Posted by pat 427 days ago
I left Sun 2 weeks ago and joined Google as Adwords API evangelist.
Don't tell my mother I'm an evangelist... she thinks I'm a software geek with an interest in litterature and poetry. This job description requires a bit of explanation: when I said to my mother what my job title was, she asked me wether I would start preaching the Bible (I'm an atheist).
Google Adwords is a service that lets customers buy search keywords on Google, to display their ads: when someone does a Google search with the keywords you bought, there is some chance that your ad will be displayed on the top or right of the search results. The actual mechanism is a bit more complicated than that, you don't buy keywords, but bid on them, and an auction is performed to select the ads to show. Moreover Google wants the ads to be useful to their users, so your ad has more chance to appear if many users click on it (the CTR, or Click Through Rate, is used in conjunction with the bid price to determine which ad to show). You can find more details about this in the Adwords FAQ.
Until recently, the way customers managed their ads was through a web application: it is very well designed, but when you start to have thousands of keywords to manage, or if you want to integrate your ad strategy with your internal applications it is not enough.
In january Google launched a beta of their Adwords API. An API, or Application Programming Interface, is an interface to a system, but designed for machines, ie other programs, instead of humans. The Adwords API uses web services standards SOAP and WSDL, making it easy to use in any language or platform. The API lets you write applications that can create campaigns or optimize your bids based on some internal product database, mor write different front ends to the API, in the language or platform of your choice.
Guy Kawasaki who evangelized the Mac for Apple, defines what secular evangelism is in Selling the Dream: "the process of selling a dream", or more down to earth, get customers, employees, and partners to believe in a product or service. A technical evangelist does that for technical products such as development platforms, or web services. For software it means fostering a community of developers, make them happy, help them achieve their dreams using your platform.
One technical evangelist whom with I've worked with at Sun is Simon Phipps, who is Sun's chief evangelist. Another, who does not have the word "evangelist" in his title but is the best I've ever seen is Tim Bray. I learnt a lot from both of them when evangelizing blogs at Sun.
The only evangelist I know who's evangelizing a web service is the excellent Jeff Barr who evangelizes the very well designed Amazon Web Services... and my new colleague Nelson Minar who designed the Google Search and Google Adwords and hired me to help him with the evangelization part for Adwords.
So what dream am I going to sell you? One I picked up from a 2002 article by Tim O'Reilly: Inventing the Future:
All of these things come together into what I'm calling "the emergent Internet operating system." The facilities being pioneered by thousands of individual hackers and entrepreneurs will, without question, be integrated into a standardized platform that enables a next generation of applications.
What he called "the emergent Internet operating system", that has been more recently called Web 2.0 is the dream I'm passionate about, and I think Google has a big role to play in realizing that dream.
Here are a few of the APIs Google offers today: Google Search, Google Desktop Search, Google Adwords, Google Maps and Google Earth. The full list is at Google Code: APIs (Thanks for the link Kevin). These APIs are very important in fulfilling Google's mission: "to organize the world's information and make it universally accessible and useful."
My Google colleagues have done a terrific implementing all these services, I hope I'll do a good job selling that dream to you all.Updated july 17th: added link to the full APIs list following Kevin's comment.