Monday, 27 August 2012

Cloudscapes ... Thing 13... collaborating and sharing

© Copyright s g b roberts and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence
I'm old enough to remember early online searching where connection was enabled through dialling and then placing the telephone handset into a modem carriage. You paid for the phone line and so searched after 1pm when line charges were cheaper. You also paid for your time spent online with the database provider, and for the number of references retrieved. So your searching was very well prepared, very focussed, and undertaken with trepidation.

In 25 years how we have moved on! Online connections are now ubiquitious, fast and cheap; online storage is similarly plentiful and cheap. Thus, cloud computing comes to the fore - hence my title for this blog. Through the cloud Google Drive, Dropbox and wikis can function.

Thing 13 invites participants to explore and consider Google Drive, Dropbox and wikis. Regrettably I haven't used Google Drive in the past, but I have used the Microsoft Hotmail equivalent - Skydrive. Similar to Google Drive this allows online document creation, storage, sharing and group editing, as well as enabling remote access and working across platforms (Mac or PC). I have used Skydrive to access files from multiple locations and devices, but I haven't used these tools for collaborative working. I appreciate the secure storage and backup that cloud based storage provides, and the fact that if I loose or break my laptop then I can still access many of my vital files. (I do have alternative local backup solutions in place too, but Cloud-based solutions give me extra reassurance and ease of remote access). Skydrive came into it's own in pulling together my CILIP revalidation portfolio, but perhaps, on reflection, Dropbox or a wiki may have been even better?

As Secretary of the CILIP Career Development Group Wales Division the Committee has talked about using Google Drive for collaborative drafting of our divisional plan. Having watched the Wikis in Plain English video I now wonder if this process may be more easily achieved through a wiki.Worth trying this for 2013! The group currently archive and share files through JISCMAIL File Store features, which forms a handy central repository, but it is now cumbersome and dated in its operation. A wiki or cloud-based solution for Divisional files would, it seems to me, to be easier for us all to use.

Some departments in work are dabbling with internal wikis, providing desk notes, a knowledge base and an interactive environment in which to work collaboratively. For self- or team- generated content I can see that wikis would form an excellent platform. However, as information professionals we need to be exceptionally careful in guiding our users in appropriate use of external content within their wikis. In such situations we need to effectively raise awareness of copyright  and database licensing terms and conditions. I speak from experience on this one!

I haven't tried Dropbox, but it is very useful to know about this facility. The security restrictions of my work-based computer may not enable me to download the local software for Dropbox. This is disappointing because the automated storage and synchronisation of files seems to be such an advantage. That said, in work we access files from shared drives and within an electronic records document management system. Consequently, we should all be working from the same files and not generating multiple copies of a document. The need for Dropbox within work is therefore not quite so clear. But when collaborating with external partners Dropbox could be very helpful , and far less trouble than  remembering to manually synchronise files between different machines, network drives and cloud based storage services! There may be times when Dropbox could prove invaluable and I am glad for this opportunity to find out about it.

Definitely food for thought, and inspiration for future action here.

1. Try out a wiki page for use with CDG Wales.
2. Maintain my awareness of Dropbox.

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