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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Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Commencement speech in 3 days!

University of Richmond
Image via Wikipedia
I leave for Richmond tomorrow afternoon, where I'll be giving the commencement address to this year's graduating class at the University of Richmond School of Law. It's been almost four months since I received the call from Dean Douglas, I've spent quite a bit of time in the last several months refining what I want to say.

Writing this kind of address is a very different process than most other presentations I've given, and it's been a terrific process to get input from a number of people who've provided very useful feedback. I'm probably leaving a few out, but I wanted to say thanks to my friends Ann Lee Gibson, Norm Rubenstein, Leigh Dance, Barb Miller, Ross Fishman, Deborah McMurray, Jason Mendelson, and Prof. Joel Eisen - each reviewed at least one draft of the speech and helped me see what fit and what didn't. The speaker team at Google is terrific, and my wife Robin was tremendously helpful in listening to several drafts and helping me hone in on the key messages.

The finished product is rather different from my first draft - and I'm much happier with where it ended up. I'll share the final version after I give the address, and the school is recording it - once I have a copy I'll put it up on YouTube. I'm excited, and am really looking forward to the ceremony.
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Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Blogger FTP vs. Custom Domains

Over the weekend on Twitter, I asked for bloggers to share reasons why they used FTP instead of Custom Domains. Most people, once I'd explained the advantages of Custom Domains, tended to agree that was the better path... and the time seemed ripe for diving in, as we'd had a number of FTP-related issues over the last several weeks.

A number of users responded, and I just did a pretty comprehensive post over on Buzz (do I get the award for longest Buzz post ever? I think I do!) If you're using Blogger FTP and would like to better understand whether Custom Domains might be a better option, I suggest you check it out.

We've also created a Help Group specifically around this topic, so we can answer additional questions that you might have. Please read the article, then head over to the help group if you need additional help. Thanks to everyone who provided input, and to all of you who rely on Blogger as your blogging service.
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TiVo turns ten years old

TiVo Inc.Image via Wikipedia
Dave Zatz has a thought-provoking piece up asking whether TiVo has lost its way. The impetus for his post is a recent NY Times article about recent TiVo developments extending advertising throughout its UI, and the recognition that the core of TiVo's innovation hasn't changed much since it first launched in 1999.

I called TiVo last week after I did the math on how much money I've spent with TiVo over the years, hoping I could save a few bucks. Starting in February, 2001, I've owned four different TiVo units - and between hardware and service fees, I've spent thousands of dollars in the 8 years I've been a subscriber. I was also an early adopter of TiVo's Home Media Option, which meant I spent $100. (Months later, they made HMO free. No refund, however.)

All of which is background for why I was going to turn this post into a bit of a complaint. For all of my TiVo fan-boy love over the years, thousands of dollars is a lot of money to spend for a product that has not, as the NYT points out, radically changed the game since their launch in '99. There's one exception to this: the release of TiVo to Go a few years ago, where I could transfer TiVo recordings to my PC and watch on the computer. Between my commute (on the train, ~1 hour each way every day) and my travel (~100k miles/year), this was an absolute revelation. I was able to stay current with shows I cared about - particularly those that Robin didn't like. :)

But since switching to the Mac, one of my biggest complaints has been the lack of a viable equivalent to TiVo to Go. The app is inexplicably free on the PC, but the only alternative supported by TiVo is a $100 Mac app by Roxio that does about 50x more things than I need. I asked @tivo on Twitter over the weekend whether I was missing anything; @tivo replied that I should check out Roxio.

But @shellen and @CPWestergaard pointed me to an option I wasn't familiar with: iTiVo. If you own a TiVo and you use a Mac, you absolutely, positively need to download this. It's a free app, and it allows you to do exactly what you can do w/TiVo to Go on the PC: not only can you download recordings on a one-off basis, but you can also "subscribe" to shows so that they're automatically transferred once there's a new copy on the TiVo. If you're an iPod/iPhone user, it also includes the ability to convert to iTunes on the fly so that the files are available the next time you sync your device.

This post has a happy ending: iTiVo has given my TiVo new life, since it means I can once again enjoy the functionality of my TiVo to its fullest. Why TiVo doesn't offer this natively is beyond me... I'm not overstating it when I say that iTiVo and TiVo to Go are the difference for me between a decent service (but not necessarily worth the $20+/month I pay to them for the two current units) and a service that I wouldn't consider going without.

Sadly, in my call with TiVo last week, their only suggestion was that I spend $300 to get the lifetime service for my Series 3 (the HD TiVo). Spending hundreds of dollars to save a few bucks a month wasn't exactly where I was hoping that conversation would end up. :) On the plus side, Robin and I rented our first HD movie from Amazon via the TiVo on Friday night. Great picture quality, easy browsing for movies. Download speeds were a tad slow (and I'm on a very fast Comcast connection) - next time, we'll probably pick the movie in the afternoon before we want to watch. But other than that, it was pretty impressive.

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Monday, May 4, 2009

Google Latitude badge

This is really cool: go to the Google Latitude badge maker and create a badge that you can add to your blog. If you use Latitude, you can show off where you're located.

The end result:
(Used a screenshot so those of you looking in a feed reader will see it.)

Works on all blog platforms, though there's a simplified +Add to Blogger button. More details at Blogger Buzz.
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