Remember when Google was just a search engine? Yeah, me neither. With the way Google has infiltrated every nook and cranny of our digital lives, it’s almost hard to imagine life before Google. For the past two years, I’ve used Google services like Search, Reader, Blogger, Alerts, News, and Buzz as my means of professional communication. I use Chrome on my PC and Android on my phone. I’ve used Picasa to manage photos, YouTube for entertainment, and Earth to explore. And I’m not even going to start with Maps, Calendar, Notebook, Scholar, Images…you get the idea. And now, I’m supposed to join Google+, the future of social media. A seamless integration and consolidation of existing Google services into a harmonious user-experience that addresses the beauty and richness of sharing in–
Damn it. No. Just no. I’m not having this social media crap. Google, you’ve reached your breaking point. And I don’t know if you’re being diabolical, or just capricious, but it’s not cool to haphazardly screw around with your most popular services just because you really, really, really want me to start circling my +1 in your hangout. Besides sounding pervy, that’s just not the way to customer loyalty. Your fans are roundly criticizing you and calling this the week you messed up. And though the grumblings about Google haven’t reached angry Apple fan-boy levels of derp yet, I’m sure that in the near future we’ll hear people loudly proclaiming that they’re “done with Google” (probably the same people who “moved to Canada” after the last election, if you catch my drift).
Given how weird Google has been lately, I’ve decided to embark upon an experimental journey. Sure, Google does things that irritate us. Sure, Google doesn’t understand privacy. But, can we really live without Google? I don’t know, but I’m going to try. Over the next few months I’m going to intentionally divest myself from as many Google products and services as possible. My overarching question is this: can a moderately tech-savvy reference librarian manage to survive the Internet without the help of Google? Here’s the plan…
I intend to play around with alternatives to each and every Google service that I currently use, both professionally and personally (with two exceptions that I’ll explain later). This means a different search engine, browser, RSS reader, blog, image host, office suite…you name it. If Google makes it, I won’t use it for three months. But, I have to make two exceptions. First, GMail. I use GMail to sign-up for, and receive notifications from, other services. But, still, given that my GMail address is on emergency contact forms and user accounts, I can’t get rid of it too easily (though I’m working on it). Second, I can’t just stop using my Android phone. But, I’ve stopped syncing to my Google account, I don’t really download apps, I use the Opera mini browser instead of the Google option, and I’ve turned off Google’s location services. It’s the best I can do. As to the rest…
Like I said, I’m moderately tech-savvy. I don’t do coding or server stuff, but I know my way around a computer and I know enough not to fall for the old “build a GUI interface in Visual Basic” trick. I’m comfortable using most social media sites, and I encourage their use, though I tend not to share very much. I guess you could say that on the Librarian Internet Technology Skills Scale, where 1 is Michael Gorman and 10 is my awesome coworker Jason Griffey, I’m around a solid 7. (See Figure 1)*
So, though there may be awesome server-side solutions to abandoning Google, I won’t go that route. Instead, I’ll look for ready-to-use, freely available alternatives to as many Google products as I can think of. Here’s a preliminary list:
|Google version||New version|
|Search||DuckDuckGo, Bing, Yahoo|
|RSS Reader||Google Reader||Netvibes|
|Image Organizer||Picasa||Windows Live Photo Gallery|
|Office Suite||Google Docs||Office + Dropbox, Zoho|
|Research||Google Scholar||The library|
I’ll be logging out of all of my Google accounts, uninstalling Google Chrome, Picasa, and Desktop, removing bookmarks to Google websites, and I’ll try my best to avoid using any Google product. For three months. However, I will use Google in the following situations: (1) to illustrate a point or compare Google with a competing service, (2) if I need it to help a patron, or (3) if after a good faith effort I simply can’t find a reasonable alternative.
Now, I’m not saying it will be easy. I doubt that Google can be completely eliminated. But, I have a feeling that I’ll survive. I also don’t want anyone to get the impression that I’m anti-Google. I love Google. Google is wonderful. This is just an experiment, not a statement. I’ll be sure to post updates along the way. Hopefully, by February 2012, I’ll have a new perspective on life after Google.
Oh yeah, and welcome to the new blog.
*For the record, Gorman is one of my favorite librarians and he probably isn’t really a Sith Lord.