December 11, 2012
"Do you really want to use all your concrete and steel to build parking lots? It seems pretty stupid."

Google’s Larry Page steps into the one-on-one CEO exclusive interview ring, in the wake of Tim Cook’s bout with Bloomberg Businessweek’s Josh Tyrangiel. Miguel Helft’s interview is far-reaching, and while it’s impossible to imagine that the chief of a public company will say anything controversial on the record, there are some interesting insights into the company’s culture and management, including Page’s comment above, related to their focus on developing driverless cars, which reflects a breadth of curiosity and interest one might not attach to an advertising company. The whole interview is well worth a read; here are some of the quotes that stuck out for me: 

On internal culture/talent: “We want to do things that will motivate the most amazing people in the world to want to work on them.” Google’s focus on internal talent is pretty legendary. The question that this comment sparked for me, however, is “not on those who actually want to use the products?” 

On interoperability and playing nicely with others (especially pertinent in the wake of the Twitter/Instagram bust-up): “I think it would be nice if everybody would get along better and the users didn’t suffer as a result of other people’s activities.” 

Echoing my colleagues’ theory of the Innovation Ambition Matrix, Page outlines Google’s commitment of 70% of efforts to incremental innovation, 20% to adjacent projects, and 10% to new-to-the-world ideas. It’s a simple enough theory that is nonetheless super hard to pull off. As he puts it, “it’s actually hard to get people to work on stuff that’s really ambitious. It’s easier to get people working on incremental things.”

On the importance and value of iteration: “If you look at a product, and you say the day it launched, “It’s not doing what I think it should do.” We say, “Well, yeah. It just launched today.”

On the fact that he and his team aren’t even close to done yet: “I have a deep feeling that we are not even close to where we should be.” Well then.

July 19, 2012

Enough, Google! Jeez, we’ll all go to London! So I *just* wrote about the search giant’s collaboration with the Science Museum. Now here’s its latest work with Tate Modern. This Exquisite Forest is a techno-centered riff on the Exquisite Corpse games of old, with artists able to contribute virtually and a physical installation opening at the museum on July 23rd. It’s also another collaboration between Aaron Koblin and Chris Milk, and it seems as poetic and creatively inspiring as their previous projects (see The Wilderness Downtown and The Johnny Cash Project.)

[Story via Robert Hodgin]

July 19, 2012

Imagine, it’s not the Olympic Games that has me hankering after a trip to London, but this groovy new exhibition at the city’s Science Museum. A collaboration between the museum and Google, the Web Lab is “a groundbreaking, year-long exhibition, featuring a series of interactive Chrome Experiments that bring the extraordinary workings of the internet to life.” I absolutely love the look of the physical installations glimpsed in the video above, while I logged in online to play around with the Universal Orchestra, for which you can contribute sounds from both within the museum and virtually. It’s a concept I find positively delightful, though I confess I couldn’t make much sense of how to interact with it, which was a shame (and also doesn’t necessarily say much.) Still, if anyone gets to visit the real thing, please do let me know how it is. Design credits, meanwhile, go to the likes of Tellart, Universal Design Studio, MAP, b-reel, Karsten Schmidt and Fraser Randall.

[Story via Matt Jones]

July 6, 2012
"Facebook and Google claim they are friends of the mouse, but sometimes we see they are dating the cats."

Michael Anti is a reporter and a blogger who showed up at TEDGlobal to give us all a snapshot of how China really is. For one thing, it’s complicated. “You can’t tell a one-size story,” he said. You’d think we’d have understood this by now, but still we really do love to generalize and fail to contemplate that reality might be nuanced or different from our hardwired assumptions. Anti carefully laid out a Chinese reality of non-stop cat and mouse games between authorities and netizens. Given that there are 500 million internet users in China, this is quite a game, and one with worldwide ramifications for all, including western digital poster children.

June 21, 2012
"Now that Microsoft is building and selling its own tablet, the Surface, most people think it’s copying Apple," writes Jay Yarow over at Business Insider. He continues: “While that’s an easy story line to follow, it actually looks like Microsoft is copying Google and its “Nexus” game plan.” Yarow proceeds to explain more, with sensible advice for not jumping on the latest shiniest bandwagon.
[Story via Rob Hof. Image of the Surface tablet c/o Microsoft]

"Now that Microsoft is building and selling its own tablet, the Surface, most people think it’s copying Apple," writes Jay Yarow over at Business Insider. He continues: “While that’s an easy story line to follow, it actually looks like Microsoft is copying Google and its “Nexus” game plan.” Yarow proceeds to explain more, with sensible advice for not jumping on the latest shiniest bandwagon.

[Story via Rob Hof. Image of the Surface tablet c/o Microsoft]

April 17, 2012
"In 50 years, he says, there will be only 10 institutions in the world delivering higher education and Udacity has a shot at being one of them."

Loved this Wired story about the disruption of higher education: The Stanford Education Experiment Could Change Higher Education Forever. The “he” above is Sebastian Thrun, Stanford professor and head of Google X, who founded KnowLabs (now known as Udacity) specifically to upend the current system of education. I even contemplated signing up for a computer science course myself, though I doubt I’d fare any better than the writer of this piece. Still. While the idea of the consolidation of higher education into the hands of ten super-influential institutions is somewhat alarming, it’s super interesting to see the activity in this space.

