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January 28, 2008

Things Google Can Improve

Durrell Robinson has a lot of great ideas for Google and he decided to share them with you. I only selected some of the most interesting ideas and found their place inside this post.

Contact manager integration with Picasa Web Albums and customizable Facebook-like tags that allow you to tag a person you know in a picture you took and maybe even allow them to untag themselves like the Facebook allows. People will be more likely to upload and tag pictures if they are connected in some way to people they already know or have in their contact list. People are also more likely to make pictures public if they have a specific "public" in mind instead of the very large, abstract "public" that is anyone who uses Google and Google Image Search. We might also be more comfortable with it if we can untag ourselves. Also, people tagging us makes us more likely to be fully aware of the photo option and more likely to share our own photos (Google has an edge over Facebook because you can geotag photos and display them on Google Maps. People will also be able to use these pictures in Gmail which can be very helpful).

People tagging in Facebook. Screenshot licensed as Creative Commons.

A Picasa Albums quota that increases as your items are viewed more. So if you share photos with friends who actually view them and download them or comment on them, you get more storage space. If you add photos from your vacation that are viewed in the Picasa layer on Google Maps then you get more space, etc. So people who use it for personal storage stay at 1GB while people who use it to organize the world's information and make it universally accessible (;-)) get more space to continue doing it. It will be like people whose invites signed up got more invites to use when Gmail was in private beta. People will also probably be excited about the auto-space upgrades (maybe even send them a little email) and become obsessed with having as large a storage limit as possible and so they will begin to add more and more popular items. This will feed into itself.

It would be really nice to have text messages saved to my Gmail like Google Talk chats. I always wonder sometimes what I told someone and I hate having to delete sweet texts because I don't have space.

Integration of Google Docs and Picasa Web Albums into Gmail to allow the searching and sending of files directly from Gmail as attachments or otherwise. This will increase the ease of collaboration and other use of Google Documents that are sent and edited often. This will also help build a community around Picasa.

Add Google Profiles to Google Contact Manager so people can change the information listed for them. Also make it layered like in Orkut based on how close I am to someone (close friend, business associate, etc.). Consolidate my identity with my friends so I only show up once on their chat list whether I'm on GChat or AIM. They can also list my other screen names, location, birthday and status based on my calendar settings (busy v. available), etc. etc. but only in layers depending on how close I am to a contact. Allow me to list my spouse and have a link to their account/profile like in Facebook. Allow me to see if I have friends in common with my other contacts, etc. Give Google the social element that no other sight can have. Plaxo Pulse is hot but Google has interesting products that can make it even better than what Plaxo can offer.

Google's unified profiles, available in Google Maps and Google Reader.

Add a Google Site to everyone's Google Profile like a Facebook or MySpace page. It will have to have aspects (like photos, location, etc.) that can be made restricted based on friendship status. This is one of the reasons people share so much on Facebook. They feel that they better know the people who are the audience of their material. I don't want everyone in the world to see my daughter's baby photos. It will have several pages to it just like a regular website (not just a one-sided, slim webpage like Facebook and MySpace) and will be linked up to other Google services. Instead of fighting to get new users, Google can create heavy users out of its current loyal users. Like with many businesses, it is often wise to increase total sales by catering to repeat customers to tap into a steady source of longterm users who give regular feedback, are pioneer early adopters of technology, and who can help fine tune several types of products.

Integrate my other services into the Google Site so you can have a natural transition from this page to my profile (one of the pages on my site) and see maps and reviews I've written, a list of common friends' profiles and shared Google Reader subscriptions with recently shared posts (a page on my site), my library from Google Books (and Google Scholar) and books we have in common, my blog(s) (a page on my site), my photos and photos and videos I've been tagged in (a page on my site), upcoming events on my calendar that I want to share on my site for other people to add to their calendars.

Picasa Web Albums can be transformed into an art room looking page with paintings, photographs, cool frames, etc. as the background theme. There can be pictures with slideshows, comments, geotag/Google Maps info, etc. Either way, this can be people's creative design for showing off their pictures on a web page that is more unique and dynamic than the simply MySpace or Facebook pages that say "I have pictures. Here." You can display the most commented, shared, favorited, etc. pictures that we've uploaded.

An exhibit of Andrew Wyeth's art. Photo licensed as Creative Commons.

