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Category: Google | Jan 7, 2013
This is the second 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.
If someone had told me when I graduated with a degree in economics that I’d one day be employed in a technical role at Google, I would have laughed. In 2008, I joined Google’s people operations rotation program, in which one experiences three different people ops areas—from benefits to staffing—over the course of two years. After just a few short months, I found myself with a passion for technology and a profound interest in programming that would draw me into teaching a class, Intro to Programming (I2P), to non-engineers at Google as a part of the g2g (Googlers-to-Googlers) program.
Teaching programming to an I2P class at our Mountain View, Calif. headquarters
While on the benefits team, I was assigned a project that involved matching up hundreds of Googlers’ names with their corresponding office locations and job titles. I quickly realized that a few simple programming scripts could probably speed up my work and reduce errors. The only problem was, I had no clue how to write a program.
I began to teach myself the programming language Python, which is known for its clarity of syntax and friendliness to beginners. Slowly, I produced a multi-functional automated spreadsheet, and then a web application to share with my team. My teammates, seeing that my newfound technical skills had saved all of us time, asked me to teach them how to code; thus, in front of a whiteboard in a small conference room, I2P was born.
Since then, more than 200 Googlers have taken I2P. We encourage an open, supportive environment in the class, making it an approachable way for Googlers to broaden their horizons within the workplace and gain new skills. Some of my former students have even moved from roles in global business, finance and people operations to full-time engineering positions. That’s awesome to see, but I love that Googlers can use what they learn in I2P to make processes across the company more efficient—no matter what team they work on. For example, an administrative assistant who took the class streamlined a manual daily task by automating an email response survey for her team.
In addition to solving business challenges, I’ve also seen Googlers using the programming skills they learned in I2P to help others—both inside and outside of Google. Recently, an I2P alum increased participation in Google’s free flu shot program by writing a Python-based enrollment tool that allows Googlers to find appointments online by preferred office location and time. Thousands more Googlers signed up to receive flu shots due to the convenience provided by the tool. Because Google donates an equal number of vaccinations, such as those preventing meningitis or pneumonia, to children in the developing world, this new tool also led to thousands more children receiving crucial vaccinations.
More than 200 Googlers have participated in the 11-week course (the sword definitely helps keep engagement high…don’t worry, it’s foam!)
What’s extraordinary to me is that under the g2g program, the “guy down the hall in HR” can teach programming—of all things—to his fellow Googlers. It’s been extremely rewarding to experience first-hand the results of my students’ learnings. Googlers have taken the principles and skills from I2P and put them to work in time management, email communication and even just having fun re-creating Frogger—leave it to Googlers to span the gamut of I2P skill application. I often think how awesome it would be if every Googler could take I2P and apply what they’ve learned to make processes across the company more efficient.
If you’re interested in learning how to code, here are three tips from the course that you can practice on your own. While I’ve learned these principles via programming, they can be helpful in all kinds of fields!
- Practice and theory. You learn best when you have something to apply your learning to. With programming, find a project you want to apply your skills to and build the knowledge necessary to accomplish your project.
- Bad habits die hard. If you are writing messy or convoluted code, you are building habits that will be very hard to break. Better to overcome the pain of doing it the right way initially so that you never have to go back and change.
- Get feedback. Just because a script “works” doesn’t mean it works well. Always get advice from others with more experience so that you are learning how to do things better, not just sufficiently well.
Posted by Albert Hwang, Team Lead of the People Technology & Operations Tools Group
Category: Google | Jan 3, 2013
When Melodie Bishop heard about our Get Your Business Online program (an initiative that makes it fast, easy and free for U.S. businesses to get online), she jumped at the opportunity to turn her hobby of creating Chicago-themed gift baskets into a full-time business. Since launching her website, Send Them Chicago, this past summer, Melodie has seen a 70 percent increase in new customers.
Melodie Bishop with one of her gift baskets
As the holidays wrap up and the New Year starts, millions of business owners just like Melodie are thinking about how they can grow in 2013. For many, this means getting found and connecting with customers on the web.
Yet often, it can be difficult to know where to start. That’s why we’re helping business owners create a list of New Year’s resolutions for 2013.
Let us know what you hope to accomplish in the New Year. Do you want to get your basic business information online? Or do you already have a website and want to reach more customers? Once you select your goals, we’ll create a customized list of resolutions with resources to help you stick to it.
In the U.S., 58 percent of small businesses don’t have a website, but 97 percent of Internet users look online for local products and services. So it’s not surprising that businesses with a web presence are expected to grow 40 percent faster than those without. Creating a list of resolutions for your business may just be one of the easiest things you can do to help your business grow.
We’ll see you on the web.
