Lesson 4.4 – With or Without Google
With or Without Google
LEARNING GOAL #4: Applied Web Design
Most of us don’t ever question Google. We type in our search, hour after hour, day after day, week after week, and we trust the answers Google gives us. Absolutely every time we want to know something, we Google it. If we stop to think of a big and powerful business, we think of Google. And even if we want to know the history of Google, we just Google it. But what about all those other search engines? Why would someone ever want to use another search engine? Is it possible that Google really spies on me or my search history? Does Google really know everything about me?
The answers to some of these questions may surprise you.
This is our last full lesson of Web Design I. This is also the last lesson that deals with applied web design. But this time, now that you have finished your final projects, we will talk less about design or coding and more about the value of the information we add to the World Wide Web. Along the way, we’ll talk about some alternative search engines, some tips on how to do better research with Google, and how to tell the difference between true and false information on the web.
DAILY SCHEDULE (85 MINUTES):
CLASS DISCUSSION #1 – What Search Says About Us
Topic #1 – Google Reigns Over All
Way back at the end of Lesson 1.5, we learned that Larry Page and Sergey Brin had been sitting in a room at Stanford University with a bunch of other student engineers thinking of a new name for their search engine. Backrub wasn’t very catchy, so someone in the room thought of a big number called a googol (a 1 with 100 zeros behind it). But when one of the students went to buy the domain for googol.com, they misspelled the word and got stuck with google.com. That meeting took place on September 15, 1997. And within one year, Google was already getting 500,000 searches per day. Within two years, Google had the largest index of web page keywords in the world. Within three years, Google had become the most popular search engine in the world. And there was never any turning back. Today, Google manages billions and billions of searches per day. Take a look.
Topic #2 – What Our Searching Says About Us
We often think about privacy as having to do with the most personal details that we keep to ourselves and those closest to us. Social Security Numbers. License numbers. Addresses. Phone numbers. But let’s imagine someone appeared at your front door when you got home from school and said this to you:
“For the past seven days, I have been tracking your searches on Google. ALL of them. I know about very single thing you have looked up on your phone, on your laptop, and on your tablet. And tomorrow, I will be sharing a report of your search history with the school administration. This will now be a permanent part of your middle school record.”
Before we go any further, let’s just think about this for a second. What would that report say about us? About you? Would it reveal anything about your family? About your friends? About the things you like to do? About the things you regret? Without talking, take one minute to think back through at least 10 things you searched for in the past seven days. Make a mental list and consider what all those things say about you. Honestly. Would they say you’re just a really good student? Or would they say something else? Something you would never want to have on file in a permanent record?
The scenario above is not real. No one is going to show up at your house and say that. But what IS real is that even if no one comes to your door, Google still has a permanent record of everything you have EVER searched for on ANY computer you are logged into at ANY point in your life up to this point. In other words, they have more information about you than seven days. They have information about you from eight, nine, or even ten years ago that you already forgot you searched.
“If we continue down this path, Google will know more about you than anyone else does, including you.” Alexander Halavais (Search Engine Society, 2009, p.149)
So the most important question is this: how secure is your information? How private is your search history? If someone suspects you of a crime, can the police contact Google and find out what kinds of information you’ve been looking up over the last year? Can the government spy on your browsing history and decide whether to start tracking your computer because of questionable searches? What if you run for president someday and a member of the other party wants to find dirt on you? Can they pay Google enough money to get access to years of your search history? The answer to most of these questions right now is no. There are limits to what people can know about you. But the rules are always changing and it’s very possible that something private today will not be private in 10 years. Think about that, then be careful what you search and how you search.
Topic #3 – Google Activities
1. Google Ego Surfing: This is when you go to Google and search for your own name. You want to know if someone else more famous or more well known has your name. You might also want to know if the information about your name is good or bad. Try it.
