Google Maps Bike There…for a safer, healthier, happier world. :-)


Where Is Michael Jones?

May 27, 2008 By: Peter Smith Category: Development

Or is it Michael T. Jones?

In any case, there is a Michael Jones who presented at the 2007 Where2.0 conference (not the 2008 conference; the one that just finished a few days ago). He is listed as the CTO (Chief Technology Officer) of Google Earth. He might now be the Chief Technology Evangelist for Google. He co-founded Keyhole Corporation before Google bought them and renamed their product Google Earth. He’s done time in serious positions at a couple of other companies, including Silicon Graphics—the premiere high end (visual) computing platform of several years ago (they’re now on the downslope). In short, this guy can make stuff happen; we need to put our idea in front of him. Your mission, should you choose to accept it… :)

Around twelve minutes into his presentation, Jones says:

“At Google, we don’t know when to tell users what they need. We respond to users with whatever they want.”

That’s good news, because we know what we want. And we’ve done good work so far in building this combined expression of support. Very good work.

In my last position, I worked as a technical support engineer. I dealt firsthand with what people were doing with our products out in the field, and I came to get a decent understanding of how feature requests were prioritized within our company. I decided that it was probably similar to the way a lot of companies did things. Every time I ran into a situation where a customer requested or asked about some particular feature, I logged it in our feature-tracking system. Easy enough. That would act as a natural “vote counter,” so to speak. It wouldn’t be the whole story, but it was an important part.

An emerging company often has very definite ideas of what types of products it hopes to build—and that is often a good strategy—but when they finally get real customers making real demands, the company building the software has the opportunity to listen to those customers and builds what they want. It can be a very democratic form of product building, depending on how good a company’s feedback loop is.

As customers of Google Maps, we want to continue to build momentum for this feature request until it reaches a fever pitch. We’ve been making good progress in making sure that a lot of people know about our request. We can be almost certain that some folks on the Google Maps/Transit/Earth teams know about our petition because we’ve had actual Google employees sign the petition (at least they claim so, and I’ve no reason to doubt them).

As a support engineer, when I witnessed the “critical mass” of a feature request, everyone in the company had heard about it from more than one customer or source. Myself and the other support folks would know of a few customers who wanted some feature. Sales folks would hear about it over the phone or from site visits. The CEO and biz dev folks would hear about it during partnership and strategy sessions. And then, one day, you’d be in the break room, grabbing a Diet Snapple, and there’d be a support person, and a sales person, and a couple of developers, and field engineer, and we’d shoot the breeze about whatever, and then…boom. Somehow the feature request would come up and we’d all decide informally that yes, this feature request was going to happen. Now all that remained was to formalize it, and figure out when it would be implemented and released. (OK, that’s not exactly how it went down, but it’s close enough. )

That’s the kind of effect we’re looking for. Even if a person is only familiar with the concept, that’s one less person that won’t have to have the value proposition explained to them, so when they’re in that circle—in the break room or in the board room—and the feature request comes up, they may not say, “Yes! That’s the best feature request ever!”, but they also won’t say, “What the heck is that?”

Michael Jones also says in that presentation that Google realizes that not everyone has cars. That’s another plus.

Google Earth is not technically Google Maps—what we’re primarily concerned with—but they’re very closely related. A certain Michael Jones (I’m not sure if this is our Michael Jones, because there is also a Michael T. Jones listed, though it’s probably the same person) will be presenting at yet another upcoming developer conference that starts tomorrow: Google I/O. (“I/O” typically means “Input/Output,” as in you put information into a program [input] and get information out of that program [output].) But in this case, Google says the I/O stands for “Innovation in the Open.” Innovation and open standards continue to be a very contentious issues on the internet; companies want to be on the correct side of things, but they also want to make sure they don’t give away the farm.

Google I/O is Google’s big, annual developer conference. And this year they’re doing a lot of geo-related workshops. There will be 15 geo-related sessions, and I’ve listed them below. For full info, check out the Google I/O site.

