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Have You Google-ified Your Life?

January 27, 2011

I love Google and I’m not ashamed to admit it.  What I’m starting to get a little concerned about is how much of my life I actually runs on Google now.  I’ve totally Google-ified my life, without even really realising it… and I love it!

Read on to find out how I’ve achieved supreme Google-ification and learn how it could help you to be more efficient and dynamic in your day-to-day life.  It’s a huge post today… so start reading! 

Google is all that?!

Here is a list of all the Google products and services that I rely on, play with and/or just love:

  • Gmail – including Google Calendar and Contacts
  • Google Maps – including Google Streetview
  • Google Earth
  • Google Latitude
  • Google Reader
  • Google Places
  • Google Talk
  • Google Goggles
  • Google Docs
  • Google Chrome
  • Youtube
  • And just Google – you know, the search engine!

So What? I Use All That Stuff

A lot of people use some, all or more of these Google products too, so what do I mean by ‘Google-ifying your life’?

I mean really using them and incorporating them into your life in order to make you more efficient in your day-to-day life, and less reliant on old-school legacy things like physical address books or even spreadsheets and files on your computer.

I mean actually relying on them such that if Google vanished you would be a lost soul, wandering though the streets aimlessly – dazed and confused.  Do you think you’d fall in to this category, or am I just sad?  Hold it!  Don’t answer that.  Allow me to explain…

Mail, Calendar, Contacts and Docs

All my personal mail, calendar and contacts are synchronised with Google.  Being an IT boffin, I love unifying, streamlining, electronifying and onlinifying things (yeah, I makeupify, too).

Ever since the advent of smart phones I began doing this.  At first I would regularly export my contacts and whatever else my phone would allow to excel or whatever proprietary file format it allowed.  Then I started synchronising my mail calendar and contacts with the Exchange server at work.  Then I changed jobs a few times, and hence I turned to Google so I would never have to worry about backing up, migrating, moving etc.  Google is just always there – and the iPhone makes it so easy to use too.

This is going to sound really nerdy to some of you but my wife (Em) and I also have access to each others Google Calendars so we’re always in check about what each other is doing and when our holidays are and so on… really quite handy.  To take it a step further, we also occasionally collaborate on spreadsheets in Google Docs. Our spreadsheets are things like todo lists that we’re both working on at the same time so we know what each other has already done or not, or shopping lists.  Yes, we’re nerds and I can assure you we still do actually talk to one another – but this just makes things so much easier!

Finally, let’s not forget Google Talk – a very simple to use chat system that’s built right into Gmail.  And it supports video and voice too – right out of the browser!  I must admit this is not something I use a great deal but what I love about it is that it’s just there, signed in and ready to go for any of my friends or family who spot me online and want to have a quick chat.

Google Maps, Streetview, Places and Earth

I would be completely lost without Google Maps.  Literally.  I rely on it so much that I can’t remember what I did before it was around, and especially before I had an iPhone.

Before any new journey I punch in the from and to address/postcode/station/landmark into Google Maps and get an idea of how far it is, how long it will take, alternative route and even traffic.  Heading out the door and don’t have time to do this?  No problem – fire up Google Maps on your mobile device and punch in your destination on there and it will use GPS or cell tower and wifi triangulation to find out your current location and then work out the rest.  If you have an Android phone it will even give you live turn-by-turn navigation.  Pretty freakin cool.

Sometimes before I head out, or even on the way, I want to get a feel for where I’m going or what side of the street the address I’m looking for is.  Google Street View is just brilliant for this.  Drag the little yellow man and drop him anywhere on the map and there you go – you can virtually ‘walk’ around the streets, look at still images of surroundings.

I used this recently to virtually ‘walk’ down my street to check out a few dry cleaners to see which had the best specials posted on the window.  I admit I did that predominately due to laziness but it sure was a time-saver!

Ever been out and about and had a hankering for a decent coffee, or a burrito, or a wine bar but had no idea what was around or what was any good?  Google Places to the rescue!  Fire up the App and literally just type in ‘coffee’, ‘burrito’ or ‘wine bar’ and it will return a list of nearby places that match.  Sort by rating to find the best one, click on ‘directions’ and it will switch to the map and guide you all the way to the door.  What’s more; when you’re done you can use the same App to then give that venue a rating and make a comment to help other Googlers out in the future.  Love it!

