Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Parts 18 and 19 -- Online Productivity Tools

I LOVE online tools.

In my old job, I managed online communities where participants could create spreadsheets, documents, forms, questionnaires, complex databases, and more. They could participate in online chats with individuals or groups (simultaneously) and lots of other pretty neat tricks.

At the time, when I told people who didn't know me that I managed online communities, I always got that deer-in-the-headlights look from people. Now, spending time in Google Groups and Google Docs, it's easy to see how far we've come. Albeit, the Ramius online communities were very robust and secure, and quite sophisticated at the time.

Part of my job was to teach novices as well as site managers how to use the software and to look at strategic planning differently because meetings could now be held online and all the documents could follow detailed control. The most important aspect was the ability of the participants (who constantly revolved since they were volunteers elected to their positions) to leave a legacy for those who came later.

Recently, I tried to convince a volunteer group to which I'd been elected to use Google Docs and Google Groups to conduct our business. I was not successful. I don't take it personally, nor do I hold myself responsible for that.

Years ago, while I handled the IEEE online communities, I wrote a blog on the subject of online collaboration tools and strategies. It was written from the perspective of a professional in the field whose role was primarily to evangelize a new technology to people who are legitimate rocket scientists and Nobel laureates, among other technical professionals. Oh, and members of the staff (who did not fall into any of those categories, sadly).

But, this post isn't about me, my experience, or my previous blogs. Makes me feel old just thinking about it (notwithstanding my approaching 40th birthday this Sunday).

Instead, this is about the 23 Things assignment for this week -- trying out online productivity tools. Since I've already used Google's tools (and enjoyed their ease-of-use), I decided to try Zoho.

Immediately, I was very happy to see that I could easily join by using my Google account, which I did. The tools worked very similarly to Google's Docs. I made a wee test presentation with Zoho Show, which was a snap! I liked how Zoho Writer offered a lot more customization than Google Docs. Overall, I think I'd recommend Zoho first before Google docs simply because it offers many more services that seem a bit more "cooked."

Web 2.0 Tools

Sometimes I'm a bit iffy on the whole Web 2.0 thing. I guess it's because prior to the WWW going wild, I managed a BBS and saw online participation before people knew what "online" was. Again, Deb = OLD.

I can appreciate people thinking all this is new, but from the very beginning, people were able to communicate and collaborate online via simple web sites. They had online journals (known now as blogs), albeit without as much fanfare, but they were there. Users could create and share content -- they just needed to learn how to code that content.

Perhaps Web 2.0 is really about the concept of making it easy for people. Sort of in the way that desktop publishing made everyone a magazine publisher or a printer. It also led to a lot of poorly produced stuff. Which, one could say the web is littered with now. While this may sound jaded, it's also true. There is a lot of junk out there, from simply bad, inaccurate medical information to blogs with photos of poor quality and very poorly written content.

On the other hand, there are some inspiring examples of content -- stories of human triumph, impeccable recipes, and political movements that allow for major change. Probably one of the most worthwhile efforts included people blogging on 9/11 or during the subway bombings in London and Spain not long afterward.

That said, I visited the Web 2.0 awards to see what was there. I'm familiar with a few of the award recipients, including Delicious and Lulu. I'd considered Lulu when I wrote my agave nectar cookbook (still unpublished, still being edited/written). Craigslist is a go-to for me when I want to sell or buy something. I've tried using it to find jobs, but didn't find it that helpful in my field. The events aggregators looked like they were worth a visit, as did Standout Jobs.

I'm a member of Imcooked, but I don't participate much any more because I don't film myself cooking these days. I'll probably get back to it, but YouTube limits the time of uploaded films, so condensing and editing is key.


  1. I recently came accross your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I dont know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.


  2. Hi Sarah,
    Thanks for commenting! I'm glad you've been enjoying my blog assignment for my info tech for librarians class.


Thanks so much for including your thoughts here. I value your input.