Wednesday, 17 August 2011

[CPD23] Thing 13: Online Collaboration

Over halfway through now, and this week's Thing is exploring tools for online collaboration and sharing. I already use the three tools that Jen highlighted, some more frequently (and to better effect perhaps) than others.

Google Docs

This is the tool I use most often for collaborating with others. We've been using it a lot to organise CPD23, with Word docs for planning who on the team was doing what and when, and a big big big spreadsheet of everyone taking part. Just thinking about how big that spreadsheet is makes me so thankful for Google Docs! There are well over 700 people taking part, imagine if we had to manually add these to a spreadsheet? I love living in 2011 :)

I also use Google Docs if I'm going to be working on something at home and at work, or if it's the sort of thing I'm going to want to add to whenever I get a bit of inspiration. There is an app which I have downloaded for my phone, but I use this to read Docs rather than write them mostly, as I find typing on a phone keyboard fairly tedious.


No more of this! Image by Craft*ology on Flickr
I'd been hearing about this for a while before I started using it. I didn't immediately think I needed an account, as I don't often share big files. However after hearing quite a few people recommending it as a life saver, I thought I'd try it and see what the fuss was about. When I realised that there was an Android app and I could share files between my phone and my laptop, I was totally sold. Now instead of rooting out the cable that has got itself inextricably tangled up in a million other wires and cables, or faffing about with the fiddly micro SD card, I just upload my photos or docs to Dropbox, and 30 seconds later there they are on my laptop! Definitely recommend, for this purpose alone!


As Jen says, the graduate trainees in Cambridge use a wiki to collaborate on our group website, CATALOG. Since there are seven of us managing the website, we keep a rota, keep a note of changes we have made or need to make, and upload backup files to a password protected wiki. Our wiki is hosted on the university's VLE, and while it doesn't look particularly pretty, it does the job well. Apart from this and my little contributions to the Library Day in the Life Project, I don't use wikis that much. However, I've seen some nice examples of pages set up for particular courses at the university. One example which I liked and thought could be used in a library setting was where a lecturer uploaded the reading list for a course, and then got the students to edit it, annotating, adding their own suggestions and striking out any resources they didn't find useful.

So while I use all three of these tools, I don't actually use Dropbox for collaboration. We aren't allowed to install it at work, but as I never find myself needing to share large files I don't see it would add much to my work-life even if we could. Perhaps when I'm doing my Masters next year it will be handy for sharing presentations etc., although Google Docs can be used for that anyway! Much the same with Wikis - I don't use these in any particularly exciting way...yet?


  1. Wikis are something I have no experience of, so they sort of elude me, but that example of the lecturer using it for reading lists sounds really interesting!

    And yeah, I don't use Dropbox professionally, but it makes my home life a little quicker and a little more wireless. I like it a lot.

  2. One area where Drop box and similar really helps in work situations is for the sharing of videos - a medium which more and more people seem to be using to help stimulate, inspire, educate, broadcast etc.

  3. Audio files too, often are too big to send by email, but so far I haven't needed to share any video or audio files. Clearly we're not interesting enough to have to need Dropbox! ;)