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The Zero Value of Google’s Mind-Numbing Time-Saving Strategies

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Many days I feel like there aren’t 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 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 official Google 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 yesterday).

Again, the Google Blog 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? Eleven 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 second 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.

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About Mansi Bhatia

  • Brian aka Guppusmaximus

    Well… You don’t have to use “Priority Inbox” do you? I mean they aren’t applying it to everyone’s inbox without their permission. That’s one of the things I love about Google.There are tons of features in Gmail that can be turned on or off depending on your preferences and they don’t make these definite permanent changes to your Gmail that you can’t change back if they don’t work to your liking.

    Honestly, “Priority Inbox” or “Instant Search” isn’t the real news here, to me. I think that being able to make calls from your email is the bigger breakthrough.

    As for the whole “slave mentality” argument towards technology….it’s tired. I’m sorry,but, unless you’re studying all the time, no one is using their brains to the fullest constantly. But, for me, the internet has made it possible for me to study new things without having to walk to the library to read out-of-date material. Recently, I took my old computer and turned it into a LAMP server/machine. Drupal is amazing and I didn’t have to spend a dime never mind a fortune (like Dreamweaver) to start building a website without being a coding genius.

    Personally, I don’t take part in Facebook & Twitter and never have seen a reason to do so. It’s just like office gossip… useless!

  • http://www.kjh.com Khalid J Hosein

    Mansi – good questions. I made a similar point about Priority Inbox only adding marginal value in certain situations, but not really solving the problem of e-mail overload.

    However, I do agree with @Brian about the ‘slave to technology’ complaint. That really is about personal choice, isn’t it?

    Oh, @Brian, our brains may not be at their fullest potential (debatable), but they definitely need their down time!

  • Brian aka Guppusmaximus

    I don’t know Khalid, I read the article but, I guess, I’m one of the skeptics.

    Did these psychological & neurological concerns arise when the amount of books being read or the amount of radio shows listened to was at its peak? That playing a lot of videogames was terrible for your mind, though they later figured out that it was awesome for hand & eye coordination. Or how about the complaint that watching “too much” television would cause your brain to turn to mush? Wouldn’t it also include playing & listening to music?

    Really? What’s the difference in watching Nature silently or reading a website silently? To me, it’s all just information and it gets processed the same way. If you’re anticipating an email or someone’s visit, imho, that affects your “attention Memory” the same and the last time I checked, there were no studies on how anticipation can cause mental illness.

    Again, I think it’s this whole “Slave Mentality” towards technology argument. People are afraid of the amount of time that is taken up with things that are interesting to whomever it is interesting to. Personally, I think it’s our deep down fear of our mortality and it really has nothing to do with the negative effects on our brains. Seriously, the article even states that there study is at such an early stage with no evidence to back up these claims.

  • Jordan Richardson

    I actually dig Priority Inbox. Just started using it, but it’s been a blessing in terms of organizing my enormously crowded inbox. No complaints yet.

  • http://www.untethereddreams.com Khalid J Hosein

    Brian – I hear ya, and I’m hardly in the “technology is evil” camp. After all, I easily spend 10+ hours a day in front of a computer!

    But… I do think there is value in ‘switching off’ from time to time. No, it doesn’t mean you absolutely have to go wandering in the woods, but I’ve found that even a few minutes of ‘quiet time’/meditation does me a world of good.

  • Brian aka Guppusmaximus

    Khalid,

    Yea… I never meant to suggest that there isn’t some sort of value to “switching off”. I just hate when people get extreme with their viewpoints. Like the whole seclusion retreat. I really think it depends on whether or not those devices allow more time in a stressful environment(work,finances,etc). Personally, I feel people should include an exercise routine in their lives because that actually has evidence of positive results.

  • http://www.mansibhatia.com Mansi Bhatia

    Thanks, Brian and Khalid for your inisghts.

    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? 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.

    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.

  • Eddie

    Just to clarify, it’s saving 11 hours every second of every day. That’s about 1 million hours per day.

    But why let facts interrupt a good rant, eh?

  • http://www.mansibhatia.com Mansi Bhatia

    Eddie, Only when you’re using Google all the time every day. Not everyone does. I know I don’t.

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