Wednesday, November 6, 2013


What's Google good for?

Need to know the latest headline news? The weather in Boca Raton? A quick answer to a simple question, like: "Hey, who won the Best Actor Oscar in 1997?"

Need a picture of someone famous to put in your post? You'll find it on Google, no problem. Need a portrait of an actor or politician? Google will find you a zillion choices, a few of which are hopefully not copyright infringements.

Need to locate an obscure medical condition and which hospital in your area treats it? Google might have the answer. Not a diagnosis, but a place to go to get a diagnosis. Want to know the side effects of your new medication? Google is likely to give you more information than you really wanted. You probably won't like most of it.

So. What's Google good for? To listen to recent posts, you'd think absolutely everything. It's the all-purpose cure-all for every questions, every problem. Recipes, cooking, travel, reviews, buying, selling ... you name it, you can do it on Google. Or can you? Really?

Google can help you get a good idea where to start looking for sources of further research. Google isn't the end of your research. If you are serious, Google is the beginning, the place where you line up your ducks in a row, figure out which are the geese and the swans versus the real ducks.

But after this initial sorting? Personally, I look for a book I can buy. As an example, you absolutely cannot learn anything of real value about ancient Chinese porcelain via Google. All you can do is find additional sources that can lead you to even better source.

You can learn the rules of baseball by Googling it, but if you want to play the game, you'll have join a team. Some things, you’re better off asking someone. “Grandma? could you show me how to crochet?” Or take a class. You are not going to really learn a language on line, not well enough to communicate.

History? Ornithology? Identifying wild flowers or butterflies? Buy a couple of books or borrow them from a library. Anyone who is even slightly serious about research knows that Google is the beginning the search, not the end.

Google is intrusive, ubiquitous and many other bad things. But when you need to zero in on information, it's the place to begin and there isn't anything better. Actually, there isn't really anything else.

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