Searches up: Beach Boy gets the grade and other trends from this week

Wouldn’t It Be Nice to get an A? Don’t Worry Baby, you’ll always have a chance to change that F.


That’s what Brian Wilson of the Beach Boys did this week when he went back to his high school for extra credit, turning an “F” he received in songwriting into an “A” …  58 years later later. A wave of searches about Wilson’s academic endeavors ensued: “Brian Wilson grade change,” “Brian Wilson back to school,” and “Where did Beach Boy Brian Wilson attend high school?” People are curious about where other well-known figures went to school as well. The most searched famous people and “high school” are Donald Trump, Kylie Jenner, James Franco, Jennifer Aniston and Kim Kardashian.


Here’s a peek at a few other top searches from this week, with data from Google News Lab.

  • Ballistic missile threat in Hawaii: On the day of the accidental false alarm, search interest for “fallout shelters” in Hawaii increased by nearly 10,000 percent. 
  • Counting down to the Winter Olympics: Searches for Katie Couric were 900 percent higher than her co-host Mike Tirico, and as of this week, the top-searched Olympic sports are ice hockey, snowboarding and figure skating. 
  • Shaking things up in Michigan: An unusual earthquake in Michigan turned out to be caused by a meteor. Searches for "meteor" were on a streak—in fact, they were 30 times higher than “Michigan earthquake.”
  • When life gives you snow, make snow cream: A mixture of snow and a dairy-based liquid makes this winter sweet treat, and search interest is on the rise. In the U.S., searches for “how to make snow cream” were 290 percent higher than “how to make ice cream.”
That’s it for this week, God Only Knows what trends will emerge next week.


Searches up: Beach Boy gets the grade and other trends from this week

Wouldn’t It Be Nice to get an A? Don’t Worry Baby, you’ll always have a chance to change that F.


That’s what Brian Wilson of the Beach Boys did this week when he went back to his high school for extra credit, turning an “F” he received in songwriting into an “A” …  58 years later later. A wave of searches about Wilson’s academic endeavors ensued: “Brian Wilson grade change,” “Brian Wilson back to school,” and “Where did Beach Boy Brian Wilson attend high school?” People are curious about where other well-known figures went to school as well. The most searched famous people and “high school” are Donald Trump, Kylie Jenner, James Franco, Jennifer Aniston and Kim Kardashian.


Here’s a peek at a few other top searches from this week, with data from Google News Lab.

  • Ballistic missile threat in Hawaii: On the day of the accidental false alarm, search interest for “fallout shelters” in Hawaii increased by nearly 10,000 percent. 
  • Counting down to the Winter Olympics: Searches for Katie Couric were 900 percent higher than her co-host Mike Tirico, and as of this week, the top-searched Olympic sports are ice hockey, snowboarding and figure skating. 
  • Shaking things up in Michigan: An unusual earthquake in Michigan turned out to be caused by a meteor. Searches for "meteor" were on a streak—in fact, they were 30 times higher than “Michigan earthquake.”
  • When life gives you snow, make snow cream: A mixture of snow and a dairy-based liquid makes this winter sweet treat, and search interest is on the rise. In the U.S., searches for “how to make snow cream” were 290 percent higher than “how to make ice cream.”
That’s it for this week, God Only Knows what trends will emerge next week.


Source: Search


Beta Channel Update for Chrome OS

The Beta channel has been updated to  64.0.3282.101 (Platform version: 10176.54.0) for most Chrome OS devices. This build contains a number of bug fixes, security updates and feature enhancements.  A list of changes can be found here.  

If you find new issues, please let us know by visiting our forum or filing a bug. Interested in switching channels? Find out how. You can submit feedback using ‘Report an issue...’ in the Chrome menu (3 vertical dots in the upper right corner of the browser).



Josafat Garcia
Google Chrome

Looking beyond code to make the future work for everyone

It’s clear that people need more options to thrive in the digital world. The next generation of workers will depend on how we evolve education and tech in the coming years.

