with Swedish wind energy

What do a Swedish wind farm developer, a German insurance company and Google’s Finnish data center have in common? As of today, a lot. We’ve just inked agreements with O2 and Allianz to supply our Finnish data center with renewable energy for the next 10 years—our fourth long-term agreement to power our data centers with renewable energy worldwide, and our first in Europe.

Here’s how it works: O2, the wind farm developer, has obtained planning approval to build a new 72MW wind farm at Maevaara, in Övertorneå and Pajala municipality in northern Sweden, using highly efficient 3MW wind turbines. We’ve committed to buying the entire output of that wind farm for 10 years so that we can power our Finnish data center with renewable energy. That agreement has helped O2 to secure 100% financing for the construction of the wind farm from the investment arm of German insurance company Allianz, which will assume ownership when the wind farm becomes operational in early 2015.

This arrangement is possible thanks to Scandinavia’s integrated electricity market and grid system, Nord Pool. It enables us to buy the wind farm’s output in Sweden with Guarantee of Origin certification and consume an equivalent amount of power at our data center in Finland. We then “retire” the Guarantee of Origin certificates to show that we’ve actually used the energy.

As a carbon neutral company, our goal is to use as much renewable energy as possible—and by doing so, stimulate further production. The Maevaara wind farm not only allows us to make our already highly energy-efficient Finnish data center even more sustainable, it also meets our goal of adding new renewable energy generation capacity to the grid.

Of course, using renewable energy is good for the environment, but it also makes long term financial sense. That’s why, in addition to protecting ourselves against future increases in power prices through long-term purchasing for our operations, we also invest in new renewable energy projects that will deliver a return for our money. In recent years we’ve committed more than $1 billion to such projects in the U.S., Germany and, just last week, South Africa. We’ll continue to look for similar opportunities around the globe.

Posted by Francois Sterin, Senior Manager, Global Infrastructure Team

[G] Optimizing Dynamic Search Ads

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Inside AdWords: Optimizing Dynamic Search Ads

Dynamic Search Ads (DSA) is a valuable product to help advertisers keep their AdWords campaigns effective and relevant.  DSA maintains a fresh index of your inventory using Google’s organic web crawling technology to help ensure ads are generated based on the most recent content on your website.

Since we’ve opened up the product to all advertisers last October, thousands of advertisers have successfully used DSA to target their websites.  On average, they’re getting a 5-10% increase in clicks and conversions and positive ROI.  Just like keyword based campaigns, DSA works best when it’s properly set-up and optimized.  In this post, we'll cover some tips and best practices for optimizing Dynamic Search Ads.
  1. Start off with broad targets
    Dynamic Search Ads helps advertisers target long-tail queries without having to create and manage a long list of keywords.  To realize the true benefit of DSA, target your whole website or large portions of your website to help identify segments of traffic never targeted before.

    Qoo10, an e-Commerce leader in Asia, used this technique and immediately benefitted from DSA’s ability to “fill the gaps” between their existing keyword coverage and what they sell online.  As Muhd Fitri Khamis, Qoo10’s Marketing Executive, notes: “If you start off with targeting a few pages rather than the whole domain, the results may not be as compelling.”  Today, Qoo10’s DSA campaign accounts for 10% of sales coming from AdWords campaigns and the CTR of their DSA campaign is 33% higher than other campaigns.

  2. Use negative targets
    Especially in the early stages of your DSA campaign, you should use the search terms and categories report to exclude searches and parts of your web site that you don't want to advertise or that underperform.  A good starting set of negative targets are any keywords you have paused or deleted in the recent past as well as any pages unrelated to selling products such as customer help pages and general FAQ’s.

    You can learn more about how to set-up exclusions to block certain pages of your website as well as how to add negative keywords in this Help Center article.

  3. Group highly related pages and products of similar values together
    Similar to keywords and ad groups, group highly related pages or products with similar economic values within the same target to increase ad relevance and ROI. For example, you might group your beach vacation rentals together in one target and group your ski lodge rentals together in another target.  You also might want to bundle high-priced, high-margin products separately from low-priced, low-margin products.  For example, group high-end electronics separately from accessories.

    You can do this by creating more narrow targets as explained in our FAQ’s.  This approach will help create more targeted ads for users and help increase ROI by setting different bids for products of different economic values.

  4. Use conversion optimizer or target CPA
    Dynamic Search Ads is best coupled with CPA based bidding.  CPA based bidding helps give you a more automated approach to bid management and by clearly defining your ROI goals, you can ensure that you will continue to hit your CPA goals even as you expand your campaign reach and as the content on your website changes.

    This combination worked extremely well for, a large software download company, who successfully combined DSA with Conversion Optimizer to automatically set-up campaigns targeting thousands of their landing pages - all while keeping within their target CPA.  Founder & CEO Lucian Todea said the company was able to take advantage of the power of the long tail, and within just a couple of months had seen DSA deliver a 15% increase in conversions.

  5. Don’t set it and forget it
    As your website structure and content changes, please make sure your DSA campaign is kept up-to-date to reflect your latest changes.  Remember also to regularly check your search terms and categories report to raise bids on high performing pages and add poor performing pages and queries as negative targets.
For step-by-step directions on setting up a Dynamic Search Ads campaign, please visit the AdWords Help Center.  You can also view a recorded webinar to learn more about Dynamic Search Ads.

