Don Dodge, Google and Developers Evangelism

I was just reading over at TechCrunch about Google quickly hiring Don Dodge after he was let go from Microsoft. It seems Don will be doing what he used to do at Microsoft – Developer Evangelism (good for him, and Google!).

I’m very happy to see that Google is putting their stock options and cash where their mouth is to evangelize their APIs, platforms (Android, AppEngine) and tools to developers.

A while back I wrote about the lack of Google’s outreach in the Israeli developers community, and it is still very visible in Israel by the jobs listings as well as various events and conventions that Microsoft Technology still dominates the Israeli high-tech software scene.

I do hope that hiring Don Dodge and keep on releasing tools, SDKs, Platforms and even languages such as the new Go programming language, to create the necessary diversification that every monopolized field needs.

I just hope that Google will start to do more than just very simple and shallow Dev Days in Israel and will start reaching out the community, specifically in Israel. I would like to see a Google I/O event in Israel and may be a couple of smaller events that dig down into code and details in a more intimate scenario with less people.

In general I would expect Google to start evangelizing in other countries and start having evangelists in every country they have an office. I would suggest Google to learn a bit from MSDN as well as the Microsoft Valued Professional (MVP) program – these tools are one of the best examples of creating a community based on core leaders that can drive the community as well as Google straight up.

Google is still light years from reaching the well oiled, well organized Microsoft evangelism machine and I hope Don and other will be able to make big leaps to close that gap.

New programming languages forces you to re-think a problem in a fresh way (or why do we need new programming languages. always.)

Whenever a new programming language appears some claim its the best thing since sliced bread (tm – not mine ;-) ), other claim its the worst thing that can happen and you can implement everything that the language provides in programming language X (assign X to your favorite low level programming language and append a suitable library).

After seeing Google’s new Go programming language I must say I’m excited. Not because its from Google and it got a huge buzz around the net. I am excited about the fact that people decided to think differently before they went on and created Go.

I’m reading Masterminds of Programming: Conversations with the Creators of Major Programming Languages (a good read for any programming language fanaticos) which is a set of interviews with various programming languages creators and its very interesting to see the thoughts and processes behind a couple of the most widely used programming languages (and even some non-so-widely-used programming languages).

In a recent interview Brad Fitzpatrick (of LiveJournal fame and now a Google employee) was asked:

You’ve done a lot of work in Perl, which is a pretty high-level language. How low do you think programmers need to go – do programmers still need to know assembly and how chips work?

To which he replied:

… I see people that are really smart – I would say they’re good programmers – but say they only know Java. The way they think about solving things is always within the space they know. They don’t think ends-to-ends as much. I think it’s really important to know the whole stack even if you don’t operate within the whole stack.

I subscribe to Brad’s point of view because   a) you need to know your stack from end to end – from the metals in your servers (i.e. server configuration), the operating system internals to the data structures used in your code and   b) you need to know more than one programming language to open up your mind to different ways of implementing a solution to a problem.

Perl has regular expressions baked into the language making every Perl developer to think in pattern matching when performing string operations instead of writing tedious code of finding and replacing strings. Of course you can always use various find and replace methods, but the power and way of thinking of compiled pattern matching makes it much more accessible, powerful and useful.

Python has lists and dictionaries (using a VERY efficient hashtable implementation, at least in CPython) backed into the language because lists and dictionaries are very powerful data structures that can be used in a lot solutions to problems.

One of Go’s baked in features is concurrency support in the form of goroutines. Goroutines makes the use of multi-core systems very easy without the complexities that exists in multi-processing or multi-threading programming such as synchronization. This feature actually shares some ancestry with Erlang (which by itself has a very unique syntax and vocabulary for scalable functional programming).

Every programming language brings something new to the table and a new way of looking at things and solving problems. That’s why its so special :-)

Google Developer Day 2008 Israel (yes, it’s in Israel)

About a year and a half ago I’ve written about Google Israel’s position in the Israeli development community (actually, there lack of) and that a company like Google should be more involved.

