sábado, 13 de novembro de 2010

Internally, Google Knows It Has An Innovation Problem (GOOG)

Internally, Google Knows It Has An Innovation Problem (GOOG): "

google eric schmidt larry page sergey brinWhy Google can’t build Instagram

Tonight I was talking with an exec at Google and I brought up the success of Instagr.am (they’ve gotten more than 500,000 downloads in just a few weeks) and asked him “why can’t Google do that?”

I knew some of the answers. After all, I watched Microsoft get passed by by a whole group of startups (I was working at Microsoft as Flickr got bought by Yahoo, Skype got bought by eBay, etc etc).

I told him a few of my theories, and he told me back what they are seeing internally. Turns out he was talking to me about these items because Google, internally, knows it has an innovation problem (look at Google Wave or Buzz for examples of how it is messed up) and is looking to remake its culture internally to help entrepreneurial projects take hold.

1. Google can’t keep its teams small enough. Instagram was started by two guys who rented a table at DogPatchLabs in Pier 38 (the first time I met the Instagr.am team was when Rocky and I did this video on Dogpatch Labs). The exec I was talking with said Google Wave had more than 30 people on the team. He had done his own startup and knew the man-month myth. For every person you add to a team, he said, iteration speed goes down. He told me a story of how Larry Ellison actually got efficiencies from teams. If a team wasn’t productive, he’d come every couple of weeks and say “let me help you out.” What did he do? He took away another person until the team started shipping and stopped having unproductive meetings.

2. Google can’t reduce scope like Instagram did. Instagram started out as being a far different product than actually shipped (which actually got it in trouble with investor Andreesen Horowitz, according to Techcrunch). It actually started out as a service that did a lot more than just photographs. But, they learned they couldn’t complete such a grand vision and do it well. So they kept throwing out features. Instagram can do that. Google can’t. Imagine you come to Larry Page and say “you know that new social platform we’re building? Let’s throw 90% of it out.” Google has to compete with Facebook. Instagram had to compete with itself. As to Andreesen: this is why lots of my favorite companies like GoPro or SmugMug never took any VC. The pressure to “go for the home run” destroys quite a few companies.

3. At Google, if a product becomes successful, will get tons of resources and people thrown at it. Imagine you’re working at Google and you have 20% time. Will you keep spending that time on a boring project that isn’t very cool? No, you will want to join a cool project like Instagram that’s getting love around the world and getting tons of adoption. If the Instagram team were at Google they’d have to deal with tons of emails and folks hanging outside their cubes just to try to participate. I saw exactly this happen at Microsoft when a small team I was enamored of started getting tons of resources because it was having some success.

4. Google forces its developers to use its infrastructure, which wasn’t developed for small social projects. At Google you can’t use MySQL and Ruby on Rails. You’ve gotta build everything to deploy on its internal database “Big Table,” they call it. That wasn’t designed for small little dinky social projects. Engineers tell me it’s hard to develop for and not as productive as other tools that external developers get to use.

5. Google’s services need to support every platform. In this case, imagine a Google engineer saying “we’re only going to support iPhone with this.” (Instagr.am is only on iPhone right now. They’d get screamed out of the room) and they need to support every community that Google is in world-wide. I remember at Microsoft teams getting slowed down because they’d need to make sure their products tested well in every language around the world. Oh, some screens didn’t work because some languages are read right to left? Too bad, go back and fix it. Instagram doesn’t have those kinds of problems. They can say “we’re English only for now, and heck with everyone else.”

6. Google’s engineers can’t use any Facebook integration or dependencies like Instagram does. That makes it harder to onboard new customers. I’ve downloaded a few iPhone apps this week and signed into them, and added my friends, just by clicking once on my Facebook account. My friends are on Facebook, I don’t have a social graph even close to as good on Google. Instagram gets to use every system it wants. Google has to pay “strategy taxes.” (That’s what we called them at Microsoft).

7. Google can’t iterate in semi-public. Weeks ago Kevin showed me Instagram and loaded it on my phone. He asked me to keep it somewhat quiet, but didn’t ask me to sign an NDA. He also knew it would actually help him if I did leak something about Instagram (I didn’t). What he really needed at that point was passionate users who would try it out and give him feedback about what worked and what didn’t. Bug testing. Now Google will say “we eat our own dogfood” but the reality is that you need to get people outside of your company to invest some time in you. Google can’t do this, because it causes all sorts of political hell. Instagram has no political problems to worry about, so was free to show it to dozens of people (when I got on it there were already hundreds of people who were using Instagram and I had it weeks before its official launch). I saw tons of bugs get fixed because of this feedback and those early users were very vocal believers in the product.

