My new job at Chomp

Posted: May 29th, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: Chomp | No Comments »

On 5/2 I started my new job at Chomp, an app search engine startup in SF; I have been loving every minute. It’s been a month, so I wanted to write a post reflecting on the change and why it has been so positive. First, for those who want to learn more about the company, there are some excellent Techcrunch articles about Chomp’s seed funding, iPhone release, Android release, and most recently, Verizon V cast and Android Market cross store app search.

In no particular order here are the top 5 reasons why I’m thrilled to be working at Chomp

1. Chomp is smaller than Google by a factor of roughly 1000

On my first day I knew everyone’s name. I interact with the CTO and CEO on a daily basis. There are no remote offices. I know what everyone in the company is working on. The velocity of the team is incredible. The level of camaraderie is something I’ve never experienced before.

2. Everyone at Chomp is very competent AND works very hard

Good things happen at the intersection of willing and able. When a release needs to happen, part of the team stays late to make sure it happens. When an East coast press release goes out early, part of the team wakes up at 3AM to make sure everything goes smoothly. We will succeed or fail together, so we all put in our fair share to make sure the former and not the latter happens.

3. Billions of apps are downloaded each year and growth is exponential

I think this point is best summarized by the figure below:

More details can be found in the full slide deck from Matt Murphy and Mary Meeker here.

4. Chomp’s app search is superior to iTunes, Android Market, and other competitors

Try it out on Android and iTunes. Look for more details on the Chomp blog.

5. Chomp is roughly 15 blocks from my apartment

I used to commute 2+ hours by bus to Mountain View. Working in the city has allowed me to reclaim 10 hours of my life per week. It’s huge.

Finally, I’ve been asked what I have been and will be up to at Chomp. I will be working primarily on Search Quality and the monthly App Search Analytics report. Though I can’t say much about the former, here is a link to the latest edition of the latter (which was featured on the front page of Slide Share):

More fun with mongodb, map/reduce, and sorting records by value using pymongo

Posted: May 11th, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: mongodb, pymongo | 2 Comments »

A couple of weeks ago I promised a fun application in mongodb. That time has arrived. Suppose you have a collection of records and you want to group by some id (canonicalized url, user id, checkin venue) and see how many user actions (perhaps clicks, status updates, or checkins for the three examples listed) are associated with each. Those familiar with mongodb would ask, “Why not do this with the group() function?” Its limited to 20,000 unique ids. Many applications have more than this, so map/reduce is the way to go. Below I provide code to do this map reduce and then sort by value. From the shell sort is done as:

result.find().sort({u’value': -1}):

but if you run this from within python using the pymongo driver you will receive the error:

TypeError: if no direction is specified, key_or_list must be an instance of list

If this occurs make sure you sort with:

result.find().sort(u’value’, -1):

Some more hardcore/sophisticated mongodb examples/applications will be coming soon!

#!/usr/bin/env python

from bson.code import Code
from pymongo import Connection

# code for example map/reduce
db = Connection().map_reduce_example
map = Code(“function () {”
“emit(, 1)”
reduce = Code(“function (key, values) {”
” var total = 0;”
” for (var i = 0; i < values.length; i++) {" " total += values[i];" " }" " return total;" "}") result = db.things.map_reduce(map, reduce, "myresults") for doc in result.find().sort(u'value', -1): print doc

Bike accident

Posted: May 6th, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: Uncategorized | No Comments »

This morning at 12:15AM riding back from a birthday party at Benders I was hit by a pickup truck. I was not drunk or even tipsy and neither was the driver of the vehicle. On 19th street as I was crossing Mission a car quickly took a left hand turn in front of me as did the car behind it, which could not see me coming because its view was blocked. I braked hard, but slammed into the passenger side door of the car, my bike absorbed some of the impact, bending my front wheel such that it can no longer turn and literally bending the top part of my frame (pics below).

