Sunday, April 29, 2007

See your spreadsheet as a draggable timeline

Thanks to a chance online stumbling across Kiyo's Blog (ok, "chance online stumbling" is more like a link in my email triggered by a google alert for 'google spreadsheet' ;), I discovered this really cool open source timeline widget in the form of a Sample Timeline using a Google spreadsheet. So it was a double bonus for me.. a cool widget and, even better, a great use case for the spreadsheets API !

Now I could have discovered this earlier if I watched everything that came out the developer pages of Google - as this widget was highlighted previously as a
Google Code Sample related to using Google Calendar API.... but Kiyohito Yamamoto saved me the trouble of both recognizing the opportunity and then coding a spreadsheet-sourced timeline... Thanks Kiyo!

Friday, April 27, 2007

Take your Daughters, Sons and Toys to work

Today was ‘take your daughters to work’ day… so I brought my son ;)
First – a train ride… That’s almost worth the price of admission to a 6 year-old (“six and a HALF!”).
Then the Subway... whoa... now that's fun!
Then daddy’s workplace (booooringggg... but, wait. what’s this? Toys!! Cool!!).

Given that I work for a company which highly values ‘fun’, this was a fun day for my son and other kids who visited, and it gave me a new appreciation for the value of offering a fun environment at work. The fear that people would be unproductive with distractions like toys, scooters, video games, ping pong, and other kids’ indulgences is an ignorant view. That view ignores not just the value letting people enjoy themselves at work, but more importantly the benefits of trusting people to have good judgement and giving people freedom to get their work done in a way which works best for them.

Funny how reality and theory are at odds here... In theory, it seems right that toys at work is a flawed concept (particularly if you employ people who are just not motivated by their actual work) – but in practice, when combined with strong motivation to achieve a company’s mission, it works and gives adults the type of environment which is analogous to, well, kindergarten! An environment for learning, for exploring, for experimenting and for playing nice with other "kids" ;) Especially when those "toys" include musical instruments and chess boards...

One key difference to kindergarten is the appreciation we adults have for fun in camparison to say, paying bills or going grocery shopping, or getting the insurance information from the guy who just cut you off and made you crash your car, or going to the doctor to find out what that pain in your chest is...
Toys at work? - I love it.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Remember to link back to your site

Quick 'best practice' tip for Google Docs & Spreadsheets:

I've found a few really cool published spreadsheets on the web, mostly through a blog or from the page of the person who published it... but when other people copy that link, there's no trail back to the original author.

When you publish a document or a spreadsheet - you should always include a link back to your site... Here are some examples... but see the help site for more details...

Spreadsheet Example:

Documents Example:

Monday, April 23, 2007

A six-year-old's view of Google Strategy

My six-year-old ("six and a half, dad!") quietly lurked as I enthusiastically showed someone how Google Book Search works. It was one of those typical "Oh wow - I never even clicked that 'more' link!" interactions - where I could have spent an hour boring her on every non-search product on the 'more' page - but we focused on Book Search, since that was relevant to her work. She was very excited to get started, and, as I found out later that night, so was my son.

him: "How do you spell 'Construction'?"...
me: "C - O - N.... S - T - R... - what are you doing"?
him: "Google Book Search on 'construction trucks' - 'c-o-n-s-t-r' what's next?"
me: "Huh? How do you know how to do that?"
him: "I watched you show it to that lady - 'c-o-n-s-t-r' what's next!?"

So he happily gets his list of Contruction Truck books...and later he says:
"Why do you have so many different things?"
me: "What are you talking about?"
him: "There are so many things on that 'more' page! - how come?"
me: (I'll save me 'How to explain Google Strategy to a six-year-old ("six-an-a-half!!") for another post') "You think it's too much?"
him: "uh.. yEAh!" (with that 'look how daddy taught me to be sarcastic' tone)
- and then, here was his strategic advice:
"Why can't you just enjoy what you have? - at the end of 2008, you have to stop - no new 'more' stuff."

I just stared at him - contemplating the impact of this advice...
"wow - that's an interesting idea... I'll talk to some people about that and see what they think!".

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Happy St George's day, all you British Food Bloggers

I just emerged from what felt like one of those 1998 "Neato! look what I found on the World Wide Web!" surfing black holes... Lately, those adventures start with a blog search to see who's posting what using a Google spreadsheet (I know I just lost half of you to "oh no, not again" - but I'll continue for the sake of the remaining 2 readers ;) and tonight I found a really cool food-oriented blog, with a post which contained a link to a spreadsheet which contains links to yet 70+ more blogs - all of which are focused on food... all of which had something to say (15 words or less) about why "english food is not a joke" ... and, this was Sam & Fred's tribute to England's national day, called St. George's day.

