Taking a chance - 02/05/2007 - 1:00 PM:
On February 11th, 2007 I'm getting on a plane to fly to Mountain View, California, headquarters of Google, Inc. Once there, I'm going to try to pitch an idea to them that I think fits right in with the Google spirit and business model; catch is, I don't have an appointment, they don't know I'm coming, and I'm literally going to be showing up at their door and hoping they give me a meeting.
And if they don't give me one? Then I'm going to sit in their lobby like a spoiled child in hopes that they'll change their mind. :) Every once in a while you have to give an idea a shot, or you spend your entire life passing up ideas that seem just beyond your reach.
I'm Leaving on a Jet Plane - 02/11/2007 - 8:00 AM:
I spent the last few days preparing my presentation on the assumption that I need something to say when I do manage to sit down and talk with someone. Now, the hours of building a Flash presentation are behind me, and I'm getting on the plane to California in about three hours. The presentation is going with me in many back-up forms; I've got versions that work on Mac, Windows, and Linux on CD, flash drive, my laptop, and uploaded to the Internet. I figure that if you're going to show up at someone's front door, you might as well come prepared. Anything less would just be rude. I've got the camera with me, so I'll try to make a video update once I'm down there.
Arrived in Cali (Day 1) - 02/12/2007 - 9:00 AM:
So, I'm here. I'm staying with a friend's brother, Kit, in San Francisco, about 40 minutes outside of Mountain View. It's about 9:00 a.m. and I'm about to get in the car and drive to the Googleplex. I'll see if I can get a video post up tonight, depending on how things go, but until then, here's me in San Fran.:
It's getting late, though, so I've got to run. Wish me luck.
Roadblock #1 - 02/12/2007 - 9:00 PM:
I figured one of two things would happen at the Googleplex this morning. 1.) The process would be easy, I'd set up a meeting, and come back in a few days to make my pitch. 2.) They'd turn me away at the door. Unfortunately, they did the second one. You can't talk to anyone at Google about setting up a meeting, not in person; you have to submit your business idea via a form on their website. Here's the thing, though: their web form expresses less interest in knowing about you and your idea than the one Jack-in-the-Box uses to ask you how much you like their hamburgers. I wish I could say I was joking, but I kid you not. Look at this:
The Google form is on the left, and Jack-in-the-Box form is on the right. After you fill out Google's, you get a form e-mail saying that Google can't take the time to respond to your proposition via an actual human, but they appreciate your thoughts. It doesn't exactly give you confidence that they've really heard what you have to say, which is why I'm here in California. I went ahead and put together an online flash presentation of the idea - with audio - and submitted the link to them, anyway. Let's see if that does any good. If not, it's only the first day of the week.
First thing's first - 02/13/2007 - 8:53 AM:
First things first, a good portion of my morning is going to finishing the second video. Hopefully that will be done by noon. Then I have some other plans to see what we can do. :) There have been some minor successes to offset yesterday's rejection, but I'll tell you about those after the video! See ya soon.
The Video of the Slow - 02/13/2007 - 4:30 PM:
The video finally got done (four hours later than intended) after some computer issues - my laptop is a lot slower than my desktop back home. But, now the video is uploaded to Google Video and in processing, so it should be here on the site in an hour or two.
So I promised some good news, right? Well, since this morning this site has been taking off, and it seems to be getting noticed by the right people. About 600 people have arrived at this site in the last few hours from somewhere inside of the Googleplex at Mountain View, CA. So hello, Google friends. Welcome to the site. You have no idea how much I appreciate your taking the time to glance at this, and I hope you realize that I come in peace.
As I mention in the video back when there was only one person that had visited from the Googleplex, I came home yesterday and submitted a flash version of the presentation (with audio) to the biz. proposal form, but as of right now no one has watched it. I'm a little worried that - considering how many of these things they must get a week - the process will take too long and I'll be on a plane back to Idaho before anyone sees it.
So, if you're from Google and feel like cheering a little, please go find someone and tell them to look for the business proposal from Aaron Stanton, submitted on Feb. 12th, 2007, and to watch it all the way through. Please? :)
In the mean time, I'll have the next video up soon enough.
Nearly Success!! Big Progress!! - 02/14/2007 - 1:37 AM:
I stayed up late battling a computer that couldn't figure out how to render a video file like it's supposed to. I was tired and frustrated. I was worrying that maybe I was just pissing people off inside of Google, and not accomplishing anything.
...And then I finally finished the video, got it uploaded (almost two days later than I meant to - you'll understand when you see the video), and checked my e-mail one last time before crashing. The short of it? Looks like I'm going to get a chance to be heard out. I just got an e-mail from Google with the heading, "We can hear you :)"
There's no official time or details yet, but it looks like I've got someone to talk to, now. This makes me happy. More than anything - more than worrying that Google might hear the idea and not like it - I was worried the idea might not be heard at all. Can Google hear me?
Turns out that they can.
It makes the video I just spent all day on sort of obsolete, but I'm going to post it anyway simply because I battled my computer too much not to. Not posting it now would be like letting the computer win, and if that happens... well, pretty soon it forgets who is boss. I often miss my OSX.
I'll keep things updated here as I learn more. But now I'm tired, and I'm heading to bed. Thanks, Google. I owe you.
True Success! - 02/14/2007 - 12:00 PM:
I've got a meeting. In the video I say that it's at 2:30, but it was moved back to 4:30 following that. Who knows if they'll like the idea, but Google has stepped forward and done what I asked them to: take a chance, and hear out someone they could have easily ignored. But I don't have time to chat. I've got things to do. :)
I'm Exhausted, But I Think Things Are Moving Forward - 02/14/2007 - 10:14 PM:
I had to talk fast, but I got my meeting. We were short on time, which means I flew through the presentation way faster than I'd originally planned, but I think that was alright. David (the fellow I presented to) was extremely sharp, and picked up on what I was saying even when it was coming at him fast. He referred to what I said as "very intriguing", asked the right questions to indicate that he got it, and asked for more materials so that he could put the idea in front of the right people. I'm sure at some point everyone that sees this page wonders if the idea is really worth it - I mean, it was possible I'd walk in, present my idea, and it'd turn out to be something that Google hears five times a day. My meeting with David seemed to suggest that I laid that fear to rest, thankfully. My only concern is that we covered so many details so quickly that there were a lot of elements I could have addressed that I didn't. But the basic question, do I feel like I was heard out? Yes. It might have been fast, but I was taken seriously, listened to and understood, and I think the basics of the idea were successful conveyed.