When you think of how to help our workforce thrive and find opportunities in the digital world, the first word that often comes to mind is “code.” Nearly every digital-skills program over the past decade has focused on computer science, with a lot of emphasis on young students. Coding, of course, is vital and a core skill for America to invest in. Google has focused resources and employee time helping people from all backgrounds to code—from helping introduce students to the basics, to offering 10,000 free Udacity courses in coding for apps, to training other businesses in how to become experts in programming artificial intelligence. All of this will help meet the growing need for workers who can write the software that will power everyone’s businesses. And it will help countless people more move into in-demand, high paying careers.

But the focus on code has left a potentially bigger opportunity largely unexplored. In the past, people were educated, and learned job skills, and that was enough for a lifetime. Now, with technology changing rapidly and new job areas emerging and transforming constantly, that’s no longer the case. We need to focus on making lightweight, continuous education widely available. This is just as crucial to making sure that everyone can find opportunities in the future workplace. 

There are two areas that are relevant here. The first is around basic digital skills training. An office admin, for example, now needs to use online programs to run budgets, scheduling, accounting and more. While digital technology should be empowering people, it can often alienate them from their own jobs.

Some of these skills didn’t exist five years ago, yet workers are today expected to have them. A recent report by the Brookings Institute says that jobs in the U.S. requiring “medium-digital” skills in America have grown from 40 percent of jobs in 2002 to 48 percent of jobs in 2016.

The digital skills necessary to do these jobs are far easier to learn than code, and should be easier to deliver at scale. For example, we rolled out a “Grow with Google” program, and partnered with Goodwill last year to incorporate digital skills training into its already amazing training infrastructure for job seekers. One trainee spoke of the value of her own experiences. “Before I learned digital skills, I felt unsure of myself,” she says. “Now I feel confident. You have to feel confident in what you do in order to be successful and move on in life.”

Through these trainings, people learn about using technology to research, to plan events, analyze data and more. They don’t require a formal degree or certificate. We think there’s great scope to expand this model, and teach hard and soft skills that can empower a workforce that has access to constant, accredited learning opportunities as job requirements change.

Second, we have a huge opportunity to rethink training for jobs that are core to the digital economy, but that don’t require coding. IT support is a clear opportunity, here. Just as anyone has a clear path to becoming an auto-mechanic, we need a similar path to the 150,000 open positions for IT support, in which people maintain the machines and software that underpin technology services. Yet no training today efficiently connects people to that opportunity. 

We learned this ourselves through an IT-support apprenticeship program we offered, with the Bay Area’s Year Up job-training program. Over 90 percent of the young adults met or exceed Google’s expectations as apprentices, but we noticed they didn’t return to apply for full-time jobs. It turned out that the standard, two-year computer science degree cost too much time and money, teaching skills that those former apprentices simply didn’t need to start their careers.

We should make sure that the next generation of jobs are good jobs, in every sense.

So we developed, and just announced, a new IT certificate program alongside Coursera that’s far more focused and flexible. We believe in just 8 to 12 months, it teaches everything you need to be an IT support technician. IT support jobs are predicted to grow by 10 percent from 2016 to 2026, faster than most other occupations the government tracks. We’re giving 10,000 people free access to the course and will connect graduates to job opportunities at places like Bank of America, Walmart, Sprint, GE Digital, Infosys, TEKSystems, and the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center—as well as Google. If the program works, the payoff will be substantial. The median annual wage for IT support is close to the median salary in America.

You can imagine this lightweight, focused model being applied to other tech-related jobs of the future: robust certification programs for project management, delivery fleet operation, and other jobs no one can imagine today, but that will be obvious—and ubiquitous—in five years’ time. 

Moving beyond code and intensive degrees to these constant, lightweight and ubiquitous forms of education will take resources and experimentation. But that effort should help close today’s skills gaps, while making sure future skills gaps don’t open. That’s part of the reason Google has invested $1 billion over five years to help find new approaches to connect people to opportunities at work and help small and medium businesses everywhere grow in the digital economy. We should make sure that the next generation of jobs are good jobs, in every sense. Rather than thinking of education as the opening act, we need to make sure it’s a constant, natural and simple act across life—with lightweight, flexible courses, skills and programs available to everyone.

This essay also appeared on NBC News Think.

