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Andy Hertzfeld tells about the team behind Google+ Circles (plus.google.com)
199 points by dirtyaura on July 1, 2011 | hide | past | web | favorite | 47 comments



You've got to hand it to him for being so classy and humble about it. It's much easier to be quiet and take the praise. Only when someone is modest enough and truly believes that others deserve credit does he/she actually advocate for other people on his/her team.


Humble? Look at the first two sentences after the introduction: "I am indeed the main individual behind the interaction design and implementation of the circle editor. I conceived, designed and implemented a compelling prototype for it almost single-handedly". And then, the first sentence of the following paragraph "Steven Levy's excellent Wired article got the story right - I wrote the circle editor and then recently widened my focus to the overall Google Plus user experience."

In my opinion, in order for me to believe Andy is actually humble, the last sentence, "Suffice it to say that Google Plus is the creation of large, talented team that I'm proud to be a part of", should have been the first one.


I think you are missing what he is actually doing - he states that the part he is wholly responsible for is just one tiny part of the whole, and that all the other credit given to whom is wrong. His first statement is meant to be a bit ironic.


I actually thought it was a humble brag. The word single handedly shouldn't appear in a post if you're trying to be completely humble.

Maybe he singlehandedly did the prototype, But how many great designers taught him, how many great designs did he study, before creating it?

I'm not trying to criticize him. Um, Designing the biggest new product for the biggest Internet company in the world is 'kinda' a big deal, and he should be proud. I just found this post to be a sneaky humble brag.


>Designing the biggest new product for the biggest Internet company in the world is 'kinda' a big deal

Circles is the greatest thing since the invention of the wheel.

(I speak in jest of course, and I hope you will forgive a bit of levity on the HN board on a Friday evening)


It's also refreshing that Google's marketing strategy isn't to perpetuate a myth that Larry Page is the mastermind of everything Google does.


Definitely. Google wants to ensure that people understand it's not a Steve Jobs type situation at Google. Innovation comes from everywhere. I think it's impressive that they could successfully implement a site-wide redesign despite the fragmented nature of the company. Ordered chaos.


> Google wants to ensure that people understand it's not a Steve Jobs type situation at Google.

I don't mean to be snarky but even a cursory examination of the evidence would make that pretty obvious. A bit of focus and cohesion would do their product quality some good.


I totally agree. Their recent focus on consistent design is a step in the right direction. However, we all know that Engineering wins pretty much every time at Google so I'm especially curious and pleasantly surprised they pulled a product like this off.


He's not trying to be humble or modest, he's just being honest.


I was impressed with the fact that this post was on plus. It's like Twitter, only with no size constraint and with discussions right on the post. I'm excited to see how its usage will pan out.


Or exactly like LiveJournal circa 2002.


Except without nested/threaded discussions. I don't know why the social web loves flat comments so much.


The circle of life... We're just in that stage of the cycle.

  while(true) {
    Start simple
    Add features
    Declare it too complex
    Abandon it and start again
  }


Flat comments ensure a narrative thread.


All too often they result in no thread whatsoever.


Like Twitter encourages? Or maybe you're referring to YouTube comments.


Okay, Twitter is more like a disassociated bag of nodes in a partially connected non-directional graph where half the edges don't connect to the node they're intended to connect to.

YouTube is a pack of raving howler monkeys with the occasional howler monkey researcher at the periphery. And, in fact, YouTube used to have threads, but they were still threads full of howler monkeys.

I'm talking more like your classic bulletin boards producing high quality content, like MetaFilter, Something Awful, and the like.


We agree on the sites, but I don't see what the conversation being flat has to do with it. Reddit is famous for the AMA threads, those are threaded.


Yeah, but try reading an AMA after it's been finished. It is really hard to find everything from the Askee.

I'm not intrinsically opposed to threads, but I'm not sure they're super beneficial outside of technical contexts or in an environment where people are expected to break a larger conversation off into it's own little set of discussions to keep the high level conversation easy to understand.


Narrative threads ensure a low signal/noise ratio and stifle natural discussion tangents.


I think it encourages a very high signal/noise ratio with the right moderation. eg whirlpool.net.au. Posters are encouraged to make their own threads, not go offtopic, etc.