This was written around the time the 2007 Google Developer Day happened in more than 10 places around the world but not in Israel.

I opened my Email this morning and to my surprise I found an invitation to the Google Developer Day 2008 in Israel.

It seems there is a good schedule and a very interesting cast of lecturers. Some of the lecturers are Israeli Googlers while others are Googlers from Europe and the USA.

While most of it revolves around Google technologies (GData and the APIs, AppEngine, V8 JavaScript engine) or Google sponsored initiatives (OpenSocial) it’s a good start for a conversation between the Israeli development community and Google Israel (or Google in general for that matter).

I hope this is a first step in Google’s involvment in the Israeli development community, one that will lead to a more diverse and engaged community.

The event will take place on November 2nd at the Avenue convention center (near Airprot city). Currently registration requires an invitation.

I’ve already registered and if nothing else will change my schedule I will be there. If you also registered and know me (or don’t know me yet) feel free to drop by and say hi.

Google Reader Search is here!

I fired up Google Reader this morning and to my surprise I found a search box:

Google Reader now has search

This is one of the last missing features I wanted Google Reader to have.

I actually have a friend that didn’t want to switch from a desktop feed reader until Google Reader added search. Now he can safely move to it :-)

You can limit your search to all items in all of your feeds, all stared items, all shared items or items from a specific folder. I couldn’t make the search work with some of the search keywords I’m familiar with in Gmail like “from:XXX”, “label:XXX” etc, which I think is very important.

I even used the Google Blog Search syntax of “inpostauthor:Eran” to find all posts written by Eran, but it doesn’t seem to work.

I would have expected that the Google Reader search will use the Google Blog Search engine underneath and just add additional limitation for searches like “All shared items” in which it will perform the search only on that specific set of items. Perhaps it does use it but without some of the query syntax features.

Oh well, I hope the Google Reader search will converge with the syntax of Google Blog Search to make the search feature complete.

All in all this is a great and long requested feature. Great job Google Reader team!

Google Apps for your Domain, DNS, CNAME and Security

I’ve recently started to use Google Apps for Your domain to host my private emails on the domain.

Google Apps for your domain is quite cool and was very easy to configure. I mainly moved to it due to the unbelievable amounts of SPAM and I didn’t have the power or time to configure SpamAssassin in a reasonable way that would actually work.

When I moved, one of the things I did was to change the “default” URL in which me and other members of my family use to access the web mail of the domain. Google Apps for your Domain allows you to do just that by configuring it in its configuration screen and settings a CNAME record that points to

After configuring everything I tested it out and noticed something disturbing.

It seems that CNAME (by design/default/whatever) does not support HTTPS, only HTTP. This means that the CNAME alias I configured will be resolved to (replace YourDomain.XXX with your domain ;-) ). If you are not authenticated you’ll be redirected to authenticate on an SSL protected address (https) and upon successful authentication you will be directed to (not https – not SSL).

This means that now, when you read or write Emails they are not protected. If you are sitting in an open WIFI network (passwordless network) people can easily sniff out your Emails and correspondence (I know that not using WPA will make you prune to man in the middle attacks, but that’s not the issue here). This is just one of the scenarios that you will be vulnerable (there are a few more).

It’s not that accessing will not work. On the contrary, it will work fine and all the communication will be secured using SSL (https).

It seems Google is encouraging recklessness with their current configuration, instead of redirecting authenticated users to the secured version (https/SSL) of their web mail specifically because of the DNS CNAME limitations.

It is a simple fix on Google’s behalf which will increase the security dramatically.

My Google Development Community Piece was referenced at ZDNet

2 days ago I wrote a post about the lack of Google Israel’s involvement in the development community.

It seems that in most of the places (I’m sure in the US, I’m not sure if the rest of the development centers in South American and Europe have the same involvement) where Google has development centers they are a little more involved with the development community in the form of lecture, places to meet and chat, sponsoring events, etc.

