The zero value of Google’s mind-numbing time-saving strategies

September 10, 2010

Since my earlier post today was more a book promotion than anything else, here’s the — ahem –real blog post.

Many a days I feel like there’s not enough hours in a day to get everything done. I don’t have kids — and don’t know how people who do, get it done (they probably subscribe to Remember the Milk or have superpowers) — but I have a full-time job, a daily blog, a husband, and my iPad to devote time to.

Google Working on 8220Instant Search8221 Feature1 The zero value of Googles mind numbing time saving strategiesGoogle is doing all kinds of things to make my life more efficient. Two weeks ago they rolled out the Priority Inbox feature in Gmail — it’s supposed to show me all the “important” e-mails at a glance while pushing everything else down below to a category called, well… Everything Else.

According to the Gmail Blog:

Email is great, except when there’s too much of it. Priority Inbox automatically identifies your important email and separates it out from everything else, so you can focus on what really matters.

And now, we have the new Google Instant Search (launched amidst much fanfare on Wednesday).

Again, the Google Blog team analyzes:

Our key technical insight was that people type slowly, but read quickly, typically taking 300 milliseconds between keystrokes, but only 30 milliseconds (a tenth of the time!) to glance at another part of the page. This means that you can scan a results page while you type.

Also, the blog goes on to tell me that their testing has shown Google Instant “saves the average searcher two to five seconds per search.”
Two to five seconds! Can you imagine how much that adds up to if everyone all over the world used Google Instant? 11 whopping hours.

But before you get excited, that’s 11 hours shared between 422 million daily Google users!

Nevertheless,you’re saving something! So, I’m thinking that all the seconds saved between scanning search results as I type and having a bot weed out unimportant e-mails for me, will now allow me to spend an extra minute tracking visitors to my blog and probably allow me 57 more seconds of Angry Birds swatting out mean pigs.

I may even, if the bots in Gmail get trained fast and are effective, scan 20 more tweets every four hours in any given day!

Can you believe how much better all this time-saving will make my life?

In an age where we’re teaching our kids (well, technically where you are teaching your kids) that patience is something they don’t need to bother with, Google is probably going to become the frontrunner in mindless instant gratification. Why use your brain to think of keywords? Why waste time organizing your e-mail? Why wait for search results to show up — even when the wait amounts to a couple of milliseconds? Why not save time when you can?

But to do what? What are we going to do with all these time savings? Browse more? Tweet more? Look up more friends’ Facebook status updates? Send and receive more e-mails? We’re still going to be as hooked to gadgets as we are now — maybe even more so.

These advances in technology are only going to make us bigger slaves to it. We’re not freeing up any time to do anything that’s really important.

It’s all just a gimmick to make us feel we have more time. To make us think we are now more efficient. To fool us into believing we are using our brains better.

We’re just buying into the mind-numbing hype of no returns.

What do you think?

Article first published as The Zero Value of Google’s Mind-Numbing Time-Saving Strategies on Blogcritics.

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14 Responses to The zero value of Google’s mind-numbing time-saving strategies

  1. Pat T.No Gravatar on September 10, 2010 at 4:35 pm

    Thanks, Mansi, you just explained the Gmail priority for me. I just noticed it today up in the top right-hand corner. I agree with you. All this technology is just a time stealer, not a time saver. I sometimes wonder “What we do before the computer age?” Life may have been a little more slower, but somehow I think it was also a little more happier and a lot more healthier (as in less stress). Good blog my friend!

    • Mansi BhatiaNo Gravatar on September 13, 2010 at 1:04 pm

      Thanks, Pat.

  2. ronnieNo Gravatar on September 11, 2010 at 7:30 am

    I loved this, Mansi. Hurry up and…what?? Let’s say that in a good month one was to accumulate 30 additional minutes as a result of this myriad of new technology. Will you take a soothing walk through your neighborhood? Plant vegetables? Read a book? I don’t think so. I think it’s more likely that the Google search engine will just get used some more. Thereby, enhancing the cofers of Google, and not necessarily really adding to and/or diversifying one’s own lifestyle.

