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Hi, I’m Brad Feld, a managing director at the Foundry Group who lives in Boulder, Colorado. I invest in software and Internet companies around the US, run marathons and read a lot.

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I Love Google’s Style

Comments (22)

Today Google announced that they had now raised the limit on number of contacts to 25,000 (from 10,000) for all Gmail users (including Google Apps users.)  Boom – done – deployed for everyone – and announced in a short and to the point blog post.

70 days ago I wrote a post titled Dear Google, I Have More Than 10,000 Contacts where I bitched loudly about this problem. I have about 6400 actual contact records and the other 3600 had been autofilled by Google’s magic “create a new contact record whenever you respond to someone” feature. This is a great feature as I get 100+ emails a day from people I’ve never communicated with before who I respond to. Suddenly, I couldn’t add any new contacts at all.

Impressively, Google Entreprise Support responded immediately to me. I learned that this issue was high on the priority list and being worked on. Several weeks ago, I was contacted again and let into (under NDA) an early adopter program to test out the new feature. Magically my contact limit was raised and everything worked as planned. And then today they rolled it out to every single Gmail user. Wow.

While I’m psyched with the feature, I’m really impressed how Google handles stuff like this. No one at Google was defensive about the issue – they just addressed it directly. No one said “we don’t support that” – they said “we are working on it.” No one made a big deal about it – they just did it, tested it, and rolled it out. For everyone.

Well done Google.

Dear Google, I Have More Than 10,000 Contacts

Comments (270)

I just received the “amusing email of the day” from Google. I feel like I’m in one step forward / one step back with Google Enterprise Support. If you read my two recent posts on this, you saw that I started by saying that it’s Time For Google To Get Serious About Enterprise Tech Support and I followed up with My Increasing Love Affair With Google Apps.

A few days ago, I realized that Google was no longer allowing me to enter new contacts. When I checked Contacts in Google Apps, I saw I had exactly 10,000. That triggered some neuron in my brain to fire at which point I did a – ahem – Google search and quickly found that the Apps limit is 10,000 contacts. I complained to Ross (our IT guy) who sent Google the following email:

One of our users has hit some sort of limit of 10,000 contacts – we need this increased as this user needs more than 10,000. Can you let me know how to increase this limit?

Early this morning Ross got the following response.

Hello Ross,

Thank you for your message. I understand that you are inquiring about the Contact limit per user for a Google Apps for Business account.

This is expected functionality at the moment and we suggest that you remove some of the contacts that you don’t use to free up some space on your account. You are not able to increase this amount, however if you would like you can submit a feature request for increasing the amount of Contacts each user has. To do this please follow these instructions

1. Login to your Google Apps account.

2. In your dashboard, scroll down to the very bottom on the screen and you will see a link called ‘Suggest a Feature.’

3. Click on this link and you will be able to fill out a feature request.

I hope you found this information useful, Ross and thank you for your understanding.

Dear Google, no, this is not helpful. While part of me fantasizes about never meeting anyone again in the future that I’d want to put in my Contact database (that’s the introvert part of me), my business dictates that I meet lots of new people every week. And CardMunch is relentless about munching their business cards and putting it in my Address Book (or – well – Contact Database). And – you are now the source repository for all of these dudes and dudettes!

I can’t imagine any particularly good reason why 10,000 would be the limit, or that I couldn’t simply pay you money (I will!) to get 20,000. Yeah, that seems like plenty – how about 20,000? Yeah, I know, we’ll never need more than 64K of RAM in a computer.

My Increasing Love Affair With Google Apps

Comments (39)

At Foundry Group, we have now completely switched to Google Apps. This started in August when I decided to Try Gmail For A Week. Five months later I am ready to declare this experiment a complete success.

As every day passes, I find a new magic happy thing that ties my life together better. Today it was Google rolling out a bookmark importer for Delicious.  Amy and I have been heavy delicious users, although I stopped a while ago when it was uncertain what delicious’ future was. Amy kept asking me what the long term solution was now that we are on Google Apps – it turns out that the answer is “import your Delicious tags into Google Bookmark and keep on going.”

