Friday, March 30, 2012

Suggestions for Improving Google Products

Since Gmail "listened" to my suggestions last time, I figured I would write some more ideas for improving popular Google products:

Gmail -  Email is not just another open tab in someone's browser, but a basic function of the internet. There are many different tasks people switch between while using email, i.e reading, writing and searching. For example I might be writing an email to someone, and realize I need to do an email search to check a previous email I sent. Gmail should allow people to do these different tasks within one Gmail tab so they do not need to  perform these 3 steps each time: create a new tab, go to, and then go to the task they want. At the very least, they should  allow people to perform a search or compose a new email in a new tab, so they don't need to wait for to load before doing what they want.

In the meantime, in Chrome, I can search my Gmail from Chrome's address bar, and I created a bookmark of  the "compose email" page, so I don't need to wait for to load.

Calendar - Similarly, in Google Calendar, it would be nice if you could do everything from the main page. While one can create an event and set the time without going to a new page, it requires an additional click and page load to edit the event details. It would be nice if that could also be done in the same step as adding en event.

Also, the calendar view is restricted to the various styles of traditional dead-tree calendars. However, at the end of a month, most people probably want to see the beginning of the next month rather than the previous 3 weeks. The calendar should allow other weeks to be shown at the top besides the first week in the month. It should also allow one to specify how many weeks they want displayed.

Docs - Speaking of dead-trees, Docs should also let one switch off "page-view" mode. If Desktop Word has a "web layout", shouldn't online Google Docs?  While they let one get rid of the large space between pages, it would be convenient to be able to resize the view to any size, not just the width of a page.

To compete well with Word, I think they will need to provide full offline access, not just view-only mode. Most people don't use the various complexities in Word, so that feature should be enough. (They already offer arguably better sharing and collaboration features.)

Chrome - One thing I miss from Chrome that used to exist on Firefox is ironically the Google Toolbar. One of the main features I liked was the ability to click on Google search keywords to find them in a web result. Chrome has a different option here, but it doesn't let you choose when to view it, so it often fails to show up or just gets in the way. To find a keyword, there's always ctrl-F, but then you have to retype (or paste) the word you're looking for.

Another thing I missed from Firefox was the Smart Bar, which was able to suggest the most-visited websites right when I start typing them. A reader pointed out that this can be enabled in Chrome by making sure your Google account is connected to Chrome in settings. (I hadn't noticed that it had become disconnected when I changed my password a few months ago.)

Although these are mostly minor points, it would be nice if Google implemented some of these features. Maybe I'll mention it to them...

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

YCombinator Demo Day and Deadline

Ycombinator just had their demo day where 66 startups graduated the program and pitched to investors. In addition, tomorrow is the last day to apply for their summer cycle. Some interesting ones from current batch:

Crowdtilt: Kickstarter for raising money from friends.

Givespark: Kickstarter for celebrities to raise money for charity. Started by 4 students from Yeshiva University, including S. Laks. Short article about it on VentureBeat.

AnyVivo - They sell jellyfish online. Yes, jellyfish. They dominate the online jellyfish market. - Thye're supposed to be a good people search. - Control your computer using hand gestures. - Fix your broken iStuff.

For more info, see some of the posts on TechCrunch.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Tip of The Day

You know how annoying it is when you paste something into Gmail and it keeps the weird formatting? I finally pulled out the Google and discovered that in Chrome you can just press Ctrl-Shift-V to paste something just as text.

If you already pasted the text into Gmail and you want to remove formatting, click the "remove formatting" button on the top right (though it won't change the font). (Hat-tip:Lifehacker)

Friday, March 23, 2012

Crowdfunding passes in the Senate

The U.S. Senate on Thursday afternoon voted overwhelmingly in favor (73-26) of a “crowdfunding” bill, one that would enable private startup companies to turn to social media and websites like Kickstarter to solicit early investments from the general public, a practice currently prohibited by the government...

The amended version also puts tighter restrictions on how much money investors can gamble on the startups: 5 percent of their annual income or $2,000 in the case of those with annual incomes of $100,000 or less, whichever is greater, or 10 percent of income or $100,000 for those making $100,000 or more a year, whichever is less.

So it looks like regular people will soon be able to invest in startups. It seems kind of ridiculous that until now a person would violate the law when investing when there are so many other ways one can lose money without any potential benefits for society. This will help lower the barrier for entry for entrepreneurs, though that may increase the number of lower-quality startups. However, sometimes the crtowds may have more wisdom than professional funds. (They can also help with marketing!) Not sure why people making more than a million dollars cannot invest more than 100(k), its not like they'll suddenly become poor if they lose it all.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Paul Graham's Frightening Startup Ideas

Paul Graham discusses some "Frighteningly ambitious startup ideas" in a post on his blog (based on a speech he gave which is available here). He wants someone to replace 1)Google 2)email 3)universities 4)Hollywood 5)Steve Jobs 6)code optimization and 7)doctors.

For #1, he suggests a startups create a search for hackers, though I think it might be easier to focus first on certain high-revenue categories that Google doesn't do so well at. Both #1 and #7 sound very difficult, I'm not sure if a startup will be able to solve them, but there are larger companies (like IBM) which are making progress in those areas.

For #2, I don't know if email will be replaced anytime soon, but I assume more features will be added to it to help people manage its magnitude. Gmail and Hotmail already both have some features to help with this, and I assume such tools will improve.

#3 is an area I am especially interested in. I don't know if universities are about to disappear, but I think the traditional lecture model will be upended.

Another interesting link from today: Job Growth and Loss (LinkedIn). Looks pretty good for Tech stuff. Of course, some of the shrinking areas may be rebounding now, while some of the growing ones may be in a bubble (see the greenest one on the chart).

Friday, March 9, 2012

Flowchart for Finding a Web Host

This guide summarizes the recent posts about finding a web host, with some additional choices. You can view it as a PDF here, or below from Scribd.

Update: I created an updated version of this chart which contains many new hosting options that are now available.

[scribd id=84700158 key=key-2n3sj84j5f3mp2elbbt5 mode=list]