P.S. If you aren’t a small business owner, it’s not too late to give that business you know the gift of a free website.
Posted by Aditya Mahesh, Product Marketing, Get Your Business Online
Category: Google | Jan 3, 2013
The U.S. Federal Trade Commission today announced it has closed its investigation into Google after an exhaustive 19-month review that covered millions of pages of documents and involved many hours of testimony. The conclusion is clear: Google’s services are good for users and good for competition.
Larry and Sergey founded Google because they believed that building a great search experience would improve people’s lives. And in the decade-plus that’s followed, Google has worked hard to make it quicker and easier for users to find what they need. In the early days you would type in a query, we’d return 10 blue links and you’d have to click on them individually to find what you wanted. Today we can save you the hassle by providing direct answers to your questions, as well as links to other sites. So if you type in [weather san francisco], or [tom hanks movies], we now give you the answer right from the results page—because truly great search is all about turning your needs into actions in the blink of an eye.
As we made clear when the FTC started its investigation, we’ve always been open to improvements that would create a better experience. And today we’ve written (PDF) to the FTC making two voluntary product changes:
- More choice for websites: Websites can already opt out of Google Search, and they can now remove content (for example reviews) from specialized search results pages, such as local, travel and shopping;
- More ad campaign control: Advertisers can already export their ad campaigns from Google AdWords. They will now be able to mix and copy ad campaign data within third-party services that use our AdWords API.
In addition, we’ve agreed with the FTC (PDF) that we will seek to resolve standard-essential patent disputes through a neutral third party before seeking injunctions. This agreement establishes clear rules of the road for standards essential patents going forward.
We’ve always accepted that with success comes regulatory scrutiny. But we’re pleased that the FTC and the other authorities that have looked at Google’s business practices—including the U.S. Department of Justice (in its ITA Software review), the U.S. courts (in the SearchKing and Kinderstart cases), and the Brazilian courts (in a case last year)—have concluded that we should be free to combine direct answers with web results. So we head into 2013 excited about our ability to innovate for the benefit of users everywhere.
Posted by David Drummond, Senior Vice President and Chief Legal Officer
Category: Google | Jan 1, 2013
The new year has arrived, and with it all the resolutions that we hope to tackle in 2013.
But resolutions can be hard to keep. And since eating better, taking control of personal finances, travelling more and learning something new regularly top the list of New Year’s resolutions, we’ve pulled together some of our best tips and tricks across Google to make 2013 the year you succeed with your goals.
- Counting calories? Apps such as Diet Diary can be easily accessed through Chrome or your Android device—that way it’s with you when it‘s on your mind. If spreadsheets are more your style, try one of several Google Docs templates, like this weekly meal planner.
- Find recipes for healthy meals and how-to-cook videos with apps like BBC’s Good Food for Chrome or food channels like Show me the Curry on YouTube.
- Rely on the Google+ community for motivation and learn from others via hangouts on how to prepare healthy meals.
- We know how easy it is to fall off track. Check out Google Play to find apps, books and music to keep you motivated.
Get fiscally fit
- To control your finances, you need to know exactly where money is coming in and out. This simple budget template in Google Drive already has you halfway there.
- If you prefer a more detailed budget, try using an app like Mint to track your finances on the go, available on both Android and Chrome.
- Keep track of your stock portfolio and related market news via Google Finance or with brokerage apps like E*TRADE from Google Play.
- Use Google Flight Search to quickly compare flight times and costs across airlines. Try the “tourist spotlight” feature on Google Hotel Finder to find a room near the hottest spots in the city.
- Simply type [tourist attractions <city name>] into Google Search to see some of the top points of interest. Once you have a list of the things you want to do and see, keep it in one place and share it with your travel buddies using Google Sheets.
- Never get lost with Google Maps. Whether your plans are local or international, indoors or out, comprehensive and accurate Google Maps can help you find your way.
Learn something new
If your resolution wasn’t listed here, try checking out SELF Magazine’s Google+ page with tips from experts, live via Google+ hangouts, for 13 more resolutions starting on January 13.
Research shows that you’re more likely to achieve your resolutions if you write them down and have support. Try sharing your goals with communities around you. When you’re ready to share your new year’s ambition with the world, or if you’re interested in seeing what resolutions look like around the globe, add it to the interactive resolution map on our 2012 Zeitgeist website.
No matter who you are, the web can help you do anything.
Posted by Liz Wessel, Associate Product Marketing Manager
Category: Google | Jan 1, 2013
Today is the 30th birthday of the modern-day Internet. Five years ago we marked the occasion with a doodle. This year we invited Vint Cerf to tell the story. Vint is widely regarded as one of the fathers of the Internet for his contributions to shaping the Internet’s architecture, including co-designing the TCP/IP protocol. Today he works with Google to promote and protect the Internet. -Ed.
