One thing about being at Stanford is that you never know who you are going to run into next. You keep hearing conversations such as:
“I almost ran over a Nobel laureate. Pray he doesn’t remember me.”
“Look that’s Mark Zuckerberg in the Gates basement. Nvm it’s just another dude wearing hoodie.”
I myself have had several surreal experiences. The tall, buff man I talked to while waiting in a line turned out to be a Pulitzer Prizer winner. The nerdy guy whose fried chickens I stole all the time was actually the world’s second youngest chess grandmaster. I googled the strange Math professor who lectured with his eyes closed and found out he was a celebrated magician.
So yesterday, we had a poster session for CS224D. We went there, set up our poster and patiently waited for our TAs and professor to grade us. People came in and out, we didn’t think much of it. When someone stopped by our poster to ask questions, we answered. After an hour or so, to spice it up, I started asking our visitors questions.
“Are you students?” I asked two young, well-dressed guys.
“Used to. We graduated last year.”
“What are you guys doing here?”
“Just checking out the projects. We worked for a VC. GoAhead Ventures. You should check it out. Most of our portfolio are from Stanford.”
“How did you end up working for a VC?”
“We started it in our senior year. We raised $50 millions and then voila.”
“Holy cow, you raised $50 millions in your senior year?”
“Yeah,” they chuckled. “Are you thinking of working on this project after this?”
“Well, shoot us an email.”
Next, a nice, professor-like man came to our poster.
“Are you a professor here?” I asked.
“No. I’m just here for a friend.”
He asked me a few questions about our project. Then, he saw my project partner Lucio. Lucio was wearing a Google Now T-shirt.
“Oh, you’re at Google Now?” Our visitor asked.
“No, but I was considering it,” Lucio said. “I’m with Sky Box this summer. Are you with Google Now?”
“I co-founded Google Now.”
“What an honor, Sir,” Lucio got way too excited. “Can I shake your hand?”
We took turn asking him questions about Google Now. He patiently answered all of them.
“What is the percentage of Android users who use Google Now?”
“The last time I was there, there were about 700 million users and 200 million monthly active users for Google Now.”
“The rest don’t like Google Now or don’t know about it?”
“Oh Google Now is not available in every country. There are only [I think I heard 80 millions] Android users in the US.”
“How well is it doing, Sir?”
“Pretty well. We ask users if a card is helpful for them, and 85% of them say yes.”
“Do you use machine learning to improve the accuracy?”
“We played around with it but it improved accuracy only a little. Heuristics were much more helpful.”
“Anything you found surprising about users behavior?”
“If you just reduce the friction a little bit users will use the service a lot more. For example, most people never thought it was worth it to check for traffic every day but now that it’s available on Google Now, they just love it. The same thing for weather. People love it.”
“Anything you thought people would like but they ended up not liking?”
“Movies. We thought people would like it but it turned out it was only relevant to about 10% of users.”
“How did you choose which service to add and which not to add?”
[He said something but we got interrupted because our professor came to grade us.]