Campfire One Video is Live (Open Social Launch)

The video from Campfire One, the launch event for Open Social last night at the Google campus is now live.

The demo that Elliot & I give for LinkedIn is about 38:30 into the video (or 18:55 from the end, if you have the timer set up to run backwards). It’s a good thing there was a rehearsal – I’m pretty sure my demos are always better the second time. 🙂

The event was fun to do – it was really a campfire set up in the middle of Google campus. Yes, there were real fires. In fact, the smoke was a real hazard to the speakers – if the wind went the wrong way, all of sudden you’d be blinded and unable to speak. I think Marc Andreessen got the worst of it in rehearsal.

The Google site for the OpenSocial APIs is live now. The LinkedIn blog post on the topic is here.

My previous blog post on Open Social is here.

LinkedIn & Open Social. Two Great Tastes That Taste Great Together.

I think you can tell from the title why the marketing team at LinkedIn keeps a close eye on me. 🙂

This week has been extremely busy… a lot of press attention already to the LinkedIn partnership with Google on the new Open Social APIs.

Since this is my personal blog, I thought I’d just flag a few articles and posts around the web in case you are interested. The big demo is tomorrow night, and it looks like I will actually get a chance to take the stage with Elliot Shmukler to give it. Let’s hope the demo gods are kind.

It’s really wonderful to be able to talk to our community about Open Social, and about the LinkedIn platform. There are absolutely amazing people at LinkedIn working on making all of this possible, and it’s a joy to get out there and help people understand and appreciate their great work.

So, before the big event, here are a few interesting posts:

More to come on this topic, I’m sure.

My (Relatively) New Patent Applications & One Old Nash Patent

One of the great things about working for eBay was the support of the legal team for the creation and filing of patents.  Over the course of my four years at eBay, I filed several patent applications, starting with my first in last 2004.

When I was growing up, I used to always hear about the patents filed by my grandfather (in the food business).  They were always a symbol of success, intelligence and pride in my family.

What patent is this, you might ask?  Well, with great thanks to Google for their new, searchable patent database, I have now for the first time had a chance to read it for myself.   It is patent #3108882, dated January 29, 1963, and is titled “Method of Preparing an Edible Fish Product“.  To translate from the legalese: it is the method of preparing & packing gefilte fish in glass jars with jelly.  Yes, you now know where that came from.

I know there are significant problems with the patent system as it stands today, particularly around software.  However, I can’t help feeling proud of the patents that I worked on at eBay, and grateful for their support shepherding them through the legal hurdles.

Patent applications only display on the US Patent Office website 18 months after the application is filed, so right now only two of the applications are showing up.  The rest will likely become visible over the next year or so.

Here is the link to my patent applications on the USPTO website.    Note the most recent one to show up, for “seller and item filters”, the backbone of the eBay Express website.

Life at Google: The Microsoftie Perspective

I, like everyone else, am enjoying reading this post of pseudo-Q&A with an engineer who worked for Microsoft, then joined a startup that got acquired by Google. Not sure how legitimate it is, but everything in it rings true. Lots of insights into the Google culture, as well as some of the innovations they have made to really prioritize employee efficiency.

Here is one of my favorites, a description of Google Tech Stops:

Google has the concept of “Tech Stops.” Each floor of each building has one. They handle all of the IT stuff for employees in the building including troubleshooting networks, machines, etc. If you’re having a problem you just walk into a Tech Stop and someone will fix it. They also have a variety of keyboards, mice, cables, etc. They’re the ones who order equipment, etc. In many ways the Tech Stop does some of what our admins do. If your laptop breaks you bring it to a Tech Stop and they fix it or give you another one (they move your data for you). If one of your test machines is old and crusty you bring it to the Tech Stop and they give you a new one. They track everything by swiping your ID when you “check out” an item. If you need more equipment than your job description allows, your manager just needs to approve the action. The Tech Stop idea is genius because:

1. You establish a relationship with your IT guy so technical problems stop being a big deal – you don’t waste a couple of hours trying to fix something before calling IT to find out it wasn’t your fault. You just drop in and say, “My network is down.”

2. Most IT problems are trivial when you’re in a room together (“oh that Ethernet cable is in the wrong port”)

3. The model of repair or replace within an hour is incredible for productivity.

4. It encourages a more flexible model for employees to define their OWN equipment needs. E.g. a “Developer” gets a workstation, a second workstation or a laptop, and a test machine. You’re free to visit the Tech Stop to swap any of the machines for any of the others in those categories. For example, I could stop by and swap my second workstation for a laptop because I’m working remotely a lot more now. In the Tech Stop system, this takes 5 minutes to walk down and tell the Tech Stop guy. If a machine is available, I get it right away. Otherwise they order it and drop it off when it arrives. In our current set up, I have to go convince my manager that I need a laptop, he needs to budget for it because it’s an additional machine, an admin has to order it, and in the end developers always end up with a growing collection of mostly useless “old” machines instead of a steady state of about 3 mostly up-to-date machines.

This struck a chord with me, particularly as I reflect on time working at two large companies (Apple, eBay), a startup (Preview Systems), and a venture capital firm (Atlas Venture). In every environment, IT was optimized not around the convenience or efficiency of the employees, but around minimizing overhead & cost, and occasionally security.