Bent CAAD9-4 frame closeup
Bent CAAD9-4 frame weld
Bent CAAD9-4 frame
bent front wheel

I went over the handle bars and did a nice faceplant into the car with the left side of my face. By some statistically improbability, other than two nice cuts on my face, a very bloody nose, and a few scrapes and bruises, I am fine, just a bit shaken up (pic below from after initial cleanup, didn’t include the bloodier pics).
Alex Braunstein after a bike accident

I easily could have died or been seriously injured. I rarely think about my mortality or the general fragility of human life. This forced me to. I was lucky, literally walking away from the accident scene. As I initially lay in the middle of the intersection of 19th and Mission, what struck me immediately (other than how much my face hurt) was how many and how quickly people were willing to help a complete stranger. After they asked me a bunch of questions, such as my name, where I was, what happened, and established that I didn’t have any sort of spinal injury, several people helped a bloody stranger to the curb, retrieved me napkins from a nearby restaurant, offered me water, and someone even offered me their jacket, which would clearly be ruined. It was incredibly humbling and gratifying to see complete strangers go out of their way for me.

So what did I learn from this experience? In a way, nothing really. I wasn’t doing anything dangerous or silly, but sometimes random bad shit happens. I didn’t have an out of body or religious experience. I’m not going to change the way I live my life, get a tribal armband or tramp stamp tattoo, or move to Walden pond. I intend to get right back on a bike once I have one that’s rideable.

Leaving Google

Posted: May 2nd, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: Uncategorized | No Comments »

After 21 months in my current job, I’ve decided that I’m ready for a new challenge. This week was my last at Google. I’ll do another post later about my new job/company, but I wanted to jot down some thoughts about Google, my role there, its future, and answer one or two common questions I’ve been receiving from friends, family, and coworkers.

First, let me say that Google is an awesome company filled with brilliant people. I am a much smarter, better person for having worked there, and I made several great friends in the process. If I decide the startup world isn’t for me, Google will probably be my first choice. Was it perfect? Of course not, that’s not true of any job. I did not choose to leave because my job was bad or I am pessimistic about Google’s future, rather, I was offered an incredible opportunity at a startup in SF that I simply couldn’t pass up (more on this later).

I think Google is facing two strategic threats right now:

  1. size
  2. social

Mainly due to its size, Google no longer has significant upside in terms of career trajectory or pecuniary compensation and was thus unable to match the startup opportunity. If Googlers feel that there isn’t upside, the company will bleed talent. At 25000ish employees, the company can no longer double in size every year or two and thus will continue to become more top heavy. Furthermore, Google has become a very safe place to work. Sure there are rapid growth areas within Google, but parts of the company just need warm bodies. Without fire under the feet of everyone, Google will not be able to regain its startup feel/mojo/velocity.

To begin our discussion of strategic threat 2, please answer the following question: “Is it harder to build a vibrant social network or a search engine?” If you answered the former you agree with me and 95% of the other people I asked. Just to be clear, I worked on the evaluation of Google’s social initiatives (yes I am using the word initiative intentionally to be as vague as possible) and nothing in this post should be construed in any way as my commentary on the quality of any Google social initiative past, present, or future. I am simply saying 1) FB has already climbed the social mountain and Google has not 2) the social mountain is higher than the search mountain.

Despite my previous comments, I think Google has made fantastic progress in this area. The relaunch of Social Search in February and the +1 button in March introduced two incredible tools that each have the potential to drastically improve the search experience; they both already drastically improve mine.

Over the next few years, Google will continue to grow and social will become much more important. It’s unclear if Google can “overcome” the threats I outlined. Rather, they need to work hard to address and ameliorate the negative consequences of its size and make social a seamless, enjoyable experience on Google properties, whatever that entails.

In the end, my decision to leave was tough and ultimately bittersweet. Im excited for the new adventures ahead, but will always look back fondly at the time I spent as a Googler.