I had a brief Twitter conversation this evening with fellow ZDNet blogger, Jennifer Leggio. It went something like this (well, actually, it went exactly like this, thanks to the miracle of TweetDeck):
Me (aka @mrdatahs): @google A suggestion :) http://education.zdnet.com/?p=2197 [shameless self-promotion aside] Jennifer (aka @mediaphyter): @mrdatahs You're tweeting at entities now? Me: @mediaphyter I'm tweeting @google ! They're more like a really big, well, big brother :) But they have cool toys like your big brother! Jennifer: @mrdatahs Google scares me (as you've heard me whine about on the mail list). They are going to own our souls. Me: @mediaphyter That's OK...they can have mine. I wish @google the best in monetizing my soul. There's the latest Labs App: Google Soul. Sweet! Jennifer: @mrdatahs You should write a blog about that. ;)
Great idea, Jennifer! It's certainly in keeping with my Googlish theme this week (don't worry, next week, the Classmate will be back from it's journeys with little kids and my budget meetings will be over, so I'll be able to turn my attention away from Google headlines for a while).
Google, for me, has always begged the question, what am I willing to give them in exchange for a host of extraordinary services? Obviously, Google needs to get something for all the cool apps and brilliant search they give us (check out this New York Times piece on free goodies from Google). In general, we give them our data. They've made a killing advertising based on our searches. They can even beat the CDC tracking the flu in the States based on where people are searching for flu symptom information.
This is a bit less of a problem in their Apps for Education suite since ads are turned off. They still collect lots of data, though, and refine what they do based on what we do.
As I told Jennifer, though, I'm pretty willing to overlook this sort of thing when I get good stuff out of it for free. This summer I will be able to revolutionize the way students and teachers interact and create content by rolling out Google Apps in our schools. I will be able to drastically improve our mail interface and significantly reduce paper consumption. Students will have ready access to their assignments wherever they might be and will get their first taste of just what the cloud can do. All for free.
So Google can have my soul. They can monetize it however they like. They can't have my students' souls, but haven't indicated they want them; they just want Google users for life (don't worry, we've built Microsoft Office, OpenOffice, and Zoho into our business curriculum for next year, so kids will be able to make their own informed choices). I do hope that Google doesn't betray this trust and just happily goes on embedding ads in my applications that appeal directly to my tastes. Until they do, my soul is theirs, along with my fingers, my eyeballs, and my search engine of choice.
Coming soon from Google Labs: Google First-Born and Google Random Signature in Blood. Have a nice weekend.