Some see Google as an “evil empire” and others see it as the “best personal assistant,” said the Rev. Sarah Moore-Nokes, who led a session on Google Tools here last week during the communicators conference of the Synod of Lakes and Prairies of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.).

But Google, which began as an Internet search engine and has evolved into a company that produces a varying array of Web-based products, apparently works well for her in the personal assistant role. Moore-Nokes is associate executive presbyter of Winnebago Presbytery.

But she has what she calls an “inner geek,” adding, “Google doesn’t have the NRSV (New Revised Standard Version of the Bible) and Google can’t staple, but nearly everything else Google can do.”

As Moore-Nokes described a litany of computing chores that Google handles through its free online products, she pointed out that Google “organizes tools so they are more effective and not a barrier to communication and work.” She added that Google is “not an end in and of itself; it is a way to get there.”

She pointed out Google tools in technology, video, email, calendars, blogs, feed readers and document management, and noted that Google tools exist in many other areas.

Moore-Nokes demonstrated the use of iGoogle — note the i — a Google tool that enables a user to build a homepage “in under 30 seconds,” according to Google’s Web site.
“The shift we as communicators have to make is in how people are accessing their information,” Moore-Nokes said.

Reducing the time that Web users have to spend searching for information is important. Static Web sites that Web surfers must seek out are becoming less effective, she said, while those sites that offer RSS (really simple syndication) feeds provide information that can be sent directly to individual subscribers.

“Making information accessible is really key,” Moore-Nokes said, and Google helps her keep information at her fingertips. “Wherever you go in the world, you can access your iGoogle page,” she said.

She said, too, that she isn’t one who sees Google as potentially evil.

“Incorporated into the organization’s culture is ‘don’t be evil.’
“While Google’s goal is to organize the world’s data,” she said, “Google says they’ve only managed to organize 2 to 3 percent. They estimate that it will take from 200 to 300 years to reach that goal.”

For now, though, Moore-Nokes asked, “Has anyone found a stapler yet?”

Duane Sweep is associate for communications for the Synod of Lakes and Prairies and a frequent contributor to Presbyterian News Service.