Attending my first Google I/O Extended: Pittsburgh

Today, I finally entered Google Pittsburgh’s office in Bakery Square as a visitor for the first time, thanks to being told by a friend about an event called “Google I/O Extended: Pittsburgh”, which he sent me an invitation to. I decided to attend, out of curiosity.


Having never been inside Google Pittsburgh before, of course as soon as I arrived I joined a group of people for a tour led by Jen Crowley. Impressive space. Very clean. High-quality food available, and labeled in jars. Ha, it was mentioned that the chef is building a chicken coop.

There is a massage room, shower, meditation room, music room. They clearly want employees to feel “at home”.

The work space is “open plan”. I saw dogs running around.

I was surprised to see a lot of people wearing Google shirts. I guess there must be corporate pride here?


After the tour, I checked out the brunch they had for us. Fancy stuff. I socialized with other attendees I recognized from the local programming community, as well as other people I hadn’t seen in over a decade, like old CMU classmates of mine.


Andrew Moore gave a welcome speech. I hadn’t seen him in around 15 years, since I was in graduate school in computer science at CMU and he was a professor there, before Google existed at all. I was interested in what he had to say about what Google Pittsburgh was up to. He said Google Shopping will be big (I don’t think I’ve ever used it!). He also emphasized that Google Pittsburgh focuses on systems: monitoring and debugging all off Google’s infrastructure. They’re also working on NLP stuff and he said they have a need for people who understand the political and philosophical aspects of interpretation. They’re also interested in Agile and Scrum expertise for managing projects.

I noticed that there were around 120 people seated for his talk, and maybe 5 were female. I always find these lopsided ratios jarring, since where I work females actually outnumber males.

Keynote, live-streamed

The keynote went on and on. There was talk of Android, Jelly Bean, Google Play, and a lot of other stuff.

The freakiest thing to me was the demonstration of Glass. At first, it was entertaining to see the skydivers do their thing, but then when it came to someone monitoring and capturing a baby, all I could think of was “The Truman Show”. I do not want to live in a brave new world in which we are all wearing Glass.

Overall, nothing in the keynote actually interested me. I’m “behind” as far as tech culture is concerned, although three months ago I actually bought my first smartphone, an Android phone, purely because my old dumb phone died.

The Web Platforms Cutting Edge

It was very crowded, and the session was running late already, because of technical difficulties in the room we were in. We eventually switched rooms.

The presentation was about a “shadow DOM”.

I mentally checked out because the state of Web development saddens me. There has to be a better way.

Reception, beer tasting and food pairings

There was fancy food.

Live session: Production at Scale: Topics in Warehouse Scale Computing

It was already 4:30 PM by the time I finally got to attend a live session.

Todd Underwood emphasized the vastness of scale that creates unique challenges for Google that don’t exist elsewhere. Site reliability engineering (SRE) is tough. He talked about how even extremely rare events such as undetectable RAM errors have to be accounted for in fault tolerance. I came away with an appreciation for the magnitude of the task.

Live Session: Another Look at Scale: Designing Software to Fit its Dimensions

Joe McClain emphasized that decisions have to consider the business case, not just the technical case. Everything from developer scaling to code life span is monitored and analyzed.

Paul Irish on tooling

One thing lacking in Web development right now has been a standardized work flow. I see people doing a lot of ad hoc project setups, builds, etc., for managing HTML, CSS, and JavaScript. I was happy to see Paul Irish demonstrating the new tool Yeoman. It looked pretty promising.


It was definitely interesting to check out what Google’s been up to, and I appreciate the opportunity to take a look inside the Pittsburgh office, physically and technically.

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