Category Archives: google

Google Custom Search for my feeds

Has this ever happened to you? You remember reading something but can’t find it again!

It’s happening to me constantly. While discussing a topic with a friend or co-worker I remember having read a relevant blog post a few days ago. I want to send the link for reference. I know I’ve seen it in my feed reader but can’t remember in which feed. A Web search returns too many results and rarely the one I’m looking for. What I really want is a search for my feeds only!

The solution? I finally got around to setting up Google Custom Search. I entered the URL of all my feeds (watch out for the feedburner redirect ones) and named it appropriately “Search my feeds”. It seems to work pretty well but I would like a way to sort by publishing date as I often look for recent posts. New posts are often ranked lower as they haven’t had time to accumulate links.

It would be awesome if google.com would automatically add my custom searches so that I can run them from there. Getting to my custom search right now is painful. Bookmarking the link or adding a module to iGoogle works but is far from ideal. Going to google.com/custom doesn’t work. google.com/cse gets you within 2 clicks of your search. Adding it to the Firefox search bar would also be cool.

Ideally Google Reader would create such a custom search automatically given your feed subscriptions. Or use the subscription information they have in FeedBurner.

Happy Birthday Gmail

April 1st marked the 4 year anniversary of the launch of Gmail. This was a life changing event for me as it is the main reason I’m with Yahoo! and still in the US.

The launch on April Fool’s Day was genius. It generated a ton of buzz especially after it became clear that the product actually exists. Back then Google was all about search which made an email product launch very unlikely. Some people were confused or didn’t believe the story for weeks.

I have a Gmail account but don’t really use it. I don’t think I have logged in for the last 4 weeks (I’m going to now though). I work for Yahoo! Mail and know that product inside-out, every key-shortcut, search modifier and also some hidden features . And I truly prefer it to Gmail from a user experience point-of-view.

Thanks Google for mixing up the email space!

Flash/Flex not fit for Rich Internet Applications?

For any product or service, I’m trying to use the Yahoo! version rather than a competitors product given that I work for Yahoo!. This includes Search btw. I had given up on Yahoo! Maps a while ago as the interface seemed to be getting in my way on a regular basis. They just converted from Flash to Ajax and the experience is so much better! It loads really fast too.

This is huge for Yahoo! Maps and I expect to see an increase in engagement and even unique users. Count me in!

But it’s also a major blow to Adobe in the battle between Ajax and Flash/Flex for Rich Internet Applications (RIA). Are there any widely used web apps out there that are still built in Flash? I guess there is Yahoo! Finance (when are they switching?). Google Finance is using Flash only for their charts and I think the difference between the two shows in the feel of the apps.

Kudos to the team! Keep up the great work. Google is still a bit ahead with their superior version of drag-your-route.

Top 10 of 2006 – Yahoo! Ties Google

The ‘best of’ and ‘top 10 of’ 2006 are cropping up everywhere. And I like it! At least until I get tired of it. The Best of Copyblogger will become the reference for every aspiring blogger. And while reading I couldn’t resist keeping score (number of titles containing the given term):

  • Firefox: 2
  • Google: 2
  • Yahoo!: 2
  • Search: 1
  • Web 2.0: 1

Yahoo! ties Google and Firefox! And Ajax, YouTube and MySpace are nowhere to be found…

Why Google Wins With Answers Move

Yahoo! Answers is celebrating the shutdown of Google Answers claiming victory.

Personally I like the fact that Google is brave enough to make this move. Looks like they read (and understood) the Peanut butter manifesto;)

And while lots of blogs are asking which Google product should be killed next, no one is doing the same for Yahoo!.

Keeping a product alive even without active development ties up resources. Getting rid of unsuccessful products or products that are not in line with the strategy makes these resources available for other projects and products.

Yahoo! announced a reorg yesterday that will lead to the sun-setting of some products and the reassignment of resources. Which products is not clear yet or at least hasn’t been communicated.

