It’s official, a leading arbiter of language has confirmed that
"Google" is a verb as well as a noun. On July 7 Merriam-Webster added
Google, the verb, to its venerable dictionary – along with bling, a
noun that you can easily Google.
All of us, of course, are Googling like mad. We Google to find
addresses, movie times, and the meaning of words like "bling." We also
Google to find out what our college roommates are up to and to confirm
that our dates really are as accomplished as they claim to be.
Nancy Blachman has been Googling for longer than most. A devotee of
the search site since 1999 – a good half a decade before it went
public and its stock shot up to $485 a share – she is the co-author of
"How to Do Everything with Google" and has developed a series of nifty
Google cheat sheets, which are found at her website, the Google Guide,
which is located at www.googleguide.com.
Blachman speaks on "What Google Can Do for Your Business" on
Wednesday, July 19, at 7:30 a.m. at a meeting of the Princeton
Regional Chamber of Commerce at the Nassau Club. Cost: $25. Call
609-924-1776. She gives the same talk at a free meeting of SCORE, the
Service Corps of Retired Executives, at the Princeton Public Library
on Thursday, July 20, at 10 a.m. Then, on Tuesday, July 25, at 7 p.m.,
she speaks on "Power Googling: How to Get What You Want from Google"
at a free public meeting at the Princeton Public Library.
Blachman holds an M.S. from Stanford, where she taught for eight
years. The mother of twins, a son and daughter, headed to kindergarten
in the fall. She is married to David DesJardins, a
mathematician/statistician, who was at one time a Google software
engineer. The family lives in Burlingame, California, and are spending
the summer in Princeton, where DesJardins works part-time.
While it is hard to find anyone who is not googling like mad, many who
rely on the search engine are unaware of all of its capabilities, let
alone all of the applications that have been developed by third-party
software developers. In her book, Blachman writes that "With over a
thousand employees, a formidable research department, and a corporate
environment that encourages experimentation, it’s no surprise that
Google has a few tricks up its sleeve. In addition, thanks in part to
an interface that Google makes available to software developers, third
parties have built some cool features on top of Google’s service."
It is now possible – and incredibly easy – to create a custom Google
homepage full of these features. There are whimsical additions, such
as Google eyes that follow your mouse around the page, and a tree frog
that does the same, but much more slowly. There are automatically
updated news services from the likes of ESPN and the Wall Street
Journal, weather updates for any number of cities, a daily horoscope,
Dilbert cartoons, to-do lists, and, possibly best of all, virtual
stickies – expandable yellow squares onto which important
appointments, phone numbers, or reminders of any sort can be typed.
More add-ons, many from third-party providers, join the list every day
– and all are free.
The custom homepages are available to anyone who registers.
Subscribers to Google’s free E-mail service, Gmail, are automatically
given the pages. Blachman invites anyone who would like a Gmail
account, which is awarded by invitation, to write her at
nancy@googleguide. She promises to send out an invitation right away.
Blachman says that Google Guide is a labor of love. It isn’t a
business, and she doesn’t want it to be. "I’ve even taken most of my
ads down," she says. "I used to get a couple of hundred dollars a
month, but now I only have ads on pages about ads. It’s a hobby." She
had tried to sell the site to Google, but when the company decided not
to buy it, she decided to keep on going anyway. "I enjoy it," she
says, "so why should I stop doing it just because I’m not getting
paid?" She also enjoys giving talks on Google, and does not charge for
Google has changed so much since Blachman first starting using it. It
is hard for anyone to keep up. She thinks that is the reason that the
cheat sheets on her website are the most popular areas – drawing fully
one-third of the site’s 5,000 daily visitors. She has begun to craft
the cheat sheets in ways that are instructive, and also fun. There is
now a coffee mug cheat sheet and a mousepad cheat sheet on her site.
Users just print out the handy references and attach them to a mug or
mousepad, where they serve as reminders of how to find information,
not only on coffee or mice, but also on any topic under – or beyond –
The coffee mug cheat sheet has two columns, one labeled "sample
queries" and one labeled "in response Google gives you pages with…"
So, if you want to know where to find a coffee maker costing between
$19 and $99, you would type in "coffee maker $19..$99." If you want to
know about academic research on the effects of caffeine on health you
would type in "caffeine health site:edu." To find out how to select
tea, you would type in "how, select & tea." This, Blachman says,
forces Google not to ignore the word "how," an important step because
it does generally ignore very common words.
Also on the coffee cheat sheet is advice on how to best find showtimes
and reviews for the movie "Chocolat." Type "movie:Chocolat" into the
search engine window and they will pop up.
Google is a constant computer companion for tens of millions of
people, but few have any idea of all that the search site can do. Yes,
it is indispensable for fact checking an article, finding a phone
number, and researching a term paper, but it can do so much more. In
the Quick Reference section of her multi-faceted website, Blachman
lists a number of little-known ways to use Google.
The site, for example, is a calculator. Enter "10 + 10" and it will
spit out "20." It also does percentages and square roots with ease. It
also converts measurements. Just type in the conversion you want, say
"76 degrees Fahrenheit in degrees Celsius" or "120 pounds in
Google is also prepared to track packages, ID vehicles, and reveal
just what product is attached to which UPC code. Just type in an
identifying number, and the information will appear.
Want to know if your flight is going to be held up by an impending
hurricane? Just type in a three-letter airport code (EWR for Newark,
for example) and the word "airport" or the words "weather forecast"
and the airport code. Similarly, track flights by simply typing, for
example, "jetblue 128" into Google’s search window.
All of this, of course, indicates that on some level Google wants to
take over the world. The site aims to be the one and only place anyone
ever needs to go in cyberspace – or on terra firma, for that matter.
Blachman says that one of her favorite new Google functions is the
ability to see the full text of a book. She recently had a question
about a quote in a children’s book, and, instead of finding a spot on
Witherspoon Street and striding into the gorgeous new Princeton Public
Library, she simply used Google Books to look up – and quickly find –
just the reference she was seeking.