Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Google Chrome Extensions: Blog This! (by Google)

Posted via the Chrome extension Blog This:

Google Chrome Extensions: Blog This! (by Google): "Add a BlogThis! button to the browser toolbar, which lets you post to your Blogger blog from any webpage with just one click."

Sweet. Nice job, Jungshik!

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Matt Stafford wired

If you've got 6 minutes, watch this video. NFL films routinely wires up players for audio - typically to include snippets of hits or sideline banter in end-of-season highlight reels.

But what happened during the Lions/Browns game two weekends ago was remarkable - and listening to the audio from rookie QB Matt Stafford as he commands a comeback (starting down 21 points) is phenomenal.

Then he gets flattened, as time expires. And, well... just watch it. Really incredible.

Defending bloggers' free speech

Yesterday, published an opinion piece I wrote. It's a topic that's not new to my readers - I've been writing about the striking similarities between pamphlets and social media for years (2003, 2009) and more recently read up on George Orwell's focus on pamphlets as a necessary component of communication for individuals to have the ability to freely express themselves.

I mentioned the Universal Declaration on Human Rights in my op-ed, and I realized yesterday that next Thursday (December 10) will be the 61st anniversary of the United Nations adopting and proclaiming the declaration. December 10 is known as Human Rights Day - if you have any suggestions for the best way to observe Human Rights Day, leave them in the comments.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Parental controls on multiple computers

Didn't see this one coming: earlier today, Robby (my 7 year-old son) mentioned in passing: "Ricky [my 9 year-old son] knows the password on the computer upstairs." I didn't immediately grasp what he meant - after all, I'd set each boy up with their own account with a password and customized their desktop so they could get access to their e-mail, Club Penguin, etc. The two computers - one XP, one Vista - each had parental controls enabled, with an explicit whitelist indicating which sites they could visit.

Then it hit me: he knew the parental controls password.


Sure enough, one thing (on a fairly short list) Vista's parental controls does well is it provides a report of sites that each account has accessed. Since the account can only get access to sites which have been explicitly whitelisted, this list shouldn't be that interesting. Unless there are new sites on the whitelist! Sure enough, Vista shows you which sites were unblocked in the last week. Gotta give the kid credit: he's discovered a couple adventure games online (no clue where/how - that's a discussion for another day) and logged in as me to whitelist the site so he could continue to play.

Once he had the power to whitelist sites, he had the power to remove the time restrictions on his account. Turns out almost the entire time we were cooking on Thanksgiving day, he was battling ogres and advancing to a level 17 knight with an upgraded sword and a shield with magic powers. (Do I sound proud? I shouldn't, right?)

As I started poking around looking for a better solution, I had a hard time finding something that would work. Here's my wish list:

  • individual accounts for each child
  • time-based restrictions, both for time of day and cumulative time logged in
  • content filtering (i.e., no adult sites) as well as a whitelist/blacklist to enable or disable specific sites
  • centralized account config, ideally web-based (this allows Robin or I to administer from our own computers, instead of needing to log into theirs - and avoids having to set up duplicate controls on each computer for each user)
  • traffic logs

Before this sounds like I'm trying to delegate responsibility for managing my kids' online experience: I'm not. I actually want them to explore, and learn to use the machines beyond pointing and clicking on things. (Looked at that way, the whole 'figure out Dad's password and then reverse-engineer the parental controls mechanism so I can get what I want' thing looks like a big success. +1 for me, I guess.)

But Robin and I aren't always looking over their shoulders - whether we're cooking Thanksgiving dinner, or putting their sister to bed, or, yes, hanging out by ourselves - there are times when they're on their computer by themselves and I want them to be safe. The setup we had - XP & Vista's default controls - just didn't cut it. Things weren't centrally managed, there was no ability to restrict the total time on the computer (i.e., 'no more than 2 hours on the computer per day'), and the ability to override settings using the admin account password (which I've since changed, thank you very much!) all made for a less-than-ideal setup.

I asked on Twitter, and got a couple replies but nothing that seemed tailored to what I wanted. I asked on Facebook: nothing. And a couple hours of looking online produced surprisingly little: most solutions were either single-computer solutions or, in a few cases, were hardware based. Then I stumbled on a post on, of all places, looking to do exactly what I was looking to do. And the recommendation was to a service I hadn't yet found in my online research: Safe Eyes. The key for me? You can install it on up to 3 computers for no additional cost.

I've now installed it on both computers the boys use, and Robin's PC as an administrator. The accounts for the boys are managed by Safe Eyes - so when they log into their accounts on either the XP or Vista machines, the Safe Eyes app logs them in (their Safe Eyes account credentials can be saved, so that they're logged in automatically); if they're logged in during a time when they're not allowed to be online, they get a dialog box telling them that.

Controls are well done: it took about 20 minutes to configure what types of sites are OK (see below), which specific URLs are OK, whether they can IM, etc. The time limits are both time-of-day as well as elapsed-time, and various other controls let you ID specific programs you allow/disallow. A browser toolbar sits on Robin's computer (IE only, unfortunately - doesn't work for Chrome) that lets her add a site to the whitelist with one click - a nice feature if the kids hear about a new site they want to add to their list of visited sites.

(Admin screen showing summary of each account)

(Whitelist setup is centrally managed across accounts)

I had both boys read and sign the "Internet Game Plan" - a good, common-sense list of things that both boys should be aware of as they spend more time online. As tech-savvy as Robin and I both are, it was good to go back over the basics as much for our benefit to make sure that the boys felt comfortable with these guidelines.

Mostly, Safe Eyes is a nice technical solution to a problem that's only partly technical: as I explained to Ricky, by stealing our password he violated our trust. Had he asked us for permission to play that game, we could have looked at it together - but he didn't, and got caught. So we've dialed back his access - and he will earn it back. Safe Eyes will make it easier for us to manage that process, and give him more confidence that his effort will be rewarded.

Couple of things the geek in me would like to see: IM notifications that a kid's time has expired (perhaps asking for an OK to extend the time?), a simple way to see how much time remaining in a day each child has. It's also important to note that Safe Eyes is primarily focused on Internet usage, so if your interest is more towards limiting specific apps, this may not be the right fit for you. (Almost 100% of what we do on a computer is in the browser - e-mail, IM, games, etc. - so this works just fine for us.) Safe Eyes does support "program blocking" - but as near as I can tell, it's for programs that access the Internet, not any app on your computer.

In the end, Safe Eyes is pretty close to my ideal solution. I didn't need to buy new hardware, it's not hard to install, it allows me to manage everything on the web, and it will grow as we let the kids do more online without sacrificing their safety. If I wanted to install it on my Mac to simplify admin even further, though, I'd have to upgrade my license: by default, Safe Eyes allows you to install on up to 3 computers - don't get me wrong, I love their approach... but we have 4 computers. :) They also support up to 10 users across those 3 computers, which seems more than enough for any family.

(Disclaimer: I signed up for Safe Eyes' affiliate program after buying my own subscription. I'm really impressed with the service so far. If you decide to sign up after clicking on that link, Safe Eyes will pay me a few bucks as a referral fee. I've done this for similar services in the past - SitterCity, Click 'n Kids - not for the compensation, just because they're great services. What little money I tend to make simply goes to off-setting the cost of using the services themselves.)

