Monthly Archives: September 2008

My Trip to The GooglePlex

You know, I wasn’t quite sure how to write this particular post. Originally I wanted to do a post called “What Would I Do If Google Disappeared?” in which I would describe the various facets of life that Google directly affects my life.

Then recently I wanted to write a post about my trip to the GooglePlex in Mountain View, CA. I just had to see it since I’ve heard so much about it…almost built up to mythical status in my head.

Both ideas seemed good, so I think I’ll just roll them both into one big Google-y posting:

All the ways I use Google in life.

Boom. Something big happens and every Google service I currently use is gone. The best way for me to think of every Google service I use it by taking it step by step.

I wake up every day, and the first thing I do now is NOT go into the home office like I used to, but stay in bed and grab my iPhone. Almost immediately all my email from several different accounts are downloaded. Two of them utilizing Gmail.

So my day starts off without any spam mail whatsoever, thanks to Google Gmail. I later get up, then start my desktop and laptop…both of them have Google Desktop installed (which I use constantly), and then I soon after load up my internet browser, which is 50% of the time Google Chrome. The other 50% of my surfing is done on Internet Explorer since Chrome is so new and still has a few tiny bugs, but even my Internet Explorer has the lovely Google Toolbar installed on it.

I update invoices and many documents through Google Docs which is great. Many times a day I search the internet for something. The search engine I use? Take a guess…

Even though my business email addresses all have their own domains, all the mail is relayed through Gmail servers to filter out the spam.

When I look up videos or host my own product demonstration videos, of course I use YouTube which is owned by Google.

When I look at the analytics for my businesses, guess which service I use? Google Analytics. It’s by far the best website analytics service around, and it’s free.

For making money off websites I use Google Adsense.

For advertising my own products I use Google Adwords.

For accepting money on websites I use Google Checkout in addition to my merchant account.

For HouseOfRave searching, the site uses Google Sitesearch.

…and finally, as I type these very words into my internet browser, I’m using Blogger….ALSO owned by Google!

I’m sure there’s lots of different ways that Google affects my personal and business life that I forgot to mention, but I digress to continue to my next subject:

WOW, so Google plays a hand in almost everything I do. There’s many other companies that do this: Microsoft, AT&T, Johnson & Johnson and the list of big companies goes on…but Google is the most visible character I play with.

Myself and many others continue welcoming Google into our lives because they keep simplifying things for us, making things better and providing great tools.

Now where is all this stuff made, and how do they continue banging out such cool stuff at such breakneck speed? Well, I’m pretty sure my visit to the GooglePlex shed some light on that.

QUICK DISCLAIMER: Google, if I offend you in any way I apologize in advance. I don’t think anything I’m posting here is confidential or intrusive to Google. I might have gotten a few security gaurds on my case telling me to put the camera away, and I always obeyed, but here are the pics I have. Considering the above list of ways I use your services, you probably know EVERYTHING about me, which makes you sort of like God. Please don’t smite me.

Now keep in mind I have pretty much zero experience working for a big company, so I’m not too familiar with how workspaces are setup, but from what I know, Google seems to be on the cooler end.

I quickly realized why they call it the GooglePlex. It’s BIG. Each building isn’t particularly massive, but it’s definitely a large network of separate buildings (hence the ‘plex’). In the relatively small city of Mountain View, CA., Google’s offices hold roughly 15,000+ people and is still growing. It occupies 47 buildings.

At first I thought I was driving through a large business park, but quickly realized that every building I was passing had a Google sign. Some are buildings that existed previously, some were just recently built for Google, and more are in construction, but they’re all Google’s.

So walking through a typical building might look something like this:

Very nice, serene landscaping coupled with the beautiful year-round weather of Mountain View makes a nice combination.

But for the most part, the main attraction at Google is the food. From what I’ve read, I had this weird impression the Google cafeteria would be some crazy Willy Wonka-like wonderland with chefs sliding down poles and food being tossed into your plate by Oompa Loompas, but it was a little different.

Have you ever been to Las Vegas and eaten at one of those expensive buffets at a nice casino? It was kind of like that.

So the entrance to the main cafeteria building looked like this, with lots of people opting to eat outside:

I personally don’t like buffets too much because there’s just WAY too much stuff to eat. However there’s something to please EVERYONE at Google!

Google provides free breakfast, free lunch, free dinner and free snacks to all their employees…and they’re welcome to bring guests and family often as they wish. Many Googlers feel absolutely no need to eat anywhere else.

They have every type of cuisine you can imagine, and hire some of the best chefs around. From the main buffet area here’s what I chose:

I eat weird things at buffets, and wasn’t particularly hungry, so don’t judge the quality of the food by my diet.

