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Geeking with Greg

  • Quick links
    What has caught my attention lately:
    • Tog (of the famous Tog on Interface) says Apple has lost its way on design: "Apple is destroying design. Worse, it is revitalizing the old belief that design is only about making things look pretty. No, not so! Design is a way of thinking, of determining people’s true, underlying needs, and then delivering products and services that help them." ([1] [2])

    • Good advice on adding features to a product: "'Great or Dead', as in, if we can't make a feature great, it should be killed off." ([1])

    • Great data on smartphone and tablet ownership. Sometimes it's hard to remember that only five years ago most people didn't have smartphones. ([1])

    • Advice for anyone thinking of doing a startup. Here's the conclusion: "So all you need is a great idea, a great team, a great product, and great execution. So easy! ;)" ([1])

    • Related, a Dilbert comic on the value of a startup idea ([1])

    • "People might think that human-level AI is close because they think AI is more magical than it actually is" ([1])

    • "VCs hate technical risk. They’re comfortable with market risk, but technical risk is really difficult for them to reconcile." ([1])

    • Google finds eliminating bad advertisements increases long-term revenue, concluding: "A focus on user satisfaction could help to reduce the ad load on the internet at large with long-term neutral, or even positive, business impact." ([1] [2])

    • "Crappy ad experiences are behind the uptick in ad-blocking tools" ([1])

    • On filter bubbles, a new study finds algorithms yield more diversity of content than people choosing news themselves ([1] [2] [3])

    • Facebook data center fun: "The inclusion of 480 4 TB drives drove the weight to over 1,100 kg, effectively crushing the rubber wheels." ([1])

    • Great data on who uses which social networks ([1])

    • "One of the great mysteries of the tech industry in recent years has been the seeming disinterest of Google, which is now called Alphabet, in competing with Amazon Web Services for corporate customers." ([1])

    • "Maybe part of AWS value prop is the outsourcing of outages: when half the net is offline, any individual down site doesn't look as bad." ([1])

    • "87% of Android devices are vulnerable to attack by malicious apps ... because manufacturers have not provided regular security updates" ([1])

    • Fun maps showing where tourists take photos compared to locals ([1] [2] [3])

    • Multiple camera lenses, an idea soon coming to mobile phones too? ([1])

    • Another interesting camera technology: ""17 different wavelengths ... software analyzes the images and finds ones that are most different from what the naked eye sees, essentially zeroing in on ones that the user is likely to find most revealing" ([1])

    • And another: "Take a short image sequence while slightly moving the camera ... to recover the desired background scene as if the visual obstructions were not there" ([1])

    • Useful to know: "Survey results are mostly unaffected when the non-Web respondents are left out." ([1])

    • Surprising finding, meal worms can thrive just eating styrofoam: "the larvae lived as well as those fed with a normal diet (bran) over a period of 1 month" ([1])

    • Autonomous drone for better-than-GoPro filming? ([1] [2])

    • "We see people turning onto, and then driving on, the wrong side of the road a lot ... Drivers do very silly things when they realize they’re about to miss their turn ... Routinely see people weaving in and out of their lanes; we’ve spotted people reading books, and even one [driver] playing a trumpet." ([1])

    • A fun and cool collection of messed up images out of Apple maps. It's almost art. ([1])

    • SMBC comic, also applies to AI ([1])

  • Not working at Google
    It was a surprise, to me at least, that I wasn't able to find a good fit at Google Seattle.

    Google nowadays is different than I expected, and, after four months of trying hard to find any way to make it what I wanted, I resigned.

    I'm saddened and disappointed. On the bright side, I did get a chance to work with many remarkable people, which I think made it worthwhile.

  • Working at Google
    I joined Google a few months ago. I've wanted to work at Google for a long time. I first interviewed there back in 2003!

    I've written on this blog since 2004, during Findory and beyond, but, like many blogs, posts have slowed in recent years. Unfortunately, I don't expect to be able to post much here in the coming months either.

    Thanks for reading all these years. I hope you enjoyed this blog, and I hope to be able to post frequently again at some point in the future.

  • Quick links
    Some of the best of what I've been thinking about lately:
    • Amazon now has 109 warehouses and 165k employees. Wow. ([1])

    • Amazon cloud computing has 17% operating margins, surprisingly high given all the competition ([1] [2])

    • Microsoft appears to be claiming they're going to be bigger than Amazon AWS in three years ([1])

    • But Amazon's Andy Jassy says, "One of the biggest surprises around this business has been how long it took the old guard companies to try and pursue an offering. None of us thought we would get a seven-year head start.” ([1])

    • Apple is the iPhone ([1])

    • Great article on the history of YouTube: "It's easy to forget YouTube almost didn't make it" ([1])

    • Mobile ads still aren't targeted (unlike Web ads) ([1] [2])

    • Browsers are disabling Java and Silverlight by default, and Flash's days might be numbered ([1])

    • Surprising how few people use their mobile to get directions, look up public transit, or request a taxi ([1])

    • A major predictor of how much people like a picture of a face is how sharp and clear the eyes are in the photo ([1])

    • Successful tests of a bullet-sized guided missile, cool but very scary ([1] [2])

    • "If an election was hacked any time in the past, we will never know" ([1])

    • "Maybe this head-up display for your life starts as a head-up display for your car" ([1])

    • Beginning of the end for radio: "Norway the first country in the world to 'decide upon an analogue switch-off for all major radio channels'" ([1])

    • A new trend in biology, collecting large amounts of data and doing A/B testing ([1] [2])

  • Interview on early Amazon personalization and recommendations in late 1996 in mid-1997
    I have a long interview with the Internet History Podcast mostly about Amazon around 1997, especially the personalization, recommendation engine, and data-driven innovations at Amazon, and the motivation behind them.

    I think the interview a lot of fun. It gives a view of what Amazon was like way back when it was just a bookstore only in the US, had just one webserver, and we barely could keep the website up with all the growth.

    Lots of history of the early days of the web, well before CSS and Javascript, before cookies were even widely supported, and before scale out, experimentation and A/B testing, and large scale log analysis were commonplace.

    Give the podcast a listen if you are interested in what the Web looked like back in 1997 and the motivation behind Amazon's personalization and recommendations.

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