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

U.S. Caselaw in Google Scholar

Last night, an important new feature launched on Google Scholar: more than 80 years of US federal caselaw (including tax and bankruptcy courts) and over 50 years of state caselaw is now fully searchable online, for free at Google Scholar.

This project is the culmination of much work, led by a remarkable engineer at Google named Anurag Acharya. Shortly after I arrived at Google, I heard about a small group of people working to make legal information available through Google. Given my background, I was particularly interested to see if there was a role for me - and thanks to Google's culture of encouraging employees finding 20% projects to contribute to, I was able to not only find a role but to dive in.

It's been a thrill to be part of this project, but most importantly it's exhilarating to know that for the first time, US citizens have the ability to search for - and read - the opinions that govern our society. Matt DeVries, a law school roommate, has a great overview of what this means for him as a lawyer here. Tim Stanley, a pioneer in this space who I first met when he built a search engine to index the articles published in the law journal I founded, said simply, "Thanks, Google!" and then did a good job evaluating what Scholar does (and doesn't) do with the opinions. Rex Gradeless, a law student, pointed out that while this may be of interest for lawyers and law students, the real winner here is citizens who've historically not had comprehensive access to this information at all.

It probably goes without saying, but in case it's not abundantly clear: working at a company that embraces projects like this is incredible. This was a labor of love for a number of co-workers (past and present), all of whom instinctively grasped why this is important and how connected it is to Google's mission. I'm very proud to work at Google today.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Daemon Sequel Freedom(tm) available for pre-order

Could not be more excited about this news: Freedom(tm), Daniel Suarez's sequel to Daemon is now available for pre-order at Amazon. Let the count-down begin: the book is available in just over 8 weeks!

In case anyone doesn't remember me raving about Daemon, here's my original review, and January's follow-up post discussing the soon-to-be re-released Daemon in hard-back.

Paramount has Daemon in pre-production, where the screen-writer who wrote WarGames is co-writing the screenplay.

University of Richmond Law School

University of RichmondImage via Wikipedia
Though I don't practice law, I'm a proud graduate of the University of Richmond Law School - it was an extraordinary three years of my life. It was there that I really learned how to think critically, learned how to argue (much to my wife's chagrin), and learned how to be an entrepreneur.

Yeah, you read that right.

Law school is hardly where one thinks about being (let alone becoming) an entrepreneur. Yet along with a group of fellow students, I founded a law journal that was the first in the world to publish online - with the Dean's active support and the encouragement of faculty. Publishing a scholarly law journal exclusively on the Internet was unheard of at the time, and represented a gamble for the law school. We (the students) received academic credit for our time - something up until that point only afforded to Law Review and Moot Court participants. The school's brand was closely tied to JOLT's, and it wasn't clear in the early days that this was a venture likely to succeed.

But succeed it has - JOLT now counts more than 400 students as alumni, has contributed to the scholarship in the technology law space, and is very much an accepted outlet for scholars to seek out when looking to publish their work. And some of my best memories of my time at Richmond were those focused on the actual creation of the Journal - working with the administration, recruiting students to join our crazy idea, convincing professors around the country that we really would pull it off and they should submit their articles to us, evangelizing to the press and academia once we'd launched to generate buzz about the Journal. All of those skills I use today - because this was in a very real sense my first entrepreneurial endeavor.

It had never occurred to me before writing this post - but the biggest gift Richmond gave me was the environment in which it was possible to be an entrepreneur. Too often you hear about entrepreneurs who fail, and fail again, and fail a third time before they find the recipe for success. But Richmond created an environment in which it was quite possible to succeed - and that became an invaluable launching point for my career.

I write all of this because the Law School has produced a 10 minute video detailing the school, the surrounding community, and what the students mean to the Law School. It's a great video, and if you're thinking about going to law school, I think it's a terrific introduction to a school that should be on your short list.

(Full disclosure: if you hang on long enough, you'll see my mug for about 2 seconds.)
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Thursday, November 5, 2009

Twitter list word cloud

I've been enjoying Twitter Lists in the last week... for those that don't know, Lists gives others the ability to "curate" Twitter IDs into groups. You can see which lists I've been added to by clicking here. It struck me that this is the first time I've had such a view into how others categorize me.

I took the words others used to describe me, and then went to Wordle to generate a word cloud based on those words. (I'll bet someone builds a service to generate these word clouds automatically within a week.)

Wordle: Twitter list word cloud

Gets it about right, actually.

What Would Augsburg Do?

A couple weeks ago I attended the fall board meeting for Augsburg Fortress. Augsburg is a publisher affiliated with the ELCA, which is the largest Lutheran denomination in the United States. My connection to Augsburg is a result of a speech I gave to a group of leaders in the ELCA several years ago, and has been a remarkable experience for the last two years.

It’s remarkable for several reasons: it’s my first experience sitting on a board, so that alone makes it a worthwhile effort. But what makes it so rewarding – and so challenging – is the difficulty of being part of a traditional publisher in 2009.

Add to that that my day job – working at a company often blamed for many of the publishing industry’s difficulties – and it has made for quite the learning process.

Last spring, Augsburg’s CEO Beth Lewis asked if I’d consider leading a discussion at our board meeting focused on Jeff Jarvis’s book, What Would Google Do? We ended up delaying the talk, in part because we’d have a new class of board members joining us in the fall and it felt like a better way to kick things off with the “new” board.

On Friday, I tweeted that I’d be leading the discussion, and almost immediately Jeff tweeted right back that he’d love to eavesdrop. A few e-mails later, Jeff and I had it settled: I’d surprise the board by starting off our session by hearing from none other than the author himself – and thanks to Skype video chat, we had him projected full screen and plugged into the A/V so he could speak to us. (Miraculously, the mic on my MacBook Pro even picked up comments from people 30 feet away, making it a completely easy dialogue from 1,000 miles away.)

Jeff had some great ideas to frame the discussion: ask what business you’re really in was the key, of course. But as a brother to a Presbyterian minister, he also had a rather good insight into the challenges faced by leaders in the church: how to admit mistakes, how to foster communities in the midst of declining church membership – he spoke to these challenges as someone more than passingly familiar with the dual challenges Augsburg faces.

Beth asked what is probably the most critical question of Jeff: how do we avoid the “cash cow in the coal mine” – the part(s) of our business that generate revenues today but are neither core to the business nor likely to be a part of Augsburg’s future.

Jeff was blunt: “pretend you needed to get rid of your print business tomorrow. Just turn it off. And imagine that there’s a kid or group of kids in a dorm room today, thinking about how to re-engage people of faith. What are they working on? What are they going to do that will threaten you?”

I wanted to be respectful of Jeff’s time – he was terribly gracious to give up a part of his Saturday morning to chat with us – and we said thanks and then dove in. While I will not go into the confidential aspects of our board discussion, I did warn the board that I’d be blogging the meeting, with the goal of inviting a broader discussion – from Lutherans, from techies, from publishing vets – to figure out if there isn’t a way to be public about the challenges facing us, and hopefully identify some creative paths forward.

Our first step was to throw out the key words that the board felt mattered most from Jeff’s book. More than a dozen words went up... several of the core themes of the book, many of which were obviously applicable to our challenge: trust, transparency, platform, links, beta, imperfect, abundance.