It would be great to have GrandCentral integration with Google Calendar. I can set certain settings that make a meeting send all calls to my work number so my assistant can take the call, write down what's important, etc. If I have nothing listed it can go to my cell depending on the number. It will make Calendar more useful (people will want to make sure they have all their events on their calendar and that their calendar's are up to date and once they are they will want to share it more (like with receptionist that maybe keeps it up or partner to coordinate schedules, etc.)) and more popular. It will also make people want phones with Google Calendar on them so they can change a little event (push it back 15 minutes) whenever necessary so their life is completely organized. People with Blackberries do it already all the time. It would also be really nice to be able to "Ignore with text" automatically. If I'm in a meeting, it can reply "I'm sorry I can't take your call right now. I'm in a meeting which I expect to end at 5:00 PM EST" or "I'm unavailable. I am available in approximately 2 Hours and 43 Minutes at 5:00PM EST" or something like that. Phone companies love giving an excuse to send texts and we would love for each time someone called me for it to tell them I'm busy and not to waste their time calling back in 15 minutes.

Sharing advertisements. I have often seen something that is somewhat related to me but not exactly what I need. It might, however, be exactly what my brother, dad, best friend, etc. were saying they were looking for. This might be an ad for a job (I'm sure my parents would love to send my brother a few of these his way when they come across them), or deals on a vacation getaway package, personal tutors, nail fungus remover, etc. If we could have an option to access your contacts and send them a recommended advertisement, we can tap into the "word of mouth" way that people have been selling things for years. Instead of judging a site by its content or tracking people's movement across several webpages (which people think is very creepy) we can allow people to be the judge of what others will like to see (this will also encourage people to pay more attention to ads even if not for themselves) based on how much better they know that person than Google ever could (or should). We might wanna try pay-per-action ads first since people might be more likely to click on an ad because its funny or send/share it as a prank instead of as a legitimate lead and pay-per-action can help flush out people being silly from people making purchases or signing up for services. Also, people tend to hate ads generally speaking but they are likely to be much more receptive to them when it comes with a friend's recommendation (like a word-of-mouth purchase which people tend to feel much more comfortable making than going on the advertisement alone or from a salesperson/solicitation). People will be more attentive to ads that catch their eye for sales and other events that if their friends saw it and didn't pass the information along they would be upset (i.e. Friend: I saw an ad the other day for exactly what you're talking about and I think it was cheaper. You: Well why did you send it to me or something? You knew before that I would've been interested in that!).


  1. Overall, I really love google products. But, it really annoys and frustrates me that I have better customization of reminders on my crappy aol calendar than I do on google calendar. For instance, I like (NEED) to make custom reminders for a month in advance of an important event/deadline (e.g., a tuition bill due date or drop/add deadline), that way I can really keep my eye on the event/deadline as it approaches. Normally I would choose 4 weeks, 3 weeks, 2 weeks, 1 week, 1 day for reminders in aol. I HATE that I can't do the same in google's calendar, because I would much rather use it. The most advanced reminder in google calendar is 1 week, and that's just lame.

  2. I don't know about everyone else, but I personally think this "Durrell" guy has some really nice ideas...

  3. I bet I could come up with a list of 50 missed integration opportunities between Google apps... Then again, trying to get feedback to Google isn't the most rewarding experience, and no doubt they have thought about most of these ideas already (but even Google has limited resources).

  4. Some of these ideas are pretty great.

    My biggest wishlist item would be the ability share a short comment to accompany items I share in Google Reader. I share a lot of posts but sometimes I want to add a brief comment on said posts, for my Google contacts, without having to send a full-on email.

  5. Why send an attached document from Google Docs or a photo from Picasa Web Albums if I can send a link? Isn't that the idea of Google Docs, to avoid offline copies of a document?

  6. What they need most is not more applications, but INTEGRATION. For instance, integrating Orkut with Picasa, in Orkut you can post pics and albums, why not make a Picasa album as well with the same features like mass uploading and so on?

    Google talk could also be much better by tighter integration with orkut and google docs. like collaborative sharing of the document in google docs via google talk.

    They have the TOOLS, but what is missing is INTEGRATION.

  7. I like the idea of Public Profile page+website. It can easily be done by revamping stupid Google Pages. You have the flexibility to create your own website and having tools to just drag and drop your information (using smart gadgets/widgets). These gadgets take your privacy settings (from a settings page) and display relevant information, depending on who is visiting your profile.

    I know they are going to launch a wiki (jotspot???) product. May be there we have this flexibility.

  8. Wasn't 2007 supposed to be the year of integration for Google? It would be a nice idea to post - how much integration Google has done in the past 1 year.

  9. Since GrandCentral was brought up, I'd love to see it integrated with Gmail Contact Manager.

    And since GrandCentral is alreday filtering inbound calls (i.e. match the number against contact records) how about popping a window with the callers data?