8. Google can’t use Eric Reis-style tricks. Eric’s “lean startup” methodology advocates making sure that customers want something, before going on and building infrastructure that scales. Google, on the other hand, has to make sure that its services scale to hundreds of millions of people before it ships a single thing. Google Wave failed, in part, because it couldn’t keep up with the first wave of users and got horridly slow (and that was even with an invite system that kept growth down to a reasonable rate).

So, how does a big company innovate? Well, for one, Google can innovate by buying companies like Instagram. For two, Google can use its strength in places where small companies can’t dare to go. For instance, building autonomous cars (I have a video with Stanford’s Center for Automotive Research that shows how these cars work and you can see that building stuff like that takes teams bigger than two people. Although to demonstrate that Google gets the power of small teams, Google’s car’s algorithms were mostly approved by just one person, I’ve learned).

Another way? How about open source? Build a system so anyone can code and add value without sitting in meetings and things seem to take off. At Rackspace (the web hosting company I work for) we’re noticing that with OpenStack, which is already seeing some pretty cool new innovations (coming soon) added by people who aren’t even working at Rackspace. As I look around the coolest companies in the valley, like Cloudera, I see the same mentality in place: they know they’ll get slower as they get bigger, so they are trying to build systems that let innovative, entrepreneurial, developers add value without getting caught in the politics of a bigger company. Take it outside of tech, look at TEDx. There they’ve enabled thousands of conferences around the world to use the TED name, but in a way that doesn’t require a lot of approvals from the mother ship. That keeps them innovative, even if they stop innovating at their core (everyone outside continues the innovation).

Sachin Agarwal, one of the founders of Posterous, echoes these comments in a post about what he learned working at Apple (Small teams rule).

Some of these lessons sure seem counter intuitive. Remove people from a team if you want to make it more productive? But I have heard this over and over again in my journey through the world’s best tech companies.

So, how about you? Are you seeing the same problems at your work? When I do I point them out and we try to fix them.

By the way, you can see my Instagram photos done with my iPhone on Tumblr and I’m “Scobleizer” on that service, if you want to follow me.

Join the conversation about this story »

See Also:


Stock vs Stuff: What If You’d Invested In These Companies Instead of Buying Their Products?

Stock vs Stuff: What If You’d Invested In These Companies Instead of Buying Their Products?: "

Ever thought what your life (and personal finances) would be like today if 20 years ago, instead of buying a bunch of what you thought then were must-have items you had invested in the companies that manufacture them? After all, stuff in general (and excluding collectibles) tends to lose its value over time, while if you’re lucky, the companies you invest in can appreciate quite nicely. You could have done without an Apple computer back in 1990, right? Consider this: if you had bought Apple Inc. (AAPL) stock instead, today you’d be rich.

Inspired by a post on KyleConroy.com, this infographic explores several “what-if” scenarios, featuring companies whose stock, in hindsight, you probably should have bought a couple of decades ago — and just so you don’t feel that bad, there are a few companies whose stock you could have just as well overlooked.

Shane Snow is founder of VisualEconomics.com and the online printing site PrintingChoice.


1,000 Years of European History -- An Animated Map

1,000 Years of European History -- An Animated Map: "


POTD: November 12th 1955 – Never Forget

POTD: November 12th 1955 – Never Forget: "

Today is the 55-year anniversary of the famous Hill Valley lightning storm. Dan Meth has created the above image so that we shall “never forget.” Hopefully someday the Hill Valley preservation society will raise enough money to restore/fix the clock.


How Do Couples Divide Their Money?

