I am a Google addict.
I have used Google to research everything from how to get bulbs to bloom on Christmas Day to what features to include in our company's software to make it a more complete design tool. I have used Google for genealogy work, filtering out my own first name and the name of my brother's winery that a Truchard paid taxes on in Lyon, France hundreds of years ago. And the only tool I used to find this information was Google.
One of my biggest frustrations with design engineers is that they do not gather enough background information before starting work on a product. In the old days, I went to the library every six months to catch up on journal articles and research new topics. I'm frustrated when I cannot get design engineers to do this same type of research.
The new search engines give us a convenient, automated way to perform deep research. Instead of spending hours in the library performing research every six months, you can do it in seconds every day. As president of a company, I want to know enough to be dangerous, but not every detail. Google gives me the freedom to know more about more things. I often distribute the material that I find on the Web to people in my company and we use that background information to help with product development. Some people call me the "paper boy" because I walk around delivering daily printouts of my Google findings.
Google works like magic. Given a good search word, the information I want is usually in the top three hits. Google searches more than 3 billion Web pages to answer more than 150 million search queries every day. It's also exceptionally good at quickly delivering quality information on virtually any topic. With Google, I can take a highly technical subject and find a long, comprehensive list of articles and information. Another advantage is that I can pick the style of information I want to search by limiting my search to pictures, speeches, dissertations, presentations, or any other format. For example, I once used Google to research for a commencement speech I drafted. I just typed in "commencement address engineering" and found eight hundred graduation addresses that gave me clever, inspiring ideas.
Tangential searching is critical. I use variations of the keyword to find the one that pulls the most appropriate data. Sometimes a peripheral word related to the subject can bring up the best information. Another trick is to try connecting two obscure words for an exclusive search. You can also search on acronyms, which can produce good results. After a while you build intuition as to which keywords work and which do not. Sometimes, I wake up in the middle of the night with thoughts of a new set of keywords that might turn up the exact information I've been trying to locate. My motto is: If you don't succeed, try again, because Google can find it.
I believe that every engineer can be more productive and work more efficiently with Google. But I must warn you about a serious problem: Google is extremely addictive!