I got referenced on ZDNet by Donna Bogatin (Thanks Donna! :-) ) in a post Donna wrote about a victory that Microsoft had over Google in Israel for an enterprise search engine.

There are a couple of things I wanted to comment about Donna’s post.

People need to realize that Microsoft had a presence in Israel for quite some time starting from the 1990 or so (if I’m not mistaken) and the first development center outside of the USA that Microsoft had was the one in Haifa, Israel.

There is a big and fat contract for the Israeli government as well as the Israeli education system with Microsoft, so there is no real wonder why Microsoft one this contract. Of course I might be off on this one since I lack all of the details, but its reasonable to assume that one less contractor and some other promises from Microsoft and the contact was sealed.

One anecdote is that the Israeli government helped to finance the Hebrew translation and major Hebrew support in OpenOffice (just go to – Hebrew Link – and see that the effort was sponsored by the Israeli ministry of finance). One of the reasons for this project was to enable every citizen and school to have an advanced word processor, spreadsheet editor, and other solutions in Hebrew and for free as part of the government of Israel’s online government project (which is quite advance in global terms as well).

This means that every school in Israel, the Israeli education system and all of the government offices could have migrated to a pure Hebrew OpenOffice and save a lot of money (and there are better uses for this money in Israel. Trust me) instead of getting a contract from Microsoft to supply it’s Office suite.

Of course, even though the government paid for the translation and migration of OpenOffice to Hebrew, Microsoft still won the contract (probably because the government didn’t want to move to another operating system and retrain the staff) and Israel got a “real deal” so that it paid quite a few bucks for that.

There are rumors Steve Ballmer’s visit a few years back was the one that made the deal very lucrative for the Israeli government and closed the deal.

Now I know it sounds like I’m yet another Microsoft basher and it might be partially true. I am, however, proficient and trained enough in Microsoft technologies. I even have an Advanced .NET Debugging blog and I have worked (and still working) with Microsoft technologies for a good part of my professional life.

I do, however, feel comfortable in Linux and non MS technologies (both Web and non web).

On the other hand I’m not an MS zealot as well as not an open source zealot. I believe that the right tools should be used for the right cause and circumstances and I do believe in open and good competition which is a bit lacking in Israel at the moment, at least from the development community side.

As I’ve said in the previous post, the open source community in Israel is quite alive and kicking and they do have conferences and group meetings, but its mainly based on the good will of good people to organize and make sure things like a Linux Installfest and the Israeli Open Source developers conference still happens, usually with a very small participation and/or funding of the “big companies”.

I just hope that one of the Googlers here or in the US read about it and decide to act upon it :-)

Google Israel – Where Art Thou in the Development Community?

I know that Google‘s original Googleplex at Mountain View is very active for non googlers. There are frequent open lectures there and they host a bunch of other things like Summer of Code (well, not always host, but sponsor and make sure people know about it) and Google Developer Day (which is happening at 10 different locations worldwide, but NOT in Israel).

I know there are suppose to be two development centers in Israel, one in Haifa (which I know is located in MATAM cause you can see it from road #2 leading from Tel Aviv to Haifa near Intel and Microsoft Haifa) but I have no idea where the other development center in Israel is located, other than the fact that its suppose to be in the Tel Aviv area.

I don’t know how active Google is in the development community in other countries besides the US but I think that Google Israel (and the rest of Google) as well as the rest of the development community in Israel will benefit if they’ll open up a bit and become a major player in the development community.

Microsoft Israel figured this out a long time ago and there are quite a few communities (warning: Hebrew link) that meet once a month. There is also at least one full time Microsoft employee (at least that I know of) that is logistically leading this effort and making sure everyone stay happy and use MS products. I don’t even talk about the big events Microsoft Israel holds at least once a year to show off new things and to educate people about the new technology.

I guess this effort paid off since most of the companies developing in Israel today (and quite a few startups, even in the web 2.0 arena) are using Microsoft technologies and not Open Source products and technologies.