How Do Couples Divide Their Money?: "

Few topics ignite as much curiosity and passionate discourse as that of handling money in a relationship. Should couples merge all their finances, or should they take a “mine, yours and ours” approach? How large of a purchase can you make without discussing it with your partner in advance? Would you ever lie to your partner about your spending? What about credit cards and other loans: should you help your significant other pay off debts they incurred on their own? Should you merge credit cards? Is there a right or even wrong answer to all those questions? To get a better idea of how couples throughout the country perceive their financial lives and how they manage their joint money, see our infographic.


iPhone vira maquininha de cartão de crédito no Brasil

iPhone vira maquininha de cartão de crédito no Brasil: "

Coloque isto na longa lista de funções do iPhone: agora ele funciona como máquina de cartão de crédito no Brasil. Não, você não vai passar o cartão no celular: basta inserir o número do cartão (Visa, MasterCard ou American Express) e o valor a pagar, e pronto - tudo graças a um novo app gratuito da Cielo para iPhone, iPad e iPod Touch.

Claro, não é qualquer um que pode usar o app: você precisa se cadastrar na Cielo e pagar R$9,90 por mês para usar o serviço. A ideia é expandir a participação de profissionais liberais (médicos, dentistas, advogados etc.) no mercado de cartões de crédito.

O app é bem simples de usar: você insere o valor, número de parcelas, dados do cartão e pronto - e ainda pode mandar um comprovante do pagamento via email. Mas o app é seguro mesmo? A Cielo garante que seu app segue as regras do padrão PCI, ou seja, os dados do pagamento são criptografados e nenhuma informação do cartão fica armazenada no aparelho. [Cielo via Exame via Twitter]



The Mythologies Behind Harry Potter

The Mythologies Behind Harry Potter: "

I don’t know about you guys, but I am super excited to catch the new Harry Potter movie! While critics of the series often complain that Rowling didn’t come up with most of the magical aspects of the story herself, they seem to be missing the point: rather than creating an alternate world where magic is real and wild beasts roam the countryside, she created a mythology that allows these fantasy elements to exist in our world, just out of sight of ordinary muggles like ourselves. To create this goal, it actually makes sense that she would use mythologies of cultures from around the world, as it allows the mythologies to work with the stories –muggles have seen dragons and unicorns in the past, but the wizarding community has hidden these things so well in the last centuries that muggles now accept them to be nothing more than stories.

To create this world within our world, Rowling had to do a lot of research into an array of mythologies and stories from all over the globe. She once explained, “children know that I didn’t invent unicorns, but I’ve had to explain frequently that I didn’t actually invent hippogriffs.” So what are some of the mythologies incorporated into her stories? Lets take a look, starting with those hippogriffs.


Image via Ben Dodson [Flickr]

Fans of the series are undoubtedly familiar with Buckbeak, the hippogriff that Harry and Hermoine saved from execution, but as Rowling pointed out, many people don’t realize that hippogriffs have been around much longer than the book series. The creatures entered the public consciousness in medieval times, where they were said to be a cross between a griffin and a horse. The cross breed creature was said to be even stronger, faster and more intelligent than either of its parents and could travel as fast as lightening. Fortunately, they were said to be much easier to tame than griffins, which is why Buckbeak was so willing to be ridden in the novels.

Hippogriffs were exceptionally rare beasts, largely because griffins considered horses to be food. In fact, the concept was considered to be so outlandish that “to mate griffins with horses” was a similar expression to “when pigs fly.” For this reason, hippogriffs were considered a symbol not only of impossibility, but of intense love.


Grindylows were one of the many dark creatures Harry had to face during his competition in the Triwizard Tournament. The nasty little creatures are known to live in the bottom of Hogwarts Lake and try to pull anyone who comes into their territory down to the bottom of the lake.

These creatures originally started being talked about in the English counties of Yorkshire and Lancashire, but their myth spread throughout England and Ireland, where they were used to scare children from pools, marshes and ponds in order to prevent drowning. Stories said that if a child came too close to the edge, the grindylows would grab them and pull them down to the water’s darkest depths.


Image via Giovanni Dall’Orto [Wikipedia]

The basilisk that almost took down Harry Potter in the Chamber of Secrets was monstrously large, stretching almost 50 feet, and at least 50 years old. Rowling credits the creation of the basilisk to Herpo the Foul, who hatched a chicken egg under a toad.

Classic tales of basilisks vary quite a bit from those of the Harry Potter universe. While both of the creatures can kill with a single glance and are exceptionally poisonous, Rowling’s 50 foot serpent is quite a bit larger than traditional basilisks, which were no more than five feet long (although they seemed to get longer as the stories aged). Notably, the creation of a basilisk in classic stories is through a rooster hatching a toad egg, if a toad hatched a chicken egg, a cockatrice (a similar creature with wings) would be born.


