More Google Offerings You May Find Useful

February 2010

I talked to someone recently who had never Googled his name. Can you imagine? I do it every other day. Just kidding. But seriously, it’s good to do it on occasion, just to see what’s out there about you.

Or you can try Pipl, which thoroughly digs around the Internet to pull up photos of you, e-mail address, street address, quick facts, web pages, personal profiles, etc. Personas from MIT also scours the Internet to present an overall graphical representation of who you are according to the Internet.

It can be pretty scary. Since my name isn’t that common, just about everything that turns up in these search engines is about me. But if you have a more common name, they tend to mix everything together.

If you’re concerned about what the Internet says, or about having people mix you up with others with the same name, one step you can take is to create your Google Profile. This lets you create a personal page giving however much or little information about yourself that you want to have out there.

Your Google Profile can include photos, biographical information, links to your blog and other profiles, and more. Google says that a Google Profile helps you control somewhat how you’re seen because when people search on your name, your Google Profile will be among the top results.

Google Dashboard is also useful in controlling some of your personal information online. If you use various Google services, Google Dashboard is a single page where you can manage your accounts and adjust your privacy settings.

Speaking of privacy, Google Chrome, a new browser from Google that’s now available for Windows, Mac, and Linux, has an interesting privacy feature that you may find useful. You can open an incognito window and any web pages that you view in this window won’t appear in your browser history or your search history, nor will they leave any other traces, such as cookies, in which a web page that you visit stores information about you on your computer so that it can access that information. Of course, cookies are necessary for things such as online shopping carts, but all traces of that info disappear after you close the incognito window.

Google Chrome is still in “beta,” meaning that it’s not yet a polished software program. One feature that’s missing is the ability to edit bookmarks (aka favorites). But I find that it’s much faster than my Safari browser.

You can expect Google Chrome to be a major contender, because Google is seriously intending to use it to compete with Microsoft Windows. The idea is that the browser becomes your operating system. All you will need is a browser and Google’s increasingly full suite of online tools.

If you use the Internet a lot for research, you might be interested in Google Web History, a new offering that gives you a complete overview of your web history. It’s more detailed and easier to work with than the pull-down history menu.

Plus, it has two great features. First is the ability to search just the web pages that you’ve viewed, including images and videos. Second is that it gradually learns from your history what you’re looking for. When you do a regular Google search it then gives a higher ranking to those search results that are in the same vein as those pages you’ve been spending time on.

To use Google Web History, you’ll need to install the Google Toolbar, which only works with Firefox or Microsoft Internet Explorer, and enable the PageRank feature.

Also new is Google’s real-time search. When you search on a popular topic, such as Barack Obama, the search results now include a dynamic box in the middle of the results page labeled “latest results” that constantly updates with links to the lively part of the web, such as Twitter and blog postings. You can get a sense for what people are posting about the topic that very minute.

You may also want to check out Google’s Living Stories prototype, which does an amazing job of packaging news related to a specific topic all in one place — background, latest updates, timeline of the developments, and more.

A bit of a Google backlash has begun, and some people are starting to complain that it’s become too much of a gatekeeper. But I love their constant innovation.

© 2010 by Jim Karpen, Ph.D.

E-mail Jim Karpen