Good Books for Summer Reading?

It’s summertime, so I’m looking for a bunch of fun books to read. I just ordered two books by John Scalzi (Fuzzy Nation and The God Engines), two books by Dean Karnazes because I’m training to run a marathon (Run!: 26.2 Stories of Blisters and Bliss and Ultramarathon Man: Confessions of an All-Night Runner), plus Zero Day: A Novel by Mark Russinovich. I’ll let you know how they turn out.

I’ve gotten some great suggestions for good books to read in previous years. Here’s how I expressed my summertime reading preferences early on:

Okay, I’m looking for fun, light reading for my vacation. I don’t want search stuff, I don’t want heavy reading, I don’t want geopolitics or history.

Things like The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time. Or Terry Pratchett. Or early William Gibson. Cheesy cyberpunk if they don’t get the computer stuff too wrong. Neil Gaiman. Transmetropolitan.

Based on that, what books would you recommend for fun summer reading?

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+1 around the world

A few months ago we released the +1 button on English search results on More recently, we’ve made the +1 button available to sites across the web, making it easy for the people who love your content to recommend it on Google search.

Today, +1’s will start appearing on Google search pages globally. We’ll be starting off with sites like,, and, then expanding quickly to most other Google search sites soon after.

We’ve partnered with a few more sites where you’ll see +1 buttons over the coming days.

If you’re a publisher based outside of the US, and you’ve been waiting to put +1 buttons on your site, now’s a good time to get started. Visit the +1 button tool on Google Webmaster Central where the +1 button is already available in 44 languages.

Adding the +1 button could help your site to stand out by putting personal recommendations right at the moment of decision, on Google search. So if you have users who are fans of your content, encourage them to add their voice with +1!

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Google Apps highlights – 6/24/2011

This is part of a regular series of Google Apps updates that we post every couple of weeks. Look for the label “Google Apps highlights” and subscribe to the series. – Ed.

There’s no slowing down as we head into summer. In the last couple weeks, we made improvements to Google Sync for iOS devices, streamlined collaboration in Microsoft ® Office files, added mobile display options for Google Sites and welcomed many big organizations, including the state of Wyoming, onto Google Apps.

Search all email from iOS devices, and more
Google Sync brings your email, calendar and contacts to four popular phone platforms. Last Wednesday, we improved Google Sync for iOS devices in three ways. One, you can now search all of your Gmail from your iPhone or iPad, beyond just the messages stored on your phone. Two, you can accept, decline and edit calendar events from your device, and three, you can send email from a custom email address if you use Gmail’s “Send mail as” feature. This is useful if you like to manage email in Gmail, but want emails you sent to look like they’re coming from a school or business email address.

Paste images into Gmail messages
As of Monday, if you use the latest version of Chrome, you can now paste images into Gmail’s compose window right from your clipboard. If you copy an image from the web or another email, it’s a cinch to paste it directly into a message.

Improvements to Google Cloud Connect for Microsoft Office
With Google Cloud Connect, you can collaborate with others simultaneously through Google’s cloud in Word, Excel and PowerPoint files without sending attachments back and forth. People told us they wanted a faster way to open files with Google Cloud Connect so on Tuesday we streamlined that process. Now you can open native Office files saved in Google Docs right from Word, Excel and PowerPoint.

Mobile rendering for Google Sites
It’s important that you can be just as productive on your phone’s small screen as on a full computer display, so yesterday we made Google Sites work even better on mobile devices. You can now configure your sites to automatically render for smaller screens on Android and iOS devices, making the content much easier to read and navigate. In addition, you can also browse and search the sites that you manage through an interface that’s also been optimized for a mobile device’s smaller screen.

Who’s gone Google?

It’s been another bumper couple weeks with tens of thousands more organizations moving to Google Apps. This week, the State of Wyoming became the first to move all state government employees to Google Apps. Matt Mead, Governor of Wyoming, was on-hand for a “cable cutting” ceremony to celebrate the 10,000 user transition to the cloud, which was managed smoothly by deployment partner Tempus Nova.

