Back to GMail…

April 20, 2007

After using Yahoo Mail Beta for over a year, and Windows Live Mail for a little bit before that, I’ve decided to switch back to GMail.

I had some trouble with GMail almost two years ago and I decided to try out Windows Live Mail Beta (new at that time). I then had some trouble with Windows Live Mail and got an invite to Yahoo Mail Beta, so I switched over to that.

Lately, I’ve been having trouble with Yahoo Mail Beta so I looked around again to find the best webmail solution and it does certainly seem that GMail is the front runner. Here’s how GMail won me over:

  • Conversation view. Always use it in Outlook, been trying to manage without it in Yahoo! Mail for a while. Suprisingly, I can’t seem to find it on any other webmail offering (am I missing a setting somewhere?)
  • POP Access and Forwarding. Note to Yahoo: I’m not going to pay you $20/year for a feature that other services offer for free.
  • Ability to manage all my e-mail addresses in one place. You can set it up so that all e-mail goes to one GMail account and you can even set it so that replies look like they’re coming from whatever e-mail address you want.
  • Performance. Yahoo Mail Beta is unbearably slow on my computer now. The new AIM Mail Beta doesn’t feel much better (sorry Rose!)
  • Desktop notifier. No need to keep a browser window open anymore! Especially when Firefox seems to take up 200MB of memory with Yahoo Mail Beta loaded…

While some of the webmail solutions have some of these features I’ve just listed, only GMail seems to have them all.

Saw on in my feed stream today a post by an ex-Plaxo, Adam Lasnik. He’s now at Google and posted up a few tips about interviewing there, prompted by another Googler (I think his name is Mike Knell according to his Flickr account?) who posted up some thoughts as well.

I used to get e-mail by a ton of people looking for Google interviewing tips; I still get a few requests now and then. I probably should’ve just posted my answers a long time ago and linked people to it, but oh well. Their recommendations are all good ones, maybe I can just link over there in the future.

Hope this doesn’t get them fired ;)

Here’s what I can remember from my interview process. I went through two interview loops: one for a software engineer position and one for the product managment position I eventually accepted.

For the software engineering position, they asked me mostly technical and coding questions. The coding questions were of equal difficulty with any other top-tier tech company (Microsoft, Amazon, Yahoo, etc.). They were mostly dealing with manipulating data in data structures; the one I remember was: given a binary tree structure, write an algorithm that returns all the items at a given depth from the root in order from left to right.

I was also asked some really random questions: what’s the seek time on your computer’s hard drive? what’s the access time on a stick of DRAM? Not sure why they asked these questions… maybe to test my geekiness? Fortunately, I’ve built my own computers for years, so it was no problem, but I know plenty of awesome software engineers that don’t know info like that.

For the product management position, I interviewed with about four 1st year APMs, one experienced full PM, and a technical manager (David Jeske, formerly of eGroups/Yahoo! groups). The 1st year APMs were fresh out of college, pretty much all from Stanford or MIT, and were very smart, although not very well versed in how to actually ship software in the real world. They were mostly technical or semi-technical (CS or CS related degrees like HCI or symbolic systems) and they all asked me the same questions: “Name a product you like. Why do you like it? What would you improve about it?” Interesting the first time, not so much for the subsequent 3 interviews ;)

The experienced PM had worked at other companies before Google and asked me more about shipping software, driving teams, and designing products. A solid interview.

My interview with David was pretty fun. He had me create a simple DB table, write a SQL statement and then we talked about optimizing it a little bit (add indicies and etc.). Not sure if they told him that I went through another interview loop already with pretty heavy coding questions or maybe he took it easy on me since I was interviewing for Product Management.

Overall, the interview process took a few months. I did 2-3 phone screens for each interview loop and did a day of interviews (5-6) for each. In my opinion, the interviews were pretty easy, but I guess interviewing to get into Google wasn’t the hard part for me, more like, staying there :D

They all got on my bad side at some point, and I blogged about it (buy.com, 24 hour fitness, msn messenger, q-cup). No big deal I thought, but then I noticed something interesting: I was getting a lot of comments on those posts, and I kept getting them, even entries that were almost 2 years old.

So I looked at my referrer logs in StatCounter (a basic, but free web metrics service) and saw that a lot of people were getting to my blog from Google searches. Actually, 90% of my web traffic was coming from Google searches, so I did some investigation and here’ s what I found:

buy.com sucks

Whoa. Top placement on a Google search. That would explain why I’ve got 85 responses to my buy.com sucks entry. Check it out.

