Matt Cutts

Matt Cutts

Head of Google's webspam team

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Who are you, and what do you do?

My name is Matt Cutts and I'm the head of the webspam team at Google. Our group works to ensure that Google's web search results are relevant, useful, and spam-free. My first project at Google was SafeSearch, a family filter that removes porn. Before that, I was studying computer graphics and motion tracking at UNC-Chapel Hill. You can find me at my personal website or @mattcutts on Twitter. I'm +MattCutts on Google+, but I'm not on Facebook. My wife and I have two cats, Emmy and Ozzie.

What hardware do you use?

For my day-to-day work, I've been using a Chromebook Pixel since June 2013. It has a couple Google-specific Chrome extensions to access our virtual private network, but otherwise it's an off-the-shelf Chromebook Pixel. Before June 2013, I'd used IBM/Lenovo ThinkPads since 1999, usually with Ubuntu Linux installed. At work I use a standing desk to keep me on my toes.

At home, I have a couple quiet PC Linux desktop computers from endpcnoise.com. I have a hand-me-down Mac Pro from my wife that connects to various self-tracking fitness devices like my Fitbit. I also have a Windows XP computer (also bought from endpcnoise.com) that I haven't really used since 2008 but haven't recycled yet. I've got a Raspberry Pi computer that I use for tinkering. For monitors, I like Dell and have a 30-inch and two 24-inch monitors. I've got a Brother MFC-9840CDW wireless printer that can also fax ancient institutions that don't understand the Internet yet.

When I'm on the road, my life fits in a black JanSport backpack. It has one large storage area and two side pockets. In one side pocket, I keep my electrical gear:

  • laptop charger
  • micro USB charger for phone
  • Bose QuietComfort 20 noise-cancelling headphones for the plane or remote office
  • cheap Apple headphones for running
  • a triple outlet adapter that converts one power outlet into three
  • Scosche USB car charger and a retractable USB cable for charging in the car
  • a retractable audio cable for listening to tunes/podcasts/books in cars
  • an extra USB/micro USB battery (Zoom Energy Bar Pro)
  • a paperclip for changing SIM cards
  • a micro USB to Lightning adapter in case I need to charge someone's Apple device
  • a micro USB splitter cable
  • a USB to micro USB cable
  • various USB thumb drives for storing presentations
  • a USB to SD card reader
  • an extra pen in a snack baggie (I like brown Uni-ball Signo 0.5mm pens from Maido)

In the main pocket of my backpack, you'll find my Chromebook Pixel, a Kindle Paperwhite, and a Wired magazine or Maximum PC magazine.

In the other side pocket of my backpack are random conference/travel supplies: mints or gum, lip balm, 18 Rabbits bars (cherry chocolate) or Kind bars (dark chocolate cherry cashew), Aleve, and an eyeglass cleaning cloth. I also keep a tiny bottle of Purell hand sanitizer (0.5 fluid ounces) which I've drained down to about 0.1 ounces. There's so little of the liquid that I've never been hassled about liquids by the TSA, but I can still prevent colds by sanitizing my hands. Finally, I pack a few Forever stamps in a little plastic baggie. Often when I'm traveling for work I'll send my wife a postcard.

I'm also a runner. For headphones that won't come out, I recommend Sony's MDR-AS20J headphones. They loop around your ears and they really stay in. For socks, WRIGHTSOCK makes two-layer socks that minimize blistering. It's an old hiking trick to wear a thin pair of liner socks inside your regular socks to prevent blisters. I ran the American River 50 mile race in 2013 and didn't have to worry about blisters at all.

Strava is a free smartphone app and website for tracking your running and biking. Once you have a few friends in Strava, you can share kudos and motivate each other. Of course, you can also get a dedicated GPS watch for running. If you're going to run no more than 5-6 hours (like a marathon), I'd recommend the Garmin Forerunner 610. It has an intuitive interface and touch screen. If you plan on running 7-8 hours or more (like a half-Ironman or more), the Garmin Forerunner 910XT is really nice.

And what software?

For my day-to-day software, it's pretty much Chrome and the web. In 2009 I set myself a 30 day challenge to stop using Microsoft software completely, and after that challenge, Word and other Windows software isn't really appealing. Day to day, I use Linux, Chrome, Chrome OS, and Google Apps to get all my work done. I use Google Authenticator and two-factor authentication to make my Google accounts more secure.

If I need to edit or write a tiny program, vim and Python normally do the trick. For photo editing I use GIMP, and if I need something deeper, my wife has a Mac with Photoshop, Illustrator, and software to make movies and burn DVDs.

For my website mattcutts.com I use Tiger Tech for webhosting, and for my blog I use WordPress. I could have used Google's Blogger software, but I wanted to keep my blog completely under my control and make it very clear that it's my personal blog. I use Gandi to register my domains -- they now offer two-factor authentication too.

For my phone, I use a Moto X running Android on Verizon. I use mostly Google apps like Gmail and Calendar on my phone, but a few Android apps that I use all the time:

  • Tasks costs $0.99, but interoperates with Google Tasks.
  • I love Pocket Casts for podcasts. It costs $3.99 but totally worth it to listen to This Week in Google and This American Life and Stephen Tobolowsky.
  • Google Play Music All Access ($10/month) handles much of my music, but I also use Amazon's MP3 player and Pandora from time to time.
  • TripIt rocks for tracking your all your travel information: flights, hotels, and rental cars.
  • The latest Fitbit Android app will sync with your Fitbit -- no need for a desktop computer or base station any more. Soon I won't even need a desktop computer for my self-tracking fitness devices, thanks to Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE). Once printers, scanners, storage and my devices are wireless, I'll probably switch to a Chromebox for my home desktop computing.
  • If you haven't tried Waze yet, it's really good at shaving off a few minutes from your morning drive commute.

What would be your dream setup?

Let's see. How about contact lenses that lase images directly on your retina. But, you know, gently so there's no damage. And we'll also want high quality earphones that are as unobtrusive as hearing aids. Do those subvocal microphones from all the SEAL team/Tom Clancy technothrillers really exist? Let's say they do, and I'll take one of those. At that point, I could be wired up pretty much any time I want. Next we'd need ubiquitous Internet access, either from satellites or Project Loon. Either is fine; I'm not picky.

I want to pay a reasonable flat monthly fee to access all the books/magazines I can read, movies/TV I can watch, and music I can listen to. We're getting closer on that front.

I'd also like quantum encryption so that you're guaranteed not to have any eavesdropping between parties. I'd like to see every company support data liberation so that you can export your data out from one company, plus interoperability so you could import your data into other services seamlessly. Every company would support two-factor authentication or other strong ways to protect your data. Every company would provide transparency reports on government requests for data.

I'm still trying to decide whether email would be illegal in my dream setup. On one hand, email is email and it's awful and I hate it. On the other hand, you can send cat pics by email. So let's call it a wash. Maybe all email could be illegal except for cat pics.