In the private sector, all 8,400 employees at The McClatchy Company are “going Google” across the business’ 30 newspapers. The company is anticipating a stack of benefits from Google Apps, including standardization on a single email solution, simpler shared calendaring, improved collaboration even when mobile, significant cost savings and a level of service that they weren’t seeing from their historical provider, not to mention great employee enthusiasm for the IT group’s decision.

Even though it’s summer vacation, we saw many schools keeping busy by moving to Google’s cloud. A warm welcome goes out to the Wisconsin K-12 school system (900,000 users), CSUMonterey Bay (10,000 users) and the Indian Youth Congress (28,000 users). Schools will be able to enjoy even more Gmail storage now too; we’re bumping up the quota to 25GB for all education accounts!

I hope these product updates and customer stories help you and your organization get even more from Google Apps. For more details and the latest news, check out the Google Apps Blog.

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Goal: getting email under control

Each year I try to settle on a small set of big goals for the year. Last year my big goal was to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro. This year, I settled on 2-3 goals I wanted to achieve:

1.      Go skydiving. I was with a group of ~15 people in January and we realized that no one in the room had gone skydiving or run a marathon. Both sounded fun, so I made them goals for this year. I met some great folks at Foo Camp a couple weeks ago who had been skydiving, and this past weekend we went skydiving together:

It was a lot of fun; I’d recommend skydiving to anyone. You’re up high enough that a fear of heights doesn’t come into play… much. (If you live in the Bay Area, I went to Bay Area Skydiving in Byron, California and had a great experience.)

2.      Run a marathon. This goal came from the same group in January where no one had run a marathon. I’ve been training for a couple months now and I’m up to nine miles on my long runs. Unless I’m injured, I think I’ll run a marathon this year. (By the way, USA FIT is a great organization in a bunch of U.S. cities where people get together to train for running a marathon.)

3.      Get my email under control. This is a recent goal, but it might be the most important. Email is flawed in a lot of ways. Some wise people have referred to it as a “to-do list that anyone can add to.” It’s typically a poor use of time: you’re often talking to someone 1:1 when those cycles would be better spent working on something that will help a broader range of people or to realize a broader goal. Emails can take a long time to craft compared to other ways to communicate. Email is near-universal, but it lacks good ways for better processing or prioritizing (e.g. “show me the five least useful mailing lists” I get). Lots of email is sent to too many people or is just trying to find the right person to ask a question. Email also encourages us to pay attention to things that are urgent at the expense of things that are important.

Like most people in the tech industry, email has grown into monster for me in a lot of ways. I recently had a day without meetings, and I ended up spending the entire day replying to email, and still only took care of the email that I’d received that day. That’s just not sustainable–even a little more email would mean that I could never catch up–and that’s time that I’m not talking with my team, or thinking about new ways to improve search quality, or making videos or blog posts that can benefit a lot of people.

I’ve tried various email challenges before, e.g. not replying to outside emails for 30 days or not replying to emails after 10 p.m. I don’t know what my final solution to email will be, but this is a heads-up notice that I’m going to try a bunch of things until I find a better balance. I suspect that the final answer may be fairly radical, so if you’re hoping for an email reply from me, you should probably lower your expectations to zero. I’m going to try not replying to outside-Google emails for a while and then adjust things more over time.

Email is a big part of the problem, but I’ll probably have to say “no” more often as well. Please be patient with me while I try to recalibrate. I want to make sure that I spend my work time in the best way I can.

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Applauding the 2011 Knight News Challenge winners

Over the past few months, we’ve announced $5 million in grants to be distributed by the John S.and James L. Knight Foundation and the International Press Institute—two non-profit organizations developing new approaches to journalism in the digital age—and we’re pleased to congratulate the first initiatives that have been selected as part of that funding.

