Happy birthday, AdSense

10 CandleAdSense turned 10 years old today. That 10 years has taken it from a cool experiment in figuring out the best ways to earn money on the nascent web to an enormous project that accounts for about a third of the revenue of one of the most successful companies in the world.

The web is such a central part of many of our lives now that I like to be reminded occasionally how new it really is. This one is a particularly notable reminder for me: of the 10 years that AdSense has existed, I’ve worked on it for four; and I work with several people who have been on the project for more than half of its lifetime. I couldn’t hope for a better team to work with.

Big Changes

I can’t remember the last significant blog post I wrote—in fact I’ve been pretty thoroughly out-posted by one of my more prolific WordPress plug-ins recently—but in the time I’ve been away one thing stands out as the major change in my life. One experience that is entirely new to me. One thing that has changed my perspective on things. One adventure that I had never dreamed of embarking on. One effort that took months to complete, but is finally done.

I’ve grown a new thumbnail on my right hand.

It’s a little lumpy in places because the old nail was still there during much of the new one’s growth, and it’s still uneven at the free edge. But when I look at it I still get that sense of pride in one’s own achievement. It may be crap, but I made it myself. From scratch.

There is not much to tell about the time in which I grew the nail. I damaged its predecessor around the time that the closure of Google Dublin’s software engineering section was announced. My infected thumb gave me all the motivation I needed to skip out on most of the group therapy sessions that ensued from that news. Instead I spent my time waiting in doctors’ offices while swigging from a bottle of children’s strength painkillers.

Once the whole process had kicked off I pretty much relegated the nail growth to a background task. Given the anguish that accompanied the original injury, the bulk of the recovery was surprisingly easy. Even the protrusion of my injured appendage predicted by adage failed to occur. This sore thumb remained resolutely in place.

In the weeks that followed I made plans for the future—plans which confidently assumed the presence of a full complement of digits. I met new colleagues and awkwardly shook their right hands with my left. I bid farewell to the friends and colleagues who had helped—or at least failed to actively hinder me—with my recovery.

Last week I packed up my possessions in the manner of one who has been reduced to a single useful opposable digit. All of it was boxed up and stashed in my parents house to await the movers—people who, as professional relocators, are presumably in prime shape to use all of their thumbs.

Then, only seven days ago, I flew to London to start my new life with my new thumbnail.

Clock Skew

Do you ever wish the day was a couple of hours longer? I’m pretty sure my natural tendency (if I was stuck in a cave with no natural light cues or TV channels to let me know what time it is) would be to live with about a 26 hour day. Unless I have things to do that kick me back into step with the rest of the world I tend to drift by getting up a little later each morning and going to bed a little later each night.

Given long enough, actually, this becomes getting up a little later each afternoon and going to bed a little later each morning. A few years ago during one of those magnificently long college summers we used to take for granted, I managed to lose an entire day from this drift. This exchange never happened, but it could have:

“You’re up early today.”

“No, I’m just up really late yesterday.”

This tendency is still with me, and in a job with as much flexibility as mine it can be tough to keep in check. Yesterday I worked a full working day, but one which started at nearly noon and went on into the less sociable hours of the evening. Well that’s fine; things still get done. If I get in late, I stay in late, and there’s no difference in the end.

Or so you might think. The problem comes on a Friday when this flexible window in which I work pushes up against something less flexible, like a leaving party for a colleague. Then you get days that run according to the compressed schedule of arrive, lunch, email, party, home.

After a day like that I usually have to make some effort over the weekend to resynch myself with the wider idea of what constitutes a working day.

On the plus side: party!


Well now that my (as yet) super-secret task is out of the way I can get back to living my life. I’m still not about to announce to the world at large what it was that’s been on my mind, though you’ll probably have guessed from the (lack of) news that it wasn’t anything to do with Paraguay or the presidency thereof. Said unnamed activity went well enough that I remain optimistic about my desired outcome, but I won’t know for sure for a month or so (at which point at the very least I’ll have a day when I won’t have to spend a few minutes wondering what to blog about).


I’d like to thank the Riverbank Park Plaza for their foresight in giving me a room about 20cm from seven train tracks. I’ll admit that the bone-rattling noise every half second was less than desirable, but at least it gave me an easy route to suicide if I was going to be driven to that.

Today is yet another travel day, much like yesterday but in reverse. Before that though, I have some important business to attend to.


Today is another travel day. I’m flying to London this afternoon for unspecified work reasons. Maybe I’m on a secret mission to kill the president of Paraguay with a fork; maybe I’m not. That’s all I’m going to say. I’ll return tomorrow evening, hopefully with good news.

Back to Work

Ok, so technically I haven’t been off work, but after being away from my own office for a week and a half it still feels like I’m coming back from a holiday. Thankfully that’s the not the crushingly depressing thought it might be for people in other jobs, because I’m one of those jerks who likes his job. Annoying, isn’t it?

Things to like about being back at home base:

  • Rock Band
  • Fresh pizza for lunch
  • The smoothies we have that no other office has
  • Being able to annoy my coworkers in person, which is much harder to filter than email
  • Rain


This visit to Zurich was supposed to include a day of sailing, because you can’t think of Switzerland without thinking of the great Swiss naval tradition. Sadly I indulged in somewhat more grog than would ordinarily be recommended, so I’ve decided to skip the prolonged period of bobbing up and down on a boat in favour of sitting comfortably on land.

Oddly, I’ll also be missing a sailing event tomorrow. My team in Dublin will spend the day being buffeted about on Irish Sea, while I’ll be in the arguably more glamorous but less enjoyable position of hurtling through the sky in a jet-powered metal tube.


There’s a slide from the first floor to the ground floor café here. There are fire-poles from floor to floor. I just walked past a sand pit, and yesterday I beat my best score on a Star Trek: The Next Generation pinball machine. This place makes my office look like a bank.


I’m in Zurich this week from Monday to Friday. It’s my first travel since the end of May. A year ago that would have sounded like a very short time between trips, but it’s actually by far the longest single stretch I’ve been at home this year. My flight out was my eighteenth flight this year. It was nice not to have to deal with airports for a few weeks, even if it did mean failing in my half-assed attempt to travel internationally during every month of the year.

I haven’t seen a lot of Zurich, and because I’ll be working I don’t know how much I will see. The hotel is great, if you can judge a city by such things. The water in the minibar is free. What an innovation! On the other hand the rail system seems set up deliberately to confound non–German speakers, which is strange for country with four official languages. The two people I did have to ask for help at various points were able to speak English but didn’t seem entirely pleased to be asked to. Maybe my pronunciation of “Sprechen Sie Englisch?” was just wrong enough to somehow insult their mothers.

So, there you are. Airport good, trains bad, hotel good. Overall pretty neutral.