August 19th, 2011 by Michael Sauers

This week we’re talking about online collaboration, specifically Google Docs, Dropbox & Wikis.

Google Docs

Google Docs LogoI’ve been using Google Docs more and more this year. My main use recently is in storing and sharing documents that are involved with the semi-large committee of planners for this year’s state conference. Logs are kept there and PDFs are shared so that everyone can see what everyone else is working on.

I’ve also got a few other documents stored there as reference. For example, it’s a great place to store my spreadsheet of all the DVDs the family owns. This way any of us can look up the list on our phones while out shopping to answer that age-old question, do we already own this?

However, I still see a significant amount of limitations when it comes to Google Docs and actually editing files. In most cases it works great for basic documents but not for things that are more heavily formatted. One of my forthcoming books is on Google and I have a co-author so we were thinking that we might actually write the book using Google Docs. However having worked with another author recently that did use Google Docs I’m no longer sure that’s a good idea. (Things like comments and some formatting just never did translate well between Google Docs and Word, which is what the publisher needs when it’s all said and done.) So, we’ll probably be sticking with Word and using Dropbox to share the files.


Dropbox LogoDropbox does what it does and it does it well. I store very little in Dropbox for reasons I’ll get to momentarily, but I do use it a lot when I’m sharing documents with others. For example with the book I just finished I, the other author, and our editor had a shared Dropbox folder in which all the files were stored. This way everyone had access to the current versions at all times. I’ve got another shared folder in which several of us share images for use in creating slides for an upcoming Battledecks competition. For a more techie example, I’ve got another Dropbox folder into which I can drop .torrent files.  This folder is then monitored by my BitTorrent client and when it sees a new file it’ automatically starts the downloading process. 

However, I’ve moved much of my sharing of personal files that I’m not sharing with others, to a similar service named Wuala. At the basic level it does the exact same thing Dropbox does but it adds automatic encryption to anything you drop into the folder. I’m not exactly paranoid, but after the recent change to Dropbox’s terms of service, I’m more comfortable using a service which has no access to my files in any way. (This does slow down the transfer of files due to the encryption, but it’s not often that I need to share something between my computers quickly.)


Wikis and I have had a love-hate relationship. I went through a period where I loved wikis and tried to get a lot of stuff at the office moved onto a wiki platform. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to convince more than a small number of people and so the whole thing has died a slow death. So for the time being, short of using Wikipedia for reference, the amount of collaboration I’m doing on wikis is pretty much nill.

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January 17th, 2009 by Michael Sauers

In the article “America Online” in the latest issue of Wired (#17.02 which isn’t online yet) I cam across the following paragraph:

The incoming administration is still working to assess the implications of the Presidential Records Act, the post-Nixon legislation requiring the preservation of all White House written communications. But that means that once any page goes up on the White House site, it can’t be altered, only archived and replaced, greatly slowing down the process of modifying and enhancing pages.

So, ok, I understand this and think it’s a good thing. But I instantly thought that this would be the perfect  use for a wiki. Just have Wiki software be the underlying system that ran and you’d instantly have a traceable record, and archived copy, of every version of the page that’s ever been from day-one forward.

I’d like to think that at least one of the smart people on the transition team had already thought of this but I’ll be submitting it to the folks at just in case they haven’t.

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April 4th, 2008 by Michael Sauers

I’m a firm believer that PBWiki is a great way to get your feet wet when it comes to creating and editing a wiki. My only complaint is that the WISIWYG editor locks up Firefox. Oh, well, off to IE I go. I added to the Favorite Music page in our wiki. Check it out if you’re wondering.

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April 4th, 2008 by Michael Sauers

I’m a fan of wikis but when used appropriately. In other words, no matter how much you like wikis at a technology, that doesn’t mean they’re right for all situations. Here’s a way to think about it: blogs are for conversation, wikis are for collaboration. Just because you have three people editing your Web site, that doesn’t mean it should be based on wiki software.

Additionally, those that say that Wikipedia isn’t a good resource, are using a different Wikipedia than I am. I use it almost daily. Occasionally I find myself looking elsewhere to verify the information Wikipedia contains but generally it is right.