But I pointed out that a biggie – perhaps the biggest – was missing: free. This isn’t easy for an established business to confront: how can we just give stuff away? We talked through the mechanics of free: it’s not what you give away, but how giving things away can expand the market for your other products (and/or create entirely new ones). I recommended Free to the group (one of the many reasons I love our CEO: she had a copy on her Kindle within a minute of my recommendation), and threw out a couple examples from Chris Anderson’s book to talk about how Free can be, as Jeff pointed out in WWGD, a business model.

We also talked about data: what data could we collect – not personally identifiable data, but data about congregations, about product adoption, about customer life cycles (do families whose children attend Sunday School have adults who go to adult bible study more often? Do families who attend adult bible study volunteer more at church, donate more money to the church, or recruit friends to join?) – and how could that data be valuable to others?

What’s exciting to me is that Augsburg is already a company asking “what if?” and acting on it. The best example of this is sparkhouse, a completely new effort funded by Augsburg as an entrepreneurial startup intended to completely reimagine faith-based publishing. And that’s not the only one: Augsburg has built up a number of social networks – see Creative Worship Tour as an example of how Augsburg is connecting like-minded individuals around the world to facilitate interactions and foster community around new ways of managing weekly worship.

While these are great steps, they are by no means guarantees of success. Jeff talks a lot about the news industry: declining circulation, uncertain revenue future, competition from new players who didn’t even exist three years ago. But he could just as easily be talking about the church: membership is down, the average age of congregations is going up, and people are less and less focused on denominations at all when it comes to their faith. Add to that the well-known challenges of being a book publisher today and it’s clear that Augsburg has its work cut out for it.

Which is why I wanted to have this discussion out in the open.  In WWGD, Jeff talks repeatedly about “publicness” – and he spoke movingly of a comment left on his blog over that weekend about a widow who lost her husband to prostate cancer. (Jeff has been documenting his own battle with prostate cancer – and his successful surgery and ongoing recovery – for months.)

Someone (or someones) out there will have ideas that we need to be thinking about. If you’re that kid in her dorm room thinking about reinventing publishing and community for people of faith, I want to hear from you. What would an Augsburg platform look like? (I got to define API to the board during our meeting – I doubt there are too many other publishing boards talking about APIs!) Which questions aren’t we answering? Which aren’t we asking?

My fellow board members are going to be hanging out here; I’m hoping that we can foster an ongoing discussion about our future here. Thanks again to Jeff – for writing a thought-provoking book, for giving of his time this morning – and thanks to all of you, whose input and guidance I cannot wait to read.

Monday, October 19, 2009

BlogWorld Expo recap

I was in Las Vegas last week to attend BlogWorld Expo, and had a terrific time. Events like these are as much about the conversations in the hallways (and, if you're a speaker, the speaker ready room), and this year's BWE was no exception.

My presentation on Friday was about where blogs fit in at a time that everyone's attention seems to be on Twitter; I shared some stats about Blogger that many in the audience hadn't heard before. Louis Gray did a terrific job summarizing my presentation (makes me feel bad, all I did during his was heckle him), and I was quite interested in the Q&A. (Wayne Sutton broadcast my presentation on UStream, and the archived video is on his site here if you're interested.)

I covered some of the same ground in an interview I did with Abby Prince from WebProNews:

Thanks to everyone who stopped by to say hi, hopefully next time I won't have a wedding to go to and I can stay for the entire show!

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

My favorite Google Apps

Inspired by Louis Gray's post about his favorite Google apps (who was inspired by none other than Google CEO Eric Schmidt), I thought I'd capture some of my favorite Google apps - especially those which are lesser-known. (To the many friends who I'll no doubt annoy by not including their products: note that I said some of my favorites. And I'm omitting a couple obvious ones: I live in Gmail, Reader, and Calendar... those deserve their own posts about how I rely on them seemingly every hour of the day. Not today.)

Last week, I was invited to give a presentation to a group of execs from the World Presidents Organization (it's real - I checked!), and the topic was pretty broad: "What are some of the things that wow you at Google?" As I read Louis's blog post, I realized that this presentation was more or less my follow-up to his post. With that, here's what I presented:
  1. Blogger. Yes, I'm biased. But as I near a year of working with this team, it's hard not to love being part of a product that enables millions of people every month to tell their stories - and to have those stories reach nearly one in four people on the Internet every month! Specifically, I love that as soon as I click "publish post" the post is live on the web. No rebuilding, file transfers, or other delays: it's there. (And thanks to Pubsubhubbub, the post shows up instantly on Friendfeed, in my FeedBurner feed, and will soon show up instantly in other places. Hint, hint.) I love having complete control over the look and feel of the blog. And let's just say there are a few things coming in the next couple months that will make lots of Blogger users happy.
  2. Picasa Facial Recognition. When this first launched in Picasa Web Albums, it was almost like a game: my wife and I sat on the couch, seeing pictures of our kids we hadn't seen in years. Now that it's available in the client app, it's been phenomenal to watch it collect and organize the thousands of pictures I've taken over the years. Nobody in the room at my presentation had seen it, and it was the first "magic" moment of the presentation.
  3. Google Voice. There are several cool things here, but the transcription of voicemails is definitely the killer feature. I almost never listen to voicemails anymore (though when GV gets the transcription wrong, it gets it really wrong.)
  4. Google Docs, especially surveys that populate Google Spreadsheets. Another product the audience hadn't even heard of, I showed them how I created a form to survey the parents for an end-of-year gift from the PTA last year. The form took just twenty minutes to build, we then e-mailed it out to all the parents, and within a day we had all the data we needed to make the decision. (For more on creating forms, check out this great post from yesterday at Digital Inspiration.)
  5. Google Scholar. Everyone's done the normal Google ego search. But for anyone who's writen for a scholarly journal, few know that those journals are searchable at Google Scholar. (Here's mine.) One of the execs in the room had written several articles for labor law journals, he'd even forgotten about one we found when searching!
  6. Google Mobile Voice Search. Several had iPhones in the room, and most of the rest had Blackberries. But none had the Google Mobile app, which lets you speak your query and get back location-aware results (say "pizza" and you'll get the nearest pizza joints).
  7. My Tracks for Android. You want to know how overwhelming it is to work at Google? One of my fellow PMs also happens to have been teammates with Lance Armstrong. (Small world, actually - I have seen Lance Armstrong on TV!) So it is that PM Dylan Casey rounded up some engineers and built My Tracks, an insanely cool app for Android phones. (Side note: many in the room kept asking how to get this on their iPhone. Explaining that Android was our OS, and that it was different than the iPhone OS, made no sense whatsoever to them.)
  8. Fast Flip. I really like this effort, currently in Labs. I keep coming back to it, intrigued by the UI - and folks in the room (most of whom were older) immediately caught on to the idea that this is very similar to how they read their print periodicals. I see this getting more traction as other products look at how to incorporate this idea into their own interface.
 What about you? Which Google Apps can't you live without?

Friday, September 25, 2009

Free books on your iPhone

In last week's post about the books I've been reading on my iPhone, I neglected to point out that there are a ton of free books you can "buy" from Amazon. The Kindle app is a free app in the App Store, so go ahead and put it on your phone if you haven't already.

Now go visit this page (better, if you use iGoogle, My Yahoo, Google Reader or another feed reader, subscribe to the feed). This is the current best sellers page for the Kindle, and not surprisingly, books that are free tend to sell pretty well. When you see one that intrigues you, click to buy and it'll be on your iPhone in minutes.