About once a week I’m stymied by something, but the +1 each day nets out to +6 for the week. That’s fine for me – I figure out a work around and usually, voila, as if the $GOOG could read my mind, the thing that didn’t work right or didn’t exist suddenly appears.

Yesterday’s magic was finally connecting up my Youtube account (which was connected to my personal Gmail account) to my Google Apps account. Ahem – it did exactly what I wanted it to and now my Youtube life is smooth and happy again.

And even when I publicly criticize Google, they react amazingly well. A month ago I wrote a post titled Time For Google To Get Serious About Enterprise Tech Support. Within an hour of it going up, I got an email and a call from the head of Google Enterprise support. We talked through the issues, he acknowledged certain weaknesses, talked about what they were doing to improve things, and listened carefully to my very specific feedback on a few things. He connected up with our IT guy (Ross) and they spent some time going through our experiences. Again, he listened to the feedback. And we’ve seen real improvements based on what we told them. Oh, and now that we are through the migration, we almost never need support.

If anyone still doubts Google’s intention in the enterprise, you shouldn’t. Count me impressed.

Time For Google To Get Serious About Enterprise Tech Support

Comments (41)

We are in the final stages of completely switching Foundry Group to Google Apps. This began as an experiment in August 2010 when I decided to Try Gmail for a Week and evolved into an actual plan after Gmail Won Me Over in September 2010. We took it slow to make sure it was actually possible to easily switch from a legacy Microsoft Exchange environment where everyone’s brains were hard wired with Outlook and Windows and shared calendars managed by multiple assistants were a critical business function for a relatively small number of people who travelled constantly.

It’s been a huge success. Oh, and a bunch of Mac’s crept into the organization at the same time. I’m now 100% Mac and am amused by myself whenever I try to do something on a Windows machine (after using Windows or DOS for my entire professional life.) And the integration / proliferation with iPhones and iPads is entertainingly sweet.

For all of the success with the migration to Google Apps, there is one very big obvious thing missing. Google doesn’t have an enterprise support approach. We are lucky in that we have lots of friends at Google so when we need to do weird things (like – ahem – port my Google Voice number from my Gmail account to my Google Apps account) we are able to find someone to do the magic for us. Or when the Google Apps Migration for Microsoft Exchange tool crashes in the middle of the night on a mailbox migration that is 10 hours into its conversion, we can find our way to someone that actually works on this tool who makes some changes to the backend processor that fixes the problem. And, when this happens on another mailbox migration, we can get to them again to help us fix the problem while they debug the tool for our error case.

Now, there is a Google Enterprise Customer and Partner Site and there is plenty of Google Apps enterprise level help on the web. But that’s not the issue. At 7am, when the guy doing the migration checks in and sees a error message that says something like “Failure: While migrating Email for user=xxx@foundrygroup.com to Google user=xxx@foundrygroup.com Error:80041065″ you kind of want to call 1-800-HELPMERIGHTNOWBEFOREANYONESHOWSUPATTHEOFFICE.

There are nice, well proven pricing models for either (a) per instance support or (b) per user annual support. And, if Google wants to be price disruptive, just charge 10% of whatever Oracle or Microsoft charges. Or be like WordPerfect and charge nothing. But put a real enterprise level support organization behind this with humans to call.

The really cool thing about Google Apps is that once you are migrated, there doesn’t seem to be any need for support. I’ve been using Google Apps for four months and I don’t believe I’ve had a single issue that I couldn’t figure out myself. I’ve seen a number of new features automagically roll out and I’ve just started using them. Basically, the post conversion / deployment experience has been superb. And, someday, when Google finishes a real single sign on approach between my Gmail and Google Apps account and finishes their migration to their new infrastructure so I can really use things like Youtube on my Apps account without having to log out of apps / log into gmail / logout of gmail / log into apps to save stuff, I probably won’t even notice that there is any complexity.

Regardless of if and when Google ever gets around to this, I want to thank all of my friends at Google for their help whenever issues came up. You guys are awesome.