Posted by Jen Huang, AdWords Product Manager

[G] Google Analytics Becomes A Robust Testing Platform With Content Experiments API

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Analytics Blog: Google Analytics Becomes A Robust Testing Platform With Content Experiments API

Our Analytics API enables marketers and developers to experiment and build new tools powered by Google Analytics. Over the past year, we’ve listened to your feedback and made improvements to the API such as expanding data points available and integrating with Apps Script. Our goal is to provide the most flexible and useful Analytics API on the web enabling you to do everything from build great apps to automate / expedite busywork. 

Today, we’re excited to share the launch of an API for Content Experiments — our tool for easily testing site content with programmatic optimization to achieve Analytics objectives. This API makes Google Analytics a full-blown A/B testing platform where developers of all types can leverage the power of Google Analytics to run their experiments. By utilizing our multi-armed bandit approach, you can maximize results by efficiently determining which assets on your site perform best to offer an improved experience for users. Multi-armed bandit experiments are powerful and efficient tools and with the new Content Experiments API, you can get even more from them.

The Content Experiments API allows you to pick and choose from all the testing functionality Google Analytics has to offer and to combine it into powerful solutions that best fit your particular needs:

Testing changes to content without redirects. 
The original Content Experiments JavaScript snippet made testing a breeze. To keep things simple and consistent for all publishers, the snippet causes a page redirect which may take away from the end user experience in certain cases. Now, with the new Content Experiments API, testing changes to content without redirects is both possible and easy to implement.

Testing items server-side such as the result set of a database query.
Major testing platforms typically offer changes on the client-side but not server side. With Content Experiments API you can now run tests on the server side and try things like implementing different recommendation or search algorithms to determine what works best for your site.

Testing with your own variation selection logic and use Google Analytics for reporting.
While the multi-armed bandit approach to experimentation is one of Content Experiments most powerful features, there are times where publishers and developers would prefer to decide for themselves how to serve variations - be it evenly or using proprietary logic. The Content Experiments API makes it possible for you to bypass our programmatic optimization while allowing you to continue to enjoy the powerful experiment reporting Google Analytics provides.  

Testing in non-web environments using measurement protocol.
For example, if you have a kiosk in your physical location (such as airline terminal or retail store) you can test different layout variations of content and features and determine what users can complete quickest or at highest value.

Developers are already putting the Content Experiments API to work and we’ve been hearing great feedback. Paras Chopra, Founder & CEO of  Visual Website Optimizer reports:

"We're thrilled about the possibilities opening up with the new Content Experiments API. This new API is specially designed to infuse the powers of Google Analytics into testing and experimentation domain. We're very proud to be one of the beta-testers with Google and soon we will start rolling out the integration of Visual Website Optimizer with Google Content Experiments across our joint customer base. When Google releases an API, it's a big move for the A/B testing industry and we're excited to be their launch partners."

Learn how to get started with our Content Experiments API on our developer site or if you’re still new to the platform, get an overview of Content Experiments in our help center.

Happy testing & experimentation! 

Posted by Russell Ketchum, Google Analytics Team

[G] Improving Google Analytics Dashboard Sharing

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Analytics Blog: Improving Google Analytics Dashboard Sharing

We’re happy to announce you can soon share and collaborate on Google Analytics dashboards!

Dashboards give an overview on how your properties are performing, and are even more powerful as you can create dashboards that you and your teammates can see and edit. Dashboard sharing is a nice complement to dashboard template creation: templates enable creating copies of dashboard configurations, and dashboard sharing enables you to collaborate with your team on a single shared dashboard.

You’ll be able to use this new feature as we roll this out in the coming weeks. At that time, start by creating a dashboard or viewing an existing one and then clicking on the “Share” menu. Look for the new “Share Dashboard” option:

This will make a copy of your dashboard that is available to everyone on the profile.  Private dashboards will be grouped together, and shared dashboards will be as can be seen in the report navigation on the left side of Google Analytics: 

Learn more about dashboard sharing.

Asset Sharing
This marks another enhancement in Google Analytics asset sharing, complementing the sharing capabilities of assets like annotations, advanced segments and custom reports. Google Analytics offers two forms of asset sharing today: creating asset templates, and collaborating on a single asset like we’re launching soon with dashboards. We are listening closely to user feedback on sharing, and planning more sharing features that you will see in the future.

Use dashboard sharing today to work more effectively with your team, and to enable richer reporting and data analysis.

Posted by Matt Matyas, Google Analytics Team

[G] 10 for 10 publisher stories: Northlight Images develops a successful photography business

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Learn More Study Less: 10 for 10 publisher stories: Northlight Images develops a successful photography business

In each of the 10 weeks leading up to AdSense’s 10th anniversary on June 18th, we’ll be sharing a new publisher success story. Read on to meet this week’s featured publisher, and feel free to submit your own success story to our team. 

Meet Keith Cooper, a commercial photographer based in Leicester, England. He runs Northlight Images, a site that was originally intended to promote his business, but which has grown to include hundreds of photography-related articles and reviews. The site has now become one of the world’s top 40 photography sites, receiving over five million unique visitors a year.

Keith signed up for AdSense in 2005 after exploring a number of options. The income from the program has enabled him to focus on the areas of photography he’s interested in. “AdSense is solid and dependable,” he says, “and it earns me 80 to 90 percent of my advertising revenue.”

To maximize the site’s effectiveness, Keith also uses a variety of other Google products. “Google+ is the one that really does it,” he says. “It brings in people who are interested in the topic and looking for specific information, so they spend more time on the site and ultimately increase my revenue.”

If you’d like to read more of Keith’s story after watching the video above, check out the full case study. There’s only one more post left in our ‘10 for 10’ series -- be sure to join us back here next week for our final story!

Posted by Arlene Lee - Inside AdSense Team

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