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September 10th, 2007 by Michael Sauers

El Hormiguero (Spanish for “The Anthill”) is a television program with a live audience focusing on comedy, science, and politics. It is hosted and produced by screenwriter Pablo Motos and airs on Cuatro, a Spanish television station. Recurring guests on the show include Luis Piedrahita, Raquel Martos, Flipy (the scientist), and puppet ants Trancas and Barrancas. The program will begin its third season in Fall 2007. It has proved a ratings success, and will expand from a weekly 120-minute show to a daily 40-minute show in its upcoming season.

via Milestone Wikipedia articles

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June 6th, 2007 by Michael Sauers

Another instructional video from the folks @ Common Craft.

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April 26th, 2007 by Michael Sauers

The folks at PBWiki now have educator videos available for download for use in presentations.

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April 17th, 2007 by Michael Sauers
Meredith Farkas & Michelle Boule (

  • What is a blog
    • frequently updated page with posts presented in reverse-chronological order

  • What’s cool about them
    • don’t need to know HTML
    • easy to update
    • don’t need server space
    • outputs RSS

  • How are blogs used in education?
    • Course management system
    • faculty communication w/ students
    • class news
    • course reflection
    • reflective learning
    • space for dialog & feedback
    • language/writing practice
    • alternative to discussion forum
    • [examples shown available on presentation URL above]
  • What is a wiki
    • a web site anyone in a group can create and edit w/o HTML
  • What’s cool about it?
    • don’t need HTML
    • quick updating
    • everyone can add their 2 cents
    • view page history and track changes
  • How can wikis be used in education?
    • course management system
    • stimulate class discussion
    • group projects
    • student space to build identity and portfolio of work
  • Blogs / Wikis cage match
    • b: more structured w: less structured
    • b: ownership w: egalitarian

    • b: best for chronological order w: knowledgebases, documents, directories
    • b: lends itself to reflective writing w: great for working in groups
    • b: more pressure to post w: have to trust your students
  • Five Weeks to a Social Library
    • “The first free, grassroots, completely online course devoted to
      teaching librarians about social software and how to use it in their
    • Model
      • 40 participants
      • small group weekly chats
      • sync & async presentations
      • weekly activities
      • participants blog & coment
      • final project: implement one tool in your library
    • Why?
      • continuing education needed
      • conference attendance dificult
      • One-day workshop not enough
      • many online classes require expensive tools
    • Drupal
      • allowed each student to have a blog
      • each post listed on central page
      • add-ons like chat rooms
      • Drupal creators have control over the site
      • many RSS options
      • Blogging to reflect on learning
      • blogging to get feedback
      • blogging to create a record
    • Media Wiki
      • runs wikipedia
      • common in libraries
      • lots of documentation
      • wikis for directories
      • wikis for quick collaborative pages
      • wikis for building a personal space
    • Steal this idea
      • don’t have to teach in 5 weeks
      • don’t have to use the same tools
      • don’t have to cover the same topics
      • do need to provide for reflection of experiment
      • do need to allow for many conversations
      • do need to use tools that are easy
      • do need to be flexible
      • do need to hve an open process
      • do need multiple modes of learning (audio, video, etc)
    • What participants said…
  • Tips for blogs in education
    • provide documentation and/or training
    • keep comments open
    • blog to start dialogues
    • don’t try to control discussions
    • allow for unpopular views
    • be willing to change based on feedback
    • remember that some people are uncomfortable w/ public writing
  • Tips for wikis in education
    • training often required
    • create a sandbox for experimentation
    • wikis can get messy
    • don’t control too much

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April 17th, 2007 by Michael Sauers
Nicole Engard

  • Time to start a new project, what do you do?
    • set up a meeting with everyone involved
    • start of list of tasks onto calendar
    • assign tasks, put on document
    • communication via phone & e-mail attachments
    • This doesn’t work
    • everyone knows a little, but no one knows everything

  • A Jenkins we use a blog
    • each project has a blog
    • any staff can add to any blog
  • Then there’s the issue of finding information down the road
    • Can you find the e-mail of a decision made a year ago?
  • Solution: blogs
    • web-bases & full-text searchable
    • archived & backed up
    • visible to all staff, no one is left out
    • fewer e-mails
    • conversational format
    • date & time stamps
    • ability to link to relevant pages & comments
  • What does the staff think?
    • project section of the intranet is the favorite part
    • cut down on clutter in inbox
    • great having everything in one place
    • helped put everything in perspective for end-of-year report
  • Project is complete, now what?
    • store on shared drive?
    • add links on intranet?
    • store them in your e-mail?
    • print them out?
  • Now, a wiki
    • all policies and procedures on wiki
    • full text searchable
    • archived
    • visible to all staff
    • history of changes
    • link to relevant pages & comments
    • sound familiar?
  • made all staff feel included
    • “better than the old way”
    • IT staff now documents in the wiki
    • no more lost files
  • [Live demo]

