You know that feeling when you just realize that something really neat has been hidden in plain sight for a while and that most people had realized it before you did? It's my feeling with the current state of Google's products and features. Wasn't completely out of the loop: did learn about many features through tech podcasts and blog entries (Spreadsheets, Calendar, etc.). But some things just passed me by, like Co-Op and the Notebook browser extension (which does work on Mac OS X!).
One reason for my not noticing those items might have to do with the disparate classification of their products, tools, features. Some neat things are found in the labs, others in Web Search Features, yet others appear only as content for the personalized homepage or as gadgets/plugins for Google Desktop. What's tagged as "new" is not always so new while some seemingly new things aren't tagged as "new." And, as is well-known, Google tends to call "beta" products which appear quite stable and to not label some cutting-edge features as beta.
All in all, it's quite overwhelming.
There's certainly the perfect blog, podcast, mailing-list to learn all the important news about Google's new stuff. But that implies knowing how active Google really has been, recently. Just amazing, really. And following yet another tech company's product shouldn't be a task in and of itself for the average user.
It must all be because of their policy to have developers work on their own projects a certain proportion of the time. An excellent approach to development, certainly, and the result isn't even a lack of direction. But the task of understanding the Google universe is daunting because the possibilities are endless. Some products are still rather pedestrian but some may imply deep changes in workflow or approach to the online world.
The Google Hacks book should be updated every week…😉