If you were to interview a broad cross-section of internet users and ask them about Google services, probably most of them would enthusiastically talk about Gmail or Google Reader. At the very least, they would mention Google’s superior search engine. But how many people do you think would discuss being able to set up customised RSS feeds in Google News? Or being able to download source code in Google Code? How many people would know that Google offers various possibilities for users to help improve their products?
Here are some Google services that need a lot more loving (cue Barry White music) :
(1) Google Labs
My favourite online playground (although the offerings at the moment are a little dull). This is where new Google products are first given the beta label and unleashed onto an unsuspecting world for testing and commenting. If you try something out in Google Labs, you are invited to email the Google team involved with comments / suggestions / complaints (on two occasions, I got a personal reply back from a member of the team, discussing my comments).
The way I see it, this is a good way to influence future Google products by getting involved in a product’s development. How many Google users use Google products but don’t bother to provide any creative input to make them better? Next time a Google product doesn’t go as planned, don’t complain on a forum – contact Google and offer constructive advice & criticism!
(2) Google Pack
If you know an internet newbie who has not so much knowledge of the internet and software products (like my mother), Google Pack provides an excellent software package to start with (although I personally wouldn’t choose Norton and Real Player). Check out full program list.
(3) Google Translate
Translate text or even complete webpages into eleven languages (you can even translate from “simplified” Chinese to “traditional” Chinese). As with all online translators, this won’t give you a 100% accurate translation (online translators can’t grasp things like idioms and contexts) but if you want to buy those crates of AK-47 assault rifles from that online shop in North Korea, Google Translate will let you overcome that Korean language barrier.
(4) Google Co-Op
Allows you to customize Google search results with your own self-rolled search engines. You can also provide information from your website as a or if you are a specialist in a particular subject area, you can label and categorize search information which other people can click on. Again, this is another way you can actively help in making search much better (otherwise known as user-generated input).
(5) Google Code
This one is for the computer geeks (of which I am a honorary member). Allows you to find and download source codes and developer API’s to make mashups for Google products.
(6) Google News
Google News has been around for a while and is old-hat to many. But how many of you knew that you could customise the page to only see the news you want to see? Or the fact you can set up customised RSS feeds for the news subjects that interest you? Never miss another news story about Paris Hilton ever again. You can also use the new news archive to find very old news stories, either scanned pages of publications or online sources. Some free, others not.
If you’re in business and you’ve developed a hot new invention, don’t you want to check first to see if anybody got in there before you and filed a patent? Google Patent Search will show you the patent applications for pretty much everything so you can see right away if you are the sole inventor of the combined coat hanger and cigarette lighter.
One of my personal favourites as it helps me to find current blogs on my favourite subjects (and swell my 200+ RSS reading list even further). Find blogs catering to various subjects. Want to know if anybody shares your overwhelming passion for navel lint by blogging about it? GBS will help you out.
(9) Google Alerts
Want to know if anybody has been talking about you online? Maybe somebody trashed your website by insulting it in a forum? Or a disgruntled customer to your online shop made disparaging remarks in their blog? By setting up a Google Alert (with pre-defined search terms), you will get an email with links anytime Google finds something matching your keywords. Britney Spears probably has one set up now with the keywords “Britney” and “MTV Music Awards”.
(10) Google Catalogs
Guys rejoice! (and women too). Want to buy some Victoria’s Secret lingerie? Or perhaps a new light-sabre is in order for you trusty Jedi Knights? Google now offers the chance to browse through scanned pages of catalogs and magazines such as GQ and Cosmopolitan to find products you might be looking for. No more raking in bins looking for catalogs of women in bikinis – Google now gives them to you online!
Do you know of a Google service that needs more user loving? Let us know in the comments. I’ve got Lionel Richie on speed-dial.