What to say to Mr. Jones, or any of the other folks in attendance, you might chat up? You can figure it out for yourself, I know, but if I was there, as a developer with a pet concern, I’d have my 10-second and 30-second pitches ready — they might go something like this:

“Hi Michael, I’m Peter Smith. Good presentation (hopefully!). Have y’all talked about doing bicycle navigation, like bicycle routing and directions, in addition to the default car routing?”

The bicycle navigation might not sink in at first, so it’s easiest to just give a synonym immediately after. Routing is the “mappy” technical term I’ve seen used when discussing directions. If he needs more info:

We want bike directions. Bike routes. There is an online petition right now with 33,000 signatures and growing. It started about three months ago at Google Maps’ default directions option is “Drive There.” Some major cities have “Take Mass Transit”—that’s awesome. And now we want a “Bike There” option so the growing numbers of us on bikes can figure out how to get from Point A to Point B safely. And as soon as that is done we want a ‘Walk There’ option. Nokia is releasing a pedestrian routing option for their upcoming Web 2.0 releases. People are going crazy for this stuff. 40% of all trips are less than two miles from home. Two miles is biking and walking distance. Most car pollution occurs within the first few minutes of operation. People want to get healthy and save the environment—we just need to meet them half way. Lots of people are working on mashups to provide this, but that’s not prominent enough. We want to mainstream bicycling, and we want Google’s help.

It’d be cool if we could just drop a stack of cheap business cards on one of the tables at the event.

Here is the list of geo-related sessions:

From Mashups to Mapplets
Wed 11:15am - 12:15pm Geo
David Day

Mapplets are mini-applications that run within Google Maps, allowing you to add new features or overlay your data directly onto Google Maps. These applications allow a developer to take advantage of the power of the Maps API while getting exposure to millions of users on Google Maps. In addition, Google provides free hosting, free bandwidth, and an official directory where users from all around the world can find your Mapplet.

We’ll introduce Mapplets in detail, explain the benefits of writing one, and walk through the details of how to get started. This includes what you need to host your Mapplet and best practices for gaining users.

Participants should have knowledge of basic JavaScript and HTML. Knowledge of the Google Gadgets API is recommended, but not required. We’ll discuss how Mapplets relate to Gadgets in this session.

Type: 101
David Day (Google)
Dave Day is a software engineer who works on Mapplets and the Google Maps API out of the Sydney office. Dave graduated from the University of Sydney with BSc/BE (Hons), where he focussed on Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, and has previously worked in the power industry writing simulation and database software.

Flash API for Google Maps
Wed 11:15am - 12:15pm Geo
Michael Jones

Google has recently introduced a Flash version of the Maps API so you can now create your own maps mashups using Flash. Write ActionScript 3.0 code around the Google Flex 2 map component to customize your map with markers, polylines, overlays and info windows. Learn how to get started in this session.

Type: 201

Harnessing StreetView, Static Maps, and other new additions to the Google Maps API
Wed 12:30pm - 1:30pm Geo
Ben Appleton

This session will introduce a few recent additions to the Maps API including Static Maps and Street View. We’ll show how to use the Static Maps API for fast page loads and printable maps. We’ll also show how to use the GStreetview objects to show Google Street View panoramic imagery in your site.

Participants should have previous experience working with the Google Maps API.

Type: 201
Ben Appleton (Google)
Ben is a software engineer in the Geo team. He currently leads Google’s Maps API team, previously leading Mapplets and adding KML support to Google Maps. Before joining Google, Ben obtained a PhD in image analysis at the University of Queensland.

The World’s Information in Context
Wed 1:45pm- 2:45pm Geo
Michael T. Jones

Google’s mission to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful is made both more accessible and more useful when that information is delivered in a geographic context. Michael will review the ways Google’s Geo team works to accomplish this in Google’s own Websites, on more than 100,000 other websites, and in dedicated software for personal computers and mobile phones.

Topics covered will include progress to date, new product directions, and key trends of importance to developers.