Today at M.I.T., the Knight Foundation showcased 16 projects selected as the winners of the 2011 Knight News Challenge. Now in its fifth year, this media-innovation contest included $1 million in support from Google. As you’ll see in the full list of winners, these initiatives come from organizations large and small and are reminders that entrepreneurship can be sparked anywhere. Here are just a few examples of the creative ways the journalism community around the world is merging traditional skills with an online landscape:

  • At the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, OpenBlock Rural will use its seed money to work with local governments and community newspapers across the state to collect, aggregate and publish data.
  • In Virginia, the Miller Center Foundation’s State Decoded will serve as a platform to display state codes, court decisions and information from legislative tracking services to make government more understandable to the average citizen.
  • The Chicago Tribune will collaborate with the Investigative Editors & Reporters organization and The Spokesman-Review on a set of open-source, web-based tools that make it easier for journalists to use and analyze data.
  • Liverpool, U.K.-based ScraperWiki will bring its experiences with public data to journalism camps in 12 U.S. states.
  • Chile’s El Mostrador will develop an editorial and crowdsourced database to bring greater transparency to potential conflicts of interest.
  • Ushahidi will build off its past crisis efforts to improve information-verification across email, Twitter, web feeds and text messages.

Other winning proposals tell rich multimedia stories, bridge the gap between traditional and citizen media and further improve the utility of data to journalists. Our sister program in partnership with the International Press Institute is also well underway. The entries in that competition are now in and the winners will be announced later this summer. We look forward to seeing the impacts these initiatives have on digital journalism and hope they encourage continued experimentation and innovation at the grassroots level.

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Google Translate welcomes you to the Indic web

Beginning today, you can explore the linguistic diversity of the Indian sub-continent with Google Translate, which now supports five new experimental alpha languages: Bengali, Gujarati, Kannada, Tamil and Telugu. In India and Bangladesh alone, more than 500 million people speak these five languages. Since 2009, we’ve launched a total of 11 alpha languages, bringing the current number of languages supported by Google Translate to 63.

Indic languages differ from English in many ways, presenting several exciting challenges when developing their respective translation systems. Indian languages often use the Subject Object Verb (SOV) ordering to form sentences, unlike English, which uses Subject Verb Object (SVO) ordering. This difference in sentence structure makes it harder to produce fluent translations; the more words that need to be reordered, the more chance there is to make mistakes when moving them. Tamil, Telugu and Kannada are also highly agglutinative, meaning a single word often includes affixes that represent additional meaning, like tense or number. Fortunately, our research to improve Japanese (an SOV language) translation helped us with the word order challenge, while our work translating languages like German, Turkish and Russian provided insight into the agglutination problem.

You can expect translations for these new alpha languages to be less fluent and include many more untranslated words than some of our more mature languages—like Spanish or Chinese—which have much more of the web content that powers our statistical machine translation approach. Despite these challenges, we release alpha languages when we believe that they help people better access the multilingual web. If you notice incorrect or missing translations for any of our languages, please correct us; we enjoy learning from our mistakes and your feedback helps us graduate new languages from alpha status. If you’re a translator, you’ll also be able to take advantage of our machine translated output when using the Google Translator Toolkit.

Since these languages each have their own unique scripts, we’ve enabled a transliterated input method for those of you without Indian language keyboards. For example, if you type in the word “nandri,”. To see all these beautiful scripts in action, you’ll need to install fonts* for each language.

We hope that the launch of these new alpha languages will help you better understand the Indic web and encourage the publication of new content in Indic languages, taking us five alpha steps closer to a web without language barriers.

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Thousands of “hackers for good” build applications for humanity

Earlier this month, thousands of “hackers for good” gathered in more than 19 different global locations—from Berlin to Nairobi, and Sydney to Sao Paulo—to participate in Random Hacks of Kindness #3. These teams are now off and running, working with NGO and government advisors to finish their applications for humanity.

In partnership with Microsoft, Yahoo!, NASA and the World Bank, we founded RHoK in 2009 to build and support a community creating open source technology for crisis response. At RHoK #3, we expanded the mandate to include climate change, and we also recently announced that we’re broadening the scope in the future to tackle any development challenges.