  10. I was reading the topic with suggestions for 2007 and a few which many said have not been implemented, such as

    - Synchronizing Google Calendar and Google contacts with SYNCML support for mobile devices .

    - Icalendar support in Google Calendar (read/write).

    All these things are still about integration, integrating our data in google with the things we use on a daily basis.

    SIP for google talk (much easier integration) - it was in the suggestion list for the past year, so far not much in gtalk client.

    Storage solution - Microsoft is offering its solution for Windows Live, Google should not be behind.

    2-way easy sync between Google Calendar & Outlook/Exchange/Symbian, as metioned before.

    Rememberthemilk features - Don't know why they have not been done so far.

    Transport in Gtalk - to increase its adoption rate. So far it's not that useful, most of the contacts are in MSN network or other.

    Any news from the 2007 suggestions from Google? Most of the new ones are dupes, just a few things have done, such as the Google OS for Phones (Android). I hope google investing in mobile phone market gives a boost to the SyncML status... And a lot else of people hopes...

  11. I like his ideas. Any way we can get a link to the full article?

  12. jdmartindale, I've linked the google document to my "Wish List" link on my blogger profile... If that helps.

  13. You know, some of us would rather keep our email and calendars completely separate from yet another invasive social network. Most people only use a select few Google services. Forcing them to integrate things like Google Reader and Picasa will drive customers away.

  14. I use Gmail, GDocs, GrandCentral, Blogger, Google Groups, and Google Pages. I have my business using Google Apps For Your Domain. I've published a few 'my maps' via the Google Maps service. I was a user, but have finally transferred my stuff to Zoho Wiki because Google has let Jot sit on the backburner for far too long.

    Wow, I guess I'm fairly Google-ized. But all this is the result of a years experimentation in doing more of my computing in the cloud, and I'm starting to migrate back to desktop apps (especially Outlook) because the lack of iintegration is taking its toll on me. Things just take longer to do, and are more of a pain.

    So, what I need most from Google - if they want to keep me and others like me - are:

    #1) Get GrandCentral out of limbo - announce a date when it will take its next step. Most of all, give us a way to escape 'press 1 to take the call' and integrate the Gmail's Contacts with GrandCentral's address book.

    2) Gmail/Apps For Your Domain desperately need a To-Do module.

    3) Sync the Calendar with Outlook. To-Do's as well, if you ever get them set up.

    4) Revamp Contacts. It's really an unsatisfactory experience right now. I've started using my Outlook Contacts (2007) again, and it is a breath of fresh air.

    5) Standardize the editors. We have different editors in all of these apps, it seems. The Gdocs one is the best; put it into the other apps ASAP.

    6) As more so-called 'social graph' integration creeps in, be sure to give us a way to opt out.

    These are my top issues, and they're pretty much showstoppers for me. If I don't start seeing movement on them soon, I'll probably leave for Zoho - or go back to more local apps. I realize that I'm far from Google's most important user, but I think you guys would be very wise to do some focus groups or surveys or something, and sharpen the priority on what users want as quickly as possible.

    Google is tossing a lot of neat things over the wall ... but from this side, it does feel like just that: stuff tossed over the wall and left out to pasture. Everyone I talk to feels this way.

  15. I'm still waiting to see a progress bar when I upload stuff on Gmail, etc.
    :-) It's very painful to keep seeing "waiting for" on the status bar without knowing whether anything is actually happening.

  16. Folders please!!

    You know, I would like to create a album in picasa with a city name (new York for example) and have other albuns inside it (like new-year 2006, central park, liberty statue, etc). The same goes for gmail.

    Also, a better interface for picasaweb (having to drag & move your photos is really bad, I want the page to adust to the picture size). And orkut could use picasa albums as blogger is kind of doing.

  17. Well done Durrell.

    I have had ideas like these floating around in my head for probably 2 years now. I even had a mock up (image, not code) of this, but a much simpler version, one that could probably be coded easily.

    I hope Google does get their isht together and do this, or something like it. Not so much for the social reasons, but for the personal integration reasons, I think.

    Good work.
    Wish I would have taken the time to do it myself.. (It would have been frighteningly close to what you have put together)


  18. AGAIN I come back to the same idea I've approached on several occasions and in several blogs. I don't care how good Google or anybody else thinks Google is...they still have one MAJOR flaw. A true contact/address book needs to be initiated.

    When I want to forward an email, but I don't want to include everyone in a group I instead have to remember every single person I want to send the email to. This can range from 15 to 25 different people. What really really disappoints me is that there is not a button you can click to show your contact list (while you are in the process of composing an email). Instead, you would have to go into your contacts and either make a note of every person or create a group. This is a monotonous waste of time and pain in the butt.

