Monday, January 08, 2007

On the Rebound: The Truth about Me and Google

Google’s emergence in search neatly coincided with when I first got a job at Microsoft as the business manager of the newly launched MSN Search UK. When I left Microsoft five years later, I went through a manic phase from which I’m only just emerging.

It was somewhat akin to throwing oneself into a passionate love affair with someone I’d flirted with through a doomed, dull marriage. Shamelessly, I switched to gmail, telling everyone at Microsoft when I left that was how they would contact me rather than good old hotmail despite it matching the kind of disk space that anyone would want.

Then the amount I googled everyone, everything and anything bordered on the obscene (even I had succumbed to internal best practice which was at least to try MSN Search first).

Finally I reignited my blogger flame, which has brought us together here today.

One of the last hang ups I carried with me was my use of Start, one of the only products – apart from MSN Messenger – that I really believed in, and was at the very least developed genuinely apace with small start ups in a nascent 2.0 world.

It’s a dead simple start page with inbuilt RSS reader that became my default as soon as I found about it and the agile development team behind it. It very quickly even got Scoble’s seal of approval, so it had to be cool, right?

I was probably the last person using it. I started to get embarrassed when people noticed me using Start and hated explaining it, thinking that people might think of me as being deliberately obtuse (“I am Queen Geek, hear me roar!”) or a bit dumb (“You can take the girl out of Microsoft…”).

It felt quite cleansing to finally move to Google reader last week, like I’d thrown away the final photos of me and an old partner – you know, the ones you really want to throw away last – the ones where you both look really nice and quite sexy.

After I’d imported my OPML file I have to tell you, I felt pretty smug about how close Google and I had now become.

Sadly, it took a matter of days for me to realise that me and Google wasn't the answer I'd been looking for. It’s not that easy to organise your feeds, and it can be quite slow both to render and navigate about. It’s good, don’t get me wrong. But so is … Word. And Excel. They are you know, they’re quite good.

Then everything came crashing round my ears. Gmail is a bit annoying, it’s not as pretty as Hotmail or Yahoo! Mail and the much vaunted labelling system is the only tagging system of a web product that I don’t actually use. And I’ve been left with way too many emails in my inbox. I don’t need to delete any emails because of the stonking storage system but - whisper -I actually would quite like to get rid of some crap.

But I couldn’t see it. I’d just moved from one overly controlling, co-dependent relationship to another. Looking back, since university all I’d done was move from Marxist to Microserf to Google-dependent. It’s never a good feeling when you realise you’re in a rebound relationship, and especially not one it’s really hard to leave.

So yeah it was a rebound, ok? I can’t help it if I’m attracted to big strong multinationals who promise the answer to everything with their tidy packages. I just have to come to terms with the fact it’s all a fairy tale that was never going to work.

Or I could just buy a Mac…

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