Monday, December 6, 2010

Life After Google

I've been teaching for an online university for about two and a half years now, and last week one of my students told me that he had googled me and found my online portfolio.  Fortunately, since I teach a class in Web Systems, he thought it was a "pretty cool website."  I have to say, though, that I was a little startled by the whole thing; not that he had run my name through Google - after all, he's working on a degree in information systems - but because apparently none of my other students have ever done so.

I was in grad school during the birth of the World Wide Web, when Google was not even a twinkle in someone's eye.  I was thrilled when the school gave IT majors free access to the Internet by acting as our ISP; it was a dial-up connection with an early version of Netscape, but it allowed me to research all my papers online.  I never physically set foot in the University library that year.  I have to smile when I remember that one of my assignments back then was to write a paper on how search engines work.  In those days they didn't work with the speed or accuracy we now expect, and most stores, newspapers, and major corporations did not yet have an online presence.  In those days, the only one of my professors with his own website was the guy who taught a course in Electronic Commerce, itself still in its infancy.  An online search for the other instructors probably wouldn't have turned up anything at all.

Fast forward to today.  When Barry and I have a question about who that bit player in the 40's movie was, or the visiting hours at a local hospital, or the best way to cook an unfamiliar vegetable, we google it.  We are surprised when other people don't.  If I were taking a web design course today, I would definitely want to know whether the person teaching me knew what he or she was doing.  Of course I would google the name.  So why haven't the rest of my students checked on me?

Maybe I'm being naive.  Maybe they all have and it seems so routine that it didn't occur to them to mention it.  I think if they were, though, that I'd be seeing a lot more traffic for my portfolio in Google Analytics.

"Some say Google is God. Others say Google is Satan. But if they think Google is too powerful, remember that with search engines, unlike other companies, all it takes is a single click to go to another search engine." ~Sergey Brin (Google founder) 

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