Of the more than 75 solutions submitted for judging at this year’s global events, many are already on their way to making a difference around the world. The UN, in partnership with the Colombia government, is considering adopting the shelter management system developed at RHoK Bogota to aid the 3 million victims of winter flooding in South America. Of the nine hacks submitted for judging at RHoK Sao Paulo, two are already in use and two others may be further developed and incorporated into the restructuring of the National Weather Service. The winning application at RHoK Philadelphia, developed in response to a problem proposed by the World Bank Water group, is set for further development at the WaterHackathon, RHoK’s first community-sponsored event, later this year.

At the RHoK Silicon Valley event at Google’s Mountain View campus, we selected three winners:

  • SMS Person Finder enables anyone with a phone to interact with Person Finder, a software application that Google built to help people connect with their loved ones following a disaster. The Google Crisis Response team is working with this group to integrate their application into future Google Person Finder deployments
  • Hey Cycle makes it easier for people to reuse and recycle items by setting up email alerts when free items that they’re looking for are entered on
  • FoodMovr connects people with excess food to others who need it through a simple live application

We’re proud to be one of the founding partners and ongoing sponsors of Random Hacks of Kindness and look forward to seeing these application make a difference. Stay tuned for future RHoK events, and follow the progress of the community at

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Watch the lunar eclipse from anywhere

We’re always fascinated by the unique wonders of space and the world—what can we say, it’s the geek in us! Naturally, when we learned that part of the world will be treated to a rare 100-minute long total lunar eclipse starting at 11:20am PDT today, we were both excited and disappointed that this rare occasion wouldn’t be visible from our Mountain View campus like last year’s eclipse. We suspect we aren’t alone, so you’ll be glad to know that we’ve worked with Slooh Space Camera to let you experience the spectacle wherever you are in the world, in real time.

Slooh will host a live mission interface using Google App Engine that lets anyone not lucky enough to live in certain areas (South America, Europe, Africa, Asia and Australia) take part in this rare astronomical event. It’s equipped with audio narrations from real-life astronomers so you can hear a firsthand, expert account of the event. You can also watch the live stream on the Google YouTube Channel or from the Sky layer in Google Earth (download this kml), while exploring the fascinating world that exists in our galaxy. Finally, those of you on the go can download the Slooh Space Camera Android app to view the images right on your phone.

If you’re fortunate enough to be able to view this event in the sky, we hope you’ll get the chance to step outside and indulge in the spectacle. For everyone else, we hope our moon madness helps brighten your day.

Update 11:23 PDT: Starting now, if you visit the Google homepage you’ll see a special interactive doodle, which will update throughout the day to show the latest state of the moon. Lunar imagery provided by Slooh.

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Announcing Instant Pages

Earlier today we announced Instant Pages, a new feature to help users get to their desired search results even faster–in some cases even instantly! The Instant Pages feature is enabled by prerendering technology that we are building into Chrome and then is intelligently triggered by web search when we’re very confident about which result is the best answer for the user’s search.

This prerendering technology is currently in the Chrome Dev Channel and will be going to Beta later this week.

At Google we’re obsessed with speed. We’ve seen time and time again how an increase in apparent speed leads to a direct increase in user happiness and engagement. Instant Pages helps visitors arrive at your site faster. When we trigger Instant Pages for your site, users can start interacting with your site almost immediately, without having to wait for text and images to load. We’ll only trigger Instant Pages when we have very high confidence that your site is the exact result users are looking for. Search traffic will be measured in Webmaster Tools just like before this feature, with only results the user visited counted. We’ll take the time this summer before the feature launches in stable versions of Chrome to collect your feedback.

The vast majority of sites will automatically work correctly when prerendered in Chrome. Check out the prerendering post on the Chromium blog if you want to learn more about how prerendering works in Chrome or how you can detect that your site is being prerendered.

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