Wednesday, March 24, 2010

10.5 reasons I love Google ... and one reason I don't entirely

  1. Google fiber for communities: I admit it, this is seductive. But the idea that there could be highly affordable gigabit per second bandwidth widely available in our town opens up lots of possibilities for information delivery. The possibilities for a library are both daunting and enticing. Google's undertaking is a bold experiment to "make Internet access better and faster for everyone." It will be interesting for all of us to watch, and way beyond interesting for the selected communities.
  2. Google search: simple, easy, useful and productive. This has become so essential, it spawned the modern verb for finding things out. Also the main reason I don't always love Google... see below.
  3. Google books and the Library Project: there are surely a lot of intellectual property issues with regard to Google Books. Publishers, authors, and libraries have found themselves on different sides at different points in the conversation. But this is complex, and much of it not unique to Google. But my bottom line as a librarian: more books more accessible to more people is a very good thing.
  4. The Google motto: ("Don't be evil") and staying true to it. It takes a lot for a corporation to stand up to the government of China and jeopardize income from the largest market on the planet. Intellectual freedom is worth fighting for and censorship should be resisted. Google has done so, earning praise from Amnesty International, the Centre for Democracy and Technology and many others.
  5. Google Maps & Google Earth: although Mapquest and others have their uses, Google Maps made itself into the gold standard for finding places. This makes possible collaborative services like our local bus route service, Valley Transit's Trip Planner. And "street views", even if a bit creepy-seeming (Google is taking pictures of YOUR house), are incredibly handy for finding a party or a hotel.
  6. Gmail: has changed the way I communicate, with threaded conversations, a great spam filter, managing multiple email accounts, chat, and access from my iPod and phone.
  7. Google docs: improve productivity and communication and open up new possibilities. Share things between home and work. Write collaboratively. Publish on the web. Back up your work in the cloud. Google docs got it going on.
  8. YouTube: you gotta love YouTube -- you're probably on it. There's the Appleton Fiber Channel, our Reference staff channel and more. What happened yesterday? Want to learn a song or a musical instrument? Where's that viral video everybody's talking about? Google didn't create YouTube, but it was a smart acquisition which they've polished without messing up.
  9. Experimentation and fun: just look at Google Labs, an amazing idea incubator.
  10. All the other Google apps, in more profusion than space permits -- check em out: smart applications that extend computing, increase communication, improve self-expression. Calendar (and shared calendars), Analytics, iGoogle, Translate (indispensible!), web hosting, and of course Blogger, which thousands use for free and whereon this document was created & resides. Google fosters opportunities to learn, experiment and grow.
and the one reason I don't love Google is not the fault of Google and is "not in our stars but in ourselves." You always find something in the last place you look. Except with Google, where you always find something the first place you look. As librarians and researchers know, we don't always know what we're looking for, though we often believe we do. Google search is so effective that the thing you find may immediately become the thing you wanted and needed. And if you can get through it without taxing your attention span, so much the better. While convenience is wonderful, it's not always the best thing, but it's easy to forget the pinch of salt.

This is not a flaw created by Google, but an example of how we need to adapt our learning styles in this brave new world. We live in interesting times, and Google is often the exemplar.

10.5. My friend Bryan Debbink works there, doing good work for Google Book Search, even if he is promoting Ann Arbor for a Google Fiber Community. Remember your home town, Bryan!

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