This is my personal blog. The views expressed on these pages are mine alone and not those of my employer.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Advocating for the Web and Developers

I'm really passionate about the web and developers; I believe the web is one of the greatest gifts of our time, an amazing open system akin to the Library of Alexandria dropped into our laps. Much of my career has been about either extending the current web to have new functionality, such as Dojo Storage, RSH, and Dojo Offline, or imagining new kinds of browsers and new iterations of the web, such as Paper Airplane and HyperScope.

This coming Monday (December 3rd) I'm honored to be joining Google as a Developer Advocate. My job will be to evangelize the range of open source tools and APIs Google has released, such as Google Gears, GData, Android, and more. Google and the Web are in a virtuous cycle -- Google's DNA is built on an open web. When the Web does well, Google does well. Even better, Google is an open source, geek institution, where engineers are respected and run the place.

When I interviewed with the Developer Advocate team I found that all of them were passionate about evolving the web, keeping it an open resource for the world. Google has developed an amazing stable of open source tools that haven't had as much exposure as they should.

For example, have you checked out GData? It's basically smart syndication, what we used to call the lower-case semantic web at Rojo, where you have intelligent, semantic web services without the cruft and complexity of RDF -- you can access many of Google's sites as syndication feeds, delivered in Atom, and can update them using the Atom Publishing Protocol. GData is basically Atom + Atom Publishing Protocol, both open standards. There are GData feeds for Google Docs, YouTube, Calendar, and more -- nothing is stopping others from creating GData feeds as well, such as using GData behind the firewall for Enterprise 2.0 type niftiness.

Another cool tool is Google Gears, which is the team I will be working with initially. Google Gears is a browser plugin that helps to evolve the web in-place -- users can download a small plugin that augments the web browser with new functionality. The initial functionality is offline web applications, similar to the Dojo Offline work I did with SitePen. Google Gears is fully open source, under a BSD license. Do you have an idea on how to evolve the web, perhaps with cross-site XHR or cross-site package caching? You can create a Gears module and take part in the open source community.

I'm really excited about Google Gears ability to help sidestep the 5-year diffusion process it normally takes to get new functionality out to the web. Rather than waiting upwards of 5 to 7 years for a client-side relational database to appear in all the web browsers, for example, Gears simply bundled SQLite into itself, exposed it with a JavaScript API, and baked it into the Gears plugin. I think we are just beginning to see the power of Gears. Hopefully it can act as an accelerator to help keep the web open and functionally evolving over the next few years as users demand more from their web applications.

Promises

Even though one of my jobs is to promote Google's technologies to the developer community, that is only half my work -- the other half is to advocate for all of the developers outside of Google within Google. I will be internally advocating and fighting for the interests of developers and the web in general inside the halls at Google.

Google has a saying in our philosophy to "focus on the user and all else will follow." When it comes to developers I believe the same is true -- "focus on the needs and interests of the developer and all else will follow." To be honest I wouldn't be working at Google if I didn't believe Google has the ethics and drive to focus on developers and make the web a better place.

To that end, I want to make some promises to the wider community -- if you see me wavering on these I invite you to challenge me and call me out on them.

I promise to be honest and transparent. I will do my best to give you my real answer -- if I think some Google technology is not appropriate for the task you are trying to solve, I will tell you so and recommend a non-Google technology. I will also strive to be as transparent as I can. I know that Google has a strict secrecy policy, but working within that I will ensure that I remain in communication with developers as much as I can so they are not blindsided.

I promise to not suffer from NIH (Not Invented Here) syndrome and remain humble. While Google has alot of smart people, I believe that there are more smart people outside of Google than inside. NIH is a common problem that companies face -- they can refuse to look at external technologies that were Not Invented Here, promulgating their own instead even when the external ones are superior and winning. I will work hard to make sure I don't fall into that fallacy, and remain humble.

I promise to collaborate. One thing that used to frustrate me when I was outside of Google was the difficulty in collaborating with people inside of Google. Everything was either secret or was thrown over the fence already mostly finished. I promise to work hard not to replicate that -- I want to collaborate and brainstorm with folks across the community and other companies to figure out how to make the web a better place, with everything from structured brainstorming sessions at conferences, to hack days to actually implement some of these ideas. Let's start hacking.

I promise to not simply disappear. I will continue blogging, taking part in open source communities such as Dojo, and showing up at conferences. I won't simply disappear into the Googleplex :) There will probably be a slow down at first as I get aculturated to the new environment, however. I'll continue to hack on Dojo Offline -- hopefully I'll get some time to work on it at Google since it runs on Gears. I will continue to be a member of Douglas Engelbart's community and the HyperScope project, doing jams when we can to work on things like granular addressability and Purple Include -- in fact, I'm excited to see what kinds of stuff I can hack internally at Google to support advanced hypertext.

Any thoughts on all this? Post some comments and let's chat.

Best,
Brad

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Comments:
Hi mate,

I am so excited to see you joining the team. I know that we will learn a lot from you, and your move will be good for the entire Web community as well as Google!

