Monday, June 4, 2007

Google: Or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Corporations

Back from vacation, I have spent most of today trying to get my "home office" (I know, so bourgeois!) in New York set up so that I can actually start getting some real work done. After talking to my committee member last week and spending the last week on a total vacation, I am ready to start tackling the world of statistics, racial residential segregation and gentrification research (for those who might be interested, I am reading Richard Florida's Rise of the Creative Class. I will let you know what I think when I finish).

In order to be at all productive three things needed to happen:

  1. I needed to clear off my desk so that I would have space to work. This, in turn required that:

  2. I put together all of my accounts because most of my desk was covered with old bills, unpaid bills, and an assortment of other types of information that either needed to be shredded or filed to that infamous "someplace safe". This "someplace safe" is generally someplace so safe that even I can't find it later using all of my skills of logical deduction. This, in turn, caused me to realize that:

  3. I should probably do something to try and organize my life in some way that is compatible with "telecommuting" six hundred miles to Ann Arbor.

As you can imagine, this is something rather tedious and best left for people who actually like to do things like organize desks (this trait in people has often scared me, even in some of my closest friends). However, seeing as how I do not have a personal assistant, I need to do it myself. In the process, I was trying to figure out the relative merits of using Microsoft Outlook versus Google Calendar. I decided that I will probably end up using Google Calendar and Gmail, but I have two concerns. First, I always manage to lose important information every time I try and shift the system in the way that I do things, either digitally or physically. Second, I also have this concern that suddenly Google is going to decide that they are going to charge for everything that is currently free (for instance, this blog). My two very good friends that work for Google, they assure me that there is no way that this would happen &mdash maybe it is the socialist in me, but I always have my doubts when there is a pool of cash to be earned by corporations. No matter how benevolent they may be.

My concerns aside and with my conflicts of interest noted, I think that Google Calendar is really cool! (NB: and by saying that, you realize how not cool I am). It is awesome that you can have multiple calendars that show up on your own calendar so that you can see what is going on either with groups you are involved with or with friends, family, etc. For instance, E. and I used to have one of those large calendars that hung in our apartment; we were each to write down where we would be, what we would be doing, etc. That way, I could know if E. needed a ride or she could know if I was going to be late on a given evening (I don't know why I would ever have been late). Now, this calendar is a brilliant idea; but, given my comments earlier, you can probably guess how well I did writing in the most up-to-date information. Eventually, we scrapped it due to my lack of organizational ability. But, amazingly enough, the one thing that I have done fairly well is keep an electronic calendar. With Google Calendars, we can each see each other without having to create a shared file network between her computer and mine and everything else that is generally really shitty about Microsoft. Of course, that means overcoming E.'s fears that getting a Google account is one step short of Big Brother reading her e-mail (she is a much better person than I, with an even larger suspicion of corporations than mine).

Of course, that got me thinking about the ways that organizations can use these kinds of tools to reach more members, organize more effectively, share across time and distance, etc. But, I think that I will leave that for a later post. I hear Stata calling...


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