You have to wonder how expensive the overhead is for the Google Tech Stops, and how much benefit they reap from it in productivity and employee morale. I can tell you one thing, having to fuss with IT about updating hardware is one thing that can really sap the energy of an employee in seconds.

New Feature: What I’m Reading (Shared Google Reader Feed)

I’m trying out a new idea, borrowed from My Blog Utopia, Randy Smythe’s blog.

A couple months ago, I realized that I was accumulating far too many blogs to read through the My Yahoo interface.  Over 100 at last count.  I needed a blog reader, and based on popularity of the blog readers hitting this site, I went with Google Reader.

Google Reader has been fun, especially with the Firefox modification to make it look and feel more like Mac OS X.

Well, on Randy’s blog I saw that he had a widget that showed the blog articles that he was reading.  I have seen this type of “clipping feed” on several other blogs, but WordPress doesn’t seem to have that feature.

Then I noticed it was generated by Google Reader, and I thought, “Maybe there is a way to get Google Reader to spit out an RSS feed, and then I could put it into a sidebar widget on WordPress.com”

Turns out, it just works.  I figured out how to flag a blog post as “Shared” on Google Reader, and now, on the left-hand column of this blog, you’ll see the last 10 blog articles that I have flagged.  Should be fun, since it saves me from just posting “read this” type of articles.  I can focus just on areas where I have more significant commentary.

So check it out… it’s on the left side, under the header “What I’m Reading”

Let me know what you think.

Finding Adam Nash: Google, ZoomInfo, LinkedIn

I’ve been thinking a bit about how people find people online.  To sample, I tried three different services: Google, ZoomInfo, and LinkedIn.  I wanted to get a sense of three different approaches to online people search.

Let’s start with web search!  Google doesn’t really focus on people as a first-class entity, so it basically just aggregates web pages based on its algorithms for content relevance.

When I search for Adam Nash on Google, I get the following:

The results are pretty good… for me, at least.  4 of the top 5 links are actually my pages.  The top two are this blog.  The fourth is my old homepage at Stanford, and the fifth is my current personal home page.

Of course, none of these pages would give you excellent data about me, really, but they all contain pointers to good, deep information.

Next up, ZoomInfo, and the magic of web scraping & aggregation.  I did the search and was surprised to find 52 reconds for Adam Nash.  Even more surprising, 6 of them look like they are pieces of my history, but in a mish-mash that combine strange pieces of data.  In some cases, my data is mixed with someone elses.

Here are the 6 versions of Adam Nash in ZoomInfo that I can verify should really be one version: me.

What a mess.  It’s not that the information there isn’t partially correct, it is (or was), and it’s interesting to see some of the articles scraped together.  But the fragmentation is terrible, and I’m almost offended to see my picture on top of information for someone else.  Certainly, anyone looking for me on ZoomInfo would have a very hard time figuring out who I was, or what I was doing with any accuracy.

Now, of course, our user-generated content site, LinkedIn.  Here is the search I get back when I’m logged onto the site:

Ok, Ok, that’s cheating 🙂  But that’s close to what anyone in my broad network would see (over 1.4M members).  The data is correct and up-to-date.

How about a public search on LinkedIn, with no LinkedIn account at all?  Also good:

The first link there is mine.  Clean results, correct information.  You can’t beat my public profile for accurate and relevant professional information.

Not surprisingly, I think this indicates the strengths of the different mechanisms for finding people online today.  Google, representing natural search, does a decent job focusing on existing content.  LinkedIn, representing user-generated content, does a fantastic job of accuracy and relevancy.  ZoomInfo, representing aggregated web scraping, seems to have a ways to go before it will a trustworthy directory.

As always, your mileage may vary.

Google Reader, Meet the Mac OS X Look & Feel

Now this one is a lot of fun…

I moved my blog reading from My Yahoo to Google Reader about 6 weeks ago.  It has been tough to adjust to the new habit – my instinct is to always go to My Yahoo.  But My Yahoo just wasn’t scaling for the number of blogs I like to keep tabs on (now over 100),  and I noticed that a majority of the people reading my blog were now using Google.

Thankfully, Firefox has made this easier.  The ability to quickly change the behavior of “adding a feed” to Google from My Yahoo made the transition simple for new feeds.

For exporting my old feeds from My Yahoo to Google, I found a nifty tip online on how to export an OPML file from My Yahoo and import into Google Reader.  Just spent a few minutes categorizing all my feeds, and I was ready to go.

Well, today I discovered a new trick.

This post shows you how to skin Google Reader using CSS to look like Mac OS X.  It’s really neat, although it’s a little weird that the author’s name is Adam Pash.

On Firefox, you basically want to go here and download Stylish.  Stylish is an add-on that lets you customize the CSS for any website.

Then, go here to download the Mac OS X theme for Google Reader.

Once you unzip, open the CSS in a text editor, and copy & paste it into Stylish.  On Mac OS X, I had to do this manually by opening the Add-Ons dialog, and open the Stylish preferences, but I got it to work.

It’s pretty neat, and I like the new look & feel of Google Reader.  It’s also pretty neat to see CSS as a form of “lightweight plug-in” for websites.  I’ve got to show this to some of the front-end folks on eBay Express – we use CSS heavily, and I bet you could come up with some pretty neat skins for the site using Stylish.