Pete’s sister was taking a business communications class and one day, he turned to me and said that I was in her textbook and they were talking about me in lecture. Nice! I wonder what they had to say 🙂

She’s visiting Pete this weekend and she brought the book along. It’s called Business Communication, Building Critical Skills, and it’s written by Kitty O. Locker (of Ohio State booooo :p ) and Stephen Kyo Kaczmarek.

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It’s only a quick reference in the book, but I am curious to know when people are discussing my story in class. If you’re a professor or if you’re a student in a class about this stuff, let me know; I’m always happy to discuss these things 🙂

On the Plaxo front, we’re testing out an early release of Plaxo Mobile 3.0, a new WAP access product (direct link). Built on WAP 2.0/XHTML, this app allows you to get access to all your Plaxo contacts, calendar, tasks, and notes from the web browser on your mobile phone. If you already have a Plaxo account and you can’t wait, just point your mobile browser to http://labs.plaxo.com/mobile.

This means you can sync your Outlook, Mac, Thunderbird, or Yahoo! address books to Plaxo and then access it on your mobile phone. (Well, you’ll still have to pay for wireless internet charges, but come’on, don’t you have an unlimited data plan on your cell phone by now?)

If you’ve got questions, run into trouble while trying it out, or want to give feedback, please feel free to contact me, join our Google Group, or e-mail the team at labs-mobile@plaxo.com.

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 😀

Update 4/13/2007: Oops, it looks like some people were having trouble with the slides I uploaded, so I’m reuploading them in Powerpoint 2007 format, Powerpoint 2003 format, and PDF. If you’re still having trouble, please let me know 🙂

I just finished presenting at the ALI Social Media Summit here in Chicago and since I didn’t get a chance to print out my slides for distribution, I’m posting them up here for people to download.

Also, here are a few links to things that were mentioned during my presentation:

Blog aggregators:

Blog search tools:

And as my regular readers already know, feel free to contact me if you have any other questions about blogs, wikis, forums, etc.

I got some great comments back from Rita and Sarah over at H&R Block on my previous post now. So, it looks like they are listening and they’re actually soliciting feedback too – hurray! That’s what I like to see from a company.

I’m not sure if I’ll be back to file my 2007 taxes using Tango at HRBlock.com next year, but at least the probability is now greater than 0 😀

So verdict on the product: not so good for 2006/2007, hopefully much improved for 2007/2008. Verdict on the team: excellent 🙂

I also just met a few people from their PR department here at a conference I’m speaking at (more on that in a later post). Looks like they’re already going in the right direction and really on the ball about learning more; I know a few other companies that might benefit from their example 😉

ORose tipped me off yesterday that I Google had indexed my blog post about H&R Block’s Tango e-file tax web app (or rather, lack of e-file web app I should say 🙂 ). Check out the Google search for “Tango HRBlock.com”, I’m currently the thrid organic search result.

Google search for "Tango HRBlock.com"

Now I’m definitely not an A-list blogger, but it seems that the bloggers over at H&R Block should have seen my post fly by on their blog search feeds. I even linked to their Tango Tax Blog on my previous post, but it looks like they dont’ have trackbacks turned on 😦

Oh well. If anyone from H&R Block is reading this post, I’m still waiting for my refund…