If Google Israel (hopefully the R&D part) will open up a bit and start hosting lectures and events in Israel, the same way the original Googleplex (and possibly other Google centers around the world, I don’t really know) does, the Israeli development community may gain a valuable player that can educate people about the usage of Open Source development environment, products and solutions.

It can become a driving force that can change how the Israeli development community looks and acts.

I’m not saying there is no open source community and activity in Israel. There is quite a few. Heck, even PHP (from v3 I think) is in part Israeli and Zend (the company behind PHP which supports its development) is in Israel. There are more than a few Linux kernel hackers that I know of that contribute on a daily basis to the Linux kernel and other sub systems and more than a few companies that base their products on open source products and give back to the community in the form of patches, fixes and features.

What I am saying is that having a major player that can concentrate the efforts and help cultivate and educate the development community in Israel on things other than Microsoft and Microsoft Technologies can have a major effect on the Israeli development community and there is no better time than now.

If one of you Israeli Googlers are reading this, you are more than welcome to comment or even comment privately directly to me.

Of course, I might be imaging all of this but some quick Google searches didn’t put anything up in an obvious way.

Speaking of development and the development community, since MS already has a development center in Israel (and is creating additional ones besides the one in Haifa) and Google has 2 development centers in Israel, where is Yahoo? I guess that’s something for another post :-)

Google Apps for Your Domain and Gmail Mail Applet for Nokia phones

I own a Nokia E61 cell phone. A nice phone all in all (aside from the backup problems my wife encountered).

Gmail has this cool little applet that lets me access my Gmail account in a nicer (and better cached) way from my cell phone. It’s a really nice program and I use it quite often.

It has one problem though. If you host your own domain through Google Apps for Your Domain to get the Gmail like interface for your Emails you cannot use this program.

Technically (as far as I could see) the interface is rather the same, the only different should be the user name and password. But there is a restriction in the user name in the mail applet that forces you to put an Email address with a suffix of only. It will not accept anything other than a user name.

Google Apps for your Domain has, however, a program for Blackberries. Not that there is anything wrong with that, but I would really like to have the current nice mail applet working with my hosted Google Gmail application.

I want the normal Gmail applet to work with my custom domain and Google Apps for your domain, otherwise I’m forced to use the not so nice Cell phone browser web mail access which is far less usable than the applet.

Is it too much to ask? I don’t think so, considering that it seems there shouldn’t be any problem supporting it technically (it’s the same backend). If any of you Google Apps for your Domains Googlers are reading this and there is a bigger issue/problem with forcing the mail applet to support Google Apps for Your Domain, I would love to know why (you can even ping me privately through my contact page).

Crawling to the people

Yaniv let the cat out of the bag about some of our ideas for making other parts of the search and its relevant data open, free and accessible to all of us.

I’d thought I’ll add some background and my thoughts on the subject.

First, the idea was iterated a couple of times when we were in that place where you have a solution(s) and you are seeking a problem(s) to solve.

It all started from this post by Jeremie Miller. Jeremie, being the good guy that he is, was thinking about create standards and protocols to make the crawling, processing and sharing of data for search and search engines public, free and accessible. While neither Yaniv nor I are in Jeremie’s loop and have no idea of what he is up to (but you can count on it to be interesting, that’s for sure), we talked about it a bit and it sunk in.

We both liked the idea of having the raw data accessible as well as being able to run custom post processors that can make something useful out of it so that no one is tied to whatever logic and algorithms the crawler writer enforces.

Then came the announcement from Kevin Burton about spinn3r, a service that re uses the web index of the Blogosphere crawled by TailRank’s crawler and allows you (and everyone else) to use that crawled data.

This information also sunk in and today at lunch (which did take quite a while :-) ) we started to brainstorm about it a bit more seriously.

This can really open up and innovate search from the bottom up. Give access to a lot of people to APIs and capabilities that were previously only available for big companies. This is the platform that can create something very interesting.

We would love to hear your comments.