A long time ago, my colleagues and I became part of a great adventure, teamed with a small band of scientists and technologists in the U.S. and elsewhere. For me, it began in 1969, when the potential of packet switching communication was operationally tested in the grand ARPANET experiment by the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA).
Other kinds of packet switched networks were also pioneered by DARPA, including mobile packet radio and packet satellite, but there was a big problem. There was no common language. Each network had its own communications protocol using different conventions and formatting standards to send and receive packets, so there was no way to transmit anything between networks.
In an attempt to solve this, Robert Kahn and I developed a new computer communication protocol designed specifically to support connection among different packet-switched networks. We called it TCP, short for “Transmission Control Protocol,” and in 1974 we published a paper about it in IEEE Transactions on Communications: “A Protocol for Packet Network Intercommunication.” Later, to better handle the transmission of real-time data, including voice, we split TCP into two parts, one of which we called “Internet Protocol,” or IP for short. The two protocols combined were nicknamed TCP/IP.
TCP/IP was tested across the three types of networks developed by DARPA, and eventually was anointed as their new standard. In 1981, Jon Postel published a transition plan to migrate the 400 hosts of the ARPANET from the older NCP protocol to TCP/IP, including a deadline of January 1, 1983, after which point all hosts not switched would be cut off.
From left to right: Vint Cerf in 1973, Robert Kahn in the 1970’s, Jon Postel
When the day came, it’s fair to say the main emotion was relief, especially amongst those system administrators racing against the clock. There were no grand celebrations—I can’t even find a photograph. The only visible mementos were the “I survived the TCP/IP switchover” pins proudly worn by those who went through the ordeal!
Yet, with hindsight, it’s obvious it was a momentous occasion. On that day, the operational Internet was born. TCP/IP went on to be embraced as an international standard, and now underpins the entire Internet.
It’s been almost 40 years since Bob and I wrote our paper, and I can assure you while we had high hopes, we did not dare to assume that the Internet would turn into the worldwide platform it’s become. I feel immensely privileged to have played a part and, like any proud parent, have delighted in watching it grow. I continue to do what I can to protect its future. I hope you’ll join me today in raising a toast to the Internet—may it continue to connect us for years to come.
Posted by Vint Cerf, VP and Chief Internet Evangelist
Category: Google | Dec 24, 2012
The North Pole air traffic control elves have just notified us that Santa has taken off! For the next day, you can visit the Google Santa Tracker to see where Santa’s headed next and keep tabs on how many presents he’s delivered. You can also keep up with him on your smartphone and tablet with the Android app, in your browser with the the Chrome extension, and even in 3D with Google Earth and Google Earth mobile (look for it in the Tour Guide feature with the latest version of Google Earth).
And follow Google Maps on Google+, Facebook and Twitter to get up-to-the-minute details on Santa’s journey around the world.
Ho ho ho! Happy holidays everyone!
Posted by Brian McClendon, VP of Google Maps and Google Earth
Category: Google | Dec 20, 2012
In 2007, 33-year-old Vuyile moved to Cape Town from rural South Africa in search of work. Unable to complete high school, he worked as a night shift security guard earning $500/month to support his family. During the rush hour commute from his home in Khayelitsha, Vuyile realized that he could earn extra income by selling prepaid mobile airtime vouchers to other commuters on the train.
In rural areas, it’s common to use prepaid vouchers to pay for basic services such as electricity, insurance and airtime for mobile phones. But it’s often difficult to distribute physical vouchers because of the risk of theft and fraud.
Nomanini, a startup based in South Africa, built a device that enables local entrepreneurs like Vuyile to sell prepaid mobile services in their communities. The Lula (which means “easy” in colloquial Zulu), is a portable voucher sales terminal that is used on-the-go by people ranging from taxi drivers to street vendors. It generates and prints codes which people purchase to add minutes to their mobile phones.
Today, Vuyile sells vouchers on the train for cash payment, and earns a commission weekly. Since he started using the Lula, he’s seen his monthly income increase by 20 percent.
Vuyile prints a voucher from his Lula
Nomanini founders Vahid and Ali Monadjem wanted to make mobile services widely available in areas where they had been inaccessible, or where—in a region where the average person makes less than $200/month—people simply couldn’t afford them. By creating a low-cost and easy-to-use product, Nomanini could enable entrepreneurs in Africa to go to deep rural areas and create businesses for themselves.
In order to build a scalable and reliable backend system to keep the Lula running, Nomanini chose to run on Google App Engine. Their development team doesn’t have to spend time setting up their own servers and can instead run on the same infrastructure that powers Google’s own applications. They can focus on building their backend systems and easily deploy code to Google’s data centers. When Vuyile makes a sale, he presses a few buttons, App Engine processes the request, and the voucher prints in seconds.
