Biking, blogging, referencing, Googling

I don’t believe I’ve written before about my biking to work; odd, since a lot of my blog posts find their genesis on the ride down to the office when the traffic’s not too heavy. But this time the bike actually connects to my question for y’all—please just indulge me in a little background first:

I’ve always been a cycling enthusiast, but I didn’t start commuter biking on a daily basis until three years ago, when my wife and I hired a nanny for our newborn and discovered that it’s supposedly common practice in NYC to supply said nanny with a monthly MetroCard. Combine that with the demands of a baby, and it seemed like biking might be a good way to avoid an additional transportation expense and get some much-needed exercise. And so far, so good—I’m managing to keep my girlish figure, and the nanny shows up (mostly) on time.

Anyway. I was riding home last night, and realized my brakes were a little loose—fortunately, I was north of midtown by this point. So, when I got home I took the bike upstairs for an adjustment. Now, I’ve certainly tweaked my brakes before, but I thought I should double-check a couple of things before I dove in—and for that, I got my handy DK reference guide to bicycle maintenance off the shelf.

But as I was digging through, looking for the brakes section, I had one of those moments—why don’t I just Google it?

So, that’s the question—do we need reference guides in the Internet era, and if so, what subjects are better served by a book? Or, to put it another way—when you need to look up something, do you go to the bookshelf or the computer (or, to complicate it further, the ebook)? If you do go to the bookshelf, what books or series of books are your go-to guides? When was the last time you bought a reference guide? Would love to hear your thoughts!

11 Responses to Biking, blogging, referencing, Googling

  1. RamseyH says:

    I buy a reference guide when I need comprehensive information – not just a one-time lookup. I wouldn’t buy (or even keep) a bike manual because the odds of me needing it frequently are fairly low, and when that moment comes that I do need it, I can look it up online.

    I did, however, buy a CSS manual. I wanted to learn about CSS and while there is plenty of information online, hunting for info was driving me crazy. The manual gave me all of the info I need, presented for beginners. I read it cover to cover and keep it around now as a reference guide.

    I think I would also buy and interest-specific travel guide. I get 99% of my travel info online, but if there’s a book that’s really specific to an interest of mine (say, Samuel Johnson’s England) I’d definitely pick it up.

    Overall the reference books that work for me are the ones that provide very specific and comprehensive information on a single subject. Something you’d otherwise have to comb the internet to compile.

  2. Kerry Gans says:

    I keep the users manuals to all appliances, etc., that I buy. Why? Because sometimes you need information when your Internet is not working. Or when your computer has blown up. Or when your electricity has failed.

    Sometimes it’s just nice to know that the information is there if you need it.


  3. Melissa says:

    Google is an extension of my brain. If I can’t find it on Google, do I really need to know it that bad?

  4. Hillsy says:

    One word: Amateurs

    With some things amateur knowledge is fine (I use forums all the time for VBA, excel, Access and a whole host of other minor technical things where the inbuilt help isn’t clear enough for me to intuit through it). Problem comes when complexity and volume increase………an example

    Everyone loves cooking….well….lots of people. I was at work, planning a new meal (Yes I’m dull AND a slacker!) and I wanted to know how to make a rosti. No word of a lie, a dozen different methods and recipes. And that’s when I could find them admist all the online databases, searches and other fluff the interweb chucks up. So which ones are right, which are wrong? Took me about 40 minutes to pin together a recipe (which in the end worked, just in case anyone was wondering) from bits and pieces from 5 online recipes. Now I’m pretty sure Nigella Lawson knows how to cook a rosti – so if I owned her book, I’ve just saved myself 40 minutes by going to an expert, rather than an amateur.

    There’s also the question of authority. If someone online says “This is how you use this excel function” and it goes wrong, no sweat. If someone online says “This is how you replace the brakes on your car…..” you can see the problem. This is the same reason I don’t pay much heed to amazon reviews, that’s a possible £8 mistake. Someone gets paid for his reviews to be accurate, well he’s got a vested interest in knowing his onions so I’m going to beieve them more…………And we all know the jokes about Wikipedia.

    So yes, the net as a reference tool is brilliant for some things, but for others there’s just too many people chiming in with half informed opinions, rather than demonstrable knowledge, to trump a single expert.

  5. I must confess I Google first when there’s some repair I need to address at home, usually to get an idea of whether it’s something I think I can manage on my own. I agree that you have to be careful regarding whose advice you use, which is where a good BS detector and how-to video demonstrations are helpful. Within the last year, I’ve fixed a leaky bathtub faucet, sluggish toilet, gushing shower head, a toilet (not mine!) with a chronic mold problem, and an “alignment problem” that turned out to be ice collecting in the tire rim. Why most of my problems turn out to be plumbing related, I have no idea, but Googling’s helped me solve them.

  6. Sarah Henson says:

    I go to the internet…mostly. It’s just quicker than finding the book, thumbing though the TOC and finding the the section I need. Plus you get a lot of opinions at once. That being said, books are easier depending on what you’re doing. If you’re hands are going to be messy, or you’re not near a plug with a low battery laptop or phone, it can be more difficult to lug a computer around with you rather than, say flopping open a book and laying it beside you.

  7. John says:

    So, it seems like Computer mostly beats Book on this one… and I think it’s telling that no one mentioned BUYING a reference guide recently. Guess this is one category I won’t be focusing on much. But thanks to you all for chiming in!

  8. Tami Veldura says:

    I whip out my phone and Google it on the spot. To the first post here, yes, you’re going to find amature and incorrect info more readilly than expert info but the good stuff is out there and I can find it more quickly that way than. Looking it up in a physical book.

    Funny story, I looked up how to change the breaks on my car. However, I didn’t rely on just one source of information,

  9. Jo Lawler says:

    I absolutely INSIST that all mechanics manuals be in print! No way may my husband Google it with greasy fingers!!!

    That said, its 50/50 with me. I actually look up appliance manuals on the store website usually. But if I have some serious study/work to do, I still prefer the information in print.

    I second Kerry – sometimes you need the information when there is no power, no computer, no signal, etc.

    Funny story: a fellow homeschool mom pointed out my shelf of old fashioned dictionaries and encyclopedias to her teen age daughter and said “Look, thats what we used before Google!” The poor child looked horrified.

  10. Meredith says:

    The last reference book I bought, huh . . .
    Well, does the 3rd edition of Formatting & Submitting Your Manuscript count?
    If so, then it was 3 weeks ago-and it sure is coming in handy! (Hope to prove it soon.)

    Other than that-Google is awesome.

  11. Google is usually my first stop, but there’s definitely a place for books. I can drop my little bike maintenance book into my bag (note to self: start doing this) and look up stuff faster than I can google on my phone, without worrying about having service or getting grease on the screen. And when I was trying to get an old motorcycle back on the road, I found plenty of how-to videos online but nothing for my specific year and model. It was easy to pick up the bike’s manual, though, and while fuzzy black and white photos aren’t the same as a video walkthrough, at least I knew everything on my motorcycle was supposed to look like the photos.

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