2. Google Poetics: This is when you go to Google and start a search with something sort of poetic, but let the Google Auto Complete write the rest of your poem. For example, you might type “A Thousand Years Of” and get four possible sentences. Below are just a few ideas for getting started:
Where did I : Some monsters : My children : I was : Why does
The idea here is that you start writing either a question or a statement, but you don’t finish it. Instead, you let Google finish the poem. Try it.
3. Google Lock: This is when you go to Google and try to find a combination of keywords that only gives you ONE result. Most searches lead to thousands or even millions of results. So what combination of keywords would give you ONE result? This one is difficult, but we’ll try it for a minute.
Topic #4 – Beyond the Google Search Box
1. Google Trends
*Searching for popular topics to see what others are looking at and so you can keep up with what’s going on.
2. Google Advanced Web Search
*Searching within specific sites or regions (narrow searches) – Class Website
3. Google Book Search
*Searching for and within familiar and unfamiliar books – The Giver
4. Google Newspapers
*Searching old article headings and pages (primary sources) – Times-Union – 9/12/2001
5. Google Image Advanced Search
*Searching legal images, appropriate images, and specific image types – abstract sunset
6. Google Translate
*Searching text languages that are unfamiliar
CLASS DISCUSSION #2 – Why Good Content Matters
Topic #1 – When and Why This All Matters: A Student Example
Every book, newspaper, or journal that gets published (as in, information people pay to read) has a responsibility to provide readers with the most accurate information possible. That means every publication should be working extremely hard to not only make sure that that their information is true, but that the information can be proved. Here is an example from the 2017-2018 Yearbook
Back in Class Discussion #1, there was a quote from Alexander Halavais. See if you can spot it. What is one way that you could verify whether the quote is real or fake? Prove it.
Topic #2 – When and Why This All Matters: A Real World Example
One of the most common phrases we hear about in our culture today is something called Fake News. But what exactly does that mean? For something to be “fake,” it has to be intentionally false. In other words, if something is fake news, that means the information and the entire organization that provides that information is intentionally stating things that are false. There is plenty of “fake” news on the World Wide Web, but before we talk about the ways you can tell the difference between actual news and fake news, why do you believe it is even important to know the difference? Or does the truth not matter
Topic #3 – Final Thoughts on Your Contributions to a Better Web
Chances are, even if you never code again, you will be involved with some kind of a website at some point in your life after the semester is over. Maybe one day, you’ll work for a business that asks you to manage the content of their website. Maybe you’ll get involved with an organization (political, social, or religious) and then offer to help write articles for their social media account. Or maybe you’ll just decide to build your own website and share your weekly thoughts online. But whatever you do and wherever you do it, have the integrity to be honest. Have the integrity to tell the truth. And if you can’t be sure of the truth, don’t pass along information that you cannot prove or verify. Avoid all those instincts you may have to share things you don’t really know and do your best to share or write things that you know for sure. The Internet can be a source of lies, but it can also be a source of truth. This is how you can make a small, but important difference toward a better web and a better world.
Topic #4 – If Not Google, Where Else Can We Search?
After Google took over the search engine market in 1998, it was easy to forget about all the other search engines. But as long as Google has been around, there have always been alternatives. Below are five search engines that you will be using with your team to briefly search for answers about a subject. Your job is not to look at every website, but to consider how the search engine leads you to those results. Each team will be assigned to a different search engine, but the whole class will have the same topic and we’ll discuss the search engines at the end.
Your Search Topic: Why Do We Sleep?
Topic #6 – Scavonline Hunt
Step 1: With your partner, choose one person who will document the answers and have that person open a Notepad Document. That person can save it as onlinehunt.txt in their /misc folder.
Step 2: When you and your partner are ready, open the Scavonline Hunt and wait for the password from your teacher.
*Please remember that while one person in your group is writing, BOTH of you are searching for answers. After you open the questions, you may want to split the questions with your partner to get it done faster.
*The first team with all the right answers will be counted as the winner and will receive the same reward as the student(s) who won the last challenge.