Tag Archive: time

Oct 13

New in Labs: Got the wrong Bob?

The following is is a posting from the Official Gmail News Blog:

Posted by Ari Leichtberg, Software Engineer and Yossi Matias, Head of Israel Engineering Center

When’s the last time you got an email from a stranger asking, “Are you sure you meant to send this to me?” and promptly realized that you didn’t? Sometimes these little mistakes are actually quite painful. Hate mail about your boss to your boss? Personal info to some random guy named Bob instead of Bob the HR rep? Doh!

“Got the wrong Bob?” is a new Labs feature aimed at sparing you this kind of embarrassment. Turn it on from the Labs tab under Gmail Settings, and based on the groups of people you email most often, Gmail will try to identify when you’ve accidentally included the wrong person — before it’s too late.

If you normally email Bob Smith together with Tim and Angela, but this time you added Bob Jones instead, we’ll warn you that it might be a mistake. Note that this only works if you’re emailing more than two people at once.

While we were at it, we also changed the name of “Suggest more recipients” to “Don’t forget Bob” — the two related Labs features just kind of went together better this way.

If you want to test “Got the wrong Bob?” out, try faking a mistake like this:
1) Think of three people you often email together.
2) Compose a message to two of them.
3) Start typing the third member of the group (for help you can use one of the people we suggest in “Don’t forget Bob”), but then auto-complete on the wrong name.

If you have suggestions please let us know. And if “Got the wrong Bob?” happens to save you from making a really bad mistake, we want to hear about that too.

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New in Labs: Got the wrong Bob?

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Sep 01

More on today’s Gmail issue

The following is is a posting from the Official Gmail News Blog:

Posted by Ben Treynor, VP Engineering and Site Reliability Czar

Gmail’s web interface had a widespread outage earlier today, lasting about 100 minutes. We know how many people rely on Gmail for personal and professional communications, and we take it very seriously when there’s a problem with the service. Thus, right up front, I’d like to apologize to all of you — today’s outage was a Big Deal, and we’re treating it as such. We’ve already thoroughly investigated what happened, and we’re currently compiling a list of things we intend to fix or improve as a result of the investigation.

Here’s what happened: This morning (Pacific Time) we took a small fraction of Gmail’s servers offline to perform routine upgrades. This isn’t in itself a problem — we do this all the time, and Gmail’s web interface runs in many locations and just sends traffic to other locations when one is offline.

However, as we now know, we had slightly underestimated the load which some recent changes (ironically, some designed to improve service availability) placed on the request routers — servers which direct web queries to the appropriate Gmail server for response. At about 12:30 pm Pacific a few of the request routers became overloaded and in effect told the rest of the system “stop sending us traffic, we’re too slow!”. This transferred the load onto the remaining request routers, causing a few more of them to also become overloaded, and within minutes nearly all of the request routers were overloaded. As a result, people couldn’t access Gmail via the web interface because their requests couldn’t be routed to a Gmail server. IMAP/POP access and mail processing continued to work normally because these requests don’t use the same routers.

The Gmail engineering team was alerted to the failures within seconds (we take monitoring very seriously). After establishing that the core problem was insufficient available capacity, the team brought a LOT of additional request routers online (flexible capacity is one of the advantages of Google’s architecture), distributed the traffic across the request routers, and the Gmail web interface came back online.

What’s next: We’ve turned our full attention to helping ensure this kind of event doesn’t happen again. Some of the actions are straightforward and are already done — for example, increasing request router capacity well beyond peak demand to provide headroom. Some of the actions are more subtle — for example, we have concluded that request routers don’t have sufficient failure isolation (i.e. if there’s a problem in one datacenter, it shouldn’t affect servers in another datacenter) and do not degrade gracefully (e.g. if many request routers are overloaded simultaneously, they all should just get slower instead of refusing to accept traffic and shifting their load). We’ll be hard at work over the next few weeks implementing these and other Gmail reliability improvements — Gmail remains more than 99.9% available to all users, and we’re committed to keeping events like today’s notable for their rarity.