Last month, 40,000 people bought airtime through the Lula, and Nomanini hopes to grow this number to 1 million per month next year. While platforms like App Engine are typically used to build web or smartphone apps, entrepreneurs like Vahid and Ali are finding innovative ways to leverage this technology by building their own devices and connecting them to App Engine. Vahid tells us: “We’re a uniquely born and bred African solution, and we have great potential to take this to the rest of Africa and wider emerging markets. We could not easily scale this fast without running on Google App Engine.”
To learn more about the technical implementation used by Nomanini, read their guest post on the Google App Engine blog.
Posted by Zafir Khan, Google App Engine
Category: Google | Dec 20, 2012
We hope you’ve had a chance to try the new Google Maps app for iPhone (announced last week and available for download in the Apple App Store). The app is designed to be simple—just to work whenever you need it. Still, we have a few tips to make finding things with Google Maps even faster and easier. All the tips are collected on our site but here a few of my favorites:
- Swipe to see more. In Google Maps a wealth of information is often just a swipe away. Whether you’re looking at search results or directions, you can swipe the bottom info sheet left and right to see other options. To get more details on any of the results, swipe that info sheet upward (or just tap it—that works too). Even with the info sheet expanded, you can swipe to see those other results.
- Place a pin. Get more information about any location by just pressing and holding the map. The info sheet that pops up tells you the address, lets you save or share the place, and best of all, brings up…
- Street View. By far the easiest way to get to Street View is placing a pin. Tap the imagery preview on the info sheet to enter into Street View, then explore! I recommend the look-around feature (bottom left button) which changes what you’re looking at as you tilt and move your phone.
Want to learn more? See the rest of our tips on the site. And as you explore the app on your own, share your own tips using #googlemaps. Most of all, enjoy discovering your world.
Posted by Vicky Tait, Consumer Operations, Google Maps
Category: Google | Dec 19, 2012
You can now discover Spain’s Jewish heritage on a new site powered by comprehensive and accurate Google Maps: www.redjuderias.org/google.
Using the Google Maps API, Red de Juderías de España has built a site where you can explore more than 500 landmarks that shed light on Spain’s Jewish population throughout history. By clicking on a landmark, you can get historical information, pictures or texts, and a 360º view of the location, thanks to Street View technology. You can also use the search panel on the top of the page to filter the locations by category, type, geographic zone or date.
Toledo, Synagogue Santamaría la Blanca
Information is included on each landmark
This project is just one of our efforts to bring important cultural content online. This week, we worked with the Israel Antiquities Authority to launch the Leon Levy Dead Sea Scrolls Digital Library, an online collection of more than 5,000 scroll fragments, and last year we announced a project to digitize and make available the Yad Vashem Museum’s Holocaust archives. With the Google Art Project, people around the world can also view and explore more than 35,000 works of art in 180 museums.
Read more about this project on the Europe Blog. We hope this new site will inspire you to learn more about Spain’s Jewish history, and perhaps to visit these cities in person.
Posted by William Echikson, External Relations, Europe, Middle East and Africa
Category: Google | Dec 19, 2012
While millions of people eagerly await Christmas Day, Santa and his elves are keeping busy at the North Pole. They’re preparing presents, tuning up the sleigh, feeding the reindeer and, of course, checking the list (twice!) before they take flight on their trip around the world.
While we’ve been tracking Santa since 2004 with Google Earth, this year a team of dedicated Google Maps engineers built a new route algorithm to chart Santa’s journey around the world on Christmas Eve. On his sleigh, arguably the fastest airborne vehicle in the world, Santa whips from city to city delivering presents to millions of homes. You’ll be able to follow him on Google Maps and Google Earth, and get his stats starting at 2:00 a.m. PST Christmas Eve at google.com/santatracker.
Simulating Santa’s path across the world—see it live Dec 24
In addition, with some help from developer elves, we’ve built a few other tools to help you track Santa from wherever you may be. Add the new Chrome extension or download the Android app to keep up with Santa from your smartphone or tablet. And to get the latest updates on his trip, follow Google Maps on Google+, Facebook and Twitter.
Get a dashboard view of Santa’s journey on Google Maps
The Google Santa Tracker will launch on December 24, but the countdown to the journey starts now! Visit Santa’s Village today to watch the countdown clock and join the elves and reindeer in their preparations. You can even ask Santa to call a friend or family member.
We hope you enjoy tracking Santa with us this year. And on behalf of everyone at Google—happy holidays!
Posted by Brian McClendon, VP of Google Maps and Google Earth