Monday, April 9, 2007

7 Ways to Make Google Work Better for You.

We love this blog thing! We are getting wonderful response and even a few comments. Please be sure to give us your feedback.
I am excited to announce that we are going to feature “guest” bloggers from time to time. There are so many incredible people out there with useful and fun topics to write about. We are lucky to know so many. Let us know if you know someone (or yourself) who would like to contribute. Send me an email with your idea or submission and we’ll do our best to work it in.

This week I am so delighted to introduce you to Michael Benidt and Sheryl Kay of Golden Compass. Michael and Sheryl are reinventing the idea of computer classes. You won’t believe how relevant and entertaining they are in their presentations. We have had the pleasure of hosting several at Capabilities. There is always laughter and wonder spilling from the room. They have quite the following. Michael and Sheryl recently offered a free sampler class. Despite the nasty weather that day, quite a few hearty souls showed up and had a blast. The grand prize was a three-hour class with Golden Compass. The winner was Dot Nabors (pictured at right). Two other lucky winners received books, "Hidden Google Treasures of the Internet". BJ Hosler (right, lower) and Carol Poore took them home.

Take a look at Michael’s informative blog and sign up for the next round of classes in June. See our Events page for more details and dates.

7 Ways to Make Google Work Better for You

Would you like Google to do a better job for you? Here are some tips to make your Internet searches more productive so that you can save time for the really important things in life – all of which happen away from your computer!

Tip #1 – Bartlett never had it this good
Always use quotes around words that belong together. This is particularly useful if you can only remember a line or two of a song, a poem or a joke. For example, “Once upon a midnight dreary;” “St. Agnes Eve – ah bitter chill it was” or “I was stranded in the jungle.” Try this at home – you’ll win a lot of those dinner table bets.

Tip #2 – Pictures or news?
Google can search many things besides web sites. It can search for pictures, for instance. Just click the “Images” tab and Google will search for pictures of anything you want – Brazilian rain forests, Derek Jeter, even the Hope Diamond. Similarly, if you’re looking for news articles on a subject, don’t search the entire web; just click the “News” tab to restrict your results to late-breaking news about the Brazilian rain forests, Derek Jeter, or the Hope Diamond.

Tip #3 – Triple Google Latte – half-decaf and hold the whipped cream
Want to keep from seeing explicit pictures? Need Google to talk to you in French? Get Google to work the way you want it to – on the “Preferences” tab. Google lets you tell it lots of other things – by far more things than you can ever tell your kids - and, it will listen! The “Preferences” tab is on the Google home page. Give it a look.

Tip #4 – Just Your News – Sent to You
Who wants to spend more time on their computer these days? Stop following your nose for hours and hours on end looking for the latest information. Instead, sign up for Google’s “News Alerts.” You can have alerts sent to you on everything from the stocks you own to the latest news about global warming to your favorite soap opera stars. Save time by letting Google send you just the topics you want.

Tip #5 – It’s a Calculator, It’s a Phone Directory, It’s Super Google!
This is sort of scary, but just type in a telephone number and up comes the name and address of the person who owns that number. You can also type in a stock symbol and, “Bam,” you have the up-to-the-second price. This list goes on and on. For instance, type in your UPS shipment number (you don’t even have to type in “UPS” because it just somehow knows). By the way, when you do type in your UPS tracking number, sure enough, it will tell you that it’s been held up in a snowstorm in Detroit.

Tip #6 – It’s All in How You Say It
Hang on to your hat for this one. If you are new to all things Google, you might want to skip this paragraph. If you’re a Google veteran, this one’s for you. Let’s say you are looking for information about “fixed annuities.” Add the word “site” to zero in on the kind of information you need. If you type “fixed annuities” you will have 355,000 results – mostly from sites that want to sell you stuff. However, if you type in “fixed annuities” site:edu you’ll get much more targeted information from university and educational sites – and leave the sales guys back at the station, where they belong. We have to keep this short here, but if you want to avoid looking for every possible mention of your search term (“Adlai Stevenson”) and are only looking for sites that deal with Adlai, start your search by typing intitle:“Adlai Stevenson” These are just a few of many terms you can use to narrow down your search results and get exactly the kind of information you need.

Tip #7 – Digital Photography without Going to the Madhouse
Google offers photo editing software that is what every software program in the world should be – free and easy to use. Picassa 2 does a lot more than just help you edit your photos. At the click of your mouse it will run a slide show of your trip to Bali, send (and size!) photos of Bali to Aunt Jenny and print your pictures any way you like them. You find it under the “More” tab – which is one of those tabs on Google’s impossibly simple home page.

And One Final, Very Big Tip
Here’s a remarkable statistic. Nine out of ten people are confident and satisfied with their ability to search the Internet. The PEW Internet and American Life Project reports:
“92% of those who use search engines say they are confident about their searching abilities.”

What an amazing number! Do you think 92% of Americans are satisfied with their looks? Are 92% of Americans pretty confident that they weigh as much as they should or have as much money as they need? As Carolyn Myss, the author of Anatomy of the Spirit, has said, “Americans have managed to make lack of self-esteem a national malady.” Except when it comes to the Internet! This is surprising considering that the Internet has appeared in the equivalent of the last instant of human time, and is more enormous than the human brain can comprehend. Astounding then that anyone can believe they know it all when it comes to Internet search.

Deborah Fallows of the Pew Internet and American Life Project says it this way, “In a sense, many search-engine users are a little bit like kids with a fancy new toy. They want to go play with it immediately and have a good time, but most don’t want to read the instructions or much care to know how it works.”

But you are still reading – and that means you’re among the 8% who believe there is more to learn. So, for you, here is one tip that might help you the next time you get one of those annoying messages that say “Page NOT Found” when you do a Google search. Use the “back button” and then click on the word “Cached” in your Google result. Like magic, the web site you wanted will appear – actually a picture of the site, but let’s not argue – and, it will even highlight (in different colors!) each of your search terms. We know friends who are using the “Cache” link for all of their searching – because the highlighted words make it easy to find their search terms quickly.

And the next time you hear someone say they can find anything on the Internet by just typing a few words into Google, just tell them that most of the Internet is not available through Google. The PEW study said it this way: “Finally, there are billions of web pages that users of the popular search engines have no access to. In fact, despite what feels like a veritable and ever-growing glut of information, only a small fraction of existing web pages are actually indexed by the popular engines. The rest are hidden on the “invisible web.” Yes, Virginia, there are a few (billion) things Google can’t do. But, since you’re part of the 8% you already knew that. Keep learning – there’s a lot to find with Internet search!

Michael Benidt and Sheryl Kay teach the power of Internet Literacy. You can learn more about them at both and, or come for a class at Capabilities - see our Events page for details.

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