I've been asked to put together a brief summary that makes it easier for busy people - everyone at Google is busy, I think - to look it over. I'll do that later tonight and tomorrow, and I'll make it as good as I can, but right now... I'm tired. Today's been an intense day, and I'm in the mood to watch Lost, which is on right now. So everyone reading this, you have a good night. Oh yeah, and hello to the people that recognized me today at the complex and said hi. It's appreciated. :)
Thanks for the Support, Everyone - 02/15/2007 - 7:30 AM:
Look at that; you sleep for six hours and people go and decide to cheer you on. :) I woke up this morning to an outpouring of e-mails from people wishing me luck, and it's just... well, it's amazing is what it is. So, I just had to mention that before I got to work this morning. Every e-mail I get is appreciated, trust me. I've had a few people worry that I'd stop updating the blog before we had a conclusion, but don't worry, I'll keep you updated until I have a firm end; if I send in my summary, it gets heard, and they say no, I'll tell you about it. If they say anything else, well, I'll certainly tell you about that, too. You'll be the first to know... well, after a number of key people I call first on my cell (I woke my parents up at 1:30 a.m. when I originally got confirmation of the meeting).
The other great mystery that seems to be plaguing people is: What is the idea? Hmmm... I'm convinced that half of you are paying attention because it's like the next episode of Lost - the mystery of it is driving you nuts. :)
Anyway, I have much work to do, so I don't really have time to be writing this. Thanks again, everyone.
A Little Update - 02/15/2007 - 1:50 PM:
The summary is done and in the process of being edited, so I've got just a second to break away from the work - I've been getting so many e-mails that I can't not post something about it. Since about 5:00 this morning, I've been getting e-mails from people wishing me luck at a rate about about 1 every minute and a half. :) It's simply fantastic. I've never experienced this level of support before, and I tell you... well... thank you. There's no way to describe how much that understates my sentiments, but there you go.
Now, back to work. I'm an hour behind where I wanted to be as is.
Proposal Summary Is Sent, Will Be Looked At Tomorrow - 02/15/2007 - 6:22 PM:
It's been a crazy last few hours. The proposal is in, and I've got confirmation that it'll be put in front of the right people tomorrow, and we'll work it out from there. There's been so much interest in the site lately that I'm almost embarrassed to say that it's too early for more news; the site was picked up on Digg and has had some server troubles from the influx of traffic. I'm now getting good luck e-mails at a rate of about 10 a minute, you crazy people. Just so you know, I sat down after sending off the proposal and read every single one of them, but responded to few, yet. I'll try to, in the next few days, but between responding to the e-mails, getting together another video post, and doing anything and everything that Google needs me to... well, it might be a little bit. Google has first priority, obviously. You might be interested to know that the site was covered in a TV news segment, and I've been asked to do some radio interviews when it's all over. So just wait, sooooon you'll be too tired of me to listen anymore. :) Honestly, I don't know how long I'll hold your interest, but I'll follow my thing through to the end and then get out of your way. Promise. :)
That said I'm looking forward to getting the next video out there - I think the story of how Google heard of this is really interesting, and you might think you know it, but you don't. This site was viewed by over 1500 employees inside of the Googleplex before it was seen by anyone else; it was passed, person-to-person, inside of Google like wild fire in less than a day. Before anyone else, Google employees themselves helped make sure I got this meeting. That's really something. Now, of course, 30,000 people have seen this site in the last hour, and there's a lot more people watching - but so far Google has lived up to their reputation of being open. Now, as long as I get a chance for a follow-up meeting, where I can talk a little slower -which I think I'll get, based on what I've heard - I can go home satisfied (assuming there's no big break).
Anyway, now I get to start working on the next video. I just couldn't leave the site for the night without telling people, once again, thanks. :)
P.S. For those of you that are nerds like myself, I went ahead and removed the 3px space between the letters. People were complaining, and this blog was getting way too long. Also, I'll look into an RSS feed, but man... time is one thing I don't have at the moment, so I'll do my best.
Added Forums - 02/15/2007 - 9:56 PM:
I've gotten a lot of e-mails about this, and I think it's a good idea: I've put in some CanGoogleHearMe Forums. Seriously, everyone that's wished me luck should know each other, because there's some real networking going on in the background here. If nothing else, I'm meeting interesting people. I didn't have time to set up an on-server script, so... sorry, I had to go third party, which means it has some advertising that I can't control and some color schemes which... well.... Anyway, give me shout there, too. More importantly, give each other a shout.
Note: Originally, I'd set up some crappy third-party forums which you can still find here. But in about an hour, the community wouldn't have that and provided a new one (thanks Paulius). It looks good. Heck, it looks great.
E-mails Are Keeping Me Awake! - 02/16/2007 - 5:25 AM:
I've been unable to sleep most of the night because my brain has been very active. Mainly, I've been thinking about the e-mails that people have been sending, until finally I got back up off the couch at 2:30 a.m. or so to film something and post it. Which, of course, means I got back to bed at around 4:00 a.m. It strikes me that there's something pretty amazing in these e-mails, and I couldn't sleep until I had shared some of them. I know you might be more interested in details about Google, but this is worth your time too. This video might not be as well cut as the others, but it's more significant. Don't believe me? Watch the video. You'll agree.