Storytelling in Six Seconds: Sundance Edition

In the nearly two years since we launched six-second bumper ads, we’ve seen that big creative ideas can come to life in the smallest of spaces. The world’s most creative minds have tested the limits of building evocative work in six seconds—and the ad community’s enthusiasm has spread beyond YouTube, as bumpers now regularly appear on TV and other digital platforms.

At Sundance this week, we’ll continue spurring on this creative revolution and unveil this year’s six-second challenge. We enlisted some of the brightest minds in creativity, film, and storytelling to draw inspiration from a timeless story, like Cinderella, Beauty and the Beast, Pinocchio, or Snow White. These tales have survived as fables, story books, animated movies, live-action films based on animated movies, and hit songs. Will they survive as six-second stories?

Amid the indie films, documentaries, and star sightings, there will be a handful of top creative agencies from all over the world contributing to this year’s six-second challenge—showing how the way we tell stories continues to evolve through different themes, voices, and media.

The agency interpretations of these stories cover a broad range of imagination and creativity, and demonstrate how much focus, emotion, and complexity can fit into a six-second format. They also show how just six seconds can trigger the desire to see much more. The following short films showcase the diversity of storytelling on display at Sundance, and we hope they inspire you to explore the power, possibility, and impact of short-form storytelling.

Agency: BBH London
Story Inspired By: The Ugly Duckling 




Agency: BBH China X Eagle Media
Story Inspired By: Hansel & Gretel



Agency: Energy BBDO
Story Inspired By: Three Little Pigs



Agency: Grey New York
Story Inspired By: Little Red Riding Hood





Agency: Hecho En 72
Story Inspired By: Puss in Boots 





Agency: J. Walter Thompson New York
Story Inspired By: Beauty & the Beast 



Agency: Ogilvy UK
Story Inspired By: Rapunzel



Agency: 72andSunny Sydney
Story Inspired By: Goldilocks and the Three Bears



Agency: TBWA/Chiat/Day
Story Inspired By: Cinderella 



Agency: The Richards Group 
Story Inspired By: Rumpelstiltskin



Agency: Ogilvy India
Story: Thumbelina



Agency: Publicis New York
Story: Snow White



Posted by Sadie Thoma, Head of Creative Agency Development, Google








An example escalation policy — CRE life lessons



In an earlier blog post, we discussed the spectrum of engineering effort between reliability and feature development and the importance of describing when and how an organization should dedicate engineering time towards the reliability of a service that is out of SLO. In this post, we show a lightly-edited SLO escalation policy and associated rationales from a Google SRE team to illustrate the trade-offs that particular teams make to maintain a high development velocity.

This SRE team works with large teams of developers focused on different areas of the serving stack, which comprises around ten high-traffic services and a dozen or so smaller ones, all with SRE support. The team has shards in Europe and America, each covering 12 hours of a follow-the-sun on-call rotation. The supported services have both coarse top-level SLOs representing desired user experience and finer-grained SLOs representing the availability requirements of stack components; crucially the SRE team can route pages to dev teams at the granularity of an individual SLO, making "revoking support" for an SLO both cheap and quick. Alerting is configured to page when the service has burned nine hours of error budget within an hour, and file a ticket when it has burned one week of error budget over the previous week.

It's important to note that this policy is just an example, and probably a poor one if your SRE team supports a service with availability targets of 99.99% or higher. The industry that this Google team operates in is highly competitive and moves quickly, making feature iteration speed and time-to-market more important than maintaining high levels of availability.

Escalation policy preamble


Before getting into the specifics of the escalation policy, it's important to consider the following broad points.

The intent of an escalation policy is not to be completely proscriptive; SREs are expected to make judgement calls as to appropriate responses to situations they face. Instead, this document establishes reasonable thresholds for specific actions to take place, with the intent of reducing the likely range of responses and achieving a measure of consistency. It's structured as a series of thresholds that, when crossed, trigger the redirection of more engineering effort towards addressing an SLO violation.

Furthermore, SRE must focus on fixing the class of issue before declaring an incident resolved. This is a higher bar than fixing the issue itself. For example, if a bad flag flip causes a severe outage, reverting the flag flip is insufficient to bring the service back into SLO. SRE must instead ensure that flag flips in general are extremely unlikely to threaten the SLO in the future, with staged rollouts, automated rollbacks on push failures, and versioned configuration to tie flags to binary versions.