April 5, 2012

The problem with all these “future of” concept videos is, as Bret Victor so eloquently noted, that they’re simply not terribly imaginative. So we shouldn’t get in a tizz about Google’s Project Glass, and certainly not because it’s presenting us with a difficult, provocative idea of reality. In fact, what it does show us seems quite mundane. Perhaps this says more about my life than it should, but people saying “hang on a minute” while they check into a new location we’re at isn’t new. It’s just that those I meet don’t currently swish at their head (or however interaction is controlled via these glasses, unclear from the original film) but instead gaze into and paw at their current mobile device. (And yes, it is rude.) Still, I liked this quickly re-edited version of the film, which includes that much crucial feature so many of these concept films seem to forget… the revenue stream.

[via NY Times Bits Blog]

5:20pm  |   URL: http://tmblr.co/ZLv7dxJ8fZW2
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Filed under: Google concept 
April 4, 2012
"The general trend of the industry toward being a lot more litigious somehow has just been—it has been a sad thing. There is a lot of money going to lawyers and things, instead of building great products for users. I think that companies usually get into that when they’re toward the end of their life cycle or they don’t have confidence in their abilities to compete naturally."

Google CEO, Larry Page sounds off about innovation and patent-trolling in a rare interview with Bloomberg Businessweek’s Brad Stone. Doesn’t really share too much you didn’t already know, though I confess I enjoyed reading his barely veiled digs at competitors such as Yahoo (see above; ouch) and Facebook. On the latter, he says: "Our friends at Facebook have imported many, many, many Gmail addresses and exported zero addresses. And they claim that users don’t own that data, which is a totally specious claim. It’s completely unreasonable." Our friends, indeed.

March 28, 2012
Lovely visualization of the wind flow around the United States, based on wind data from the National Digital Forecast Database. Or, as the blurb puts it: “An invisible, ancient source of energy surrounds us—energy that powered the first explorations of the world, and that may be a key to the future… This map shows you the delicate tracery of wind flowing over the U.S. right now.”
The project is by Martin Wattenberg, who co-leads Google’s “Big Data” group, though the only mention of the search company here is a mention to use the Chrome browser to guarantee the best effects. I also liked this public Twitter exchange between Wattenberg and Facebook designer, Nicholas Felton. The world of data viz transcends corporate barriers, it seems. Or, at least, its practitioners are gracious enough to give credit where it’s due. Not only that, but the brief conversation also sheds a subtle light on the creative process, moral of the story being: you might not know quite what will happen, but that’s absolutely no reason not to try.
Martin Wattenberg: New! The beauty of wind… Live interactive wind visualization: http://hint.fm/wind
Nicholas Felton: @wattenberg beautiful work… and stunned that it’s zoomable.
Martin Wattenberg: @feltron thanks! We were surprised that worked too :-)
Nicholas Felton: bravo!

Lovely visualization of the wind flow around the United States, based on wind data from the National Digital Forecast Database. Or, as the blurb puts it: “An invisible, ancient source of energy surrounds us—energy that powered the first explorations of the world, and that may be a key to the future… This map shows you the delicate tracery of wind flowing over the U.S. right now.”

The project is by Martin Wattenberg, who co-leads Google’s “Big Data” group, though the only mention of the search company here is a mention to use the Chrome browser to guarantee the best effects. I also liked this public Twitter exchange between Wattenberg and Facebook designer, Nicholas Felton. The world of data viz transcends corporate barriers, it seems. Or, at least, its practitioners are gracious enough to give credit where it’s due. Not only that, but the brief conversation also sheds a subtle light on the creative process, moral of the story being: you might not know quite what will happen, but that’s absolutely no reason not to try.

Martin Wattenberg: New! The beauty of wind… Live interactive wind visualization: 

Nicholas Felton beautiful work… and stunned that it’s zoomable.

Martin Wattenberg thanks! We were surprised that worked too :-)

Nicholas Feltonbravo!

March 28, 2012
Google celebrated the 126th birthday of architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe with a tribute on its home page (featuring Crown Hall, a building he designed at the Illinois Institute of Technology). Guardian writer, Steve Rose takes a spin through the history books to ask a simple question: what would Mies have had to say about today’s design landscape? Quick, fun read.

Google celebrated the 126th birthday of architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe with a tribute on its home page (featuring Crown Hall, a building he designed at the Illinois Institute of Technology). Guardian writer, Steve Rose takes a spin through the history books to ask a simple question: what would Mies have had to say about today’s design landscape? Quick, fun read.

March 14, 2012
"The Google I was passionate about was a technology company that empowered its employees to innovate. The Google I left was an advertising company with a single corporate-mandated focus."

