What has your home page done for you lately? Is it a Google search box, a news site such as the BBC or one of the existing portals such as MSN? Whatever it is, we predict it’s about to change (and no, we don’t mean to the Kineo site. Though that would be nice of you). Why are we so confident? The Google home page that’s why. If you don’t have one, you are missing out in a big way.
A personal Google home page brings together a range of sophisticated tools such as Google news, Google Alerts and RSS feeds to ensure that you get the information you want, when you want it and delivered to your home page.
One of the UK training sites recently hosted a discussion on whether Google was changing the face of learning and e-learning or whether it was just an information tool. Our own Kineo survey last month revealed that over 40% of people thought Google would dominate informal learning ahead of workflow learning, email, wikis etc.
We’re not alone in thinking like this. Charles Jennings, Head of Global Learning at Reuters, refers to the “googlisation of everything” in this month’s Kineo podcast interview. Google has as its aim to be the prime source of knowledge globally – and the personalised home page catalogues the information you want in one place. As Charles points out in the interview, the amount of information in the world grows at a dizzying pace. Fortunately the tools for managing it are getting better too, so every year there is less that knowledge workers needs to hold in their heads. The google home page is a great example of such a tool.
The Google guys, Sergey Brin and Larry Page, look at it as an example of Moore’s Law in action. Information grows exponentially. Human capacity to absorb it doesn’t grow in line with Moore’s law. So, we wake up dumber than we went to bed. We can stay up all night, or use technology that advances at the same rate to keep up with information. That’s what Google does. For more on how the Google guys think, check out Stephen Walsh’s review of “The Google story” this month.
What does it do?
Let’s take an example google home page – one set up for Kineo. It page appears simple enough. It consists of three traditional columns each made up of blocks of content.
As usual with google, look and feel is very clean and simple. The power comes from the content categories. Let’s examine them.
News on the fly
Google searches all the news sites on the internet for any mentions of any term, e.g. ‘e-learning’. It then lists for you the latest news stories on e-learning. You’re constantly aware of the latest press releases on e-learning from across the world, as it happens.
This means you can get the news you want without scouring or ever visiting various news sites, whether general news such as the BBC or specialist news such as Training Press Releases. This is causing some concern for the news sites. The Financial Times ran an article on Google news (which we found on Google news, not the FT site, of course). It noted that the news sites have a major worry that many people will no longer visit their sites but simply read the headlines and summaries through Google News. Why search six sites when it’s all right here?
Feed meNot all e-learning news gets issued to the news sites. There are some wonderful Mavens (to use Malcolm Gladwell’s term from the Tipping Point) who are centres of e-learning knowledge and always looking into new developments in e-learning. One such example is Stephen Downes. He also makes his latest knowledge available as an RSS (Really Simple Syndication) feed. Want to keep up with Stephen’s latest thoughts? Simply paste his RSS feed into your google homepage. The home page will pick up the titles of his latest RSS items without you having to check his site for the latest updates. In a time-poor, information-rich world, this is a massive timesaver.
You can also get your home page to show the latest five items in your Gmail account. Now you may not want to use a Gmail account for your main email as Google scans all your mail, places ads alongside, keeps your mail forever and may hand it over to various authorities. However, you might want to use an account for newsletter subscriptions, so these also appear on directly your home page
This bit is really cool. Google goes away on your behalf and searches all the pages of the internet for any new mentions of any term you care about - in our case, any mentions of Kineo. Thus it ignores all the sites where Kineo appears currently and just identifies the new ones. It then sends to a list of new instances of Kineo on the web to our gmail accounts. This way wecan immediately see each day other sites that are referring to us, which helps us manage our profile. Does your organisation or team need to do the same? Then use Google Alerts to make it easy.
Okay, at one level this is just an aggregated page of information from across the web plus newsletter emails and alerts. But the difference is the sophistication of these tools such as Google Alerts and Google news. You can specify precisely what you want, including alerts, news and RSS feeds and Google assembles it all for you each time you open your browser.
Knowledge management – outsourced to Google
Consider the implications of this for knowledge management. You can monitor news on a particular piece of legislation, get Google alerts when a word appears on any Google indexed website, instantly see any relevant RSS feeds and newsletters - all without a single search.
This is push technology in action. You don’t need to go and look for certain information, you can simply tell Google News or Alerts what you want and make a coffee while Google delivers the information to your desktop. (Well actually there isn’t time to make coffee as the results are instant, but hey, even knowledge revolutionaries need a break…)
At first, it may not seem like a major advance but use Google homepage for a few days and you will realise this is the beginning of a real knowledge revolution.
You have the power
We have set up a sample Google Homepage so you can see how it works. Just go to www.google.com/ig and login as kineosite and use the password kineopass. We’ve chosen some key e-learning and training content items to get your started. Then customise it for your own interests.
Try adding further news content, just click ‘add content’ on the top left and choose News > Google News > Customised News.
The page is also very easy to tailor, if you want more or less stories shown just click ‘edit’ and adjust the number. If you don’t like where the content appears just click and hold on the title and drag it elsewhere on the page.
You need a Gmail account to set up a personalised homepage and you need to be invited to join Gmail. So if you want to set up you own Google Homepage but don’t yet have a Gmail account just mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org and we will send you an invite to join Gmail.
What’s in it for learning?
Google is the most important informal learning tool in the world. Read our Big Ideas article by Matt Fox which explores the top five Google tools for enhancing learning and performance in your organisation.