Once upon a time, I visitied the Googleplex
To conclude GHOP (the Google Highly Open Participation Contest) 2007/8, I have enjoyed the company of the other GHOP grand prize winners, and related parents and mentors (including Adam "aclight" Light, the mentor representing Drupal), here in sunny California for the last few days. They have been a brilliant few days which I wll not forget for a very long time.
The first Google-organized day was Thursday, which began in the hotel lobby, meeting various people and collecting copious amounts of swag from Leslie Hawthorn (our primary Google host). Swag included additional GHOP t-shirts, GHOP hoodies/sweatshirts and Google themed rucksacks, water bottles, baseball caps, etc. Next stop was IHOP (the International House of Pancakes) for breakfast. As the Drupal team have been jokingly referring to GHOP as the "Google House of Pancakes", it was very appropriate to have a GHOP IHOP breakfast. After a long breakfast - complete with four pancakes cut (or eaten) into the letters G, H, O and P - we all set off for the Great America amusement park. Much fun was had riding the various roller coasters, water rides, and anything else which we decided to take over in the name of GHOP. As the group was heavily adorned in the aforementioned GHOP/Google swag, we got a few strange looks from people who noticed this large group of people wearing Google. After a 11am-7pm stint of amuse park, most of the students, plus Leslie and a couple of others, headed to the Google campus to catch the latter half of a talk at the Bay Area Python Interest Group on P2P and BitTorrent. The speaker had some interesting conclusions from their research into BT, although unfortunately we missed the first half of the talk focused more on Python. Following this we had some open discussions with some of the other attendees, before finally heading back to the hotel to catch some sleep.
Friday was the main day at the Google campus. It began with a coach ride from the hotel to Google's Cafe Moma for breakfast. This, like all food on the Google Campus, is completely free for employees and guests alike - just take as much food and drink as you desire. The long breakfast (which included more pancakes for those who wanted them) was followed by a mini campus-tour, which showed many micro-kitchens / food-caches, the SpaceShipOne 1:1 replica, the T-Rex skeleton 1:1 replica, some virtualisations of live search queries (there are many projectors scattered around the campus which just display randomly selected search queries as they happen), the "swimming pool", the volleyball court, and probably some other locations which I now forget. Next came the formal part of the day - the actual awards ceremony. This started with some talks from Leslie Hawthorn, Chris DiBona and Alan Eustace, followed by the awarding of the awards (a piece of glass, roughly in the shape of a raindrop, engraved with the winner's name and project), and photos of student plus mentor and student plus mentor plus parents, for each student. I believe the whole ceremony was video-taped and should be available on YouTube (post a comment if you find it). The next excitement was lunch, in a restaurant much larger and varied than Cafe Moma, but still completely free, which was immense. The range and quality of food available was overwhelming - it must be hard to work at Google and not gain weight from all the food (this is actually referred to as the Google 15 - the number of pounds you gain in the first year). The remainder of the day up to 6pm was filled with GHOP cake, and talks on AppEngine (by Guido Van Rossum, creator of Python), Andriod (by Romain Guy), Google's Infastructure (by Jeff Dean) and Testing at Google (by Bharat Mediratta and Mike Bland). These talks were very good to hear, and I'll most likely devote another blog post to detailing each of them. The day concluded with pizzas at the hotel (we would have gone to Pizza Chicago, but they couldn't seat the entire group, so they brought the pizzas to us).
Finally, Saturday night wrapped up the GHOP oriented parts of my trip to California with a meal at the Afghan Restaurant just down from the hotel, for those people still around. Ten people (2 students, 3 parents, 5 mentors) descended on the restaurant, ate exotic food and talked GHOP.
These past three days have been really, really amazing (I refuse to use the word awesome - it's too West Coast), and have left me extremely tired. I'll flesh out some more details soon, but for now, sleep.