I've got a backlog of at least a dozen books I've picked up over the last 6 months that all look pretty good, and several have been downright outstanding. It's a great marketing tactic for authors - particularly those who have several books available but who want to reach a new audience. And if you're on a tight budget you can't beat the price!

Update: And if you don't have an iPhone/iPod Touch, or you'd really rather have the actual Kindle, the original Kindle (refurbished) is now $149 from Amazon.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Presenting to the WPO at Google

I'm presenting at Google to a group of execs from the World Presidents Organization. Say hi!

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Rodrigo y Gabriela at the Fox

Robin surprised me with tickets to see Rodrigo y Gabriela last night. They were playing at the Fox in Oakland, which is a stunningly beautiful venue.

I found RyG based on a recommendation on Marc Andreessen's blog a couple years ago. (Marc - what's up with the lack of archives? Where'd all the good stuff go?) Thanks to Rhapsody, we were listening to their album that evening, and we were hooked. How could two people get so much music out of two guitars?!

Last night's show was remarkable on a couple fronts. The opening set was Rocco DeLuca playing a solo accoustic set (note to Rocco: next gig you play, introduce yourself!), and he quickly owned the crowd. Really enjoyed his singing - I just listened to some of the songs on his site (with his band The Burden) and his set was much more sedate (in a good way).

As for the main attraction, they were outstanding. My iPhone videos are admittedly blurry, and don't do justice to the insane finger work both do on their guitars - but I think you get a sense of just how phenomenal their music is. Here they are playing early in their set:

And here's their encore, where they sprinkled in just a bit of Stairway to Heaven (which they covered on their self-titled album) and finished with some help from the crowd:

We had a great time. If you get a chance to see them perform live, it's definitely worth it. Gabriela can make more music with her knuckles than most can make with a whole back-up band. (Here's a video from their appearance on Letterman that shows you up close what she does with her guitar.)

At the very least, they have to be among the top 10 Mexican ex-thrash-metal-classical-guitar-playing-Irishmen in the world, right? Who wouldn't want to see that?!

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

First post on SideWiki

Just installed Sidewiki in Google Toolbar on my Mac. A feature I had missed when this was available internally (ironically) was the ability to copy your annotation to your blog; beneath the edit window for your Sidewiki comment, there's a "My blogs on Blogger" element; pick your blog, and then your Sidewiki comment is auto-posted to your blog.


in reference to: tins ::: Rick Klau's weblog (view on Google Sidewiki)

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

BlogPress Lite is live!

Use an iPhone and have a blog on Blogger? Head on over to the app store and get InfoThinker's free "blogpress lite", built by them to celebrate Blogger's 10th birthday. Thanks, guys!

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Really enjoying Socialvibe

A couple weeks back, we announced a partnership with Socialvibe. As the blog owner, you get to pick which charity you support in the gadget configuration - then your blog's visitors are invited to do something (for example: rate a video, watch an ad, sign a petition). Each time they do that something, the advertiser who's sponsoring the gadget pledges a certain amount to the charity you've chosen.

I picked charity: water, and in two weeks my blog's readers have raised nearly 7,500 gallons of water for Charity Water. That's really remarkable, and I hope to see the number continue to go up.

What's been intriguing to me has been the effect it's had on me as the blog owner. I've watched the number climb and check the site a couple times a day to see where it's at. I'm thinking about picking a new charity each month to try and spread the love a bit, but also to re-engage prior visitors. It's a fun exercise, and it's quite fulfilling to know that something so simple can have such a meaningful impact on people who need the help.

If your blog is on Blogger, the link above contains the simple instructions to get started. If you're on WordPress, this article does a good job explaining it in more detail and has links to the WordPress setup (Socialvibe is also a WordPress partner). The Socialvibe site has simple directions for getting started on MySpace or Facebook. Give it a try, let me know what you think.

We're hiring

You may have seen the news that we're getting more active about hiring at Google. We didn't really stop - but as you can see from the jobs listings (US, international) there are lots of opportunities to join and make a difference.

The hiring process remains rigorous, and if you're not confident you're among the best at what you do, this probably isn't the opportunity for you. From my own experience, I can say that you will find it among the most stimulating, challenging, exciting jobs you could have. Interested? Drop me a line, I can try to put you in touch with the right team. (Caveat: I will happily give referrals for people I've worked with or know professionally, but not if I haven't met you or worked with you before. If we don't know each other, please use the "job cart" to apply directly.)

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Latest books on the Kindle: On my iPhone

It was a running gag between Don Loeb and me last year when I bought my Kindle: it's great, he'd say. But I want to read the books on my iPhone. I laughed at him. What sane person would want to do that?

It paralleled my mocking of Don's praise for his Mac... except then I bought a Mac. And then, last week, I realized I'd read the equivalent of 1,500 printed pages on my iPhone. Don was right. Again.

I read both Song of Susannah (560 pages) and The Dark Tower (1,072 pages) entirely on the iPhone, and have read about 2/3 of Chris Anderson's Free (288 pages) on the device. Never once did I switch back to the Kindle.

What does this mean? More than anything, all it really means is that I often stole time to read instead of setting time aside to read. So instead of being uninterrupted for hours, I'd grab chunks of 15, 20, 30 minutes to read a few "pages" on the iPhone. It's not that I don't like the Kindle (I do) - it was just never handy in between baseball games, waiting for the shuttle to arrive, at breakfast, etc.

If given the choice, I'd still choose a larger-form device like the Kindle. I miss the fuller functionality of the Kindle (the iPhone app doesn't include the built-in dictionary, something I grew to enjoy using). But it's notable that even though it was in my backpack the whole time, the iPhone was always more convenient. And I ended up reading 100x more pages on the device than I ever thought I would.

Moral of the story? Listen to Don more often. (He likes his Roku, which is intriguing to me. And of course he happens to think blogging is staging a comeback. The man's a genius, I tell you.)

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

iPhone and home automation

When I buckled this summer and picked up an iPhone, I was pretty sure I was doing it mostly for the camera (image and video) and the seamless integration with a number of Google services. I haven't been disappointed on those fronts - but it's been the home automation on the iPhone that's most impressed me.
We moved to California after Google acquired FeedBurner, and the house we bought is in a new development where the builder (Lennar) installed solar panels in every new home. Included with the panels was monitoring by SunPower - for the last two years I've been able to log into SunPower's website to see how much energy we consume each day and how much we produce.

Earlier this year, SunPower released an iPhone app - and it's fantastic. With one click, I can see how much energy we've consumed or produced for the current day/month/year. Hilariously, a few weeks ago our neighbors were walking by and we got to talking about our solar panels (they live in the same model house as we do, but their panels face a different direction due to the arrangement of nearby homes and we were wondering whose panels produced more energy). Robin pulled out her cell phone, and my neighbor's wife pulled out hers - both compared their system's data in real time. (We'd guessed correctly - the neighbors panels produce more energy per day than ours does. And if you're wondering if this was our quintessential only-in-California moment since moving back here in 2007, the answer is yes - yes it was.)