Maybe it's my history (I worked in my Mom's gourmet shop and bakery when i was in high school and college summers)... but I was intrigued ... The original blog is really nice, and most of the blog's I linked to (randomly, I might add) from the spreadsheet are quite nice, and, falling right into the trap set by this clever blogger, I grew quite an appreciation for the british (ahem) culinary (cough) scene - 3 words I thought I'd never hear together, no less write myself!

If you're into food and cooking, first of all, dive deep into the blogosphere on this category - it's deep. And check out Beck & Posh's spreadsheet as a cool, concise starting point of links...

Friday, April 20, 2007

Creating a blog sidebar with stock prices

A blogger from Australia (Enough Wealth) created a really simple sidebar using a Google Spreadsheet which shows the up-to-date prices of his stock portfolio, as well as some calculated overall portfolio figures (% return, etc). This is a great simple example of how a spreadsheet can be used to create pretty functional web page widget...

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Spreadsheet data... See it, Name it, Talk about it.

Trying not to make this a shameless plug is futile... but everyone who knows me will forgive me, knowing my passion as a user outweighs my humility as a product manager ;)

You can Chart! Of course it's not perfect yet... but it sure is easy... and convenient. And, my favorite part is this:

I can embed a chart in my blog! I showed that you can embed data in you blog in an earlier post, and the full instructions are in the Help Pages. Notice too that I've used a double-top-secret-beta feature to turn off the gridlines (described here)

For those of you who dig formulas and have the perpetual desire to do things "right", you can now assign nicknames to cell ranges and use those in formulas. You may have noticed that we've always supported range names imported from an excel spreadsheet, but we never provided a way to create new range names.... now we do (look on the "Formulas" tab).

If you want to leave little love notes for your accountant on the cell which describes your tax refund amount, for example, you can now create Cell Comments - use the right click or the "insert" dropdown to add comments to a cell...

ok... enough talk about the product... I'll stop for now...

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

& Presentations (soon...)

John Battelle interviewed Eric Schmidt today at the Web 2.0 conference in San Francisco. Very interesting discussion covering many topics, including a topic very close to my heart - the "coming soon" addition of Presentations into the Google Docs & Spreadsheets product. Sam wrote about it in our official google blog.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Run your business like this... please.

"Business can make a profit without losing its soul" - that's the punch line of this great Fortune article about Patagonia and it's leader Yvon Chouinard.

The "green is good" theme is fine... but that's not the part that struck me. It's more their focus on employees and customers and basically "doing the right thing" (no, not like the Spike Lee movie). The essence of the story (for me) is captured in these words by Susan Casey (who's page I would link to if not for the dead link on Fortune Mag's own site): "When the surf was up or the powder wafted down, employees would be where they ought to be: outside. If an employee's child was sick, the parent would also be where he ought to be: at home."

Thursday, April 5, 2007

Maps for me, my mom, my dad and my sister

No more talk of Mashups... Maps are maps... I always expected to be able to add my own pushpins and my own trails and notes, as should anyone, including my Mom. But I couldn't find the right mashup that did it the way i wanted - and, as my team knows, i couldn't code my own (well, i could, but it pretty much sucked). Luckily, the Google Maps team did the right thing and gave us "My Maps" as an inherent feature of Google Maps. I love maps - and now i can create them and share them... Here's my first attempt, which outlines the state of NJ and highlights great outdoors activity areas (hiking, biking, fly-fishing) - but it's still too sparse - so you should zoom into for now until I map out the whole state (huh!?).
I have to just stop sleeping at this point so i can play with all this stuff...

Monday, April 2, 2007

This maps mashup is different, really!

Ok... forget what i said... and slap me if you must... but the Maps API team at Google posted this really cool spreadsheets-to-maps API mashup idea. It really does bring together two of my favorite things (no, not Lobster and Legos) - Spreadsheets and Maps! (how boring does that make me sound?)
The only thing wrong with the demo of Seattle restaurants is that it's missing the Flying Fish! I just don't have the energy to create a push pin map of my own right now... but that's a cop out, 'cause i could do it in a flash with Pamela's Spreadsheet-to-Map wizard!

OK... NOW you can slap the next guy mentioning yet another maps mashup... ;)