The great Seth nails it:

Ignore people like me who scream and yell about how much they love it and how much potential there is. Just kill it. That’s what fashion companies do.

This also applies to changes made to products. I’m not saying ignore the user. But a certain percentage of users will always complain because they refuse change. The grant vision for a product can be too big for some users to understand. Yahoo! TV‘s relaunch received a ton of negative feedback from existing users. But what if the audience doubles in the next 6 months? Some existing users will move on while new users will like the new format. Were the changes still wrong? I trust the product team and am convinced that they’ve put a lot of thought into the changes. Let’s check the user numbers again in a few months and see who was right…

Update 28/12/06: Greg Linden agrees:

Old products never die, but they should. To innovate, it is not enough to love creation. We must also love destruction.

YouTube Down – Supposedly “Scheduled”

I just got this lovely picture when accessing YouTube:

I even got a 401 Forbidden for a bit. Note that it says “scheduled”!?!

I love it when a big company buys a startup and the next day the big company is held responsible for failures, performance problems or downtime. Happened back when Yahoo! bought Flickr for example. I wonder if this happens here to…

Note: The immediate impact of such an acquisition on the IT architecture is zero. No servers are being moved from one colo to another. Not even files are being transfered from one server to another. Change takes time and will happen gradually. I’m sure YouTube is still running on its own servers today.

Due to Mistake, Not Incompetence or Indifference

Niniane Wang (Google) said [via Google Blogoscoped]:

(…) problems usually occur due to mistakes rather than incompetence or indifference. (…) Not blaming means the cost of failure is tolerable. This allows people to feel free to innovate with high-risk high-reward ideas.

This is essential in combination with taking risks (see I’m so glad you made this mistake). It is not enough to encourage taking risks, it is also important to make sure that employees are protected from blame and sanctions if something doesn’t go according to plan. Sometimes you’re betting too high or on the wrong horse.

“Features, not products.” – Who saw that coming?

Google has launched an initiative called “Features, not products” (not to be confused with “This is a feature, not a bug”).

[Via John Batelle's Searchblog]

In another sign of Google Inc.’s growth from start-up to corporate behemoth, the company’s top executives said Thursday that they had begun telling engineers to stop launching so many new services and instead focus on making existing ones work together better.

It’s always easy to say ‘I saw this coming’ after it happened. But just looking at the number of employees (did they pass 10k yet?), it wasn’t too far fetched. Although all Google employees I talked to were convinced that Google won’t change. I think we’ve only seen the beginning of far bigger changes…

Oh, and in other Google news today: Google To Acquire YouTube for $1.65 Billion in Stock. Last time I checked this was a lot of money.

I’m so glad you made this mistake.

Larry Page said [via Google Blogoscoped]:

“I’m so glad you made this mistake. Because I want to run a company where we are moving too quickly and doing too much, not being too cautious and doing too little. If we don’t have any of these mistakes, we’re just not taking enough risk.”

Terry Semel and Yahoo! are also encouraging risk taking. Can’t immediately find a good quote online.

What does it take for employees to act accordingly?

Google’s Brand Mantra

From Innovation and brand extensions on What’s Your Brand Mantra?.

Virgin = rebel = Richard Branson. Richard sets out to do something rebellious in whatever industry he chooses to enter. The Virgin brand is based not around what Richard does, but how he does it.

The second part sounds a lot like Google with its various products that seem to be lacking an overall strategy. It’s been a while since Google released a revolutionary, industry changing product. But the public perception of Google is still: cool and innovative.

Read more on brand extensions and if they work or not. Jennifer brings up Google further down in the post. In my opinion, the Virgin example makes a stronger point even when applied to Google.

Google is an innovation machine, generating a lot of new ideas that may or may not fly, but they all hang under its mission of organizing the world’s information and making it universally accessible and usable.

What does your brand stand for? And how can you improve it?

Note: I’m following several Marketing related blogs as I’m convinced we will see radical changes in that area in the coming years (and it has already started). It’s great to read what some professionals in this field are experimenting with.