Speaking Google

The Digital Immigrant’s Guide to Google

On Friday, April 7 from 12:15 to 1:30 you can learn to speak “Google”. Redwood Coast Senior Center will devote its April First Friday Forum to coaching folks on how to ask the Internet questions in ways that will uncover the best possible answers. You will learn how to find what you want to know about and collect information, images, maps, directions, music, applications – and almost anything else anybody knows. A couple local searchers, Michael Potts and Charles Bush, creators of the online “Elder Portal” will demonstrate getting answers to the top questions that lead elders to the internet. Following the demonstration, participants will have an opportunity to prepare their own questions, and use the Senior Center Computer Lab to practice searching with “over the shoulder” coaching from Michael and Charles. As always, there is no charge for the Senior Center “First Friday Forum”. Of course lunch is available at 11:30 in “Sal’s Bistro” – the Senior Center Dining Room.
If you can’t make it to this First Friday Forum, here are some suggestions that may help digital immigrants like us find the true facts we’re looking for in the monstrous cloud of online information that’s easily available to us.

Tips & Hints

  1. Start simple, and ask naturally. Real search engines are good at finding out what you need to know even when you’re not quite sure yourself.
  2. If you can, use words that others would use to zero in on the information. For example, for expert medical help with a condition, use the common name for the condition: search headache instead of “My head hurts.”
  3. If at first… you get 300,001 results but the first page-full isn’t responsive, look for clues amongst those bad answers for better words to search.
  4. Sometimes, telling Google what you don’t want to see helps refine your search. Simply add a hyphen and the unwelcome term, like headache – migraine . That will tell Google to leave out references to migraine headaches.
  5. If at first … you get completely irrelevant data, try to think of different search terms – ways of describing – what you’re seeking. How would a friend ask this question?
  6. Keep looking at the whole screen. Those little tabs at the top – News Videos Books Images – can help you get quickly to what you want.
  7. Use quotes to search a whole phrase. Who wrote “Teach us to care and not to care. Teach us to sit still”? If you can’t remember the exact word, substitute an asterisk: “Come * right now * me” may look like nonsense, but it will find you the words to the Beatles song.
  8. If in doubt, Google. Google doesn’t care if you misuse or mis-spell a word, but others may. Tell Google “define febrile” or “spell dissapoint” … Google also doesn’t care about capitalization.
  9. Use Google like a smart friend. Google can do math ( “3 times 1675” or “one third of 5025” and look up conversions ( “$1,000 in Euros” or “70 C in fairinheight” [sic])
  10. Don’t be surprised by what Google can do. It can recognize pictures, music, poetry, translate from or to Indonesian. Google lives to answer your questions and finally, here’s a respondent for whom there are no stupid questions! Actually, let me rephrase that: DO be surprised! What a wonderful era of information we’ve immigrated to. Stay curious.


The internet is alive with spammers, scammers, liars, and cheats. Don’t be paranoid, but do be smart. If something looks to good to be true, it probably is. If a “fact” is offered that doesn’t seem right, poke around further. The internet and its super searcher Google are quick to disseminate “alternative facts” and equally quick to debunk ’em. Use your common sense above and before all.

Special Message for computer users

If your computer tells you something that you don’t believe, like “Trump cancels Meals on Wheels” or “Your computer has been invaded. Click here for a free security scan” don’t hasten to a conclusion. Above all, don’t panic of paranoid. Take exactly those scary words and submit them to Google. Like as not you’ll find that others have been confused about this too, and there’s a healthy library of opinion and experience there to help you not get burned.