Go here to read the rest: 
More on today’s Gmail issue

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Jul 07

Gmail leaves beta, launches “Back to Beta” Labs feature

The following is is a posting from the Official Gmail News Blog:

Posted by Keith Coleman, Gmail Product Director

We get asked all the time why Google keeps its products in beta for so long. And Gmail, five years after launch, is consistently a subject of this questioning, even of jokes.

Some people thought that once we opened sign-ups, Gmail should have come out of beta.

Others said that once we integrated chat, developed new anti-spam technology, expanded to 53 languages, shipped a mobile app, added group chat, launched an iPhone UI, added a vacation autoresponder, launched Gmail Labs, subsequently modified the vacation autoresponder with a Gmail Lab, launched 48 other Labs, launched video chat, enabled open protocols and APIs (POP, auto-forwarding, IMAP, and the Contacts Data API), let you POP mail in from other accounts, added a delete button, rearchitected our entire javascript code base, and added key functionality to get large companies, startups, universities, and many other organizations (in addition to Google itself) running on Gmail, we should have come out of beta.

Some people think we should wait until we launch < one of ongoing secret projects >.

Others say that, over the last five years, a beta culture has grown around web apps, such that the very meaning of “beta” is debatable. And rather than the packaged, stagnant software of decades past, we’re moving to a world of rapid developmental cycles where products like Gmail continue to change indefinitely.

The end result (many visible and invisible changes later) is that today, beta is a thing of the past. Not just for Gmail, but for all of Google Apps — Gmail, Calendar, Docs, and Talk.

However, we realize that after five years, this leaves some of you wrestling with some tough questions. How will you ever get used to using Gmail without that familiar grey “BETA” text greeting you when you log in everyday? What example will you cite the next time you make an internet joke about perpetual betas? Don’t despair… for those of you long-time Gmail-ers who might feel some separation anxiety, we’ve got a solution. Just go to Settings, click on Labs, turn on “Back to Beta,” and it’ll be like Gmail never left beta at all.

Back to Beta

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Gmail leaves beta, launches "Back to Beta" Labs feature

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Jun 04

Tip: Slice and dice your mail with search operators

The following is is a posting from the Official Gmail News Blog:

Posted by Zach Yeskel, Product Marketing Manager

My friends email me all the time with ideas for improving Gmail. Just this weekend, my friend Dave said he wanted a way to select all of his messages with a certain label (like “urgent”). Two weeks ago, Adam came up with the idea of a button that would filter his inbox to only show unread items. Good ideas, but it turns out that doing stuff like this (and much more) is already possible using search operators.

For example, Dave would just need to search for “in:urgent” to get all items labeled “urgent,” and Adam would just search for “is:unread in:inbox” to see all the unread messages in his inbox.

Here are a few other useful ways to filter your inbox:

  • to:me is:starred” shows all messages sent directly to you that are starred
  • is:chat from:heather” shows all chat conversations you had with Heather
  • is:starred -in:inbox” shows all your starred messages that aren’t in your inbox (a good way to find anything important that you might have accidentally archived)
  • from:elliot filename:pdf” shows all messages from Elliot that have a pdf attachment

We’ve written about search operators here before, but lots of people find them hard to remember. That’s why we built Search Autocomplete in Gmail Labs, designed to make searching in Gmail much easier. Instead of having to remember the exact syntax for advanced searches, you can just start typing, and search autocomplete will help you fill in the rest. If you find yourself doing some of the same searches over and over again, consider creating a permanent link to them using Quick Links in Labs.

Update (6/10): Revised the example about searching for a label to use “urgent” instead of “important.”

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Tip: Slice and dice your mail with search operators

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Apr 02

New in Labs: Gmail search made easier (and lazier)

The following is is a posting from the Official Gmail News Blog:

Posted by Ibrahim Bokharouss, Software Engineer

On the Gmail team, we believe finding the right email among thousands of messages can be as important as finding the right web page across the billions of web pages out there. So with the aim of making search in Gmail easier, we built a new experimental feature in Gmail Labs: Search Autocomplete.