Aside from the eye candy, there's a practical benefit to the app: getting real-time insight into when your home's energy consumption spikes can drive radically different behavior: seeing just how many kWh the dishwasher consumes, or the washer/dryer (all of which are new and are as energy efficient as can be), helped us shift when we used them - thanks to PG&E, we're on a variable rate plan and spend dramatically less per kWh at night than we do during the day. Similarly, we were able to help show our kids the impact things like having the "big" TV on can have (the TV doesn't consume a lot of power, but the stereo that produces the audio sure does). One side effect? They are much more conscientious about when they play the Wii now. :)

The Sonos app is a case where the iPhone app is dramatically better than the product it complements. I cannot rave about our Sonos system enough - though my post from a few weeks after we first got it still pretty much sums up how much I love it. A very minor quibble was the included remote - it's an impressive piece of hardware (it's connecting to the Sonos's private mesh network via WiFi to communicate with each music server), but the UI was frustrating. Searching was cumbersome, as there was no touch screen and you had to use the dial pad to scroll through to find each letter to type out a band name or song title.

The iPhone app, on the other hand, is perfect. From my iPhone, I have complete control over every Sonos zone in the house - and because it's a touch screen, typing in search queries is a breeze. I can control volume for any set of attached speakers, pick which music plays where, you name it - and unlike the bulky Sonos remote, the iPhone is easy to keep in a pocket - which makes switching from radio to Rhapsody to Pandora a snap.

Yesterday I found that has an iPhone app. The alarm company the builder contracted with uses for their Internet monitoring - and though I've used their website a couple times, it's never been that useful for me. But the iPhone app is simple, and useful: one tap to arm the system, one to disarm - and an ability to review past alarm events (arm/disarm by user, sensor activations, overrides, etc.).

I could see this being useful when needing to remotely disable the alarm (to let someone in, for instance) or to monitor alarm activity. On the feature request list, I'd love to see a status window that would show me which sensors were currently in the 'tripped' state (i.e., which windows/doors are currently open) - but I haven't yet poked around enough to see whether that's even possible. (Impressively, if your alarm has any video capabilities, the feeds from those cameras are viewable from the app.)

Last but not least is a nice app called DVR Lite - it's the free version of a for-pay app that's a third-party app built to control your Series III TiVo or TiVo HD. Once you enable network remote control on the TiVo (a feature I didn't even realize the TiVo supported), DVR Lite auto-detects any TiVos on the network and provides you with a fully functional remote for your TiVo:

One of the things that's nice here is, like with the Sonos app, the ability to type on the iPhone screen is far superior to TiVo's Kings-Quest-like up-up-right-right-right-select-down-down-left-left-left-left-select text entry for finding programs. Another nice time saver in DVR Lite is one-click access to TiVo's mobile interface, which makes one-off recording of shows easy (particularly when you're not home to do it on the TiVo directly):

I'm sure there are other apps I'm missing. One I stumbled on that I'll put on Robin's iPhone is the Comcast app (solely to make it easier for her to listen to voicemail at the house when she's not home). What other home automation apps should I know about?

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Blogger turns 10

So... been a tad busy. Still not enough time to catch up, but here's a glimpse into the last month or so:
And there's more to come. Going camping tomorrow, hopefully coming up for air next week.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Friday, July 24, 2009

Latitude for iPhone - now what?

In case you missed the news, Google Latitude is now available on the iPhone. Just visit in your browser and you'll be able to share your location information with your friends, see where they're at on the map, and email/call/SMS them if they're sharing that detail with you. There's an Android version, a Blackberry version, and it also works in the browser on your computer.

One of the challenges to getting value out of this is having friends share info with you. Here's a tip. If you add contacts, select "all contacts" and Latitude will start by showing you all of your correspondents who are already on Latitude (and presumably require less convincing that this is worth doing):

That brings up this screen:

Click the names of the people you want to add and you're good to go - now you'll be able to see where your friends are hanging out.

Last thing to do with Latitude? If you have a blog, add the Latitude badge to your blog so people can see where you are. I've added it to my blog, and this is what it looks like:

The Latitude Badge site includes a one-click add to Blogger, or you can copy the embed code to add it to whatever platform you use. Easy!

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Blogger and adult content

Last week, a Blogger user posted about her impending departure from Blogger. A Blogger "interstitial" began appearing before users could visit her site, warning of potentially objectionable content. Becky believed the interstitial to be politically motivated, and many of the commenters tended to agree with her. I tried to clarify in the comments (search on my name to find the comment) on that post:
To be clear: at no time are any classifications applied to blogs because of their political views. That would be the antithesis of why Blogger was founded ten years ago, and is contrary to everything the team believes about giving our users a platform on which they can speak their mind.
I published my e-mail address on that comment, and in the last week have not received a single e-mail - from Becky or from anyone commenting there. Her post was picked up on Instapundit, and in announcing that she has shut down the blog today, others joined the conversation (Simple Justice, RedState, and Popehat to name a few). The common thread appears to be the conviction that Google was attempting to shut down a blog because we didn't agree with the views expressed on the blog.

To be clear: we wholeheartedly endorse an individual's right to express themselves. As I stated in the comment on Becky's first post, I would hate to lose Becky's voice in the blogosphere, and would be even more disappointed if Blogger's actions in any way contributed to her deciding to stop blogging.

That said, Blogger acted exactly as set out in our Terms of Service and our Content Policy: "there are some boundaries on the type of content that can be hosted with Blogger. The boundaries we've defined are those that both comply with legal requirements and that serve to enhance the service as a whole." We specifically outline the scenarios in which an interstitial will apply, including "image and video content that contains nudity" and point out that "we may put such content behind an interstitial."

We didn't take the blog down. We didn't prevent people from reading it (as evidenced by the many comments left on both of her most recent posts). We have in no way acted to prevent, restrict or otherwise skew the debate happening on her blog or any of the others discussing this that are hosted by Blogger. We simply responded to the fact that a number of posts there do, in fact, contain nudity. Visitors to the site flagged the blog as containing objectionable content, and as set out in our TOS, blogs that contain nudity may contain an interstitial to let readers know what they will find when they click through.

I want to be as clear as I can possibly be: I want Blogger to be a platform to encourage the free flow of ideas. Healthy debate from across the political spectrum is absolutely critical in a free society, and I'm proud that millions of users around the world rely on Blogger to publish their opinions.

Update: On Twitter, @popehat suggests that I should have realized that the people complaining were idealogically opposed to Becky (here and here) and that I should have personally used my discretion (here) to ignore those flags and chosen not to apply our TOS to the situation. As I responded, I can't see how us subjectively applying our standards helps anyone, as it would lead to precisely the situation we're accused of: deciding which ideas we embrace, and which peoples' opinions are worth paying attention to. I'd much prefer to objectively apply our stated policies to each situation, so that everyone involved - our users, the readers of blogs, us - know exactly what to expect.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Comparing legal blogging platforms

I originally got into blogging because I was past deadline for my magazine column for the American Bar Association. Three searches in three days resulted in #1 results for John Robb's blog - and, being me, I called John to ask him why he kept showing up at the top of my Google queries. (More on that here.)

John was at Userland at the time, his enthusiasm for blogging was infectious, and I started a blog so I'd have something to write about. Here we are 8 years later, and it's very cool to see a number of companies emerging to offer blogging guidance to lawyers and law firms.

So I was pretty disappointed to run across a post tonight from one of those new entrants, Avvo, who wrote up a post on their blog purporting to compare "legal blogging platforms". In the post is a chart that compares Blogger, WordPress, and TypePad, along with Avvo and LexBlog, two of the companies focused on the legal blog space. The post would lead one to believe that the only rational choice is to spend $25/month on an Avvo Legal Blogs.

