Thursday, 10 November 2011

#cpd23 Thing 13: Google Docs, Wikis, Dropbox

Google Docs is ace. It makes organising things like cpd23 and TeachMeet, where the people in charge don't all work in one place, a whole lot simpler than it would otherwise be. But it isn't perfect, so here's my quick list of pros and cons:

pros cons
You can edit your documents from any location with web access, and don't need to carry them around on memory sticks/email them to yourself. It can also act as additional backup. The editing can be quite slow, especially on older machines or slower internet connections.
Lots of different people can work on a document together without needing to keep emailing between each other. Changes made by individuals are logged (i.e. there's version control) and can be viewed later.You can't trust Google to hold things forever, or in the same format. It's better as a temporary/pro-tem tool, than as a long-term storage solution.
There's an in built chat window, so you can discuss with collaborators as you type. (The cpd23 organising crew used this to hold remote meetings) While there are word processing, spreadsheet and presentation tools, and the option to import and export MS Office formats, the formatting won't carry over precisely between the Google and MS versions.
The spreadsheet tool also works as a form/survey tool, which sends its results into a Google spreadsheet. That's really useful for sign-up forms, evaluation surveys, etc.

'Red World III' by Evan Leeson on Flickr
Wikis have their uses. Wikipedia is obviously a huge success - the idea being that the iterative action of thousands of editors will move the encyclopedia towards ever greater comprehensiveness and accuracy. The evidence, for Wikipedia, suggests that this works. But we can't all make our own Wikipedias, so what else are they good for?

They're used for registering participants in several events/programmes, such as Library Day in the Life and the Library Routes/Roots project. This lets participants sign themselves up, and visibly, thus saving the time and energy of the organisers. The by product is that the time and energy of the organisers can be diverted into cleaning up the wiki when there have been accidental formatting errors and deletions. I don't think that wikis, as currently used, are necessarily the best tool for this sort of use, but they are at least quick and easy.

'Kópavogur 2011' by Karl Gunnarsson on Flickr
One recent use of wikis that caught my eye was as a thinking place and recording place for unconferences. This happened with Library Camp - a record of write-ups and notes is available here, and also (in REAL TIME!) as a record of Curate Camp (in the USA, and for people who curate things and data, not for new priests).

And here's a thing: using a wiki to organise your Chartership work.

Lastly, Dropbox. I have an account (maedchenimmond at gmail if anyone has anything to share). I know it's there. I haven't actually *used* it yet, but I'm sure that will change.


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