If you haven’t played around with Google Earth, you are missing out.  Take my example of Street View to find a dry cleaner from before and apply it to flying over to the US to check out the Grand Canyon, or to London to see Westminster Abbey… and not just see still images of it like with Street View, but a 3D model of it.  Just amazing!

Remember how my wife and I nerdily collaborate on spreadsheets and calendars?  Yeah, well we also collaborate on maps.  We have a map with colour-coded pins placed all around the world.  There’s a colour for where we’ve been, where have booked to go and where we still plan to go.  The really cool thing, I can export this to a file and load it up on Google Earth and fly around the world checking all these places out.  As nerdy as this may be, it is mind boggling what we’re able to freely do these days.

Google Latitude

I’ve been slow to adopt Google Latitude, the main reason for that was because there wasn’t an iPhone App for it – until a few weeks ago.  And now (surprise, surprise) I’m loving it!

For those who aren’t in the know, it’s a great way to see where your friends are so you can easily meet up with them (or stalk them) and I’m finding it’s also a great way to remember where I’ve been and when.  That might sound boring – but look at what it can do with the information:

Clearly I don’t work very much!  I guess it doesn’t know I work from home a lot… still pretty cool though!

The iPhone App has the ability to automatically update Latitude with the coordinates of where you are each time you get on the move.  Pretty clever really, and surprisingly it doesn’t really kill the battery either.  It’s smart enough to know if you’re stationary then to not bother doing anything and furthermore, if you battery is low it backs off too.

Check out this map showing everywhere I went between last Friday and Monday – including the weekend I spent in France… and you might have guess that I went there by train.  It’s a shame my iPhone couldn’t get a GPS fix 100m under the English Channel – would have been interesting to see red markers on the water!

What’s more is you can even ‘play back’ your movements too – so it’s not just where you’ve been but also at precisely what time.

If looking at a million red markers just to remember in which month you visited which country sounds like a chore, a) you’d be right and b) you don’t have to!  Check this out:

And I’ve always wanted to know this too 🙂

But Wait – There’s More!

There is oh so much more I want to tell you about but I will finish by just touching briefly on a few more – Google Goggles, Google Chrome and Google Voice.

Google Chrome is my web browser of choice nowadays.  The thing that won me over what it’s sheer simplicity and speed.  The thing that kept me is it ability to synchronise my entire browsing experience to the cloud (yep, it’s the IT boffin in me speaking again).  So regardless of whether if I open Chrome on my Mac, my work Windows laptop, my wife’s laptop or an internet cafe – all my bookmarks, history, extensions and so on are all consistently available.

Google Goggles is an amazing bit of technology.  Definitely not perfect yet, but possibilities it brings are limitless.  Basically, you can point your mobile phone camera at an object and it will figure out what it is and Google it for you.  I snapped a book the other day and it returned a list of online prices and reviews in about 2 seconds.  You can even point it at a Sudoku puzzle and it will solve it for you!

Finally, Google Voice.  Not a service I’ve had the pleasure of using yet – but I can’t wait to!  The concept is simple – have one phone number.  A Google number.  Give that number to everyone.  Then when someone calls it, you decide based on rules or manually whether that call goes to your home phone, personal mobile, work mobile or the office.  Or maybe it’s from someone you’re avoiding so it won’t ring anywhere but instead go to voicemail, a transcript of which can then be emailed to you.  Very, very cool.  Once this becomes mainstream and available to all it will most definitely finalise my Google-ification process!

Conclusion

I hope you have learned a little something from this and maybe even found a way to incorporate something new into your life to improve the way you do things now.  Perhaps you already have a better way of doing something I’m doing – would love to hear about so leave me a comment.  Maybe you think I’m a fool and completely brainwashed by Google – hey, back off man!  But leave me a comment anyway!

The motivation behind this post was not meant to make you feel that this is the best way to manage your life – the idea behind it was to simply make you realise the sorts of things you could be doing better in your life to be more efficient and dynamic.  Google is certainly not the be all and end all of it, but it’s definitely a world leader.  I sincerely hope that all the competition catches up and nips at Google’s heels to ensure these technologies are forever pushed to the limit for us all to enjoy.

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