Gmail is awesome

Gmail is 5 years old this month (April 1st, 2004!) and I just went back to my oldest email to see how long I’ve been a user . . . and my oldest message is the original one from “Gmail Team” saying that Gmail is different.  It was dated 5/3/2004.  I think I got an invite from Google really early because I was a Blogger user (well, I had a Blogger account but never used it).  Anyway, after using it for a few hours I was hooked and haven’t looked back.  All my other email accounts forward to my GMail account.  And I’ve been talking about it to anyone who would listen ever since.  It changed email for me forever.  And now it’s been so long that some new email users would be confused if they had to set up “Outlook” to check their email.

Sheldon

At Google, the limitations are as limited as possible.

Jim and I were talking about “Google Code Jam” and he assumed the language we both know really well, VBScript, wouldn’t be an acceptable language.  I just happened to have read the rules and here is how I sumarized it to him:

“You can use whatever language/tools you want.  You can solve the problem with paper and fax it in if you want.  Want to solve it with Excel with macros, go ahead?  What about MathCAD . . . sure.  ANYTHING.  At Google, the limitations are as limited as possible.  I’m amazed that we even have to register to see the examples.”

Having been to Google I/O and 3D Basecamp and I can vouch that Google tries it’s best to give people every possible option.  Everyone knows about the food selection (but no matter what you’ve read to experience it is to be amazed) but at 3D Basecamp on Google’s main campus, as an attendee, you walk from room to room or building to building following the signs that tell you where to go.  You walk about the halls of Google and, sure, security is watching your every move but there are no signs that say “DON’T GO HERE” or “FORBIDDEN” or “Google Empoyees Only”.  If you happen to wander to an area you shouldn’t be in I imagine those blue shirted security guys and gals will pounce but there is the illusion of freedom as you walk about the campus and it’s refreshing.

Google I Freakin O

I went to Google I/O and it was easily the best conference I’ve been to.  Prepare for some rambling.

I’ve only really been to E3 before this.  That was in the days of the old-skool E3 that doesn’t exist anymore where it was all about being an insider, who you know not what you know . . . a cast system for sure.  If you’ve been to E3 you can relate.

Sure, there are things I could complain about with Google I/O . . . they ran out of Diet Pepsi!!! . . . they changed the location and times of some of the presentations . . . the names of the presenters wasn’t as prominent as I would have liked (presenter names were not on the “big board” or on the listings outside the presentation rooms) . . . there were no booth babes to balance out the sausage 🙂 . . . the presentation rooms were really cramped and the solution was for the people at the end of the rows to move inward to fill in seats when I got there early to get that isle seat! . . .  everyone had a laptop but me and it didn’t seem like they were paying attention . . . if you had a laptop you had to have a few batteries and risk testicular cancer because there was no good place for all those laptop people.

But those are all so minor especially since I didn’t bring my laptop.  It would be embarrassing anyway . . . I saw several MacBook Airen (plural form?). Here are the good points of things that really matter:

* (free) Food everywhere . . . every time I came out of a session I discovered new food . . . and bins full of junk from gummy worms (that I loath) to yogurt raisins (that I love).

* The sessions I went to were all well done and the presenters were nice and not arrogant, happy to answer questions, happy to be giving the presentation, etc

* In the sessions they did “start from the beginning” but then did get fairly technical for a session that’s meant to only be a talk

* It was well organized and even though they changes a few things around they announced it at the beginning of all the sessions to let everyone know . . . the “big board” that had the times and tracks on it was nice and the posting of the goings on at the door to the sessions was nice too.

* The after hours party was great and FREE BEER . . . FREE FOOD . . . FREE BEER (on tap and in bottles) . . . More free food . . even more.  Several Wii’s with with Wii Sports . . . foosball . . . air hockey . . . and Flight of the Concords was really good.

* I only went to one Fireside Chat (where the developers sit at the front of the room and take questions) and it was for Android and it was packed!  But the questions were good and the devs were happy and excited to answer and afterwards I talked to one of the developers and he said the iPhone was junk! (no he didn’t, sorry . . . he just said he couldn’t say because he was obviously biased).

* I missed the first keynote and apparently it was awesome but I really enjoyed the second one even if the first one made it seem weak

I read one post about Google I/O and he said something about Google pushing it’s own stuff and how it’s not something you should be surprised about at a Google conference, etc.  I just didn’t see Google pushing anything other than “go and develop more stuff and get excited about it!”.  I remember the lines like “use your favorite search engine to find x” even though Google could have mandated people say “use google search to do x”.  I honestly don’t think Google was trying to do anything other than say “we love developers”.  Here is another example.  Google has it’s own “Google Presentations” but I saw presentations done with Powerpoint and even Apple’s Keynote.  Google lets people use the tools that get the job done, period.

Okay, now it’s story time.

At the Google party the first 40 minutes or so were torture . . . I was there alone and didn’t have anyone to talk to and I had walked around looking at the food so many times I could have mapped it out.  I should went to the “Birds of a Feather” thing . . . maybe that was to meet people!  But I got there late (when back to hotel to change after the sessions) and after my wondering I decided to plant myself by the air hockey table to see if someone would feel sorry for me and let me play.  That turned out to work well and I met several people and I wish I could remember their names!  Before the first few games I asked if “puck stopping” was allowed . . . so far I hadn’t seen it much but most of the people I saw play were casual (maybe first time?) players.  The first round I won one and lost the next one.  I talked to the guy I lost to for a while . . . he was in the printing business and wrote software with the GWT which he told me about.  After that the concert started and everyone stopped to watch that.  After the concert (which was funny as hell and makes me wish I would have watched the HBO show more) I went back to my old standby and when it was my turn I won 6 in a row.  People kept saying how the puck stopping “changed the game” and how it was cheating but not saying that it was cheating and I would say I was Google and I’m starting the hockey 2.0 revolution . . Google is to maps and Sheldon is to pucking stopping!  I don’t think I was getting my message across.  After my games though I saw a lot more puck stopping.  I ended up loosing to a woman (one of about 10 in a room of 3000 guys) but was kinda glad it was over (I didn’t let her win or anything . . . I was just tired and maybe had one too many beers . . . and she was pretty good with her bank shot . . . I wanted a rematch but after that I met some people and we ended up playing Wii Tennis for a while).  I went back one last time . . . last game before they kicked us out and won!  I was 8 and 2 for the day.

Okay, that’s it for now.

Sheldon