For the following four thresholds in the escalation policy, "bringing a service back into SLO" means:
  • finding the root cause and fixing the relevant class of issue, or
  • automating remediation such that ongoing manual intervention is no longer necessary, or 
  • simply waiting one week, if the class of issue is extremely unlikely to recur with frequency and severity sufficient to threaten the SLO in the future
In other words, a plan for manual remediation is not sufficient to consider the service back within SLO. Bear in mind that you usually need to understand the root cause of a violation to conclude that it's unlikely to recur or to automate remediation.


Escalation policy thresholds


Threshold 1 -  wherein SRE are notified that an SLO is potentially impacted

SRE will maintain alerting so as to be notified of danger to supported SLOs. Upon being notified, SRE will investigate and attempt to find and address the root cause. SRE will consider taking mitigating actions, including redirecting traffic at the load balancers and rolling back binary or configuration pushes. SRE on-call engineers will notify the dev team about the SLO impact and keep them updated as necessary, but no action on their part is required at this point.

Threshold 2 - wherein SRE escalates to the developers
  • If,
    • SRE have concluded they cannot bring the service into SLO without help, and
    • SRE and dev agree that the SLO represents desired user experience
  • Then,
    • SRE and dev on-calls prioritize fixing the root cause and update the bug daily
    • SRE escalates to dev leads for visibility and additional assistance if necessary
    • Alerting thresholds may be relaxed to avoid continually paging for the known issue, while continuing to provide protection against further regressions
  • When the service is brought back into SLO,
    • SRE will revert any alerting changes
    • SRE may create a postmortem
    • Or, if the SLO does not accurately represent desired user experience, the SRE, dev and product teams will agree to change or retire the SLO
Threshold 3 - wherein SRE pauses feature releases and focuses on reliability
  • If,
    • Conditions for the previous threshold are met for at least one week, and
    • The service has not been brought back into SLO, and
    • The 30-day error budget is exhausted
  • Then during the following week,
    • Only cherry-picked fixes for diagnosed root causes may be pushed to production
    • SRE may escalate to their leadership and dev management to request that members of the dev team prioritize finding and fixing the root cause over any non-emergency work
    • Daily updates may be made to an "escalations" mailing list (used to broadcast information about outages to a wide audience, including executive leadership).
  • When the service is brought back into SLO,
    • Normal binary releases resume
    • SRE creates a postmortem
    • Team members may re-prioritize normal project work

Threshold 4 - wherein SRE may escalate or revoke support

  • If,
    • Conditions for the previous threshold are met for at least one week, and
    • The service has not been brought back into SLO, and
    • The 90-day error budget is exhausted or the dev team is unwilling to pause feature work to improve reliability
  • Then,
    • SRE may escalate to executive leadership to commandeer more people dedicated to fixing the problem
    • SRE may revoke support for the SLO or the service, and re-direct or disable relevant alerting

On escalation and incident response


SREs are first responders, and there's an expectation that they'll make a reasonable effort to bring the service back within SLO before escalating to developers. As such, threshold 1 applies when the SRE team is notified about a violation, despite the one-week ticket alert indicating the seven-day budget is already exhausted. SRE should wait no longer than one week from the initial violation notification before escalating to developers, but they may exercise their own judgement as to whether escalation is appropriate before this point.

Every time SRE escalates, it’s important to ask developers whether the availability goals still represent the desired balance between reliability and development velocity. This gives them the choice between preserving availability goals by rolling back a new feature and temporarily relaxing them to preserve the availability of that feature for users if the latter is the desired user experience. For repeated violations of the same SLO in a short time window, you probably don't need to ask the question over and over again, though that's a strong signal that further escalation is necessary. It's also OK to insist that developers take back the pager for the service until they're willing to restore the previously-agreed availability targets—if they want to run a less reliable service temporarily so that a business-critical feature remains available while they work on its reliability, they can also shoulder the burden of its failures.

