Monday, April 21, 2008

The many faces of Google

The first thing most people think of when they hear "Google" is search engine. Who could blame them, Google has to be one of the most used search engines on the internet, but Google has grown far beyond their search engine start. Since everyone knows Google I though it may be a great first stop in our exploration of Web 2.0. Let's take a look at what Google can do for you.

Maybe I'll just start with what Google already does for me. Google manages my email, allows me to chat online, stores my calendar, does my word processing, maintains this Blog, is my RSS reader, stores my pictures, hosts my web page (that's my real job -- blogging doesn't pay well), promotes my business, generates revenue from my website, and yes it does also search the internet very well. My home page is igoogle and from that one page I can see the weather forecast, my email inbox, CBC news (yes -- if you haven't figured it out yet I'm Canadian eh), my calendar, joke of the day (everyone needs a chuckle) and see the feeds from the couple of Blogs I follow the most. All in all a pretty sweet package.

I am going to pause here for a moment and let you know my assumption in writing this Blog is that my audience is all over the map -- some people have passed Googleland a long time ago and are off to a more exotic locale such as Ningville, Wikitown, or Bloggerton. That's fine, I won't be offended if you leave now. However there are some parents that have never left the comforts of their Web 1.0 home and Googleland is a good first place to visit. It's like Australia, sure there are a few strange animals and they drive on the opposite (not wrong) side of the road, but they speak english and have that "member of the commonwealth" sort of feel. Other than the accent (and a few other things like fabulous weather) you feel like you haven't left home. So for those of you "seasoned travelers" we'll catch you next time but for everyone else let's proceed...

Now I'm a 4-H'er from way back, for those of you who grew up rurally you know what that means -- for the rest it means I'm a "Learn to do by Doing" kind of gal. So the only way to really figure what this Google stuff is all about is to go sign up for an account. Yes I mean now -- go on -- I'll wait. There -- wasn't that easy?? You now have access to the full range of Google products. Calendars, Blogs, Pictures, Word Processor, the whole nine yards. The question is now that you have it -- what will you do with it??? Let me give you a few ideas.

First the Calendar. I have a great Calendar above the phone at my house -- nothing will ever replace it -- it is the schedule that rules our life. The problem is that life doesn't always happen when I have access to the calendar above my phone. Sometimes I'm at work and they ask me to cover an extra shift -- with my Google calendar and the internet I can look up easily that this will cause me to miss my daughters dental appointment and I can politely decline. Sometimes I even have to accommodate other people's schedules (like my husband). He can share his Google calendar with me and it helps me to avoid any scheduling conflicts. My 7 year old has her own shared Calendar that keeps track of hot lunch (Yay don't have to pack a lunch that day), spelling tests, sport practices and anything else that may impact our lives. The whole family is co-ordinated. Isn't that all a mom or dad really wants?

For those of you who belong to any group, whether it be parent council, skating, hockey, baseball, library etc etc Google documents may just be your favourite feature. Once again I must defer to the brilliant explanation by Commoncraft:


Imagine the possibilities when you are trying to edit a newsletter, registration form, fund raising letter, or any other document or presentation. Definitely a time saver.

Well once again I could go on and on but the best way is to just try. I know a web page may not be in your imminent future but co-ordinating sport schedule's with all of your friends to figure out how to get a child to where they need to be might be more realistic. Explore and have fun -- remember it's only Australia -- I wouldn't send you to Timbuktu on your first trip out!! One word of caution -- as anyone who has traveled will tell you -- this can be addictive. You'll soon be looking for the next adventure...

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