Thursday, February 26, 2009

Geniuses at Play, on the Job

Unless you’re just off the shuttle from Alpha Centauri, you’re already aware of the product that made Google famous: its Search box. It’s become the card catalog for the Internet (and a whopping moneymaker for Google).

But any time you cram some 20,000 of the world’s smartest people into one company, you can expect to grow a garden of unrelated ideas. Especially when you give some of those geniuses one workday a week — Google’s famous “20 percent time”— to work on whatever projects fan their passions. And especially when you create Google Labs (, a Web site where the public can kick the tires on half-baked Google creations. Some Labs projects go on to become real Google services, and others are quietly snuffed out.

Such innovations — and a number of smart acquisitions — have led to hits like Google Earth, Gmail, Picasa, Google Docs, Blogger, YouTube, Google Calendar and others.

But they have also cultivated a vast jungle of lesser-known features. Unfortunately, it’s so vast, you’d need a professional tour guide to help you find the gems.

Hello, my name is David. Keep hands and feet inside the tram at all times.

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