Type: 101
Michael T. Jones (Google)
Michael Jones is Google’s Chief Technology Advocate, charged with advancing the technology to organize the world’’s information and make it universally accessible and useful. He was formerly Chief Technologist of Google Maps, Earth, and Local Search——the teams responsible for providing location intelligence and information in global context to users worldwide. Before its acquisition by Google, Michael was CTO of Keyhole Corporation, the company that developed the technology used today in Google Earth. Previously he was CEO of Intrinsic Graphics and Director of Advanced Graphics at Silicon Graphics. A computer programmer since 4th grade, he is a prolific inventor, developer of notable scientific and computer graphics software, an engineering and business executive, and an avid traveler and photographer using a home-built 4 gigapixel camera made with parts from the U2/SR71

Map Mashups Session
Wed 3:00pm - 4:00pm Geo
Paul Rademacher

Session details TBA

Type: 101
Paul Rademacher (Google)
Paul Rademacher is the Technical Lead for the Google Earth API. Prior to joining Google in 2005, Paul was the creator of, a combination of Craigslist and Google Maps that kickstarted the mashup revolution. Paul holds a Ph.D. in Computer Science from UNC-Chapel Hill, and worked as an R&D Software Engineer for Dreamworks Animation on films including Shrek 2 and Madagascar.

Hands-On Maps API: Basic & Advanced
Wed 3:00pm - 5:15pm Geo
Pamela Fox

In this code lab, participants will create a map mashup that integrates various features of the Maps API such as driving directions, custom icons, and KML overlays. Attendees who’ve already used the Maps API can move on to the advanced section of the lab, where they will create custom maps from images, custom maps from ESRI data, and user-contributed maps with Google Spreadsheets.

Participants should have prior JavaScript experience.

Type: Code Lab
Pamela Fox (Google)
Pamela is the Developer Programs Engineer for the Google Maps API. She graduated from USC with her CS masters, where she helped grow the video games department and dabbled in the 3d animation and linguistics departments. She enjoys helping developers innovate with the Maps API and combine it with many of Google’s other amazing APIs.

Maps and Geo Session
Wed 4:15pm - 5:15pm Geo
Bart Locanthi

Session details TBA

Type: 101
Bart Locanthi (Google)
Bart Locanthi is a software engineer working with the LBC and Coupons teams. He earned a PhD in Computer Science from Caltech and worked at Bell Laboratories and Silicon Graphics prior to joining Google.

Parsing and Generating KML with Google’s KML Library
Wed 4:15pm - 5:15pm Geo
Michael Ashbridge

KML is a file format used to display geographic data in an earth browser, such as Google Earth, Google Maps and Google Maps for mobile. You can create KML files to pinpoint locations, add image overlays and expose rich data in new ways. This session will introduce Google’s open source KML library for working with KML files. We’ll explore its architecture and then show you how to parse and generate KML in your applications and scripts.

Participants should have basic familiarity with KML.

Type: 201
Michael Ashbridge (Google)
Michael is an engineer at Google and has worked on KML since he joined the company, designing the language, developing tools and applications, and helping it become an open standard.

Advanced KML
Thu 10:15am - 11:15am Geo
Bent Hagemark

This session will cover advanced techniques in KML for displaying data and creating dynamic presentations. We’ll show how to use Region to display very large datasets without clutter and without compromising performance. We’ll also look at how time features can be used to add animation effects and how NetworkLinkControl and Update can be used to make dynamic KML presentations.

Participants should have a strong background in KML.

Type: 201
Bent Hagemark (Google)
Bent is a software engineer at Google, working on KML and tools for KML. Before joining Google, Bent worked at Opera Software and Silicon Graphics.

My Maps Editing API
Thu 10:15am - 11:15am Geo
Keith Golden

Want to know how to add My Maps features on your own mashup? Come and learn how to use some of basic map creation tools from My Maps features and add to your own mashup or Mapplet.

