Friday, September 16, 2011

Google Summit Aftermath and Stuff Inbetween

I just got home a bit late last night, from what could very well be one of the most unique and surreal internet gatherings I've ever been a part of.

Keep in mind that last June, I traveled to LA to attend E3, which crowded about 45,000 people from the video games industry into the LA Convention Center.  E3 was definitely the bigger deal as far as public eye is concerned, but it had a very different air to it.  Even though I had a media pass, I still felt like an outsider looking into the world of video gaming giants.  It was also very exhausting.

This isn't to say that the Google Top Contributor Summit wasn't exhausting, because the scheduled events took up most of the day (and I'd be lying if I said I didn't almost fall asleep once or twice during some of the slower parts).  The difference here is that Google did a great job into making us feel like we were the most important part of the summit.

Now, Google did use a good block of time to discuss new and upcoming features for various Google products, but nearly all of it is under NDA.  I can only discuss things that have already been publicly launched since.  Also, photos are a bit limited, as they were not allowed inside of any Google buildings.

Monday was nothing more than checking in to the Marriott hotel, registration for the summit, and getting to meet other Top Contributors and Google Guides.  The first YouTube TC I met was HappyCabbie, who was getting Wi-Fi set up on his laptop.  It wasn't long until we had to move from the lobby to the registration area.  The registration area itself was just too small for the large crowd in attendance, so we took refuge near the back, in what was called the 'Cloud Cafe'.  Google had their own Wi-Fi set up in this area, as well as public Chromebook stations.  Peggy K (both a YouTube and AdSense TC) was wondering around a bit at the time, as well.  Shortly after, Epontius and TexasHighDef joined the party.  FatTonyBBX eventually arrived after being stuck at the airport for a few hours.  After talking for a while, YTDavid and YTMike showed up and we talked a bit about the next few days.

Tuesday was the huge NDA day, where we spent most of the time in the Marriott's California Ballroom.  Half of the ballroom was the breakfast/lunch area, and the other half was the auditorium.  On the way there, I passed by another YouTube TC, rewboss.  All of the YouTube TC's that could make it were finally together.

Meals were standard hotel service type things, not really anything to write home about, but there were tons of snacks and drinks during breaks.  There was no excuse to be hungry for too long.

YouTube's portion of the product demo discussion was interesting.  We saw a demo of Cosmic Panda (along with Nyan Cat video watch page example), watched a video about YouTube Leanback that had buffering issues, and learned the sad news that Keyboard Cat has passed away.

There was a Q & A session, in which most of the questions were asked by the fellow YouTube TC's.  I think I was the only one to actually ask a question where the answer was even too confidential for the Summit!

After all the discussion, commendations, and so forth, there was the after party at the far end of the ballroom hallway.  There was loud music, and of course, plenty of snacks and drinks.  During this time, I believe TexasHighDef left to take photos of the San Francisco bay area.  The rest of us watched funny videos on HappyCabbie's laptop.

Monday ended for me with a bit of a detour.  I found out that a somewhat well-known online personality lived very close to the hotel.  He goes by the name of TomBobBlender, and is mostly known on YouTube for his music compositions in Mario Paint.  He also used to do live video game streaming on UStream, but has recently moved to Justin/Twitch TV.  It's a bit funny that when he drove up to the hotel, he was asked if he was part of the Google Summit.  We grabbed something to eat from a nearby In-N-Out Burger, and browsed around a Gamestop and Barnes & Noble in the San Jose area.  Unfortunately, neither of us knew the area very well, and had to rely on a GPS.  The GPS worked fine for a while, but on the way back to the hotel, it decided to stop giving directions.  Fortunately, I made it back to the hotel.

Wednesday was the trip to Mountain View.  This is where I learned just how much property Google owns in the area.  It's divided up into multiple buildings, and looks like a community college campus.  Our meals and meetings were held on the Crittenden campus.  With such a large area, Google staff can get around easily by the use of the various Google bikes scattered about.

Meals were held outside on the patio area.  We got to eat lunch with some YouTube Help Guides, including YTNatalie and YTAlyssa, as well as some new Guides.  A completely random surprise occurred when I had mentioned to YTNatalie that I once visited the studio of her favorite radio morning show.

Google are also huge video game fans, it seems.  Various buildings of the Crittenden campus included various oldschool arcade game cabinets among the air hockey and pool tables.  They were brought outside during the social event that was scheduled after our meetings.

We were also given a tour of Google's main campus.  One building had an actual Tetris themed wall inside, but unfortunately I couldn't take a picture of it.  Instead, I grabbed some pictures from the outside surrounding area.

The outside of the Android building has the best place for photos.  I believe this is the area that HappyCabbie referred to as the 'Candy Store'.  Note there is a Gingerbread man, and a Honeycomb.  See what they did, there?

Hey, look in the window!
The tour ended with a visit to the Google store.  I ended up buying the classic YouTube 'Play-er' T-Shirt.

The visit to Google was winding down, but before returning to the hotel, there was this Nyan Cat sighting:

You know you work for YouTube when...
After returning to the hotel, most of us YouTube TC's decided to get some food from a nearby steakhouse.  The steakhouse was called Birk's, and I knew I was very far from home when I looked through the menu.  All I got was a salad, with fries and a lemonade.  Also, the dessert menu had cigars on it.

Thursday was the day where (almost) everyone was leaving to go back home.  It's a bit disappointing that I had such an early flight, as the remaining YouTube TC's had arranged to visit YouTube's offices in San Bruno that day.  All of us actually caught the shuttle bus to the airport, but we had to part ways at that point.  I really wanted to go, not only to see YouTube's HQ, but because FatTonyBBX offered to perform a beatbox workshop of sorts.  Fortunately, the beatbox session is up on YouTube, and you can even see it here:

And, I believe that's just about it.  It was a pleasure meeting a bunch of Google guides and TC's, not only from YouTube, but from other products who I met as well.  It felt great to be part of Google for a few days.  I hear they are already planning for next year!