A BOLDED NOTE: Oh, for the love of... grr. This is why you don't do things at three in the morning. There are spelling errors in the video. Photoshop slides + no spell check + no sleep = spalling publems. And since it would take me an hour or two to fix, re-upload, and embed again... Well... it gets to stay like that for a little while. Sorry about that. :) Nothing I write in that video is the star of the show anyway; overlook my flub and pay attention to what is said. Please.
Some Pictures for the Down Time. - 02/16/2007 - 10:30 AM:
It might take a little bit of time for Google to figure out what to do with me, and since I can think of nothing more that I can do to help things in the mean time, I'll throw up some pictures. Then I'll stop posting until we get some more news, because I don't want to flood the blog with too much information. I got a request for a still picture of the stack of e-mails I showed in the video, so here it is. Also, here are two random pictures I took of the Googleplex the last time I was there.
And just so you know, I've read every e-mail in that stack, so feel free to keep them coming. :)
Again, the stack of papers is how many sheets there would be if I printed out every e-mail I've received in the last eight hours, one page per e-mail. The individual pages in the picture are actually a little thinner than printer paper. According to the digital scale in the other room, it's 8-pounds worth of paper. Just an interesting random fact. I've decided that, no matter what, the last act I do in this project is to take the e-mails - all of them - down to Kinkos and have them printed and bound in a book that I can keep on my shelf. If nothing else, its thickness will be my measure of success.
We Knew This Was Coming, We Were Hoping For It - 02/16/2007 - 5:30 PM:
We all knew that this would reach a point that I'd have to start being hush about what details I could and couldn't talk about if I was being taken seriously; it was unavoidable. And while it's a positive thing, nobody is going to like it, not even me - in a few moments I'm not going to be able to talk about some details anymore. I have to be mum about many of the things you want to know most. I'm not entirely sure if I'll even be able to say if Google did or didn't like the idea, though I suppose my actions that follow will make that fairly evident. In terms of details about my interactions with Google, I will be able to say absolutely nothing at all, but I'll cover everything else. Who knows, maybe I'll introduce you to my girlfriend. :)
I picture it this way. You guys are my hometown, and I've set off for the big city. Everyone has shown up to wish me luck and see me off, pat me on the back and make sure I've got enough food for the trip, but after I leave the city limits you don't know the details of the journey, not until I return in a few days or you hear about in on TV. :) It doesn't mean that I don't still need the support, just if I really want to chase this dream to conclusion, this is what I have to do, and if I didn't, then everything I've written on this site up until now is a fraud.
The book thickness is still the measurement of my success, and as one e-mail said, that is the subplot to this story. I'd argue that it may be the main plot. So keep the e-mails coming, send them here, and make our book thicker.
So for now, we'll focus on other things, because there's still lots more to focus on. I've extended my stay past the 20th, when my plane originally was supposed to leave, and I've got lunch appointments with readers that have shouted at me from the area (I'm always open to that), including one or two at Google itself. If you're willing to stay with me at least one more week down here, then I'll follow this through. Don't worry, there's still a conclusion to this blog that isn't that far away, one way or another.
In the mean time, some really cool news! Just like the forums got reworked by the community because... well, they were ugly beforehand, someone has stepped up to convert this site to a PHP based blog. It'll look exactly the same, but with RSS feeds and waaaay easier update structures, and maybe things like the ability to reverse the posting order, so you see newest posts first. I think that will go up tonight; I'll let you know. Anyway, I'll see if I can get another video up tomorrow. In the mean time... just wait. It's like the season break in the middle of Lost that was so annoying (it's amazing how many Lost fans there are out there.) Only with more suspense and lower production values. :)
Something to Share - 02/16/2007 - 6:23 PM:
I got sent this in an e-mail today from Brian, and it's an image he made up for his blog, and I liked it a lot and wanted to share:
Also, apparently I've got a theme song in the works for me. :) These guys here are part of a band that decided to write and record a song based on this blog and my experiences. I haven't heard it yet, but I don't have to - It's my theme song, no questions asked. How cool is that? I'll link to it as soon as I get it in. Joel, I'm eager to hear it.
Plus, about five minutes ago I got a poem from Danny, who is 12 years old and runs his own blog. I figured I had to pass it on, just because... well, he wrote me a poem! I mean, seriously! I'm getting lots of things like this, and there's simply no way I can ever pay them back. Thanks to everyone.
"I am very proud of you
For going all so far
Even though I don't have a clue what your ideas are
You have sparked my mind
In every possible way
For going for what you believe in
Even though your ideas might take you to Berlin"
Maybe this is weird, but it makes me proud of me knowing that he's proud of me, if that makes sense. Thanks, Danny. Also, I'm thinking about creating a page where I can post samples of people's letters, with identification removed, of course. What do you guys think about that?
Our Theme Song - 02/17/2007 - 9:11 AM:
So many things are happening on a minute-by-minute basis that it's hard to pick and choose what to talk about. So we'll start with this: My theme song is done! I got an e-mail from the band called Midnight.Haulkerton when I woke up, and they took it on themselves to write a song inspired by this site. Wish I could understand the words more clearly, because I'm on Cloud 9 about this and you should be, too. They wouldn't have written it, I'm sure, if it were not in part for everyone's enthusiasm for this.
What's also cool to me personally is that I got an e-mail from one of my best friends when I was 9-years old and living in Rolla, MO. His name is Nick, and I haven't seen or heard from him in almost 8 years. So yesterday he sees the site! And he e-mails me! And his little brother says hi, too!
I'll keep this post brief, because there are more cool things coming later in the day that are pretty nifty... For one, we made the switch to the PHP database. Thank you, Matt, for all the work you've put into this. Readers won't notice the difference yet, but you will in a few hours, I bet. A page will be going up where I'll post some of the letters I'm getting, and we're looking into a thing where you can upload a video from your cell phone, so you can send in "good lucks" with a goofy video, I guess. I'd love to see that; it'd just make me really happy - but seriously, people, keep it family friendly, alright? :)
New Friends and Paintballing - It's the Weekend, Right? - 02/17/2007 - 10:02 PM:
I spent part of the day wandering around San Francisco, because it's a holiday weekend and not much is going to happen in terms of business until Tuesday. So I decided to take up an invitation for lunch with some new friends, specifically, Robert Scoble, his son Patrick, and Dave Winer (who I met in passing). It was a lot of fun - and Robert bought me a water, which was really nice of him!
