Google put a lot of resources into this free conference. It was well-organized, had 5 tracks, free non-gourmet food, drinks and t-shirts, and a small exhibits area – similar to a paid O’Reilly conference. Afterwards, there were buses to and from the Googleplex in Mountain View for a mingle party with mostly retro video games and a DJ. (I got high scores on the 2 Centipede machines.)
Many of the attendees admitted that they were there to make the right connections to get a job at Google.
I spoke to several who had just attended the O’Reilly Where 2.0 Conference.
I went to the Google Gears talk in the morning, the Google Map track in the afternoon, and the Custom Search talk in the evening.
Google Gears is a system for running web applications offline. One slide showed high-performance threading, with 3 windows searching for quad polynomials at the same time. Another slide mentioned that Google has sponsored Full Text Search in SQLite. Currently, FTS2 can handle millions of records reasonably well. FTS3 will be able to handle tens of millions.
I saw a few talks in a row on KML, Google Earth, Maps, Maplets and GeoSearch.
KML is the Keyhole Markup Language (Wikipedia), an XML schema for describing geographic data. Keyhole created the initial version in 2003 or 2004, and now it is an official standard. Adobe CS3 supports it as well. It lets you define static data, timestamps, styles and URLs to be overlaid on a map. It is easy to get started with, but does have a lot of elements now. REGION can be used to group related coordinate data.
<?xml version="1.0" encoding="UTF-8"?> <kml xmlns="http://earth.google.com/kml/2.0"> <Placemark> <description>New York City</description> <name>New York City</name> <Point> <coordinates>-74.006393,40.714172,0</coordinates> </Point> </Placemark> </kml>
One of the Google Earth speakers uses Xerxes-C to parse XML files, and provided this link for some tools:
Google Regionator KML Testing Tools
Google Custom Search Engine was very interesting. It allows you to use the Google search platform as your own tool, but tell it which links and sites to search and what to omit. Examples of this are custom search engines for only accredited universities or doctors. Or just museums. Or just social network sites. In 20 minutes you can build your own custom search engine, although you will be serving Google Ads and they will have your user data. One of the problems though is that there’s no easy way to make the results child-safe.
In the exhibits area, many Google products were displayed on IBM Thinkpad notebooks by a respective developer, so I asked for a personal demo of each:
- Google Webmaster Tools lets you view how Google sees your site – keywords that people searched on before landing on your site, 404’s, etc. Very useful for SEO preparation.
- Google Checkout – Google maintains a wallet of your credit cards and shipping locations. Free for merchants until end of 2007, and merchants get a special logo in sponsored search listings.
- Google Enterprise Search API
- Google Sketchup – lets you build 3D models
- Google Home Page (iGoogle) – similar to MyNetcenter or Yahoo 360
- Google Earth
Katsuya Hosokawa, Business Preparation Office Manager, from CyberMap Japan Corp. went to Where 2.0 just before this. His company sells the Mapion set of mapping products to Japanese customers, including on the web. They have extensive digital maps of Japan, including the Tokyo area down to the house level. Several partners/investors are involved in CyberMap, incuding Yahoo! Japan.
Unlike at Open Source conferences, Google staff were not allowed to talk about future plans or features.
My only complaints would be that 5 tracks makes choosing talks difficult, and there should have been better directions to find the returning shuttle buses at the Googleplex.
Perhaps also a developer conference should be less Powerpoints and more hands-on. (Although it was fun watching developers occasionally wrestle with Powerpoint – since they don’t use it on a a daily basis – they’re developers.)