Gmail Has Won Me Over

Comments (24)

About a month ago I wrote a post titled Trying Gmail For A Week.  I haven’t thought about Outlook, Entourage, or Mac Mail for a month and I don’t think I’m ever going back.  It took about a week to rewire my brain for how conversations worked and what the keyboard shortcuts were, but not that I’m there it’s just awesome.

A few weeks ago Fred Wilson wrote a post titled Inbox Zero.  In it he mentioned two Gmail services he found indispensable – Priority Inbox (from Google) and Unsubscribe.com (from James Siminoff who created Phonetag, another great service.)  I agree with Fred on both of these, but have discovered a few extra things that are killer.  I’ll list them below and for balance talk about a few shortcomings.

Priority Inbox: I’ve seen numerous tweets and blogs about how Priority Inbox doesn’t really do much.  These are wrong / misinformed reactions.  The trick to Priority Inbox, like many other things, is to actually use it for a few weeks.  Part of using it is training it by quickly marking things up to “important” (by clicking +) or down to “everything else” (by clicking -).  A small configuration change can make Starred emails (for quick follow up) a different category.  I found that it only took about three days of this before I saw benefit and now (a month later) Priority Inbox gets it right 99 out of 100 times.  I get over 500 emails a day – there is a long list of them that fall in “Everything Else”.  I used to have to check / clear email obsessively throughout the day to stay at Inbox Zero.  With Priority Inbox I’m finding solid email stretches a couple of times during the day are more than enough for me to stay on top of everything.

Unsubscribe.com: Like many people, I’m stuck in the endless “unsubscribe from email lists” infinite loop.  I get vigilant for a few days and do the annoying unsubscribe drill one by one and knock a few off the list, but within a few weeks I’ve got even more.  I’ve never seemed to be able to eliminate all the stuff I don’t want, especially around an election when it all escalates like crazy.  With Unsubscribe.com, I simply click the Unsubscribe button in Gmail and the service gets rid of it.  Don’t bother with the trial – trust me and just pay $19 for the service for a year if endless mailing list email that you don’t want is a problem for you.

Google Voice: I’ve had a Google Voice for a long time but I never fully switched over to it.  The Google Voice integration with Gmail has tipped me over.  I’ve been dreaming about getting rid of my desktop phone for a while – I now find myself almost exclusively doing every call from my computer except when I’m not online (where I have to use my cell phone.)  More importantly, video chat and text chat is completely integrated within Gmail so from one screen I have email, my phone (inbound and outbound calling) Skype-equivalent video chat, and text chat.  While I still use Skype extensively (I’m bradfeld) I find I’m using it much less as I end up using brad.feld@gmail.com instead.

Gist: I’m an investor in Gist and use it for my unified contact manager.  Google Contacts is ok, but has a long way to go.  But Gist integration with Gmail at a data level is superb.  I’m still using Gmail’s consumer service so the integration is primarily at a data level, but I’m now playing around with a full switch over to Google Apps and the Gist + Google Apps integration (via the Google Apps Marketplace) just rocks.  In addition, there’s a new browser-based Gist add-on coming out shortly (hint hint) that will provide direct integration into the consumer version of Gmail.

GooTasks: Since I am an Inbox Zero guy, I don’t keep anything (including paper), but I do have a short task lists of things like blog posts I’m going to write.  I went through an Evernote phase recently but it’s overkill for me.  Google Tasks is perfect, but I didn’t have an obvious way to sync with my iPhone.  Now I do.

There are a handful of annoying things.  The biggest one is that I have multiple accounts on Google (brad.feld@gmail.com as well as brad@feld.com) and they aren’t tightly integrated across all services.  The other is the weak / inconsistent iPhone integration which keeps pushing me toward using an Android phone full time (I’m now carrying both an Android phone and an iPhone.)  My dad’s recent story on the Samsung Fascinate has me seriously considering a full time switch over to Android.

My “while I’m working” migration from a full Windows / Outlook / Exchange / Office world to an almost completely non-Microsoft world has been fascinating.  I’m in Seattle next week including a 24 hour stretch at Microsoft for some stuff – maybe it’ll come up and be an interesting discussion that my friends at Microsoft can learn from.  In the mean time, I think the next big switch will be an organization one completely over to a Google Apps infrastructure.

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