We met up at the Apple Store, which has a strong symbolic meaning to me, because I've been an Apple fan since playing Sierra's Gold Rush on my Mac Classic. I recognized the large glass staircase in the center from pictures I've seen of Apple Stores in the past, which always gives you sort of a nifty feeling.
And on the way into San Francisco, I nearly got lost and was kept from wandering aimlessly by Jan and Colleen, who were kind enough to teach me how the BART works in this town. Jan (on the right) is studying photography and has promised to send me one of her pictures, and Colleen (on the left) used to run an art gallery with historical paintings. They saved me not only from getting lost, but from having a dull 30-minute BART ride.
Then, I was recognized by five different people while on the streets of San Francisco: Three people stopped to wish me luck, and two people honked at me and waved while driving by. And then I was pulled off the street by an actual psychic who told me she had big news to tell me for only $10. Big news! Well, I couldn't take the chance that it was something really important while on a trip like this, right? The good news is, I've got good fortunes in my future. Bad news is, I have a black cloud! Seriously, apparently I have a black cloud - she also called them shadows - that follows me around and keeps me from making success lasting in my life. Wow. Well, turns out it's $250 to get rid of that cloud by soaking some stones in your bathtub, and I don't have that; I figure the e-mails I'm getting are better than that, anyway. :)
Plus, I've been invited by yet more new friends to go play Paintball tomorrow (Feb. 18th, 2007) at Midway Paintball Extreme in Vacaville, and if you're in town you should come, too. I'm serious. If you live in the area and want to come shoot some paintballs back and forth, the more the merrier. It'd be really cool if someone actually showed up. :) Here's a map, if you're interested. There's some downtime while the weekend passes, so have a good one. I'll see if I can get a video up tomorrow or the next day. Cheers.
A Place For People's Letters - Not Leaving Yet - 02/18/2007 - 2:04 AM:
One of the most important features of the site was added today thanks to Matt and Chris (our unofficial volunteer webmasters). There is now a page where I can post some of the e-mails I've been getting, which I like to refer to as Pages of the Book. I'm not choosing any specific ones, nor any certain dates; every once in a while I'll just post some more. I want people to see what sort of a response I'm getting, and what sort of a community you're joining when you decide to write and add another page to the book, as so many of the e-mails have said. Go ahead and read over the letters, because they're pretty amazing.
My original plan was to leave San Francisco on the 20th. I've officially pushed that back and I'll be here at least another week. The one-week time frame I originally gave myself was not enough to carry this through, and it's just too early to go home. That said, this quest has to have a conclusion somewhere along the line, a final point where it makes or breaks. I'm hoping another week is enough time, but I'll be here as long as it takes.
And just in case anyone missed it in the last post, or if you didn't take it seriously, I've been invited to go paintballing tomorrow as a stress reliever by some of the cool people I've met down here, and anyone is invited to come. Many of us have never played before, so all skills are welcome; bring a sack lunch, stop by and say hello. I can think of nothing that would make my day better than to see some of you show up for a game or two. We'll be at Midway Paintball Extreme in Vacaville between roughly 9:00 and 4:00 p.m. Regardless, have a good weekend and holiday. I'll still be here, still at the door, come Tuesday.
How Do We Fix This? How Do We Make This Work? - 02/18/2007 - 10:48 PM:
I've had a great day paintballing, met some new friends, and I'll tell you all about that in the morning. Before I go to bed, though, I wanted to ask for your thoughts. I've started a discussion topic in the forums that I want feedback on.
"What can be changed to make it easier for the average person with a good idea to really be listened to by these large companies?"
Everyone at some point has a million dollar idea, but there are barriers that keep us from following them through. If Google, or Microsoft, or anyone were to come and ask how the system should be changed, how can it be fixed to allow ideas to move more freely upward from the ground, what would you say? How can a large company effectively deal with thousands of idea submissions and dodge the legal issues that go with it, while at the same time listening to each idea well enough to understand it and judge it on its fundamental merits regardless of its source?
I'd love to hear what people can say about this, because no matter what happens to me, one lasting impact of this site might be in developing a way to address the problem that created it in the first place, and that's something I think we all want to address as a community. What are your thoughts?
Starting to Pick Up Some Mainstream Media - 02/20/2007 - 12:45 AM:
With additions like Veeker, RSS Feeds, and the e-mail page, it's somewhat hard to get additional videos done in a timely manner. Without my desktop (which is back at home) editing can be a pain; with things moving so fast, my videos tend to be out-of-date before they're done. Luckily, the mainstream press is starting to step forward to help out by putting together their own videos of me! I got an e-mail this morning from CityNews International, and they were kind enough to focus a segment of their show on our site. Even more lucky, they post all their TV coverage online so that it's easy for those of us that missed it to catch up. So take a look - it's pretty flattering. Also, I noticed that Geek.Brief was kind enough to mention us in their video podcast; it's neat to see this showing up in different media forms.
I'm also pretty excited about Veeker, which is a brilliant tool to help keep us entertained until this story comes to some sort of conclusion. Fundamentally, Veeker is a blogging site that allows you to instantly post photos or videos to your website by e-mailing them to a specific e-mail address. In our case, any video or photo you e-mail from your phone to firstname.lastname@example.org will show up on this blog within 30 seconds. At least in theory - I've had some technical troubles with it, but we'll see how it works.
So here's the two things I want, and everyone can help me with this. First, send me Good Luck videos; I'm sure you can figure out what that is. Second, help me keep track of where this site is getting mentioned. If you see CanGoogleHearMe.com mentioned somewhere on the net or on TV, snap a photo or video of the coverage and e-mail it to the email@example.com address. I'll try to watch and delete duplicates (first appearance gets first claim to the discovery). :) It's sort of a fun way to keep track of things here on the site. So Good Lucks and CanGoogleHearUs sightings.