I'm really starting to appreciate how Google+ has sort of replaced my need for Facebook to chat with friends, Twitter to quickly share links/thoughts, and a blog (like Tumblr) to share longer posts/ideas all at once, while maintaining extremely easy-to-use privacy controls. A truly brilliant product design, hopefully they can keep it up.


My first thought when I saw his post was "This looks likes a blog post".


I was wondering how long the posts could be and hoping that it could be like a blog integrated in your social feed. Yet another thing about Google+ that pleasantly surprises me.


Buzz is/was the same. If they hadn't forced Buzz down every one's throat, it might have been successful.

Buzz + suggest who to follow!


Buzz was basically the alpha version of what Google+ appears to be. Google+ has taken all of the good qualities of Buzz (the discussion), but filled in its giant holes. Name that it didn't have it's own home page. Navigated Buzz in Gmail was a pain. I actually preferred to use it on the mobile web page.


You've got Andy's name wrong, twice, in the headline. It's "Hertzfeld", with a t, and no i.


Doh. Thanks for pointing it out, maybe I learn and get it right next time. It seems that I can't edit the title to fix it.


Anyone interested in technology who hasn't read the stories on his site are missing out: http://www.folklore.org


It was nice of him to announce this using a service he single-handedly built in a weekend


Subtle trolling always works best


" I conceived, designed and implemented a compelling prototype for it almost single-handedly, and then wrote a fair percentage of the production ......but that's pretty much as far as it goes."

That's some modesty!.


For only the circles editor. His point is that he had very little to do with the rest of Google+ and nothing to do with the rest of Google's redesigns. He's still taking credit for the significant work he did on Circles, as he should.


He's taking full credit for a relatively minor part of the overall project, and setting the record straight.


"I conceived, designed and implemented a compelling prototype for it almost single-handedly, and then wrote a fair percentage of the production (...)"

I do this all the time, and have done it many times in the past. For some folks, it's really not a big deal, and not even rare/uncommon. Some people are idea rabbits and can spew out architecture/code, new products, etc. Some can't. Some are shades of grey.

Also, I'd rather see people be honest about the things they can do, than be dishonest about what they can't.


I thought that the UI was done in GWT, but that was a guess, and I was probably wrong. Anyone know?


Whenever a new Google site comes out, everyone always asks this question. I can only assume it is asked by people who only know Java and are terrified of JS (which seems to be GWT's primary audience, despite the framework's other advantages).

If you want to know, just pop open Firebug or Chrome's Inspector and search for the string "__gwt". I don't see it in Google+.

To my knowledge GWT is not actually used that much within Google. Most of the things it solves for developers are solved in other ways within Google anyway, and if you want really low-level control GWT is not the best option.


http://groups.google.com/group/google-web-toolkit/msg/37bf75...

has a list - just eyeballing it, it seems like about half of the major javascript apps from google are GWT. (the other half would likely be closure)


There is an overlap: GWT itself uses closure.


That's interesting. I've done my fair share of GWT development, and I didn't know about this, so I tried to find more info.

I've searched through the GWT source code, and I found no mention of the closure library (closure tools / closure compiler). There are obviously some mentions of javascript "closures", but that's all I found.

According to https://groups.google.com/group/closure-library-discuss/brow... , no code is shared between GWT and the closure library.

Where does GWT use Closure?


Good call on using Firebug - thanks.

Recently, I have been using either GWT or SmartGWT much more often than manually writing Javascript. I was curious if Google was consuming their own dog food. For casual UI developers like me (I specialize in other things) GWT really makes it easier to get stuff done.

I would be curious about how often GWT is used in small internal Google projects. From reading Mark Chu-Carroll's (very useful) book "Code in the Cloud" I got the impression that he liked to use GWT when he has to do any UIs. He works at Google.


They do eat their own dog food. They say they use it in AdWords and Orkut. But not here it doesn't appear.

I use GWT every time I write JS if I can help it because the static typing and large project management features of Java are nice (hell, I even wrote a wrapper for node.js in GWT)


Possibly Google Closure

If you look at the JS there are comments from Google Closure's testing framework.


Well, regardless of where the original JS came from it's not surprising that Google would use their JS compiler to package it.


Google's Closure goes way beyond the Closure Compiler:, check it out: http://code.google.com/closure/ .

In certain ways, it's similar to Dojo (http://dojotoolkit.org/) or YUI (http://developer.yahoo.com/yui/)


Not GWT, but Google Closure.




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