What’s also cool is they have 19 other cafeteria locations, each with a theme. One of them is called ‘Seven’ or something like that….and it serves only foods made from the 7 original food groups. Near the main cafeteria there’s also a fruit smoothie bar that makes smoothies only from fresh fruits, vegetables and other stuff that was harvested practically yesterday.

There was a woman in one of the ancillary cafeterias I saw whose sole job was to grind wheatgrass into juice. It takes a huge amount of wheatgrass to make a little juice, and she puts this concentrated juice (which is supposedly full of stuff that’ll make you healthy) into a shot glass, then puts the shotglass in crushed ice. There’s roughly 20-30 shotglasses on ice full of ice-chilled wheatgrass juice which you can just walk by and drink. As for drinking pure, crushed wheatgrass….it honestly didn’t taste that bad.

Here’s me chillin’ with my Gmeal:

Another cool thing is many of the herbs, fruits and veggies used to make the food are grown on site at Google. In the same outdoor area where people sit to eat, the food is being grown. Fresh food AND locally grown…hard to complain.

Walking along one of the main buildings there was a full scale tyrannosaurus rex, one of the many pieces of funky art dotting the landscape:

Right alongside this garden were meeting rooms. Here’s an actual Google meeting taking place (with the T-Rex in the reflection):

So after taking pictures of a meeting room, I think I got a few uneasy stares and had to chill out with the camera action. In fact while indoors I wasn’t supposed to be taking any pictures at all (hence the lack of the cafeteria pictures).

This was one of the outdoor concourses of the main building. Pretty funky architecture:

Now you see that bike the guy is riding in the above picture? Well there’s hundreds of those around the GooglePlex that anyone can use. Lets say you need to go from building 25 to the building 40…well that’s a long walk. However simply walk outside the building, and you’re bound to see a fleet of these bikes just randomly parked around. Grab one and go!

I thought it was pretty fun just grabbing a bike and going, then not having to worry about securing it to a bike rack…just leave it and go, ready for the next person. By the way, I actually got in trouble for taking the above picture on the bike.

Here’s a bad picture of the visitors center:

On the walls they have several monitors projecting live Google searches from around the world. The monitors quickly scrolled keywords, maybe 1 or 2 per second. From what I understand, they’re filtered for profanity, or else it’d be a very offensive visitors center!

And finally here’s the picture I call my “SEO Picture.” Search optimization at its best, literally on top of Google!

So that was my Google trip. This was one of the first corporate environments I’ve ever stepped in (besides Take Your Kid To Work Day), and I must say one thing:

It reminded me of college.

It was a bunch of smart, young people working hard on projects, riding bikes around, working and playing in the same area and everyone lives close by and you don’t necessarily have to show up every day.

There are however some subtle differences such as you get PAID to be here, they provide everything for you completey free (gym, personal trainers, haircuts, car washing, dry cleaning, good food etc) and everyone is slightly older (but not by much).

From what I understand, this single Google location blows through $1,000,000/week on food alone. That number doesn’t include all the other amenities they provide. But considering the company brings in a billion and half dollars per month, that figure isn’t so crazy.

I definitely see why people would want to work here, and how they attract some of the best talent around. So I guess attracting top talent and keeping them very happy has definitely helped Google become such a strong, global force so quickly.

The only problem I found with Google:
was parking. I find it ironic that I can find the entire text of Moby Dick using Google in half a second, but it takes me 15 minutes to search for a parking spot. Ha! Perhaps they’ll find a solution for that too (update: I’ve been informed they offer free valet parking at buildings 40, 41, 42 and 43)!

BodyMonkey – Sell or Kill?

I’m leaning towards kill.

I’m at an interesting place with this one., the online store I started over a year ago has been stagnant for a while for one reason: Me.

I’ve successfully grown to a new level, but have neglected BodyMonkey. It started out with promise, but never got the attention it deserved. I’ve talked to many people who’ve tried maintaining two separate (but related) businesses, and it’s always tougher than expected (don’t say anything until you’ve tried it).

Some quick background info:
If you don’t know how House Of Rave works, you can read here.

Body Monkey and House Of Rave are both based off the same supplying company. HoR is more of a specialty light-up novelties shop while BodyMonkey was intended to carry all the other mainstream products the supplier carries.

I have drastically cut down on the amount of different projects I dabble, and it’s the best move I ever made. With every new project I get a little more distracted, and this results in having several just-mediocre projects.