A Return to a Day of Business - 02/20/2007 - 8:37 AM:
The cogs start moving again in the world now that President's Day is gone, and I lose my car today. I had a rental car until the 20th, when I was originally planning on going home, and the cost of renting it for another week made it not such a good idea - luckily, a friend as offered to let me drive his car for the duration of the adventure. "Doing his part," as he called it. Ahahahahahhaha! Poor guy. It's starting off the week in fairly nice condition. :)
I realized after the CityNews mention that I forgot to tell you about paintball, which was a lot of fun. We had maybe 10 people in the group, and we hooked up with Brodie, who's the kid in the picture on the right. He wants to be a game designer in the future, so if anyone in the game industry living in the San Francisco area feels like inviting an enthusiastic kid for a tour of your studio, you should let me know. But be wary; he will not hesitate to shoot you with paintballs, this I know. Sometime during the day I also made the mistake of saying that the site was in the top 20 on Digg, or something of the sort, and I said it because I'm an idiot and had counted wrong when I looked that up. :) Turns out we're in the top six or so for this month (which is what I originally looked at thinking it was a longer time frame), and that we break into the top 135 in the last 365 days, with a little over 4,700 diggs. Not bad, but makes me an accidental egotistic lier, though, which I hear is not a coveted title. :) I felt honor bound to correct myself.
The adventure is still on. There are a few more days in the final stretch before I leave on the 27th. In the mean time, I've added a few more of your letters to Pages of the Book.
Nice to Know Who's Paying Attention - 02/20/2007 - 5:15 PM:
I just had to make a really quick note of this, because it's nice to know who you've reached. Someone sent me an e-mail today pointing out that I'd been mentioned in the blog of Ted Leonsis. For those of you that don't know who that is, you can check out his profile on Wikipedia; not only is he the Vice Chairman of America Online, Inc., he's also the majority owner of the company that owns the Washington Capitals (NHL) and part of the Washington Wizards (NBA). According to Wikipedia, he was listed as one of the 20 most powerful people in sports by Sporting News, and while I primarily know him through his work in the tech industry, I consider that all very impressive (even if - and I hate to admit this - AOL has never been my favorite company in the world...).
It reminds me of a time about two years ago when I had the opportunity to have a several-hour-long lunch with Martin Nisenholtz, a Senior Vice President of the New York Times Company and founder of NYTimes.com. Just knowing that people of this caliber know that you exist, and better yet, might say something good about you... well, that stokes the pride a little bit. Makes you feel good about yourself, even after you get done claiming you're in the top 20 all time articles on Digg.com and making an idiot of yourself. :)
In his blog, Leonsis mentions that he found the site "very creative and very informative" and then sorta compares me to the co-founder of AOL making a pitch to Apple Computer... er, Apple, Inc. It's a really short post, but again, sometimes short is good, too. Some of the most important e-mails I've gotten from you guys have been the shortest. Case and point? The third e-mail currently printed on the e-mails page.
On top of that, I've got lunch out at the Googleplex tomorrow; nothing business related, but some new Google friends have invited me out for lunch at the Googleplex so I can earn some more "time on campus" points. Sort of like an Xbox Live score only with food. I'm looking forward to it.
A Good Lunch, A Reminder of Why I'm Here - 02/21/2007 - 11:30 PM:
After a week in town, I had my first Google lunch today. Apparently I'm an interesting enough figure that I attracted the notice of four Googlers - Eric, Mike, David, and Ginger - and they were kind enough to invite me as a guest out for a friendly lunch, nothing business related. Let me tell you, there was a world of difference between walking onto the campus the first day - not knowing where to go, or even who to talk to about setting up a meeting - and today, when I was able to come onto campus knowing someone was expecting me, even if it's just for a casual meal. It's amazing how much has changed for me since that first day and now, just nine days later - a thousand good luck e-mails can do that for you.
The food was tasty. I had salad with eggs and Caesar dressing, and some sort of beans I couldn't identify, but found highly edible. :)
The lunch and conversation were really good, and they actually volunteered to permanently prove their goofy nature with some photos, which range from fairly normal (as normal as any picture with me in it, that is) to copying Ryu's fighting stances from Street Fighter. It's interesting to see the diverse backgrounds and range of talents that Google has managed to attract. It was a good lunch, and a good day.
As for today's modifications to the site, I took the liberty of adding a countdown to the exact minute my plane leaves for Boise on the 27th. Why? Because I've been enjoying myself immensely, and it never hurts to be reminded that time is passing.
Oh, and one last item; we're still having troubles with the Veeker Feed. Some of the items being sent to it are showing up, but I've gotten numerous reports that people are submitting pictures that somehow are not making it. So if you submitted and it didn't show up... well, keep trying. :)
A Rainy Day Near Mountain View - 02/22/2007 - 9:52 AM:
On a rainy Thursday morning, I'm happy to take small achievements when they come my way. :) Someone pointed out to me that CanGoogeHearMe.com is currently listed as the number 5 site in Alexa.com's list of top 10 fastest growing websites on the Internet this week. They measure how much traffic a site is getting and give it a ranking based on those numbers - so apparently we're in the top five fastest growing sites in the world, right now. Since I arrived in California, we've had an increase in traffic of 19,000%. Pretty cool. In five days that traffic might make an about face and put me on the downward slope of that list, but at this moment in time, 9:43 a.m. on Feb. 22nd, 2007... I figure it's something to be proud of.
I've been getting a lot of e-mails asking me if I was inspired by anything, and the answer is yes, in fact I was. If you're enjoying this adventure, you'll love the one that inspired me to get here. It was a movie called My Date With Drew, in which an average guy tries to get a date with Drew Barrymore, basically by just asking around a lot and not giving up. I'd seen the movie last Christmas, but then - three days before I started the website - I went out and bought a copy of the DVD and watched it again for inspiration. You might notice that the styles are similar. I cheered for Brian through his movie in the same way that people have been cheering for me in a more real-time fashion. I actually sent their website an e-mail at the beginning of the week thanking Brian for making his movie, but I have no idea if he got it or not. I'd hope so. If you haven't seen My Date With Drew and think what I'm doing is fun, go rent it. You'll love it. Trust me. I did.
