Last week I was at the Google Faculty Summit in New York City. It is was interesting how careful the Google people were about avoiding "creepy" applications. They purposely avoid a lot of data cross linking just to be "clean", more so than I had expected or realized. This was especially important in the context of their new social network Google Plus (which I get to below). There are cool things they could do, maybe even easily, but which they avoid just to stay on the safe side of what people are comfortable with. That's quite impressive as a policy, and an interesting tradeoff between medium term coolness and long term continuance of user trust.
I think making users trusting is, rightly, a top priority for Google since everything else is dependent on that. Simply providing fantastic serve: that's a relatively easy thing, but trust is this evanescent ineffable thing you can't buy.
One of the topics they talked about was the challenge of keeping the huge legions of Google servers efficiently deployed. John Wilkes talk amount this configuration management issue in the context of their upcoming new system for handling it called Omega.
New York, of course, was the crazy exciting hub of activity is always has been. I stayed in the Standard Hotel in the meat packing district, which is a hub of the fashion industry, and right near the
Google NYC offices (they own a nice big high-rise building there). Well, staying there (a) made me feel hip, and also (b) made me feel like a poorly-dressed yokel (especially in the evening when the Bugatti's were parked on the street). I did drink the metaphorical Google Kool-Aid and discovered a slew of new Google "products" that I had not known about, or lost track of.
I got in on Google Plus about a week ago, in anticipation of the meeting. As most readers probably know by now, it's the new social network Google has launched.
I must say I am loving it, and find it much nicer than Facebook. While the user community is much narrower, I have found quite a few people I know, respect or am interested in. Of course, it helps that I move in techie circles. Most importantly for me though, it has a much more nuanced find-grained model of privacy. I can share some things with one sub-community (i.e. family members and close friends) and other stuff with my profession community. It also has lots of other nice flourishes like great mobile integration with Android devices and a very nice video conferencing feature. On top of that, it really encourages cross-use of multiple Google "properties" like Google Docs (which is destined to get better and better). All in all, I think this is going to be a very very very good year for Google.