TITLE: Rescued by Google AUTHOR: Eugene Wallingford DATE: October 14, 2005 6:11 PM DESC: Delete a file you need? No problem -- Google has a copy. Or is it a problem? ----- BODY: Okay, so I know some people don't like Google. They are getting big and more ambitious. Some folks even have Orwellian nightmares about Google. (If that link fails, try this one.) But, boy, can Google be helpful. Take today, for instance. I was scping some files from my desktop machine to the department server, into my web space. Through one part sloppiness and one part not understanding how scp handles sub-directories, I managed to overwrite my home page with a different index.html. What to do now? I don't keep a current back-up of that web space, because the college backs it up regularly. But recovering back-up files is slow, it's Friday morning, I'm leaving for OOPSLA at sunrise tomorrow, and I don't have time for this. What to do? I google myself. Following the first hit doesn't help, because it goes to the live page. But click on Cached link takes me to Google's cached copy my index. The only difference between it and the Real Thing is that they have bolded the search terms Eugene and Wallingford. Within seconds, my web site is as good as new. Maybe I should be concerned that Google has such an extensive body of data. We as a society need to be vigilant when it comes to privacy in this age of aggregation and big search tools and indexes of God, the universe, and everything. We need to be especially vigilant about civil rights in an age when our governments could conceivably gain access to such data. But the web and Google have changed how we think about data storage and retrieval, search and research. These tools open doors to collective goods we could hardly imagine before. Let's be vigilant, but let's look for paths forward, not paths backward. Another use of Google data that I am enjoying of late is gVisit, a web-based tool for tracking visitors to web sites. I use a bare-bones blogging client, NanoBlogger, which doesn't come with fancy primitive features like comments and hit counters. (At least the version I use didn't; there are more recent releases.) But gVisit lets me get a sense of at least where people have been reading my blog. Whip up a little Javascript, and I can see the last N unique cities from which people have read Knowing and Doing, where I choose N. I love seeing that someone from Indonesia or Kazakhstan or Finland has read my blog. I also love seeing names of all the US cities in which readers live. Maybe it's voyeurism, but it reminds me that people really do read. No, I haven't tried Google Reader yet. I'm still pretty happy with NetNewsWire Lite, and then there's always the latest version of Safari... -----