Troubles at Home, Server Crashes - 02/24/2007 - 1:01 AM:
It's Murphy's Law: right when you need everything to go right, something crashes. Either your laptop dies right before a presentation, or your dog eats your homework, or - as in our case at the moment - the server starts doing terrible things to your files during FTP transfers.
So, just two days before this trip really hits the breaking point, the website is broken.
The CanGoogleHearMe.com server is having technical troubles, and it gets in the way of posting fun things like the next movie, which I hope to have up sometime tomorrow. If it were not for some lucky out-of-date on-server backups, this site would be looking very much like aaronstanton.com right now, which means that nothing would be there. That being said, the reverse order button is down for a bit, and our Doomsday clock has been temporarily lost in the rollback. Additionally, I've been told my e-mail server is bouncing e-mails, so if you send me something and it gets returned to you... well, try again soon. :)
Not to fear, I'm sure we'll have it straightened out soon. And when I say "we", I really mean my service provider, since there isn't much I can do until they look into it. And the next video will be up as soon as they do. But it's late, and I'm tired, so good night from just outside of Mountain View, California, where exciting things are happening even if the computer refuses to work enough to share them.
A Video Update: Part V - 02/24/2007 - 5:05 PM:
Written posts are great when I don't have time to battle my computer into making a video, but they don't really convey things very well. So... well, I put together another video.
The server seems to be back up and running again without any flaws, though I'm still worried some of my e-mails are being lost. Apparently, not only was the FTP doing odd things, but for some people the countdown wasn't showing anything but a line that read, "Aaron is going home..." Scared some people, evidently. :) I'm still here and still doing my thing for the next few days. Still behind the moon (watch the video, if you want that to make sense...)
A Note for Cody - 02/26/2007 - 8:05 AM:
I received two e-mails this morning that I thought I'd mention before getting to work. The first is from Cody, whose 16-year-old friend died in a car accident yesterday on February 25th, 2007. Cody sent me an e-mail about this to tell me how important it is to follow your dreams, and there's no real point to this response beyond telling Cody that I'm sorry for your loss. One of my best friends lost his little sister in a car accident when I was 17, and the impact of that is with me to this day. These sorts of things don't leave you easily, and they shouldn't. My thoughts are with you and your friend, and I'm sure others are as well.
I received a second e-mail, too, this one from the son of the president of the University of Idaho, which is the school I graduated from recently. He apparently called his father to mention the website, and it seemed to be well received. "He seemed to be proud," is what was written in the e-mail. I've never met President White myself beyond shaking his hand once, but it's nice to know how small the world is, and that at least some people think I'm doing something worthwhile. Trust me, that's support that comes at a particularly opportune time.
I also had the crazy idea that I'd post a link to every one of the blogs and news sites that have mentioned CanGoogleHearMe.com, just to give people another perspective on the response I've been receiving, but then someone sent me this link here, and I gave up on the idea. With a few exceptions, that list talks about me well past the seventh or eighth page. That's amazing.
You Know What I Need? A Book Cover... - 02/27/2007 - 12:15 PM:
I'm pointedly not mentioning anything about my departure deadline, which is approaching in a little less than 10 hours - the point where I leave California and head back to Boise, Idaho. This isn't that post, yet.
What this post is, though, is a humble request, mostly for fun. In a few days, no matter what, I'm going to be printing off hundreds of your e-mails into a book - just for myself - which I will be taking to Kinkos to be bound for my personal shelf. By this time next week, I'll have one impressive collection of "good luck" e-mails, let me tell you. But I was thinking about this, and it needs a cover. Kinkos lets you print a full color, 11 X 17 cover for the book, and I don't have one. So far, people have stepped forward during this adventure of ours and offered programing help, lunch on the town, and e-mails of support - it's been wonderful, but what I need now is an artistically oriented person to put together a cover for our book. It's possible that - for everything - all that comes out of this is that book sitting on my shelf as a reminder of my goals, and I want it to look as good as it can, and be made from cover to cover as a result of your good will. Call me sentimental, but it seems fitting that way.
So, if you're bored and feel like it, and you want to give it a shot, make up a cover and e-mail it to me. I have no preferences in terms of style - digitally rendered, hand drawn, etc. - I'll let you interpret this adventure however you see fit.
If I don't get any covers, that's cool, too, but if I do... well, that'd just be something nifty unto itself. :)
This is all I have to say at the moment... - 02/27/2007 - 3:24 PM:
Now I have to go pack, because my plane leaves in only a few hours. By 10:30 tonight I'll be arriving home. I'm going to sleep well tonight. :)
I'm Back Home - Got to Sleep in for the First Time... - 02/28/2007 - 8:37 AM:
At 10:30 p.m. last night, I arrived at the airport both tired and excited. After nearly two weeks running on emotions alone and sleeping on a couch, "excited" took a back seat to "tired". I crashed into the warmest, comfiest bed I've ever seen, and this morning I slept in for the first time since February 1st, when I started filming the original video.
People have been sending in book covers, but I want more. :) Call me greedy, but as one e-mail pointed out, my book might have several covers. You might have to flip through several pages of covers to get to the first e-mail. That would be great.
Which leaves me with what I'm planning on doing today. I'm getting a lot of e-mails asking about what has or hasn't happened. I'm very aware of that, don't worry, and I'm working on getting you an answer... because... well, I owe you an answer, simple as that. :)
But today... what am I going to do today? Aside from eating at my kitchen table (for the first time in what seems like much more than two weeks...), I'm going to respond to e-mails today. That's quite a daunting task, but it seems an important one. I don't know how many I'll get through before the day is up, but I refuse to use a form letter (the irony of that is too great for me). So if you get an e-mail from me, it's hand typed. Don't be upset if it is short, because I have literally thousands of these, all of them touching, and I'd rather my fingers not fall off at the end of the day. :)
On top of that I think I have some genuinely exciting decisions to make about what I want to do with my life. But I might put off thinking about that until tomorrow.
