Six Weeks at Google

I started working for Google six weeks ago today. It’s been an interesting experience, and since I keep having the same conversation repeatedly, I figured I’d share all at once.

What are you working on, anyway?

I’m in the Developer Relations team for Google TV. In practice, I spend most of my time working together with external companies, helping them build and optimize their web applications and contents for the 10-ft user interface scenario – that is, the experience of their web content and applications a user will get when they’re sitting 10 feet away from their screen, and interacting with a “remote control” rather than a desk-based keyboard and mouse.  It’s not so much “optimize for Google TV specifically” than it is “ensure your UI can work well in this scenario”.  We have an optimization guide that gives you some idea of what I’m talking about – things like supporting arrow-key navigation, limiting scrolling, color differences on the TV, etc.

One of the great things about this role is that it’s already given me the opportunity to dive in and actually write JS/CSS/HTML code again, as well as spend a bunch of time looking at how other people construct their UIs in HTML/CSS/JS.  The other fun thing is that it’s continuing my passion for the web platform extending to alternate scenarios and environments – the mobile scenario was the first big one, but the 10-ft space is an important one too.  For years, I’ve seen the web platform as the underlying platform that bridges from the very small environments – like my mobile phone – through the medium-size (my iPad, netbook, and laptop) to the large (my 27-30″ high-powered desktops and my TV).  Aside from the display, there are obvious differences in the interaction capabilities too (like, no touch interface on my TV 🙂 ).

What do you think of working at Google?

Love it. I didn’t think that I would like working in a cubicle rather than an office (at Microsoft, nearly all full-time employees who have been there more than three or four years usually have an office to themselves; at Google, nearly everyone has a cubicle).  However, it’s actually been great, because I’ve met a lot of people (particularly as I have a couple of Google TV devices sitting right next to my cube), and people tend to be very respectful of space and noise.  There are lots of old friends and a few new ones working here, which has definitely helped me adjust.   More on the culture in my next post, as I think that deserves a post by itself.

It HAS been a little odd to no longer use Windows on a daily basis, though. 🙂


6 thoughts on “Six Weeks at Google

  1. Sounds like a fun job!

    ”’when they’re sitting 10 feet away from their screen, and interacting with a “remote control””’

    Do you have any mechanism yet for 3rd party apps/content to live on second screens (tablets, smartphones, eventually table surfaces) rather than clutter up the telly? At Joost (RIP) we had on-screen HTML/js widgets, but they always came between the viewer and the real content. These days bringing the widgets to a smaller nearer screen seems more appropriate, but there’s not a lot yet by way of standard communication channel between the devices…

  2. Not yet. We’ve got a pretty powerful remote app, but pairing multiple screens is hard to do flexibly with p2p networking (e.g. WebSockets) in the web platform, and if you make a native (e.g. Android) app, you’re limiting the user scenarios (i.e. if I have a Google TV but an iPhone). I think we’ll get what we need in the web platform, but it may take another year or so.

  3. Here’s to hoping some of these “external companies” you’re working with are a few content providers, and you’re helping them unblock the GoogleTV. 😛

  4. Chris, yup exactly. I’m not sure 100% WebSockets is quite what’s needed but it’s certainly in the right area. We’ve made some prototypes using XMPP in the NoTube project, but the latency can really bite – needs the ability to drop down to direct serverless local link.
    (e.g. http://vimeo.com/11231965 shows iphone / mythtv; ideally it’d equally work with any TV-like box).

    Re evolving the Web platform – hope you folks will put in a position paper for this upcoming W3C workshop on Web/TV, http://www.w3.org/2010/11/web-and-tv/ … deadline looming but it doesn’t have to be a long paper… even a page or two would be really helpful to make sure things head in a useful direction.

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