On blocking releases


Blocking releases is an appropriate course of action for three main reasons:
  1. Commonly, the largest source of burnt error budget at steady state is the release push. If you’ve already burned all your budget, not pushing new releases lowers the steady-state burn rate, bringing the service back into SLO more quickly
  2. It eliminates the risk of further unexpected SLO violations due to bugs in new code. This is also why any fixes for diagnosed root causes must be patched into the current release, rather than rolling forward to a new release
  3. While blocking releases is not intended as a punitive measure, it does directly impact release velocity, which the dev org cares about deeply. As such, tying SLO violations to reduced velocity aligns the incentives of both organizations. SRE wants the service to stay within SLO, the dev org wants to build new features quickly. This way, either both happen or neither do.
SRE should prefer to unblock feature releases sooner rather than later, once the root cause(s) of a violation has been found and fixed. Giving our dev teams the benefit of the doubt that there will be no further service degradation before the SLO is in compliance over a 30-day window strikes a more acceptable balance between reliability and velocity. This is effectively "borrowing" future error budget to unblock the release before the service is compliant, with the expectation that it will be within a reasonable timeframe. Absent any push-related outages, new features should increase user happiness with the service, repaying some of the unhappiness caused by the SLO violation.

SRE may choose not to unblock releases if pre-violation error-budget burn rates were close to the SLO threshold. In this case, there's less future budget to borrow, thus the risk of further violations is higher and the time until the service is SLO compliant will be significantly longer if releases are allowed to continue.

Summary


We hope that the above example gives you some ideas about how to make trade-offs between reliability and development velocity for a service where the latter is a key business priority. The main concessions to velocity are that SRE doesn’t immediately block releases when an SLO is violated, and provides a mechanism for them to resume before the SLO has returned to compliance with the informed consent of SRE. In the final post of the series, we'll take these policy thresholds out for a spin with some hypothetical scenarios.

Exploring art (through selfies) with Google Arts & Culture

https://storage.googleapis.com/gweb-uniblog-publish-prod/images/artsculture_portraithero.max-1100x1100.png
The Google Arts & Culture platform hosts millions of artifacts and pieces of art, ranging from prehistory to the contemporary, shared by museums across the world. But the prospect of exploring all that art can be daunting. To make it easier, we dreamt up a fun solution: connect people to art by way of a fundamental artistic pursuit, the search for the self … or, in this case, the selfie.


We created an experiment that matches your selfie with art from the collections of museums on Google Arts & Culture—and over the past few days, people have taken more than 30 million selfies. Even if your art look-alike is a surprise, we hope you discover something new in the process. (By the way, Google doesn't use your selfie for anything else and only keeps it for the time it takes to search for matches.)


That’s me, Michelle, the product manager for this feature!


We're so happy people are enjoying their selfie matches, but we're even happier that people haven't stopped with the selfie. They’ve jumped—face first—into the 6,000 exhibitions hosted on Google Arts & Culture, from more than 1,500 museum partners from 70 countries, to explore their artwork and learn about their stories.


At Google Arts & Culture, our software engineers are always experimenting with new and creative ways to connect you with art and culture. That’s how this selfie feature came about too. After the overwhelming response in parts of the U.S., we are excited to bring it to users in India. We’ll continue to partner with more museums to bring diverse cultures from every part of the world online (any museum can join!), so you can explore their stories and find even more portraits.


In the meantime, you can download the Google Arts & Culture app for iOS or Android and get face to face with art!

Posted by: Michelle Luo, Product Manager, Google Arts & Culture

Tea time with a touch of technology

Some of the world’s best tea is grown in the Darjeeling district of India, seen here against the backdrop of the Himalayas.

Editor’s Note: As part of our series of interviews with entrepreneurs across Asia Pacific who use the internet to grow, we spoke with Parvez Gupta, the co-founder of Udyan Tea in Siliguri, India, to find out how he uses technology to bring the best teas to tea lovers in India and beyond. 


After working for a multinational firm in Singapore, you returned home to start a business in India. Tell us about your motivations. 

I grew up in Siliguri, which is part of the Darjeeling district of West Bengal—where the world’s finest tea is grown. I love tea and I enjoyed savoring it from a young age. Being in Siliguri, I’m at the source of tea production, and I’ve been able to use the internet to bring fresher and better teas to people everywhere.

My father was also a huge inspiration. Growing up, I saw him build multiple businesses from the ground up and he inspired me to become an entrepreneur.