I'm Up to 150 Replies, Meaning I'm Miles Away From Halfway. - 02/28/2007 - 12:21 PM:
I've spent a good portion of my morning trying to respond to letters. I'm afraid my typing is getting sloppy. :) I just finished my 150th thank you reply, with miles and miles left to go. Still, there's something fun about this. I'm trying to make some sort of comment in each e-mail that lets people know for sure it's not a form response, but it's hard sometimes. All of you that sent e-mails that are just subject lines saying, "Good luck,"... well, you're not giving me much to work with here. :)
You know, two weeks ago I'd have never thought that there was a possibility I could be spending a day doing this - responding to hundreds and hundreds of e-mails. Amazing. How life has such interesting turns.
UPDATE: I've passed the 250 mark. Fingers... so... tired...
Concrete Outcomes and a New Batch of E-mails - 03/01/2007 - 8:03 AM:
Australia, it turns out, is a very vocal country. I woke up this morning to a new flood of e-mails wishing me luck after CanGoogleHearMe.com was covered by the Sydney Morning Herald; I'm not sure I've been called "mate" so many times before in my life in such a short period of time. :) At the same time, things seem to be spreading - I've got a live BBC radio interview later on today. I figured that interest would drop off the instant the countdown reached zero, but apparently the interest is more heartfelt and genuine than that; you seem to be willing to keep tabs on things until there's a reason to cheer or a reason to be disappointed, either way.
And speaking of which, I think it's only fair that you have some sort of a concrete answer, and I feel bad that I don't have one for you yet. The problem is that the Internet is a fast medium, and it's covering what can sometimes be a slow medium, which is life. Life sometimes takes time. That said, I'm setting a self-imposed deadline for myself - I'm going to try to have a concrete answer for everyone, in one form or another, in one week. This quest has been successful in more ways than I could have predicted, and I'm standing at a multitude of forks in the road. The delay at this point is me, because I don't want to make important decisions too quickly. I hope you understand.
Do you choose a secure path that will be interesting, rewarding, and safe, or do you take the one with a lot less guarantees? I think I already know the answer to that...
Oh, and keep sending your covers in. I've gotten a fair number, and they're all great, but I'm interested in seeing more. And as for the e-mails I'm replying to? Well, I'm going to have to space that out, maybe spend a portion of each day replying instead of all at once. I realized that between 11:58 and 11:59 on Feb. 15th, before the real flood of e-mails started, I received 6 good luck e-mails. Even if I spent less than 30 seconds replying to each, I could be here for weeks before I completed just the e-mails I received while in California, and they're still arriving. So, I'm still replying to e-mails, every one in the order they arrived, but it'll take some time, too. :) Like I said last time, who would have thought that two weeks ago I'd have more people wishing me good luck than I had time to respond to. And no, the irony of that is not lost on me. :)
I'd like to talk to some programmers... - 03/01/2007 - 9:51 AM:
This is sort of a tentative request in the interest of exploring possibilities, depending on whether I decide to take the risky path or the safe path.
I'd like to talk to some programmers, specifically in the Boise area. Because... well, I'll just leave it at that. :) If you happen to know someone with some skills and creativity that lives in the area, well, consider pointing them my direction. Specifically, PHP, Java, Ajax, MySQL focus, for starters.
An Announcement on Monday, March 12th; The Doomsday Clock Returns - 03/02/2007 - 9:48 AM:
The Doomsday Clock has returned. Originally it counted down to my plane's departure from California, and now it counts down to the next major announcement. I'm fully aware that people are curious and want concrete answers, and at the same time I have to be careful not to rush things. I've decided to ask you for about a week to work things out. If you do the math, that countdown ends at 12:01 on Monday morning, March 12th, California Pacific time. That's one episode of Lost, and one episode of Heroes, so it will help round out your week.
Two cool things happened yesterday. You know how I said that this trip was inspired in part by a movie called My Date With Drew? Well, the movie features a guy named Brian (it's a true story, too), and on a whim I sent his production company an e-mail to let Brian know that his quest inspired mine. And the fun thing is, I got a call back yesterday from the vice president of their distribution company, Imagination Worldwide. To make a long story short, they gave me the phone number of someone that can pass a message directly to Brian! So, I left a voice mail saying who I was, what I was doing, and asking if they could just tell Brian that the site is there because of his original courage. I'm hoping that maybe he'll decide to e-mail us and add his own page to the book - that would really be something, but we'll see.
Second, I got a great e-mail yesterday that I wanted to mention simply because it was full of a lot of enthusiasm, and well... Here's a shout out to Tenterfield High School in Australia. One of their classes got together and spent a little time writing me an e-mail as a group. Seems they all gathered around the computer monitor and each wrote a line or two in the e-mail, wishing me luck in one form or another, so it was one e-mail with lots of people behind it. I thought that was worth noting. :) I owe a lot to a number of my high school teachers. Just thought I'd mention that.
Compiling E-mails into THE BOOK. - 03/05/2007 - 7:43 AM:
I sat down today and began another daunting, but enjoyable task: I'm compiling my personal book of good luck e-mails. The original plan was to take the stack down to Kinkos and have it bound so it could sit on my shelf as a reminder of the value of this trip no matter the outcome. As I said before, the thickness of this book will be the measure of my success. But I ran into a problem. Kinkos, it turns out, has a 1 inch thickness limit to their perfect binds, and I've got a bit more than one inch. In fact, just guessing from how many pages it is, we'll easily be over a foot thick.
