Before I started this blog, I wrote a newsletter where I sometimes poked fun at myself for how often I mentioned Google. Most times I was trying to knock down the internet Goliath and steer people to other sites that did things as well as (but hardly ever better than) the continent’s most popular search engine.
But Google does deserve praise as it continues to expand and deepen what people can do online. Ms. Caradonna reminded me the other day that a recent news story described how Google was using its “most searched” feature to track and predict where flu outbreaks are taking place around the US.
This application of Google searches (flutrends) is by no means perfect as a predictor, but it does exemplify how information can be used to inform and to prepare not just those in the medical fields, but the common citizen as well. Still, many people only know about Google’s web search, image search and map features, without realizing how much more there is to be had from Google. Below, you will find three of my favorite “other” things you can find at, (yes, say it again) Google.
Google Books: Digitizing books was the first true form of file sharing on the web. According to the Gutenberg Projekt’s page, the idea has been around since 1971. Google Books picked up what others had started, and they began offering downloadable PDF files of some books as well as previews of books that were still in print and protected by copyright. They were sued three years ago, but that seems to have been resolved, and it looks like more content will be added and available on the digital library. If the whole book is not available online, Google Books connects you to the World Cat site which can locate resources in participating libraries near you.
This choice is kind of cheating because unlike Google Maps, which requires no downloading or installing of software, both these applications are separate programs. Depending on your connection’s bandwidth and the speed of your computer, the download and installation of these programs may take some time, but they are worth the wait. G-Earth is very similar to Microsoft’s Virtual Earth program in that there are a few three dimensional buildings and landmarks in some of the big cities. They also both allow users to create and upload three dimensional models to add to the digital landscape. That is where the Sketch Up! software comes in. If you don’t envision yourself as a Frank Lloyd Wright or Frank Gehry type, you can skip this app and just cruise around G-Earth’s 3D warehouse to see what models others have left behind. From Google Earth you can get weather and traffic updates, as well as get a street view, where available.
Google Apps: Okay, so this is cheating again because it’s more than one feature, but I don’t want to go through each one individually. Suffice it to say that I have a blog (though not on Google’s blogger), a Gmail address (firstname.lastname@example.org) and have used the Docs applications (with mixed success). The point is that Google offers the curious and patient web surfer a great number of tools that go beyond the keyword or image search.
Happy exploring , thank you for stopping by and have a great Sunday.
© 2008 henry toromoreno