As Scott Crawford commented on Twitter, “It’s “Why I left the company that starts with G” day.” This piece, by now-former Google engineer James Whittaker, is hugely interesting reading and important for those interested in cultivating a company culture based around innovation. Every company changes as it grows and matures (duh), yet even those as lauded for their smarts and forward thinking as Google have to watch the little details that eventually add up to a whole that might not be quite what anyone had in mind. Whittaker’s conclusion, in particular, describes a present that is both horribly true and hugely far from Google’s initially incredible service:

Perhaps Google is right. Perhaps the future lies in learning as much about people’s personal lives as possible. Perhaps Google is a better judge of when I should call my mom and that my life would be better if I shopped that Nordstrom sale. Perhaps if they nag me enough about all that open time on my calendar I’ll work out more often. Perhaps if they offer an ad for a divorce lawyer because I am writing an email about my 14 year old son breaking up with his girlfriend I’ll appreciate that ad enough to end my own marriage. Or perhaps I’ll figure all this stuff out on my own.

Whittaker, it should be noted, now works at Microsoft.

February 22, 2012
"Everyone I spoke with who was familiar with the project repeatedly said that Google was not thinking about potential business models with the new glasses. Instead, they said, Google sees the project as an experiment that anyone will be able to join. If consumers take to the glasses when they are released later this year, then Google will explore possible revenue streams."

— Amidst all the excitement around Google’s potential introduction of “wearable computing”, or glasses that can stream real-time information, I was struck by this comment in New York Times reporter, Nick Bilton’s article, Google To Sell Heads-Up Display Glasses By Year’s End. Given Google’s previous inability to figure out revenue streams for its ideas, this seems like a risky if somewhat predictable strategy. Business model design is just as difficult as inventing stuff, and equally important.

January 24, 2012
Submit a Résumé? Pfft. How Last Century

No More Résumés, Say Some Firms is an interesting piece in the Journal looking at how companies are trying to implement more rigorous filtering systems for their hiring processes and avoid having to wade through countless impersonal CVs. Fred Wilson and his New York City-based VC firm, Union Square Ventures, reportedly ask for evidence of Web 2.0 savvy (hardly a leap for a company that funded the likes of Twitter and Foursquare) while others post challenges for would-be employees to answer. One startling stat: last year, Google hired 7,000 employees after receiving some two million CVs. A Google spokesman said they read every one. Gulp.

[Story via Erik Kiaer; T-shirt resume photos via SOCIALisBETTER on Flickr.]

January 12, 2012
"If Google doesn’t tell you about the Facebook CEO’s Facebook page, it’s broken."

Lots of chatter about Google’s promotion of its own social network in its search results, some informed, some totally over the top. In Google’s Social Search, The Tech Giant’s Disastrous Decision to Muck Up Its Search Engine Results, Slate’s Farhad Manjoo is clearly not in favor of the introduction: “Google just broke its search engine,” he writes, giving examples of some of the searches he executed in the name of research (including the one above) and adding:

I think of search engines as a gateway to the rest of the world, not as a repository for stuff about me. Going to Google for pictures of my son seems as strange as going to a bookstore to look for my diary.

Designers know all too well that users often vociferously resist change, feeling safer and more assured by the way things used to be and outraged that anyone should want to buck the understood system. And designers also know that users can quickly forget the way things used to be once they’re accustomed to a brave new world. But, of course, that relies on the designers and content developers having the right instincts all along. It’ll be interesting to monitor continued feedback of “Search, Plus Your World” over the next few months.

[Story via Dan Gillmor.]

December 19, 2011

A while ago, I linked to an interview in which Harvard Law professor Larry Lessig outlined some of the thinking that went into his latest book, Republic Lost. Now, here’s a slick talk (with eye-catching slides) Lessig gave at Google. It’s really well worth taking the time to watch the whole thing, for Lessig’s fantastically thoughtful analysis of where we are, how we got here, and how we might potentially extricate ourselves from the mire. I watched this a week or so ago, and I can’t stop thinking about his story of the pilot of the Exxon Valdez supertanker, which crashed in Alaska in 1989 and caused one of the world’s worst environmental disasters (starts 42:25). As Lessig points out, the ship’s captain, Joseph Hazlewood, had a well-documented problem with alcohol. But, shocking as it is that the man in charge of a supertanker was not legally allowed to drive a car (he had a DUI at the time), that’s not actually Lessig’s point. Instead, his is a starker, bleaker, much more searing conclusion, which cuts right to the heart of our collective passivity and acts as a resounding wake-up call. In his words:

Forget Hazlewood. Instead I want you to think about those around Captain Hazlewood, these other officers, people who could have picked up a phone while a drunk was driving a supertanker. I want you to think about those people who did nothing. All but one of those officers did nothing. What do we think about them? I ask this question because as I think about the problem this nation faces, increasingly I believe we are they. This nation faces critical problems requiring serious attention but we don’t have institutions capable of giving them this attention. They are distracted, unable to focus, and who is to blame for that? Who is responsible? I think it’s too easy to point to the Blagojeviches and hold them responsible, to point to the evil people and hold them responsible. It’s not the evil people, it’s the good people, it’s the decent people, the people who could have picked up a phone. It’s us. It’s we, the most privileged, because the most outrageous part here is that these corruptions were primed by the most privileged but permitted by the passivity of the most privileged as well.

Gulp. Well, it made me think.