    If this were made available chances of me forgetting to email somebody will drastically decrease.

  19. I agree that the contact manager sucks, but you can still make groups in your contacts so you don't forget people. I think integrating Orkut, Google Profiles and Contact Manager into each other would go a long way to making sure your information is up to date (email addresses, phone numbers, birthdays, etc. etc.). This is really helpful for me since I have a lot of friends who I don't want to send updates when I change my college address or dorm room number.

    Something I haven't heard people talk about is maybe using the same labels from different services (Gmail, Google Docs, Notebooks, Reader, etc.) since there is often a lot of overlap between the Docs that I type up and share, the emails I send and receive, etc. etc. I could organize all of my work-related things under one label, jokes with coworkers under another, all my notebook stuff for research on a class under the same label as class emails and my google documents for that class, etc.

  20. I guess I didn't fully get my point across on this the way I intended.

    Say, for instance, I get an email that I want Joe, Bob, Jeff, Sally, and Henry to see...but I don't want Ralph, Paula, and Dan to see it then I must create a separate group for Joe, Bob, Jeff, Sally, and Henry.

    But, wait.......the next day I get another email, but this time I may not want Sally or Jeff to get it...but instead I want Ralph, Dan, Joe, Bob, Thomas, Henry, and Kelly to get it. Wow! That's ANOTHER group I have to create.

    10 minutes later I realize that I forgot somebody...oh well...darn.

    Then I see another email come in. I want this email to be seen by my mother, Fletcher, Sally, Kurt, my pastor, and Phillip....OH, and I almost forgot to type in Sam's name since I didn't have a list to look at (made readily available by a "Contacts" button while composing the email / forward). There's you yet another group. See where I'm going with this?

    Groups aren't the answer. Over a course of 1 to 2 weeks I could have created at least 6 different groups of people. Then I have to remember who is in what group when I can't remember individuals in the first place.

  21. It would be nice if gmail allows users to create different folders under their inbox. Also I'm not sure about the availability of message Filters in gmail, this would also be a useful facility to the end users..

  22. I wish there was a way to not get search results back for certain sites. For example, I often do searches for electronic circuits, and usually get results back from "PatentsOnline" or "DatasheetCatalog" these are just 2 of the many sites I don't care to ever visit again. If there was a way of saving "denied" websites in my account info (in cookies would be fine), so that results that tie back to these sites are not included in the list. I hate having to flip through pages of results for sites that I will not visit.

  23. Hello, I would like to ask you, if you are in a process of preparing, or just thinking about some kind of aplication that could find an answer to specific question? e.g. question: What is the largest lake in the world? simple answer: Caspian Sea ...

  24. Hello, I got few ideas for you.

    The google should come up sixth sense technology which is developed by pranav mistry. The sixth sense technology is more advanced then ipad or iphone. If google can bring this technology then it will be direct blow to apple. Sixth sense technology changes the way the people interact with surface or materials. Sixth sense technology is very friendly, reliable and give real time information.

    When even I browse the google home page I see the images, videos and data ...but audio is missing part. The user should able to upload the audio files directly from the android phone to google. It will become huge just like youtube.

    This is somewhat crazy idea. How about introducing games into google home page results. It should be inline with images, shopping, books, blogs.... the uses can play directly from home page results.

    The Questions and answers of should be integrated and should be should in google results or in it should store all the previous q & A so the user can browse the question quickly and find his answers also. It should be something like yahoo q&a plus original concept.

    I am big fan of orkut but when i search for people or organisation... i get annoyed that orkut result does not come up in google result, where as facebook relevant results come up . Orkut is google own product and its a shame that it does not show in google results.

    In new orkut beta version,when I put the images slideshow, it shows from the second images the first image is skipping away. Can you please fix this problem.

    I am very impressed with the google canary browser. Its very fast.

  25. I'd have a 'public' issue tracker. At this moment I have an issue with Google places. I don't know how to report it. I don't know how the issue stands once reported. etc. At one moment, the issue is solved. WTF?

    I'd like to have one central place where I can see MY issues. What's the status, what's the history, who is assigned to solve it. At this moment Google is a black box. Why?

  26. how about google add a place on the tool bar that I can cut and paste a news headline and have that artical explained in a clear, brief and understandable artical that makes sense to the average person. And how that artical may effect me, or who it will effect.

  27. How can i improve my google map ? and make it more popular?

  28. my google place are sometime showing other account, any advise


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