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April 16th, 2007 by Michael Sauers
Marshal Breeding, Vanderbilt Library

  • Generations
    • Silent Gen
    • Baby boomers
    • Gen X
    • Millennials
  • Millennial characteristics
    • inate ability for tech
    • frenetic multitasking
    • comfortable w/ diverse types of digital media
    • highly interactive style of working
  • The Millennials are coming
    • creative, organized, independent
    • impatient, skeptical, sometime arrogant
    • status and authority don’t impress them
  • Contrast of Generations charts

  • approach to study and learning
    • “they do it all while studying”
    • 85% also listen to music
    • also…
      • tv
      • movie
      • im
      • chat
  • shaping collections for millennials
    • content
      • digital/immediate
    • discovery
      • more like the web
    • access
      • anytime/anywhere
  • consistent with existing trends
    • doesn’t conflict w/ needs of library users from previous generations
    • in tune w/ strategic direction most libraries have
    • a matter of degree
  • an urgent need
    • boomers and genx are happier w/ traditional content & modes of service
    • millennials will move on to non-library info if not satisfied
    • a lot at stake
  • content of collections
    • Ms comfortable w/ content in diverse media
  • multimedia
    • graphics over text
    • music & audio
    • video
    • Ms love to remix
  • collection possibilities
    • e-journals/e-books
    • podcasts of lectures
    • video libraries of stock footage
    • news archives
    • datasets: census/GIS
  • access to collections
    • best opportunity for impact
    • building collections well underway but how best to provide access
    • how to respond to their prefs
      • immediate
      • mobile
      • flexible
      • intuitive

  • heightened user expectations
    • expectations set by web
    • sophisticated web skills
    • low tolerance for clunky interface
    • confident in their abilities
  • problems with status quo
    • doesn’t meet expectations of current generation
    • too many interfaces
    • overly complex
    • not always intuitive

    • different locations for different types of information
  • Best library OPAC: A Card Catalog card on the screen?
  • Best we can do?
  • common tools for access to local collections
    • library opacs
    • links to aggregators/publishers
    • cross linking via OpenURL
    • journal finding aids
    • metasearch engines
    • all loosely coupled
  • Metasearch
    • inherently problematic
    • not immediate
    • relevancy ranking difficult
    • lake of deep results
    • interim solution
  • Change Underway
    • widespread dissatisfaction

    • movement to break out of current mold
    • decoupling of the front-end from the back-end
  • working toward the next generation of interfaces
    • redefinition of the library catalog
    • more comprehensive information discovery environments
    • better info delivery tools
    • more powerful search capabilities

    • more elegant presentation
  • comprehensive search service
    • more like OAI
    • problems of scale diminished
    • problems of cooperation exist
  • web 2.0 a good start
    • more social and collaborative
    • tools and tech that foster collaboration
    • blogs, wiki, tagging, social bookmarking, user rating, user reviews
  • Supporting technologies
    • web services
    • XML APIs
    • AJAX
    • Microformats
    • Opensearch vs SRU/SRW
  • replacement OPACs
  • expanded discovery and delivery tools
  • library developed solutions
  • redefinition of library catalogs
    • question traditional notions
    • no longer enough to provide a catalog of just print
    • digital resources can’t be an afterthought
    • multiple interfaces less tenable
    • work toward equal footing for digital and print
  • interface expectations
    • millennials are used to the Web
    • used to relevancy ranking
    • must be fast
    • rich visual information
    • facted browsing
    • navigational breadcrumbs
    • ratings and rankings
  • appropriate organizational structures
    • LCSH v FAST
    • Full MARC v Dublin Core
  • OCLC perceptions: Where do your users start?
  • Library Discovery Model
    • Library as search destination
    • non-library nterfaces
    • web services are an essential enabling technology
    • libraries lag behind in implementation of service oriented architecture
  • global arena
    • google, yahoo
    • google scholar
    • ask worldcat
    • wikipedia
    • google library print
  • local v global

    • how to lib collections relate to global realm
    • will mass digitization replace local collections
    • global arena excels at discovery
    • local arena focuses on delivery
  • multi-layered information discovery
  • google v libraries
    • unfounded concern
    • google based on discovery
    • libraries specialize in delivery

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