So I’ve decided this: I’m going to get rid of I can either sell it, or kill it. I really don’t care which one and just want it ended (at least for me).  The fewer things I have going on simultaneously, the better.

Bringing BodyMonkey to a good level will require a little work. Mainly keeping the site fresh and doing all the things I did for HoR the last few months. It’s on the Yahoo Shopping platform, so it brings in of orders just based through that without even marketing. Not to mention the site is already SEO’d quite well.

Sell It:
If I sell, the buyer gets a complete business in a box. The business has a very low cost structure, is easy to operate, everything is already done and it is already accepting (and making) orders.

However if I want to properly sell it I have to make a sales ad, tabulate profits, write about how it runs yadda yadda…I don’t want to do it. The site makes roughly a few hundred dollars a month (despite not being updated for a year…that’s not bad), and honestly I don’t keep any accounting for it. It has no debts and is ready to run and be updated. What it makes right now does not justify the asking price, but having the business ready to go with a good supplier does.

This site can easily be making several thousand dollars a month within the next few months (especially with the holiday season rolling around).

I think the ideal buyer is a reasonably competent computer person looking to buy a small business that already has a foothold, works well, requires little investment and no actual physical work or inventory (everything is drop shipped).

So why don’t I just sell it cheap? Well…look at BodyMonkey and then look at HouseOfRave….see a few similarities don’t you? In fact, the sites look exactly the same. Since both sites use the same supplier, there is the possibility that BodyMonkey will take away from HoR sales. They look the same, AND the product lineup will be similar (except BodyMonkey will always have a lot MORE products). For this reason, I’d rather forgo getting several thousand dollars for the business.

Kill It:
I basically pull the plug and it’s gone (actually, it’s more like a mouse click). I don’t get any money for it, but it’s already made back what I paid to make it and then some….so I’m not losing anything either.  I say good riddance and move on to my other projects with one less thing to worry about.

So unless I get an offer of at least between $5-$10K for the business, I kill it by months end. I think $10,000 is still kind of a pittance, and even if I get it, I won’t be happy about it.

However the growth of other projects is more important than dabbling around on this for any longer.

SO. Any offers? Give me a shout

P.S. If you need more information, here’s all the posts I’ve written about BodyMonkey.

Save Money When You Buy a Car

Buying a new car may be an every-day occurrence for some
people, but for most of us it’s a pretty big deal, and these days, even small
cars often have prices that are not that different from the down payment for a
home. It is possible to save money at the dealer’s lot, however. Here’s how.

Get Pre-Approved.

Especially on leased or used vehicles, the bulk of a dealer’s profit comes from their in-house financing, so if you want to save a significant amount of money that you’d otherwise pay in interest, your best bet is to visit your bank or credit union, and go to the dealer with your financing already arranged. If the dealer suggests they can beat the terms of the loan you have, ask them to put it in writing, and check their numbers with your own calculator.

Do Your Homework.

Before you ever set foot on a car lot, make a short list of the kinds of cars you want, and how much you’re willing to spend. Use magazines, print advertising, and the internet to research prices, options and availability. Formulate any questions you may have, and write them down so you won’t forget to ask them.

Shop Mid-Month, but Buy at the End.

It’s long been a myth that you should buy a car at the end of the month, when sales people are pushing to make their sales quotas, but it’s equally important that you be prepared for the pressure they’ll be exerting. To maximize your savings, and minimize their influence, make your first visit to a dealership or used car lot in the middle of the month. Take your test drive, gather information, and determine what options you want. Then, spend a week or two working out your financing (if you haven’t already), and researching the model you’ve chosen. Return to the
salesperson at the end of the month, ready to buy, and do some hard negotiations.

Take Notes.

When you go back to the dealership to actually buy your car, take copious notes. Not only will this give you a written record of what was said, and what price you were quoted, it makes it impossible for any salesperson to change the price mid-stream. Most salespeople would never do this, of course, but it can never hurt to be too careful, and it prevents you from paying more than you should.

Remember that buying a car is one of the most significant things we can do, and one of the most expensive. Never be afraid to walk away if you feel you aren’t getting the best deal, or if you don’t like the way you’re being treated. There is always another dealership down the block.

Red Light Photo Shoot

So I got another traffic ticket….except this time it was more high tech than all my previous ones:

One of those red light traffic cameras caught me running a light “slightly” after it turned red. To my defense, this particular light EVERYONE runs….although that excuse didn’t really help at court (seriously, I tried).

I must say, I’m a little jealous my ticket didn’t have a cool picture like David’s Viper. At least for the price of his ticket he got a nice, frameable picture!

From now on I’m only going to run red lights at scenic intersections.