Turns out, I must have a bit of Google juice becuase I’ve got top placement for “24 hour fitness membership deals” and “MSN messenger memory leak” as well…

24hourfitnessmembership
MSNMessengerMemoryLeak

And my tirade against Q-cup a few weeks ago is on the first Google result page for “q-cup cupertino” as well. Not top placement, but not bad :)

q-cup

Something tells me these companies aren’t using blog search tools…

Web Services Versioning – Google Style

Dare comments on Google’s policy of hard transitions to new versions of their API. Usually not a smart move for platform providers. I love this comment though:

“the old Web service end point stops being supported
2 months later. That’s gangsta.”

Nice!

Is it just me or…

May 2, 2006

Did A9 switch their search engine because Google poached Udi and they were pissed?

I mean there’s a lot of talk about how Amazon is finally realizing that Google might be a competitor, but come on… they’re pretty smart over there and they probably realized that Google was a potential threat years ago. I don’t think they all of a sudden realized it just now.

…and another thing: doesn’t everyone realize that, as usual, Google will ignore bloggers talking about how they have a double standard?

The NYT article was probably great for Google; after all, people have a naive love for the company while they have an inherent hate for Microsoft. It plays perfectly to that and helps their cause at the same time. Nevermind that the facts show that Microsoft is actually being the good guy here

I saw over on Scoble’s blog that Bubba mentioned me and the Boston Globe article about blogging and how that is intertwined with bloggers’ careers. I don’t think blogging is necessarily essential – actually, I think it’s much more complicated than that.

In general, my opinion is that if you’ve got nothing to hide, blogging openly will help both you and your future employer(s). Through your blog, people will be able to see what you’re interested in and what kind of personality you have; I think of it as kind of a free market, where buyers and sellers can browse around and (hopefully) make more ideal matches. It works both ways too; if a company gets into blogging, then potential employees can kick the tires a bit before they decide whether to apply – good matches will try even harder to get in, bad matches will self-select out. (We’re trying this out on Plaxo’s blog right now, we’ll see if it works out :) )

Some might look at my experience and think: “but look, you got yourself into a world of trouble, wasn’t that a huge negative?”

But in actuality, getting fired from Google might be one of the best things that happened for my career (and not just because it made me famous infamous). It was clear that there was a culture mismatch when I worked at Google – I wanted to be open and transparent to customers, while their strategy was to strive to be opaque. Now at Plaxo, there’s a much better fit culturally, and career-wise it’s a much better opportunity as well.

So for me personally, the article is dead on. But I would hesitate to say that it applies to everyone; I’d say blogging can boost your career, but think before you leap :)

I’m out in Chapel Hill, NC this weekend speaking at blogging symposium put on by JOLT, a small conference put on by one of the law school journals here. Their topic this year is about blogging and the legal ramifications for indivduals and employers, so I’ve been asked to talk about my experience at Google and also writing up Plaxo’s blogging policy.

As I found out the hard way today, getting from the bay area to Raleigh is not as easy as I thought. Looking for a reasonably priced flight was hard enough, and there aren’t any direect flights, so I had to route through JFK. I traveled on American Airlines today and I was pretty shocked by how cramped their coach seats are. I usually travel coach, but riding in a 767 on AA flight #24 from SFO – JFK today, I felt like a sardine :-O

I fly on Alaska’s fleet of 737 all the time between SJC-SEA in coach and it’s never as cramped as my flight was today. I guess not all coach is created equal.

After the talk tomorrow, I’ll post up my slide deck for anyone who’s interested; if you’re reading this blog though, I’m sure you already know most of what’s in there :)

532638011

Looks like yesterday was my 1 year anniversary at Plaxo! Working at Plaxo is like entering a time warp; it feels like it was just yesterday that I started my job here, but then when I think back to all the stuff I’ve learned and all the projects I’ve worked on I think “wow, it’s only been a year?”

If nothing else, I’m learning a ton here at Plaxo. I learned a ton while working at IBM and Microsoft too – and even my short 2 weeks at Google – but I think each position yields itself to learning different things (not to mention that the methodology used to ship products varies quite a bit between the different companies).

I sense that I soon won’t be the youngest employee at Plaxo anymore either… we’ve got some college recruits in the pipeline and I’m sure at least one or two of them will be under 23. I’ve always been the youngest person wherever I’ve worked, so this will be fun – I won’t be the kid anymore (… well, maybe I’ll still be a kid hehe)

Ah, a year seems so long and so short at the same time… what have you been up to this past year? :D

I hope Google interview candidates aren’t using Google Maps to try to find their hotel while they’re in Mountain View… take a look at this screen shot:

hotelavante

AFAIK, the Hotel Avante (a common place for Google to put interviewees up for the night) is actually a few miles up the road from where Google Local/Maps thinks it is. :)

gmailgtalkI got a new feature in my GMail today; looks like they are doing some integration with Google Talk. Great idea, I’m waiting to play with the implementation…

Windows Live Mail + Windows Live Messenger? Hmm… probably not :(

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.