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Tracey E.Schelmetic

[February 26, 2003]

Dot Commentary

By Tracey E. Schelmetic
Senior Managing Editor, CUSTOMER [email protected] Solutions

The Newest Verb In The English Language

A friend called me last night to tell me about the guy she has recently begun dating.

He called! Were going to a film festival in Boston tomorrow night.

Thats great, I said.

Actually hes called me every night this week.

That could be good or bad, I replied. Make sure were talking enthusiastic and not stalker here, I said.

I wasnt born yesterday, she said. I googled him.

We have a new verb in the English language. Let me illustrate.

google (gōōgel) v. gled, -gling, -gles 1. To use a search engine for the purpose of making sure your blind date is not Ted Bundys younger brother. 2. To quietly stroke your own vanity by finding out what has been written about you on the Internet, or make sure your ex-boyfriend or girlfriend hasnt posted your personal information and a photo of you taken after a day of re-grouting the bathroom on www.amihot.com.  

So far, so good. The gentleman in question is not on the FBIs most wanted list, nor the sort-of wanted list, nor even the mildly desired list. His name has not appeared recently in a police bulletin, on Interpols Web site, nor in conjunction with the sale of illegal arms to Azerbaijan, unless he used a pseudonym for his evil carryings-on, in which case, well never know, unless my friend is willing to go so far as to submit his photograph to the FBI and have them run it through that facial recognition system that gets so much mileage in Tom Cruise movies.

The search engine Google.com has somewhere in the area of 62.2 million global unique Internet users a month. The only ads it carries are text-based, and come up in the form of preferred searches in the right-hand margin. Users like it because its fast, it doesnt deluge you with graphics and pop-up ads, and it has a comprehensive variety of search methods.

Just as with dating, the Internet would be a very scary place without it.

Admit ityoure nodding right now because youve done it too, at least once.

In my editorial duties for Customer [email protected] Solutions magazine, I frequently use the exact text searches to make sure bylined articles are original. Ive had people sign copyright release forms over to us, and swear up and down that the article was penned exclusively for us, only to drop a block of text into Google and discover that the article has already been published five times, by all of our competitors and on every industry Web site. (I actually had one person who signed copyright releases for the same article to three different publications.)

In the same manner, teachers and college professors have found Google extremely useful for spotting plagiarism. If a submitted paper raises a teachers suspicion (a student that had trouble grasping complete sentences last week, but today turns in a term paper that uses the word pusillanimous, for example), he or she can type a few sentences of the paper into Googles with the exact phrase section under advanced search, and find out if that particular combination of words has ever appeared elsewhere.

I used Google recently in another waya friend forwarded me an e-mailed job offer for Web development that he received via Monster.com. The company was looking for a team of Web developers to work from home. If you met their approval process, they would send you $3,500 for your materials and your time. You, in turn, would send $2,000 back to them when you completed the work and they billed the client, to reimburse them for reimbursing you, or something along those lines. He forwarded the e-mail to me, and my red flags started popping up. First of all, for a company that supposedly outsources Web developers, their own Web site looked like it had been put together by a 13-year-old on his first night with his newly purchased Web Design For Dummies book. Secondly, the companys New York address was 10104 Wall Street. Considering the limited width of Manhattan and the fact that Wall Street is only about four blocks long, 10104 Wall Street would have to be located a couple of hundred miles offshore in the Atlantic Ocean.

Finally, and most damningly, the client companys name and city were stated on the Web site, but they didnt pass the Google test. The company didnt exist. Another perfectly good scam swirls the bowl because the con man couldnt even forge the details properly, and didnt imagine anyone would check. Nobody ever said people who run Web scams were geniuses. (This is evident by the fact that I get e-mails every day from the widows of the ex-President of Nigeria. If theyre all his widows, the man mustve been the most prolific matrimonial prospect in the history of the world. No wonder hes dead.)

And finally: A use for Google that few people take advantage of for everyday use. Most searchers default to the Web search and ignore the image search that can be conducted for a photograph or illustration of almost anything you can think of. Pictures of aardvarks? 7,920 hits. Need a photo of Spiro Agnew? You can find 144 of them on Google. Looking for images of traditional Polish costumes? Four hits pop up.

No photos, however, of aardvarks in traditional Polish garb.

Even Google has its limits.

The author wants to hear your googling stories at tschelmetic@tmcnet.com.

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