InformationWeek reports on google’s new voice and video chat. Since I gotta check all all the new video tech, I dove right in. Hmm… who do I know who uses a gmail account who will be logged in right now?

So, I open gmail to check out my contacts, of which I have none. But, lo and behold, I can use my AOL buddy list. I sign in and ping my friend (name omitted to protect the innocent):

ultrasaurus03 (6:52:12 PM): yt?
friend (6:53:48 PM): Yes.
friend (6:53:51 PM): Youre’ okay with this?
friend (6:53:53 PM): “Your IM conversation with ultrasaurus03 will be saved in ultrasaurus03’s IM history in Gmail from now on. Learn more at”

OK, kindly big brother google is now tracking my every thought. Not an issue for this experiment, but duly noted.

Friend agrees to participate in my random technology experience. I tell him to hang on and I choose the video option. Ack! now I need to install…

Good thing I’m running Windows XP. It actually takes more than a few seconds to install…

maybe a minute or so…

but then I need to restart my browser.

Whew! I’m back. I login to gmail… and …

oh, gee. Not only do I need to have XP, but my friend does too. Time to find another friend.

Ok, now I’ve pinged another friend (via AIM) who has XP. He signs up for a gmail account. We add each other to our buddy lists. Then he installs the software. Whew.

Now we’re ready to chat… after one weird interaction (or lack thereof):

We’re actually communicating:

It’s a bit weird that it doesn’t seem to know he doesn’t have a camera — I really don’t need a large blank box on my screen while we have an audio conversation, but the quality of the audio is really quite good. I’m using the sucky built-in mic on my laptop but it doesn’t seem to be an issue like it is on some systems.

The official Google blog says “Gmail voice and video chat will be rolled out globally over the next day or so for Macs and PCs” — that was 3 days ago and no Mac version yet, but it is good to hear it is coming.

Interesting that Google chose to use audio-video technology from Vidyo rather than the ubiquitous Flash video. I would guess the decision not to use Flash stemmed from the superior audio conversation experience, since they did go with Flash video for the Google video site.

1) Listen. She notes that people will think you are smart if you listen — it’s not just the listening, but that what you say afterwards will be more relevant to the person you are talking to because you understand their context.

2) Focus. “Most companies die of indigestion, not starvation…. if you do one thing well, you will have the opportunity to do another.”

3) Make new mistakes.

Nice interview on

Can search query trends provide an accurate, reliable model of real-world phenomena? Some folks at Google have been tracking how often people search for flu-related terms and to what extent it relates to CDC data about how many people see their doctor with flu-like symptoms.

They have put together a compelling visualization along with a great article about the process. Here’s an excerpt:

“It turns out that traditional flu surveillance systems take 1-2 weeks to collect and release surveillance data, but Google search queries can be automatically counted very quickly. By making our flu estimates available each day, Google Flu Trends may provide an early-warning system for outbreaks of influenza.

“For epidemiologists, this is an exciting development, because early detection of a disease outbreak can reduce the number of people affected. If a new strain of influenza virus emerges under certain conditions, a pandemic could emerge and cause millions of deaths (as happened, for example, in 1918). Our up-to-date influenza estimates may enable public health officials and health professionals to better respond to seasonal epidemics and — though we hope never to find out — pandemics.”

The Google folk, Jeremy Ginsberg, Matthew Mohebbi, Rajan Patel, and Mark Smolinski, and Larry Brilliant have teamed up with Lynnette Brammer from the CDC and have written an article that has been accepted into the scientific journal Nature. Fascinating, yet somehow spooky.