Type: 201
Keith Golden (Google)
Keith is a software engineer on Google Maps. He currently leads Google’s “My Maps” team. Keith joined Google in 2005, before which he was a research scientist at NASA Ames Research Center. He has a PhD in computer science from the University of Washington.

Hands-On Maps API: Basic & Advanced
Thu 10:15am - 12:30pm Geo
Pamela Fox

In this code lab, participants will create a map mashup that integrates various features of the Maps API such as driving directions, custom icons, and KML overlays. Attendees who’ve already used the Maps API can move on to the advanced section of the lab, where they will create custom maps from images, custom maps from ESRI data, and user-contributed maps with Google Spreadsheets.

Participants should have prior JavaScript experience.

Type: Code Lab
Pamela Fox (Google)
Pamela is the Developer Programs Engineer for the Google Maps API. She graduated from USC with her CS masters, where she helped grow the video games department and dabbled in the 3d animation and linguistics departments. She enjoys helping developers innovate with the Maps API and combine it with many of Google’s other amazing APIs.

How to Index your Geo Data
Thu 11:30am - 12:30pm Geo
Lior Ron

Come and learn how to index the Geo data on your site (KML, GeoRSS), how to create a custom geo search on your site for your users, and how to access other geo data from the web using the local search API. Basic knowledge of KML is helpful, but not a must.

Type: 201
Lior Ron (Google)
Lior is the Product Manager for geo search in Google, where he is trying to help the world around us get mapped using the power of the masses. Before joining Google, Lior co-founded a medical device and a search startup, and served in various managerial positions in the Israeli Intelligence, where he worked on GIS and search problems. Lior holds an MBA from Stanford and BSc and MS from the Technion - the Israeli institute for technology.

Advanced Ruby Scripting for Google SketchUp
Thu 12:45pm - 1:45pm Geo
Sang Ahn, Scott Lininger

Google Sketchup contains a Ruby API for users who want to extend the capabilities of SketchUp. The interface allows users to create macros, such as automated component generators and additional tools, to be included in the menus within SketchUp. This session will cover two Ruby technologies that can be used to add functionality to SketchUp: WebDialogs and Ruby Extension Modules. For those comfortable with web programming, WebDialogs allow you to create rich user interfaces easily. For those with a native library they’d like to use, Ruby Extension Modules can help with high performance computations.

Type: 101
Sang Ahn (Google)
Sang Ahn is a software developer at Google working on SketchUp things related to OS X and API related. His previous employers include @Last Software (which was acquired by Google Inc.). In his spare time he likes to play with Lisp and Ruby. He plans on renovating his kitchen into a lambda function.
Scott Lininger (Google)
Scott is a software engineer on the SketchUp team. In his previous life he was a 3rd party developer like yourself, trying to build commercial tools on top of Google APIs. Now that he’s “on the inside,” his mission is to promote the idea of SketchUp as a Platform, and make it easy to build world class 3D applications by leveraging all that Google has to offer.

Fireside Chat: Google Maps & Earth
Thu 2:00pm - 3:00pm Geo
Google Geo engineering team

Fireside chats are a chance to talk to the product engineering teams. Come tell the team what you want, discuss issues and design decisions, and hear the team’s thoughts on just about whatever you ask.

Type: Fireside Chat

Hosting your Geo Data, an Overview of Design Options
Thu 3:15pm - 4:15pm Geo
Mano Marks

In this session, we will talk about various options for hosting your Geo data, including Google App Engine. We will outline different design patterns, highlighting the advantages and disadvantages of each, and show code samples. Specifically, we will look at storing Geo data as static files, in databases, and extracting Geo data from Google properties, such as Calendar and Spreadsheets.

This will be a higher level talk, focusing on overall design. However, some knowledge of scripting languages and databases would be helpful, as well as a basic understanding of KML and the Google Maps API.

Type: 101
Mano Marks (Google)
Mano Marks is a Developer Programs Engineer at Google, providing developers help with the Keyhole Markup Language (KML) and other Geo APIs.