I tried to comment on the post, but (irony of ironies) it seems to have vanished. Just in case it stays in limbo, here's the text of the comment that I left earlier tonight:
Conrad, as a non-practicing lawyer and an avid supporter of lawyers embracing new technology, I'm thrilled to see you call attention to the benefits that blogging can have for a professional's marketing efforts. I started a blog 8 years ago, and was one of the first lawyers to advocate for blogs as a marketing vehicle (both in my ABA column in LPM magazine as well as in the book I co-authored about marketing on the Internet, also published by the ABA).

However, I'm disappointed that you misrepresent almost every aspect of Blogger in your comparison. I'm the product manager for Blogger, and find your statements about its capabilities to be quite misleading.

For starters, Blogger is the most visited blogging platform in the world, and millions of users use Blogger to publish to their blogs every week - for free.

In addition to gadgets built specifically for the millions of users who rely on Blogger (, our users can control every element of their page and embed Flash, javascript and any other interactive code provided third parties that they want, giving them complete control over the functionality of their blog.

Domain registration and configuration is built into the app itself - allowing users to easily register their domain and begin publishing within minutes. My own blog is hosted by Blogger at - for which I pay nothing other than the domain registration fee. See this page for more info including a simple how-to video:

Our Terms of Service explicitly establish that the user owns all content they create: "Google claims no ownership or control over any Content submitted, posted or displayed by you on or through Google services." Link:

In addition to controlling their own design, users can choose from thousands of third-party designed templates for a completely unique presentation. See here for links to some of the more popular designers:

Blogger's not for everyone, and I think there's ample room in this space for solutions tailored to the needs of the professionals you're catering to. But let's trust our users to make fully-informed decisions based on accurate representations of each platform.

--Rick Klau
Product Manager, Blogger
Other comments indicate that Conrad's comparison is further flawed; Kevin O'Keefe took issue with some of the claims about LexBlog, Rex Gradeless pointed out that isn't as limited as Conrad claimed, and Doug Cornelius suggested that self-hosted WordPress deserved a look too.

I'll reiterate what I said in the comment: there's plenty of room in this space for healthy competition. My law school roommate is a very happy customer of Kevin's at LexBlog. (Of course, I have also challenged Kevin - on his claim that Blogger's a non-starter for professionals - he's entitled to his opinion, but there are many, many professionals using Blogger and doing just fine. I'd like to think I'm one, btw.)

Bottom line, healthy competition should be on the merits, not on misstatements of fact.
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Monday, July 6, 2009

Blogging from my iPhone

Those who know me know how amazing my switch to a mac last year was. A 10 year thinkpad devotee, I reluctantly gave up on windows when I faced a 10 minute reboot. I haven't looked back since - and despite a few minor quibbles, I've been very happy with the switch.

Now it's time for another apple conversion - this time from a blackberry to an iPhone. I held out for more than two years, but the addition of video to the device really sealed it for me. I'm blown away at how polished the phone is - far more sophisticated than any mobile device I've used. (I know, I know - this is not new news to anyone. But I'm still in the honeymoon phase ... :)

More to test it out than anything else, I'm writing this from BlogPress, a nice $2.99 app that works with Blogger. Seems pretty good so far. Here's what this post looks like on the phone (yes, BlogPress supports images):

Pretty slick!

-- Posted from My iPhone

Monday, June 29, 2009

Collaborative podcasting

Several years back, I had what seemed to me a good idea for a fun hack: fill my iPod. Here's how it works: you find an MP3 file, you tag it at with the tag "ricksipod". I used the feed from for that tag as the source feed for a new feed in FeedBurner, and applied FeedBurner's "SmartCast" service to turn that feed into a podcast feed (by linking to the mp3 files as enclosures).

Since I just bought an iPhone, I'm using iTunes more often now (my iPod sat, unused, in my briefcase for quite some time). Subscribe to the resulting feed in iTunes, and voila! Now any MP3 file you guys tag gets routed to my iPhone.

I'll report back with any particularly good finds you guys steer my way.

Update: In the comments, Eric points out that I'm standing on the shoulders of a few giants (namely, Eric, Fred and David Hornik) by re-purposing this. I'd completely forgotten the origin of this idea - and enjoyed re-reading the original post that planted the seed for me. I also like the more modern implementation - Sam's idea to redo this as a Twitter-powered podcast. Neat!

Friday, June 26, 2009

My commencement speech

Last month I was the commencement speaker at the University of Richmond School of Law's commencement ceremony. I graduated in the class of '96, and was honored to be invited back to address this year's graduating class. The transcript of the speech is here, and the video of the speech is now available on YouTube:

Thanks again to the graduates for the invitation - it was an honor to share the day with the very accomplished graduating class.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Social media presentation at SMPS event

Just finished presenting at the Society for Marketing Professional Services San Francisco event, where I shared the stage with Maura Ginty from Autodesk and Heather Durham of The Durham Group. We were there to talk about social media, and we covered a number of interesting avenues. The audience was marketers for architecture and engineering firms, and was a great opportunity to talk to a group for whom much of social media - blogs, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc. - is new territory.

These firms - much like the law firms I used to work with when I was at iManage and Interface Software - have to justify investing in new things with uncertain results to leadership who's often of a generation that didn't grow up with access to these tools. For many of them, "social networking" (as one of the organizers told me) still means cocktail parties and country club memberships.

I tried to stress more than anything else that the key to social media is keeping it personal and conversational. One of the lessons we learned on the Dean campaign was that supporters responded more strongly to the campaign when they got to know the people inside the campaign. Posts didn't go out on the campaign blog under Howard Dean's byline, they went out as written by Joe Trippi, Matt Gross, Nicco Mele, Jim Brayton, Zephyr Teachout, Garrett Graff, and so on. And as people got to know them, the connection to the campaign got stronger and more resilient. When Matt asked for tech help, or Zephyr called for volunteers, people responded.

This wasn't just a political thing - I watched it happen when we reached out on the publisher services team at FeedBurner, and it's equally true now with the Blogger team responding to users on Twitter. I stressed to the audience today that a blog can help individuals within a firm establish their own voice, and by creating that visibility directly benefit the firm in the process. It's a lesson that I think is too often overlooked, as people tend to emphasize the tools (do I set up a blog? get an account on Twitter? How do I use LinkedIn?) instead of thinking about the end result: do you want your firm to be more visible? More authoritative in industry press? Establish personal connections with business leaders, potential clients, business partners?

Blogs, networking sites like LinkedIn and Facebook, and yes, even Twitter - every one of them can play a role in accomplishing those objectives. But saying you have a blog, or getting a Twitter account - those aren't the objectives. They're the means to an end.

There was a good crowd there today - well over 100 attendees, which is apparently double the typical attendance for these events. I'd love to hear from anyone there - what questions didn't we get to? What else do you want to know? I'm guessing your colleagues have some ideas to share, or additional context to provide... have at it in the comments.

Thanks to the SMPS for being such great hosts, I had fun!
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Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Who and where are you?