Rowling’s boggarts are entirely different from the boggarts of mythology. While Harry Potter’s boggarts are quiet terrifying, taking on the form of the victim’s worst fear, folklore tells of boggarts being more troublemaker than fearmonger. English tales of boggarts describe them as stealing things around the house, souring milk, ripping bedsheets from sleeping victims and tugging on people’s ears. It’s hardly the terrifying image of boggarts that require the “riddikulus” spell to conquer.


Image via San Diego Shooter [Flickr]

While Rawling claims to have had no inspiration from J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord Of The Rings, it seems unlikely given certain similarities between the two epic tales. The Forbidden Forrest’s giant spider, Aragog, has a very similar personality to the spider of the Ephel Dúath Mountains, Shelob. Lord Sauron and Lord Voldemort also have quite a bit in common, to the extent that many characters of both stories refuse to use their name and are occasionally referred to as “The Dark Lord.” While the horcrux’s themselves are largely different than anything seen in Lord of the Rings, it is notable how the locket used as a horcrux is similar to the One Ring as it makes the wearer behave in a negative fashion.

One the most notable creature similarities is the way the dementors seem so similar to the Nazgul. Both are tall, thin hooded figures with faces that generally cannot be seen. Aside from their terrifying appearances, both of the creatures are said to affect those in contact with them by making them feel cold and scared. Prolonged contact with either creature can even result in unconsciousness filled with abhorrent nightmares.


Lord Voldemort has split his soul into seven parts with the use of horcruxes in an attempt to become immortal. Each fraction of his soul is held in a different magical item and the items must all be destroyed before he can die. This concept of immortality via the storage of the soul in an inanimate object is not Rowling’s, but a concept that originated in Slavic mythology in the tale of Koscei the Deathless.

Koscei evades death by trapping his soul in the eye of a magical needle, which is inside of an egg, inside of a duck, inside a hare, inside an iron chest buried under a great oak tree, on the magical island of Buyan. While Koscei does not have seven different horcruxes to protect his soul, the idea is that if the chest is ever opened, the hare will run away. If the hare is killed, the duck will try to fly away. If someone gets their hand on the egg though, they control Koschei and if they break the egg or the needle, he will die.


Image via Wikipedia

Similarly, liches are sometimes said to be magicians who use spells to attach their soul to an object. After they die, they will continue to live as corpses until the object is destroyed. In many stories, they also have armies of slaves and servants similar to the Dark Lord. The fact that Voldemort doesn’t look entirely human indicates that he may be a lich.

The Philosopher’s Stone:

The first novel of the series was released as Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone. But when the book was set to be released in America, Rowling was asked to change the title and all references to the stone to the “Sorcerer’s Stone” because publishers worried American children wouldn’t want to read a book with the word “Philosopher” in the title. Unfortunately, changing this word didn’t just affect the book title, it also made the novel lose the connection between a legendary part of alchemy and the Harry Potter book.

Many readers don’t realize that the philosopher’s stone and its creator Nicholas Flamel (also mentioned in the book) are not just figments of Rowling’s imagination. The stone is said to be able to turn metals into gold and silver and to help create an elixir of life that could keep someone alive forever. Even Sir Isaac Newton tried to uncover the secret to creating the stone during his lifetime.

Flamel’s actual biography is questionable. He died in the 1400’s, but it wasn’t until the 1600’s that a book was published connecting him to the philosopher’s stone and other alchemy-related quests. He was known to be a manuscript-seller and his posthumous biography claimed this is where he had run across a mysterious 21-page book that he was told was a copy of the original Book of Abraham the Mage. Stories say that he and his wife then worked to translate the book, which taught them how to make the Philosopher’s stone. While some critics doubt that this story, there is little doubt that Flamel has some interest in alchemy, as he designed his own tombstone, which was adorned with alchemical signs and symbols.

While Flamel and his wife both lived into their eighties, many stories claim they are still alive thanks to the stone. In Harry Potter, the couple survived until the 1990s, living over 600 years.

Are you a fan of Harry Potter? Are you going to see the film when it comes out?

