Teaching Google Docs to be more collaborative, and my Google Starter Project

When I was working on Google Docs I pitched a few ideas. One idea was to compare each doc I save or that is shared with me to others already in my doclist and then suggest a folder to store all related docs in the future. As new items are created or shared with you, they'd be analyzed and tagged into different folders, and you could teach the system to become better at organizing by manually pruning your taxonomy and the items in it. The Product Manager loved this thinking—and if the whole team hadn't been migrating a colossal new backend called Cosmo, perhaps it would have been built. At its core, Adsense is an algorithm that finds "related terms" via a taxonomy of topics so it's not hard to imagine that if you used this algorithm you might be able to categorize docs better. I like to think that it might still be built. It would never replace a human-created taxonomy of collections (which is very idiosyncratic and domain-specific), but it might assist. Working at Google, where we dogfooded the Doclist and everything else, you'd quickly have a mountain of documents, but no or very few folders (who has time to do that organizing?). This system begins to solve that problem.

I also pitched and prototyped the idea that we could create collaborative workspaces, with tools that would allow users to collaborate on and non-destructively annotate any items (not just Google Docs). Shared folders, which launched on 13 October 2009, are just the start of that.

Google Starter Project
My starter project at Google was the Geo-Targeting Tool that enables the display of local results on Google.com. It launched in 2007 . Take a look at the screencast I made. That was an enormously satisfying experience for the whole team. Eric Schmidt, the Google CEO, wrote in his letter to the Google Board of Directors: "a key achievment of the year was...a much-improved user experience for geo-targeting..." We also received favorable reviews from search engine bloggers and tens of thousands of emails from actual users in 39 languages...(gratifying to have one's work so carefully scrutinized, I have to say).

In 2014 I'm living in Austin, Texas, and helping early-stage startups discover new products through a combination of user experience research (both quantitative and qualitative), product management expertise, and user experience design acumen.

In 2009 I was helping The Economist become the destination of choice for discourse and debate, and developing a social media platform for a community of thinkers. So far, we have most of the top-level categories in beta on a new open source platform, and now we're working on something we call The Economist Asks.