Here's a cool hack: earlier today I created a two column Google Spreadsheet, and built a form front-end. One column is for location, the other column is the caption for that location. Using the Google Maps gadget for Google Spreadsheets, I was able to create a real-time map of the data in the spreadsheet. The gadget contains a "publish gadget" option, which provides the javascript to display the embedded map. Finally, I grabbed the HTML from the embedded form and added it to an HTML/Javascript gadget on Blogger right below the map itself. The result is a real-time, updated map showing the locations of visitors to my blog:

Go ahead! Add your location and be like all the cool kids:

Your location:
(City, State/Country)
[Zip only doesn't work]

I'm going to work on tweaking the Maps gadget so that URLs in the caption balloons are clickable... but I'm interested to see where this heads. Thoughts?

Monday, June 1, 2009

Blogger templates - favorite sources?

A while back on Twitter, I invited @Blogger followers to share their favorite third party template designers, and promised a summary post on Blogger Buzz with pointers for our users. Responses were great - but unfortunately, they're lost (for the time being, at least) while Twitter works on repairing its archival search.

So I'm going to try again: and this time, I promise a more timely response. If you have a favorite source of Blogger templates, please share it in the comments. I'll summarize by tomorrow on Blogger Buzz (if I get enough comments), Wednesday at the latest.

Looking forward to seeing what you share!
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Free screening of The Response - tomorrow in Chicago

A few days after I gave my commencement address, I got an e-mail from Ari Lapidus, one of the subscribers to my blog. His cousin, Sig Libowitz (a lawyer at Venable) had recently completed a film called The Response that he thought I'd like. We've since corresponded, and I'm hoping to bring a screening of the film to Google at some point.

The film is a courtroom drama about the Guantanamo Bay military tribunals and is based on the actual transcripts from those tribunals. In addition to Sig playing one of the judges, it stars Peter Riegert (Boon!), Kate Mulgrew, Daily Show's Aasif Mandvi and several others.

Among other awards, The Response won the ABA's "Silver Gavel" for "drama and literature", and is being screened at the ABA tomorrow in Chicago. The screening is free, but you do need to register ahead of time - details are here. If you attend, let me know what you think - I'm looking forward to meeting Sig and his cousin Ari, and can't wait to see the film.

Blogger custom search gadget

Earlier today we announced a new gadget that Blogger users can install on their blog: with one click, they get a search gadget that will search not only their blog, but other sites they've linked to, their blogroll, and the web. (Here's TechCrunch's post about it.)

To call it "new" is actually a bit of a misnomer: it's been available on Blogger in Draft (akin to Gmail's Labs) for some time, but we polished it up a bit and let folks know about it this morning.

Louis Gray wrote up his reaction shortly after we published our post, concluding that Lijit should "look out!" I think Louis is as sharp as they come, but I'm not sure I agree. I've been fortunate to meet with the Lijit team on a number of occasions, and think that the opportunities they're addressing are a bit different than what we've done at Blogger with this launch. Indeed, in the comments on Louis's post, Micah Baldwin from Lijit does a good job pointing out that the custom search gadget and Lijit really aren't that competitive.

Where our custom search gadget enables visitors to find a specific piece of content from among the sites that the blogger has linked to, Lijit takes a somewhat more expansive view and uses search as a way to build a community around the blog in question. So there's search, but there's also stats, and there's an ad network built around the context Lijit has about how sites link to each other. It's that last piece - the network of associated sites - that I happen to know something about, as I helped build out a very similar idea at FeedBurner before we got acquired. I'm not just saying they're coincidentally similar - Lijit's networks were in many ways a continuation of what we started at FeedBurner. From the press release earlier this year about Lijit's networks:
Lijit Networks, Inc., a company that provides search-powered applications for individual online publishers and publisher networks, announced today the launch of Lijit Content Networks, which are sites built to support self-organized groups of bloggers that write about a common area of interest. Much the way FeedBurner, Inc.'s FeedBurner Networks once worked, Lijit's Content Networks aggregate their content via RSS feeds from many individual sites into a single website that captures the collective perspective of all sites in the network. [emphasis mine]
So... is there some overlap? Sure. But while I think our gadget provides a cool way of applying several Google products to solve a complex problem (notably our AJAX APIs and our Custom Search Engine), Lijit is different. I don't think it's likely that users would use both on their blog at the same time, but I think that's because users of one are likely looking for something different than users of the other.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Hiring? Let me know

No, I'm not leaving Google. (Far from it... working on Blogger is a blast.) Several months ago I set up a Google Group for people to join if they're looking for a job; as recruiters and friends share job openings with me, I forward them to the list. There are 50+ members of the list, and I'd love it if this helped connect anyone with the job they were looking for.

So... if you're looking for work, join the group. If you're hiring, let me know and I'll pass it along.

Chrome on the Mac (kind of)

Catching up on some TV last night, I saw a reference to the Windows 7 Release Candidate. Visting the Microsft site, I saw that the download was an .ISO package - basically a pre-burned disk image intended to be a bootable DVD to facilitate the installation of Windows 7. And then it clicked: VMWare can create new virtual machines out of .ISO files. I could run Windows 7 on my Mac. Which means I could run Chrome on my Mac!

Getting Windows running on my Mac was shockingly easy. All told it took about an hour. Here's what I did:

  • Download the .ISO file from Microsoft's site (choose the 32-bit version), get a license key for the evaluation copy
  • In VMWare, click "New"
  • Select Windows Vista, point to the downloaded .ISO file and provide your license key
  • Wait and watch as VMWare builds your Windows machine
Once done, I fired up the virtual machine, and Windows 7 loaded flawlessly. Fired up IE, downloaded Chrome, and there you had it: I was now running Chrome on my Mac.

On the shuttle into work this morning, I tried using just Chrome inside of the Windows 7 virtual machine to see if I could use it as my primary browser. It was rock solid, and noticeably faster than Firefox on the Mac. (Which, when you think about the computing shenanigans going on, is rather remarkable.)

The Release candidate is valid for a year (though it'll start degrading itself by doing bi-hourly shutdowns in March, 2010), which means that if you have a copy of VMWare, you can run Windows 7 for the next 12 months for free. Of course, Chrome on the Mac will be released natively ahead of that... but in the meantime, this isn't a bad way to test out a new OS while also getting a screaming-fast browser as part of the bargain.

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Saturday, May 9, 2009

Text of Commencement Speech

Below is the text of the speech I'm giving to law students graduating from the University of Richmond School of Law this afternoon. The school is recording the speech; once I have the video I'll put it up in my YouTube account.


Thank you, Rob, for that wonderful introduction. President Ayers, Dean Douglass, members of the faculty, and most importantly - graduates - I'm honored to be here, and I want to thank the students for the invitation to join all of you today.

When I showed up at Richmond Law, I had no idea where I'd be after graduation - the thought that I'd end up at one of the world's most influential technology companies was furthest from my mind. Much to the chagrin of my parents - and even a few professors here today - I rarely chose to do something because of where it would take me. Looking back, it's obvious to me that this is one lesson I've learned: if you think you know exactly where you're going, you're not far enough away.

Today, my path from Richmond Law to Google seems almost direct. I joined the ABA as a student. I founded a law journal. I wrote a technology column for the ABA. Got a job through contacts from the Journal and the ABA. One of those contacts asked me to write a book with him, and on the phone one day, he told me about how one of his clients - a Muslim citizen - was locked up after 9/11 without access to counsel. We wondered what we'd tell our kids when they studied this period in American history, so I made a call to Vermont, where I became one of the first volunteers on the Dean campaign. That didn't go exactly as planned, but friends from the Dean campaign got hired to work for a little-known Senate candidate, and they needed a local. That's how I ended up managing President Obama's campaign blog when he ran for Senate. I was too excited by what was developing on the Internet to let it remain a hobby, and I joined an Internet start-up. We got bought by Google. (I did say "almost" direct.)