So, I'm turning to alternatives. One person e-mailed me to recommend lulu.com, which I think is a fairly good idea. The site will allow me to publish one or two copies of the massive book with nifty things like hardbound covers, and up to 800 pages per book - that still means I'll have to print it in four or five different volumes, but I figure that's worth doing. The alternative is to use really small font and squish everything together and see if I can fit it into a single 800 page book, but I like the idea of having each page of the book represent one person. If 2000 people took the time to write me an e-mail, I want 2000 pages in the book. Cramming them all together seems to negate the importance of each individual one, and I don't want that; I promised a page in the book if you sent me an e-mail, and a page in the book is what you're going to get. That actually works out pretty well, because I've been getting so many book covers from people that I'll have one unique book cover for each volume. Nice.
I'll take some pictures when they're ready. I've also been meeting with some really interesting people these last few days, but I won't tell you about that until Monday the 12th.
A Meeting and 5 Days to Go. - 03/06/2007 - 12:34 PM:
I've been meeting with people almost daily since I returned to Boise, and while it might be hard to tell from the outside, I've been very busy. I had lunch yesterday with Brandon, who you can see in the picture here on the left (taken by a waitress with Brandon's camera phone). What we talked about? You'll know soon enough. There are only five days left on that counter.
In the mean time, I've completed volume 1 of the book of e-mails. The measure of my success. I used one of the covers you made for me, the one to the right, and sent it out to be printed. I'm going to put a different cover on each volume, but, "We can hear you :)" is perfect for the first one. On the spine it says, "By Aaron Stanton and 2000 Friends." Anyone that ever happens to be in Boise and feels like you need a good read to cheer you up, drop me a line. Seriously. It's worth seeing, and I'll make the time for you to see it, if I can.
Finally, I got a note today pointing out that CanGoogleHearMe.com made it onto Liz Strauss's list of 200 Unique and Successful blogs. Simply put, she set out on a quest of her own back in February trying to compile a list of 200 outstanding blogs. Her definition of outstanding is a pretty high standard: "... so compelling and remarkable that it sticks with you — days later you still want to tell folks to experience it. A unique and outstaninding blog has an amazing impact on a reader. It is unforgettable to both the adult and the kid in you."
I don't know if this blog qualifies for any of that praise, but apparently we're one of 15 sites that have made it past the preliminaries. One of you suggested it to her; so thank you to whoever did. I hope the journey makes it worth your while. :)
Not One, But Two Videos. Plus a Humble Request. - 03/09/2007 - 8:55 AM:
This is the last post I'm going to make before Monday of next week - the last few days have been focused on meeting people and putting together not just one video, but two. This weekend specifically is dedicated to getting the next video together. It's an important video for me, as important as the very first one I ever made. Possibly more, we'll see.
I have just two notes for you over the weekend, one positive, and one negative/positive. The positive one is simple: I've had quite a few people e-mail me and ask if they could see our book if I had time to show it to them. So, I thought that was pretty cool. I'm very enthusiastic about the good luck e-mails I've gotten - not really addressed to me, but to anyone chasing a dream - and I'm happy that other people see value in it as well. The first volume should be arriving here at the house in a few days (hopefully next week), and then I look forward to showing it off. :)
On the negative/positive side, I wanted to mention another e-mail I got yesterday from a fellow that took a shot at his dream this last month and it didn't work out. Not all of these dreams do. He was interviewing for a job he really wanted, and spent the last of his money on a nice suit. It didn't work out, and he didn't get the job for one reason or another. As a person that has jumped at many dreams and had some of them fall through on me, I know what it's like to have reality punch you in the gut from time to time. It leaves you out of breath. My trip here has been phenomenally successful for me, but it takes a lot of tries before that happens.
He asked me the question, "What if your trip hadn't worked out?"
In my response to him, I made this prediction - that someday, down the road, he'd be telling the story of how he spent his last money on a good suit and a movie, but he'd be telling it to someone having a bad day. I think he'll tell it someday as a story about not giving up, because making it through the hard spots is how you get to the opportunity that turns to gold.
Anyway, I want to ask you a favor. If you have a second, send me an e-mail addressed to him - I'll forward it on. Address them to, "The Guy That Took a Chance" and e-mail it to firstname.lastname@example.org. Because the true answer is, if my trip to California had been a complete failure, your e-mails that cheered me on for no other reason than I had really tried... well, that's what would have given me confidence for the next attempt.
Cool News I Just Had to Share! :) - 03/09/2007 - 2:08 PM:
So, this really will be my last post before the announcement on Monday, but I just got a call that makes me very happy, and I had to share it. :) Because, it's cool, and I'm bouncing out of my seat! :)
Anyway, the call was from the president of Imagination Worldwide, the company that distributes the movie that influenced this entire adventure, My Date With Drew. He has confirmed that yes, absolutely he would be happy to pass a message about our adventure on to Brian, who is the star of My Date With Drew. I asked him to let Brian know that this adventure was inspired by his original courage, and that I just wanted to make sure he knew that. (I also dropped a hint that it would be cool to get an e-mail from Brian to add to the book, but maybe that's pushing my luck...)
That's it. That's why I broke my vow of silence, just to tell you that - the entire loop has a sort of poetic nature to it, in the grand "what goes around, comes around" sort of thing. I was so happy I called my girlfriend, Mom, and Dad at work just to let them know. :) So technically, you're now the fourth person to know.
Regardless of anything else, it's somehow really gratifying to me that the people that inspire you, know that they've inspired you.
It's the Start of a New Quest - 03/12/2007 - 5:08 PM:
After several weeks of blog posts, this site is getting too long. Plus, the adventure is taking a new turn, so it's time to make some changes. A new quest is beginning; Watch the video below, and you'll understand. :)
I'm moving all the posts and videos that you're reading right now to a second page, which you're looking at. All future updates after March 12th, 2007 - including everything that's happening with the new quest - can be found here, at http://www.CanGoogleHearMe.com.
So if you're looking for the latest updates, you're looking in the wrong spot. :) Watch the video below, then make the leap to the main page to see how things are going. And again, thanks for checking up on me, and thanks for your e-mails. I still love getting them. :)