My Day At The Googleplex

In July, I had the very unique opportunity to travel to the San Francisco area to attend a one-day conference at the Googleplex. Getting an up-close look at a major Tech company is something I consider to be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, and it really opened my eyes to the sheer size of the company as well as the tech industry and its culture.

So what is the Googleplex?

The Googleplex is more than just Google’s headquarters. It covers an extensive area, with numerous buildings. Here, take a look for yourself: Googleplex on Google Maps.

On the day of the event, we caught the shuttle from the hotel to the Googleplex which takes you through part of the Silicon Valley. I’d have liked to explore a lot more, but as it was I saw quite a few buildings with signs of companies I recognized. And after a short drive, there we were!

arrived-at-google

Google, at last!

Google Partners All-Stars

The conference was the Google Partners All-Stars 2015, an event for agencies that achieved certain levels of success. Most of the people I met were either business owners, or people who ran or worked in the online departments of advertising agencies. I may have been the only software developer there, but I was happy to take things in from a development perspective.

google-partners-allstars

A huge thank you to Savvas Kyriakides of Savvy Search Marketing Ltd for inviting me to go as part of his team. This was an amazing opportunity to learn about Google directly from the people who are involved on a day-to-day basis, as well as talk about new ideas, business strategy, and more.

The conference was packed with information on Google’s latest advertising technology, as well as a few really great talks on topics like how Google encourages innovation.

Google Culture

Spending one day, most of it in a conference hall, didn’t allow me to see too much, but I did see some of the culture and was really impressed.

google-cafeteria

The picture above is one of the cafeterias. Actually, it was more like a buffet with a huge salad bar, Indian food, fajitas, drinks, and more. I came to realize that this was set up for Google employees to eat — for free! And there isn’t just one. The conference attendees were split into three groups, and based on the size of the Googleplex and number of employees, my guess is that there are more.

My understanding, based on observation and inquiries, is that Google employees get breakfast and lunch, and I even heard there are to-go suppers.

google-courtyard

And it goes far beyond the food. This is a photo of the courtyard next to where we ate lunch. There’s nice outdoor furniture, a beach volleyball court, two big smoker BBQs, and in one area they had an area set up for massages. Free, I assume.

So yeah, the culture around Google is amazing. I get the impression that employees spend most of their time in and around work, and that it’s more of a lifestyle rather than a job, so this type of environment and benefits really matter.

The Googleplex

After the conference, we got a walking tour of the Googleplex which took us around some of the main buildings and to the Google Store.

googleplex

googleplex-gps

GPS proof that I was there!

google-patio

Another taste of the Google culture. Looks like a great place to sit outside for lunch.

google-store

And the last stop, the Google Store, where you can find just about anything with “Google” printed on it. I was pleased to find an array of reasonably priced items in addition to the expensive bags and clothing.

That’s it! Overall, a really fun day in a unique location. Obviously, this barely scratches the surface of what is actually there at the Googleplex, and I can only imagine what exists behind the scenes that your average person doesn’t get to see.

1 Infinite Loop

On my recent trip to the Silicon Valley, I was fortunate enough to be able to make a side trip to see the Apple headquarters. Finally getting to visit the well known “1 Infinite Loop” was as rewarding as might be expected, and at least I can now say I’ve been there.

1 Infinite Loop

See this location on a map, and use Street View for a look around.

Unfortunately, getting a photo is about the most you can do. Despite the word “Visitors” on the sign, this only applies to people with an invite, and the only way to get past the entrance is if you have a host and are able to print a badge at one of the self serve stations.

Lastly, a tribute to Apple from the good old days on a related note:

10 PRINT “INFINITE LOOP”
20 GOTO 10

Travel Tips

If you want to visit the Apple Headquarters, here are a few quick tips:

  1. Plan for about 15 minutes to look around and get a photo. If you feel like walking the loop, you could probably do it in about 15 minutes. Sorry, wish there was more!
  2. The parking lot is huge, and I saw no visible notices about where or where not to park. It seemed safe enough to find a parking spot for a quick visit.
  3. I read about there being a store, but I didn’t see it. As it turns out, the store is under renovations. Watch for it again in the future.

Google Cardboard

This Virtual Reality viewer is one of the most unusual and interesting items I received at a recent conference at the Googleplex. It consists of a cardboard frame that you get to fold yourself, two lenses, and a magnetic button trigger. The front opens up, allowing you to place a smart phone inside, and if running the correct software can create a really great display.

Google Cardboard Virtual Reality Viewer

There are apps that let you do all sorts of things, from a virtual rollercoaster, to looking around on Mars, to navigating the streets around Paris. The educational and entertainment, and even business possibilities here are huge, and I’m surprised this isn’t more well known than it is.

This technology is meant to be open and available, and you can download printable templates to build your own. Of course you’ll need a few special items such as lenses, but all components are available to your average consumer. For those who want to jump right in and perhaps get something more solid than cardboard, you can find a number of viewers available online.

Read more about Google Cardboard: https://www.google.com/get/cardboard/

Debugging PHP Files From The Command Line

Here’s a handy tip for debugging PHP files when all you get is a blank white screen. You know something is wrong, but it isn’t telling you what. This is a common problem when editing custom template files for WordPress.

Error output can be configured by modifying the php.ini file, but this may not always be accessible. Another way to have PHP tell you where it’s having a problem is by going to the command line and running it there:

    $ php -l report.php 
    
    Parse error: parse error in report.php on line 834
    Errors parsing report.php

There it is: “line 834”. It’s a quick and simple solution, and should work for just about any PHP file.