Of course, I almost didn't make it through the front door. Unlike nearly every other company on the planet, Google actually interviews the employees of the companies it's acquiring. As a company that receives more than a million resumes a year, Google can be awfully demanding. One of my twelve (yes, twelve) interviewers asked about my GPA in law school. I wasn't sure, but offered, "2.8? 3.0?" He looked at me: "Why so low?" Realizing this wasn't a joke, I replied: "I started a law journal, the first in the world to publish online. And it was like a full-time job, while being a full-time law student. When I graduated, the faculty awarded me the T.C. Williams award for the most significant contribution to legal scholarship." I said it just like that: one run-on sentence, without punctuation. He paused, then looked at me: "There aren't many good answers to that question. But that was a good answer."

The reason that answer worked - and the reason I'm here today - is that I've been blessed to always be passionate about what I do. I've never known where the path in front of me was leading, but my passion guided me - through challenges as well as successes.

When I was young, my Dad often asked, "What are you passionate about?" It wasn’t until high school that I started to get a sense of my answer. I read the Supreme Court’s ex parte Milligan opinion during a lesson on the Civil War. A straightforward case, it established that even in a time of war, the President’s powers had limits. (Amazing, I know!) I remember grasping even then the genius inherent in our Constitution, admiring the delicate balance between the branches of our government. I knew that I wanted to be a part of a system that ensured individuals like Lambdin Milligan got a fair trial.

In college, I wrote a column for the school paper about the Gulf War. In 1990 - before the invention of the Web - I was exchanging e-mail with Israeli students in Tel Aviv and Saudi students in Riyadh. My column - for a school paper read by a few hundred students - had first-hand sources from 6000 miles away. The world was orders of magnitude smaller for me than it was when I left high school - and I knew the Internet was fundamentally changing life as we knew it.

At Richmond, a dozen of us were convinced that these fundamental changes would apply to the law as well, and we started an online law journal. Within weeks of publishing our first issue, we had visitors from Fortune 500 companies, government agencies, nearly every law school in the country, and individuals from around the world. The ability to reach all corners of the globe - with little more than an Internet connection and something to say - was exhilarating.

A few years out of law school, I worked for a former law partner of Dean Douglas. He'd started a company that built private networks for litigation management, and one of our users shared with me the secret to keeping his clients happy. (Out of respect to the many southerners in the room, I will not butcher the beautiful accent with which these words were spoken. But trust me - this is even better when said with an Alabama drawl.) "Biggest item on any bill I send is one word: Thinkin'."

I've always loved that comment, because it speaks to me of the immense creativity at the heart of law practice: it's not what you read but your passion to apply what you know - that separates the great lawyers from the merely good lawyers.

Google's mission is to organize the world's information and make it accessible and useful. All of the communication I've spoken of - whether through blogs, social networks, e-mail, or yes, even law journals - means it is increasingly possible for companies like ours to deliver on that mission. Let me give you a sense of the scale at which we operate: in four hours, Google indexes as much information as is contained in the US Library of Congress. In those same four hours, 3,600 hours of video is uploaded to YouTube, and six million words are written on my service, Blogger. In our lifetimes, users will have near-complete access to the information they want. What will ubiquitous access to information mean for you? Your clients? Your firms? Think, for a moment, how the practice of law would evolve if all the world’s information – including legal source materials - were searchable by anyone, anywhere, any time - for free.

I don't know exactly what that path will look like, but I'm betting some of you might. I do know this: it will change how lawyers perceive themselves, it will change how the law reacts to fundamental principles like privacy, community, and intellectual property, and it will change the nature of how clients interact with their lawyers.

I would hope that like me, after three years at Richmond Law you have all developed a passion for the law. If so, then I believe you have an obligation to change it. Precedent must not define the path in front of you, it can only help you navigate it. The Internet that I first saw 20 years ago is finally effecting change that is fundamentally altering entire industries. Newspapers in their current form may well be gone before any of you make partner. Every book I read last year, I read on Amazon's Kindle. Sales of CDs and DVDs are falling, just as iTunes downloads surpassed 1 billion and Amazon now delivers rented movies in high definition to my TiVo.

The innovation that has reshaped these industries will certainly accelerate change within the legal profession, and those of you who shape the change that's coming must be passionate about it - and must understand the forces at work so that you might guide the law to where it needs to go.

To those of you who, either after graduating today or after practicing for a bit, find your passion misplaced, or worse, lost: stop. Passion for the law does not need to mean passion for the practice of law. My path is, after all, an "alternative" path. (A word about "alternative" - when I chose to join a fledgling tech start-up after getting my law degree, the word my Dad used to describe my career choice was most definitely not "alternative".) Your JD need not be a precedent that binds you to practice. Let it be your foundation, from which you can find your own way to apply what you’ve learned. My JD informs every decision I make at Google, yet I have never practiced law.

Richmond Law helped me learn how to think, how to synthesize, how to write, how to argue – and no matter who signs your pay checks, you will find these skills put you head and shoulder above your peers. I used to joke that my JD was like an MBA without math, but I'm increasingly convinced that an MBA is a JD without arguing. And trust me: the arguing matters.

Google didn't get to where we are by following those before us. Nor will change come to the legal profession incrementally. To be an agent of change, a steward for the profession, you must think big. The forces at work are too large, too numerous, and evolving too quickly. You must have the audacity to, to borrow a tagline from another Silicon Valley company, think different. (As an aside, after three years of "Law Skills", I'd hope that I'm not the only one who heard that Apple ad and thought, "shouldn't that be Think Differently?")

I'm unbelievably lucky to have studied at a law school whose leadership thought it might be cool if every incoming student had a laptop. Dean Harbaugh later admitted to me that they didn't really know what would happen when students had laptops - but by thinking just a little bit differently about the education of law students, an unexpected accident happened: some of us started a law journal. Which, among other things, gave me a good answer in my interview at Google.

When you think differently, accidents happen. Failures are unavoidable. But accidents aren't always failures, nor are failures always without value. When it's OK to fail, success becomes possible, and, through experimentation, the next step in the path presents itself.

Today, as you graduate, the economy makes the path before you seem more challenging and even less obvious. But regardless of whether you practice law or apply your education to some other endeavor, and regardless of whether you're juggling options or looking for the right opportunity in a tighter job market, when you’ve found your passion and you think big, you'll realize that you won't find your path: it will find you.

Look at me: an experiment in undergrad - Internet access for everyone as a result of a wealthy alumnus’s donation - followed by an experiment in law school - laptops for everyone - mixed with passion for technology and law - produced a legacy I remain proud of to this day.

If you leave today with a diploma and a passion for the law, then you and the faculty did your jobs well and you begin your careers with nearly unlimited potential to be a positive force for change within the profession. I walked off this stage thirteen years ago. Thirteen years from now, when one of you is standing where I stand today, addressing the class of 2022, I don't know what the profession will look like, but I know it will be better because you channeled your passion and you thought big.

Congratulations on your accomplishment, and best of luck in your careers. Thank you!
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