Turn on Search Autocomplete from the Labs tab under Gmail Settings, and you’ll get suggestions as you type in the search box. One of the most popular searches in Gmail is for names or email addresses, so the first kind of suggestions you’ll see are contacts. Some names are not easy to remember (my last name is an excellent example!) — with this new Labs feature you can just type a couple letters and select the desired contact from the drop down list. Easy and quick as that.

Gmail also offers a bunch of advanced search operators, which provide a powerful way to find that one message you have in mind. You can search in specific places (e.g. in chats or sent items), or search for messages with attachments of a certain type (e.g. docs or photos). Suppose I want to search for photos that were sent to me by my friend Chris. Normally, I would have to enter Chris’ email address followed by filename:(jpg OR png), which I gladly admit is even a bit too geeky for me. With Search Autocomplete, I can just type “photos” or “pictures,” select “has photos” from the drop down list (as in the screenshot below), and the search query (filename:(jpg OR png)) gets inserted for me. Similarly, you can type in the word “attachment” and Search Autocomplete will list the most common attachment types for you.

One of the reasons we still show you the geeky search query is to allow you to adapt it to your needs. For example, if you’d like to include tiff files in your search result, you can adapt the query manually to filename:(jpg OR png OR tiff).

That’s it for now. Play around and make sure to use the time that you save on searching to let us know what you think.

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New in Labs: Gmail search made easier (and lazier)

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Mar 30

Typing in Indian Languages

The following is is a posting from the Official Gmail News Blog:

Anuj Sharma, Software Engineer

Until now, there hasn’t been a good way to send email to friends and family in Hindi, my native language and their language of choice. That’s why I’m happy to announce a new feature for Gmail that lets you type email in Indian languages. If you’re in India, this feature is enabled by default. If not, you’ll need to turn it on in the “Language” section under Settings. Once enabled, just click the Indian languages icon and type words in the way they sound in English — Gmail will automatically convert them to their Indian language equivalent.

For example, if you have Hindi selected, “namaste” will transliterate to “नमस्ते.” We currently support five Indian languages – Hindi, Tamil, Telugu, Kannada, and Malayalam, and businesses and schools using Google Apps should see this in the coming weeks.

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Typing in Indian Languages

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Mar 30

Gmail Labs goes global

The following is is a posting from the Official Gmail News Blog:

Posted by Pal Takacsi, Engineering Manager

This post comes to you from our team in Switzerland, a small country with no fewer than four official languages and many more spoken by people living here. The majority of Gmail users are outside the U.S., so it’s no surprise that since we launched Gmail Labs last year, people around the world have been asking for these experimental features in their local languages. As of today, we’re making Gmail Labs available internationally.

You may wonder, since most Gmail features are available in almost every supported language immediately at launch, why Labs hasn’t been. The truth is that Labs itself is a bit of an experiment — it came out of people’s 20% time, and we weren’t sure if it would really work. Specifically, we thought there was a chance that everything would just break. Every time a Gmail user signs in we create a custom version of JavaScript for them based on the Labs features they have enabled. Since we have 43 Labs right now, there are 243 (~8 trillion) possible versions of the Gmail JavaScript that a user could get. If you account for the 49 languages where Labs are now available, it gets even bigger — 49 x 243 (~430 trillion) versions. It would obviously be a challenge to actually test all of these versions. But we put a lot of effort into building an architecture that supports this type of modularity, and fortunately, it seems to be working pretty well so far. So we figured, why not, what’s another another 422 trillion permutations?

If your language is set to, say, Italian, you’ll see a new page in Settings (or Impostazioni) called Labs. There, you’ll find a list of experimental features you can choose to turn on — everything from the useful (like offline access), to the arcane (like filter import/export), to the slightly ridiculous (like mail goggles). Most of these are translated to work in all of Gmail’s supported languages except Hebrew, Arabic, and Urdu. Keep in mind that all Labs features are early experiments — no design reviews, no product analysis, and not that much testing — so they may occasionally break. If you run into problems with your account after turning them on, try this escape hatch.

More here:
Gmail Labs goes global

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