Cheers,

Dion
 
Congrats on the new job, Brad. This seems like a really good position for you.
I hope that you'll continue innovating and blogging. Don't forget your personal research agenda! :-)
 
@dion: Thanks Dion.

@julien: Thanks Julien. I'm sure we will collaborate on some crazy scheme to do things in web browsers they aren't supposed to do ;) What kinds of things are you hacking on these days?
 
Brad, Congrats on getting called up to the Show! Sounds like a perfect fit.

Ryan
 
@ryan: Thanks Ryan.
 
Way cool, Brad. Looking forward to seeing how this stuff evolves.
 
Brad - I'm so happy I could almost google you.

...I said *almost*.

- Brent -
 
Hey, congrats. As a former Evangelist, I know the value of going into the big company and keeping your outside roots strong.
This is what I wrote Scoble when he joined Microsoft:
http://www.howardgreenstein.com/blog/2003/04/16.html
(sorry for the formatting)
Stuff still applies. Goog luck! (typo intended)
 
@brad, first big congrats. What a cool gig you're going into. Google's getting the better end of this deal you know? :)

One indulgence? Please, be sure what your teams do play nice with XCode? Recall exactly how pumped I was to watch the WWDC video touting dojo.
 
@lucas: Thanks.
@brent: LOL. At least buy me dinner and drinks before trying to Google me.
@howard: Thanks for the advice. You helped run WWWAC? I used to live in NYC and followed WWWAC back in the day. I see that you worked with Vic Gundotra as well -- he is in the Developer Relations group now, so I'll be working with him and getting to know him.

The advice in your blog post is very interesting and powerful -- I'm open to whatever other advice you might have, posted here or by email (b.r.a.d.n.e.u.b.e.r.g gmail.com -- remove the dots). It sounds like you have alot of experience. Were you an evangelist at Microsoft?
 
@gerald: Thanks for the kind comment. I don't personally use XCode, even though I use a Mac -- I use TextMate and sometimes Aptana. Have you found that Google stuff wasn't working well with XCode in the past? Any suggestions?
 
Fly lots of paper airplanes too!
 
Job sounds like a perfect fit for someone with your interests and skills. Practically an endowment!

Darius
 
Many congratulations, Brad; may your connection with Google be long and prosperous (both ways). Google has gotten a lot of favorable publicity recently with the political involvement of YouTube, and this is surely just the beginning.

Looking forward to seeing you and Bek again soon.


Love,

Bob Fink
 
Wow...the young buck scores! Congratulations...great to see a company like Google recognize your skills, talents, and passions!

Now can all your friends send you our resumes :-)?

--bill
 
Enjoy the new role.
I was at your Dojo talk @ the Google Dev day in San Jose in June.

Naomi

Ireland
 
Odd little bit of Google-style newspeak in the title of "Developer Advocate", sort of like the newspeak "Open" Android.

The casual reader would think you're going to advocate _for_ developers to the borg, not market to them, heh.

;-D
 
@gcomnz: Hi there. I agree it would be newspeak if my job were to only advocate for Google tech; however, my job is to also advocate for outside developers within Google and stand up for their interests.

@billdaul: Thanks :)

@naomi: Thanks for being at the talk; do you work at Google?
 
Hi Brad - congratulations! And of course glad to hear you are still on board with HyperScope! Yes, there could be some great synergy with all your passions via google.com! - All the best, Christina
 
obviously congrats.
youve found the ultimate co-working space that you were looking for.
Im especially envious of the crazy good food you'll get to eat for free each day. keep pushing it forward and keep Google from not being evil.
 
@christina: Thanks Christina! I'm itching to do another iteration of Purple Include that supports text ranges; a small JavaScript implementation of Stretch Text; and a small server-side proxy that can "inline" the code necessary to do granular addressability on any web page. Hopefully I'll get to hack those some time :) How was your summer and holidays?

@jay: Thanks Jay; one of the original ideas behind coworking was how to create a space like Googles, but for independent :) I'll still be dipping my toe into the coworking world from time to time. Are you still a part of any space? How is your video blogging going?
 
yep...still videoblogging like crazy over at ryanishungry.com and momentshowing.net. if you ever want to do a video for your group, let us know!
 
Brad,
I am a co-founder of WWWAC, and I worked on Vic's team as an Evangelist at Microsoft from 97-2000. If I think of other stuff, I'll pass it on. Enjoy!
 
I'm very excited for you and what could happen with your time at Google! One more step in the direction of an open web.
 
@Schlomo: Thanks Schlomo!
 
Congratulations Brad! Google hires good people. Both good at technical stuff and just good people in general. I know a few of them over there and now I have one more to add to that list. I'll be looking forward to seeing what you do at Google. :)

Enjoy the free food!
 
Wow ... good on you! A lot of people know you've really earned those stripes.

all the best!

p.s the search link for "GData" still on delivers a single link, to the GearsBlog post of 2007/10
 
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