Sources: Wikipedia #1, #2, #3, #4, #5, #6, #7, #8, #9, #10, #11 (And of course, the books themselves)


November 10

November 10: "
Drawn with a Copic by Young Thanks to James Wynn for the fact Tweet this! © Young 2010"

7 Completely Free VPN Services To Protect Your Privacy

7 Completely Free VPN Services To Protect Your Privacy: "

free vpnPrivacy is a bit of an internet buzzword these days. Average users are now becoming more aware that the data they transfer across the big bad internet is less secure than they first thought.

There’s a few measures you can take to increase security on your end, such as installing a firewall and blocking known intrusive IP addresses that might be spying on your browsing habits.

The next step for anyone looking to take security to the next level is by using a virtual private network (VPN) to encrypt all inbound and outbound data.

What Is A Virtual Private Network?

A VPN allows you to connect your machine to a virtual network which in turn encrypts the data you send, hiding everything from the public domain. A good VPN will keep no records of your browsing history, meaning you’re essentially an anonymous user.

free vpn

Many VPNs are established for office use, to allow users to log into their workplace network and gain access to services therein. Seeing as you’re reading an article about free VPN services, you’re probably more concerned about security and how you can benefit from using one.

Despite the stigma involved with taking such a hardline approach to security, you don’t necessarily need to be using the internet for illegal purposes to benefit. Much like using a proxy, a VPN can also help you access websites that may not already be available in your region.

vpn server

An excellent example of this would be Hulu, and we’ve got a guide about doing it right here. Many VPN services require payment, but there’s a fair few decent free efforts out there too. Here’s a selection to get you started.

Free VPN Services

It is worth noting that despite the services listed below being completely free to use, many impose restrictions on free VPN accounts. Hopefully this list will at least give you an idea of how VPN works, and how it can benefit you. If you really like the service then many offer competitive rates as well as referral schemes and paid accounts in exchange for advertising space.


A free VPN service designed for use with Windows and Mac computers. ProXPN works by downloading a small free application from which to connect. The service is also compatible with the iPhone and other mobile phones that support VPN.

Interestingly you can use the iPhone setup instructions to make a connection from your PC, useful if you’re a Linux user.


The GPass service provides free VPN access as well as an impressive fast web proxy to use directly in your browser. The service is very popular in China where internet censorship is commonplace.

The service seems very hot on security (good job, really), and even goes as far as to recommend an integrity check after you’ve downloaded the software (before installing). GPass is compatible with Windows only, and does not require registration.


Offering 1GB of encypted traffic per month on the free package, CyberGhost is another Windows-only VPN client. In order to use the service you are required to register for a free account which unfortunately does not allow you to pick and choose your servers.

Ideal for web surfing, but not a dedicated file sharing solution.

AnchorFree Hotspot Shield

Offering a free VPN solution for Windows, Mac and iPhone (and possibly other systems using the iPhone login information) Hotspot Shield boasts “unlimited bandwidth” to those who need it.

vpn server

The service supports itself by providing advertising within web pages viewed using the service, as stated in the terms. A little bird tells me that if you’re a Firefox user you can use the NoScript extension to hide these, although I’ve not tried it myself.

Its Hidden

Originally established as a safeguard for filesharers, Its Hidden offers a competitive free service as well as paid solutions offering better contention (less users per server), professional support and dedicated IP addresses.

Registration is required, and once you’ve signed up you can connect to the service directly through your operating system by following the set-up guide, with no additional software required. The service is compatible with any operating system you happen to be using that supports VPN.


The free package provided by SecurityKiss brings you 300MB of data transfer per day, but provides an uncapped line with plenty of speed. You’ll need the SecurityKiss software to access the service, and this is only compatible with Windows.

free vpn

Despite not offering a whole lot of bandwidth, SecurityKiss will suffice in unblocking web services like Skype and YouTube you might otherwise be unable to access.

Best Free VPN Service

Solely for use through your existing OS, mobile or VPN application, Best Free VPN changes its password every 12 to 24 hours to help maintain fairness for users. It’s not the speediest service around, offering only 512Kbit/s down and 256Kbit/s up.

The service doesn’t allow P2P services (no BitTorrent then) but it should suffice if you need to do any covert surfing.


Free things are great, but they’re also subject to a lot of use by the community. If you’re encountering problems with any of the above then you’re just better off moving on and trying another.

If you’re really serious about security (and accessing your home PCs from anywhere) then you’ll probably want to invest in a paid VPN service.

Do you use VPN? Had any luck with free services, or have you gone paid? Let us know in the comments.

Image Credits: Intro, VPN Overview

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