    This old lady probably only understood about 20% of your technology references. But that’s OK. You have a wonderful way of getting to the gist of it. Poetic in a way, so that one feels and understands the images. I don’t always respond to your essays, but I always read and enjoy them. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

    • Mansi BhatiaNo Gravatar on September 13, 2010 at 1:06 pm

      Thanks, Ronnie. I just feel we’re trying to cram more of the same into the time that these technologies are ”creating” for us. Also, the fact that Google has taken it upon itself to type out my thoughts is not as much a help, as it is an impediment.

  3. CiprianNo Gravatar on September 12, 2010 at 3:17 am

    They use the time saving to give the world a sense of how they can help. It’s just a form of “value creation” proposition.
    What we do with those additional seconds which are now freed-up, is up to us.

    If you are the type who loves procrastinating you will keep procrastinating. If you are the type who does a lot of work in a day, in a very efficient way, you will be a few seconds more efficient each day.
    If you are the inpatient type, you will still lack patience and think Google Instant search is not instant or good enough.

    • Mansi BhatiaNo Gravatar on September 12, 2010 at 12:14 pm

      Take it or leave it, eh? Oh and do what you will with it :-) It just seems unnecessary to me, Ciprian.

  4. anon1No Gravatar on September 13, 2010 at 11:57 am

    I really like the priority Inbox. It uses some ‘smarts’ to organize the email into ‘important’ or ‘likely not so important’, and as far as my Inbox was concerned it did a pretty good job.
    Also you can override it by telling it what is important and what isn’t.
    AND you can switch it off if it ain’t workin’ fer ya..

    The instant search feature is interesting as well. It doesn’t just save you a few seconds of typing, it also gives you a hint on what kind of search phrases to use… making your search efficient.

    The idea is to spend less time searching and more time reading what you were searching for.

    “Task Time”:”Setup Overhead”, is always a ratio you want to improve. Don’t be so eager to write this off, you lover of everything “Ipad and Iphone” you !

    • Mansi BhatiaNo Gravatar on September 13, 2010 at 1:10 pm

      So, here’s the thing: I love technology and all things new, but these two things are not a value-add for me. I already had my Gmail inbox pretty well organized with labels and filters and it works to perfection, because it’s already customized by me, not a bot who’s having to learn it and who will have hits and misses. As for Google Instant, it’s interesting no doubt, but do I not even want to think of what I’m searching for? Do we really need to not exercise our mental faculties even that much? I know it’s a small thing, but it symbolizes, to me, a way of life that will only become more and more “instantanized.”

      It’s good to have the choice to switch these off. :-)

      • anon1No Gravatar on September 13, 2010 at 1:50 pm

        You keep calling it a ‘bot’ and make it sound like it’s some sort of cyber-demon that’s going through your emails :) .
        It’s just an algorithm that looks for commonly used terms in your emails and then speculates…
        I totally understand it isn’t a value-add for a super-organized person. But for someone who hasn’t found the time to organize their gmail-world (which is rapidly expanding), it’s a welcome addition !

        And you either completely missed my point about Instant, or are choosing to ignore it :) . Google isn’t trying to tell you what to search for, it’s simply trying to ‘guess’ what you are searching for (AFTER you type something) so it can load/return results faster.
        Such speculative execution/prediction is employed in hardware all the time to make processors work faster. It’s an interesting experiment to see if speeds up things for Google users. :)
        The focus is, again, to let you spend more time on the task at hand !

        And for the record, I’m not an employee of Google Inc., nor do I own any shares of the company.

        • MansiNo Gravatar on September 13, 2010 at 1:28 pm

          Good you clarified the last bit, I had begun to wonder…
          And no, I didn’t ignore your point about instant — it’s just that Google Instant hasn’t done a good job of reading my mind. To me the suggestions are not just not useful, they’re also distracting, hence making me spend more time as opposed to less when typing in keywords. It had become a process of scanning the suggestions after every keystroke, realizing none of the suggestions were appropriate, then typing again, scanning again, typing again and so on.
          Bots are evil! :D

    • MansiNo Gravatar on September 13, 2010 at 4:41 pm

      Love this!The Sergey Spot

  5. […] I could’ve Googled it, but it’s so much more cool when the guy next to you already knows the answer without your having to look it up — kind of like having my own Google Instant! […]


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