Monday, 9 August 2010

What's up doc? Sharing à la Google. Thing the Twentieth.

What choices do Cambridge University librarians have when it comes to sharing documents electronically?
I'll give you some:

A Nice Pair (Father and Daughter) by Mike Cattel

We love email, there's no denying it. Why? It's been around long enough to become part of the fabric, it's default, we've been doing it for years. It's easy and reliable and we've always got our in boxes open. We even have adorable little pop ups to tell us that we've got 'new mail'. Does your heart still flutter with excitement every time you get the Thunderbird envelope appearing? Mine does... Our love affair with email is here to stay,  only trouble is, email is  not great for sharing large documents (especially videos files the size of Jupiter) which clog up your allocated file space, or don't arrive at all because there is no space left. Email also doesn't facilitate collaborative editing. Why should it? It was never meant to.

So what do we do when we want to share a document that you want to stay in one place, be available to everyone you want it to be available to, and be 'real-time' edited by everyone you want it to be edited by?

Camtools maybe? Hmmmmm. We have a Cambridge Librarians site that offers all of the above, plus:  a large members list (150 at last count); a forum; space to share documents; a calendar; Raven log in. It's our VLE. But why don't we favour it? Why don't we use it? My guess is  because it's just not intuitive. It isn't easy to use and doesn't spread like warm butter on hot toast, and let's face it, that's what we want our applications to do nowadays. We want the email equivalent of the 'shared document space'. In other words, part of the fabric, easy and reliable.

Churchill by

This is where Google docs seems to have succeeded amongst our Cam Lib community. In a recent meeting I took part in, I suggested CamTools for a collaborative space but was met with 'oh no'. Google docs. was mentioned and that got an 'ohhhhhh yes'. It seems to me that Google docs is becoming our new 'fav'. Why is that? I think because we've reached that point on Roger's Adoption Graph where enough of us are using Google docs to make it a valid possibility for a shared space. It's had enough publicity and word of mouth to spread the adoption rate which is what is lacking in CamTools and Google Apps for Cambridge. Google Wave didn't even pass go. It splashed when it was first launched but has since crashed on the shore.

One word of warning about Google docs though. It's fine for creating and using documents within its own interface, but when it comes to importing and exporting from Microsoft Office, I have come across significant issues with formatting. It has the ability to drastically change the layout of your document, so if you are precious about your formatting and don't want to spend hours revamping, Caveat emptor.

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