Google Student Blog misses the mark

I subscribe to the Google Student Blog primarily for scholarship announcements, but the majority of posts are ideas on how students can use Google Docs to simplify their lives. Sometimes the suggestions are good, but most of the time the ideas are too mundane to be of much use. The most recent post, however, is just patronizing. Apparently the Google Docs help site has set up a new Docs for Students page, designed to “highlight how various student populations can use Google Docs in their daily life.” Unfortunately, rather than sort tips and tricks by document type or class subject, the content is distributed among five stories of fictional students using Docs to accomplish tasks that might be better accomplished though other means. For example,

Lisa is a French major and very excited about starting her classes. On the first day of class, the French teacher doesn’t speak a word of English. Lisa’s French is good but she realizes she needs some help. To test her ability, she pastes an article about soccer from a French newspaper in a Google Docs document and tries to understand what it says. Then, she uses the Translate document feature to test her knowledge. Turns out, she doesn’t know as many French words as she’d like to, but this helps her improve her vocabulary.

Granted, I appreciate being able to translate chunks of foreign-language text into English. I am just amazed that Google thinks that it isn’t enough to inform me of the feature, and that it would be better to frame a story of a French major around the feature so that I might better relate to her. It sounds as though it is supposed to appeal to a middle school student, rather than a college student. (A college student should at least know that Lisa would learn more effectively if she looked up the unknown words herself, rather than translating the document all in one go.)

Sadly, it gets worse.

Lisa’s life long dream is to study abroad in Paris. She applies for a study abroad program during her Sophomore year. To help her gain an edge on the competition, she decides to use one of the many professional looking resume templates in the Google Docs template gallery and picks one particular template called Blue Rays Resume. Between the styles on the template and her well written essay in French, she impresses the judges and is selected to go to Paris.

I’m no human resources expert, but I shudder at the thought of sending out my resume using that template. Google does have a few nice resume templates, but that isn’t one of them. What is Google trying to tell me here? If I use Google Docs, I could be chosen to go to Paris like Lisa?

Google could have made a well-organized list of reasons why college students should use Docs. There really are some compelling reasons, including no cost, ease of collaboration, and the ability to back up documents and access them from any browser. Instead, they wrote success stories for us to relate to. I’m just not impressed.

  • Michael Thaler

    So now I wonder: with what sort of person would these things resonate? Arrogant though it may sound, I personally have difficulty understanding the mindset of an “average computer user”–it confuses me a little bit that people need “real life anecdotes” as opposed to bullet point feature lists.

    But then, I remember that most computer users will automatically use the first option they’re given because they just don’t care. Perhaps Google is trying to entice the Microsoft Word-using market by trying to make their product look more “genuinely human”?

  • ben

    I remember the first time I saw use cases in my software engineering class was flabbergasted at how ridiculous and inefficient they were. I’d expect them from IBM, but I’m a bit saddened to see them coming from Google.

  • Sam Burnstein

    Ironically, that’s the resume template I used to build my resume two days ago. Ouch.

  • Weldon Manozca

    Seriously! drooling

  • Dallas SEM

    Glad I found this article on google when I was surfing the internet. Good STUFF!

  • Emma

    It would be great if you could go to Google, but I don’t think that if you use google docs it would really happen. You should check their job or internship opportunities and apply with a kick ass application letter.

  • Lakisha

    You might be right about the posts on the Google Student Blog, they might be useless. But I have been using Google Docs for a long time and I must say that I’m very satisfied and it did really simplify my life :-) Google Docs is indeed a big help!