Parvez Gupta Udyan Tea
Udyan tea co-founder Parvez Gupta is passionate about sharing his Darjeeling tea culture with the rest of the country and the world.

Why tea and why Udyan?

My friend, Punit Poddar, and I started Udyan Tea in 2012. Punit is also deeply passionate about tea. He has been a tea taster for the past ten years and his family have been in the tea business for more than five decades. During our travels in India, we realized there was a severe lack of good quality tea in other parts of the country. As natives of Siliguri, we expect every cup of tea to be a great one. But we discovered that most good quality tea is exported to foreign markets.

We worked together to address the gap in the domestic market — too many firms catered to demand for fine teas abroad, but not at home. So Udyan Tea was born. Udyan means “garden” and that’s what we aim to provide, the finest tea from the garden to your cup. We select the best tea based on freshness, authenticity and quality. 

Punit Poddar Udyan
Udyan co-founder and tea taster Punit Poddar hails from a family that's been in the tea business for more than 50 years.

How do you find that Google helps your business?

The internet has opened up an entire new base of consumers to businesses of every kind. Before the internet, you could only transact with local communities. Today, with e-commerce, the possibilities are limitless. We are primarily focused on the Indian market, and close to 80% of our revenue is driven from within the country.  We depend entirely on the internet for selling our products, and we rely heavily on Google search to generate traffic to our business.

AdWords has been indispensable for generating new leads for us. We also use Search, Analytics, and Google My Business. We’ve also used Translate tools to close deals with customers who do not speak English at all, which is quite amazing if you think about it. So far, we have shipped products to over 25 countries!


Can you tell us about how your business has helped your community? 

We purchase teas from a number of small growers on an ongoing basis. This helps them fetch the best prices for their teas by eliminating middlemen and contributes to their sustainability. We also serve as consultants to other tea businesses and cafes, meaning we help other companies succeed in the tea business as well!

Tea tasting Udyan
"Udyan [उद्यान] means garden in Hindi, and that’s what we represent," explains Parvez Gupta, "tea fresh from the gardens".

Use ad content filtering to help improve your users’ ad experience

Cross posted from the AdMob blog.

Optimizing the ad experience on your app for a varied audience can be difficult. Showing users ads that are a better fit can improve their overall ad experience and help maximize your app’s revenue.

AdMob has launched a new feature that allows you to specify the content rating for Google ads served in your app. With the new max_ad_content_rating signal, you can now choose the content rating of Google demand that you want to deliver on a per-request basis.

Four content rating choices offer you the granularity you need to provide users at each level with a better user experience. The four new content rating choices are:

  • G: Content suitable for general audiences
  • PG: Content suitable for most audiences with parental guidance
  • T: Content suitable for teen and older audiences
  • MA: Content suitable only for mature audiences

You can start sending the new max_ad_content_rating signal in the Google Mobile Ads SDK by following these Android and iOS guides. To learn more about the new signal and the content rating choices, visit the AdMob help center or contact your Google account team.

Posted by Alexa Haushalter, Product Manager, AdMob

Academy for Ads- Your New Home for Ads Education

A Google certification shows your clients that you have the skills that can deliver positive results for their business. That’s why we offer professional certifications in AdWords, Analytics, Mobile Site development, Digital Sales, and more - so you can show you have the product knowledge they’re looking for.


Starting today, exams and certifications in Partners will be moving to a new home for growing and perfecting your advertising skills -- Google’s Academy for Ads .


Academy for Ads offers fast, easy-to-use education, with training, assessments, and certifications. It will help you learn advertising concepts in an interactive format and is perfect for agencies that need to develop and demonstrate knowledge of Google ad products like AdWords or DoubleClick.



Sign in to Academy for Ads to see your new account, where you’ll find your existing credentials from Google Partners. And when you’re due to retake any exams, you'll be able to do so from there.


This change is only related to education and certification, so you'll still be able to access your Google Partners account at google.com/partners for company affiliation, company profile, Partner status, promotional offers, and insights.


We hope you enjoy the new experience with Academy for Ads!

For more information, please visit our Help Center . You can also contact your Google Partners advisor to learn more or join the Google Partners North American Advertiser Community to ask questions and chat with fellow Partners.


See you online,

The Google Partners Team