Friday, February 29, 2008

Strap on Your Rocket Shoes! Google Sites for ASU


Students, faculty and researchers, strap on your rocket shoes: "Google Sites" was just released to ASU as part of our Google Apps for Education suite.

"Sites" is not only a killer web page and site building tool, it also excels as an intuitive web-based collaboration medium. Google has blended web pages, blogs and wikis into a seamless, virtually effortless whole.

Sites will let us - ASU students, faculty and staff - forget about specific software and special languages we've needed to manage blogs, wikis and web pages in the past. Now, collaboration and commenting is an option on any ASU sites page. Sites aims to be a one-stop shop - a Mom-and-Pop-easy-shop - for creating interactive pages that you can co-publish with others, whether they're in the next chair or on the next continent.

"Enough!" you say. "How do I get started?"

Just go here and follow the directions. Making a personal site is a great way to test the waters. You can also create a practice site and then delete it when you're done.

To make a new page, just hit the "Create a new page" button. You'll see several options that define not just form, but more awesomely, function. In addition to standard web page layouts, you can create a "Dashboard" page full of gadgets ("mini" applications embedded in the page; think "My ASU") or a "List" (really a whole set of functions for project management and other kinds of task management) or a "File Cabinet" (all of your uploaded files, lined up and reporting for duty).

Want to change the format of the navigation menu? Just drag-and-drop content blocks or edit them after hitting "Edit sidebar" in the sidebar. Want to stir calendars, spreadsheets, slide shows, video and other rich media into your page? In page edit, hit the "Insert" button in the toolbar, locate your file - it's done. Versioning is automatic so you can change your mind and switch to an earlier revision. And if you're collaborating, versioning allows you to see who changed what.

It took just 30 minutes to port the content of the blog you're now reading into a quick Google Site: check it out. It doesn't take much of a leap to see how researchers might - much more easily than before - exploit the power of The Cloud to build shared bodies of knowledge; how teachers could publish their course materials and encourage student interaction within course-based sites, and how students could work together, inside or outside of classes, to learn and to teach one another.

And here's the best part: the power and flexibility of Google Sites is free to ASU students, faculty, researchers and staff. The elves who brought us this technology from an advanced alien culture created it while we were sleeping.

There's plenty more to come. Stay tuned!

8 comments:

Margaret Nordman,  February 29, 2008 at 8:38 AM  

Looks like you have quite a lot going on at ASU. Very
impressive.

Nancy March 3, 2008 at 2:31 AM  

Tech pundits publishing opinions about Google Sites over the weekend seem more focused on Sites' challenge to Microsoft Sharepoint than on the bigger picture, mostly likely because humans just love a fight... But what about Sites' challenge to collaborative software and webapps in general? What about the future of ISPs - why do we need them now, except for connectivity? How will enterprise software work with the Cloud? We've had trouble keeping private information off corporate workers' desktop machines; how will we control leakage to the Cloud? We've had plenty of trouble with silos - people and groups creating their own solutions and information-sharing mechanisms, walled off from the rest of the organization, creating duplicate servers/storage/effort and worse, software-reinforced ignorance for those outside the silo. But now, very nice silos are easier to create than before.

This is truly disruptive technology. It's not just software for team-built websites. It's not just a free and easy way to create a personal website or blog. It's not just a way to micro-publish RSS to any other place that'll have you. I think Google is providing the next evolution(s) of the Web, a software version of the original Internet hardware/protocol architecture (http://www.ideafinder.com/history/inventions/internet.htm). They are creating new ways of thinking and therefore new problems to solve, fast.

So life will be interesting.

Pat,  March 3, 2008 at 7:17 AM  

As an advocate for SharePoint as a tool for file management and collaboration, I took the opportunity over the weekend to do some investigating of Google sites. Was I disappointed in what I discovered, not really! Did it knock my socks off, not really (but maybe that’s because I strapped my rocket boots on too tight)! At the stage of development Google sites is in, I would say that the overall set of tools and capabilities is quite nice.

One of my responsibilities is project management for IDEAL and the subprojects that integrate with the overall system. So for my “test” site, I decided I would develop a site for one of the projects I’m responsible for. It’s a private site for now and was created without using HTML or any other programming except what’s straight “out of the box”. I created a hierarchy of pages for the project documents Project documents with subpages of Meeting notes (with a subpage of action items from the meeting), General documents, and E-mail which I setup as file structures. I created another hierarchy called Project Plan with subpages of Project Issues, Project Assumptions and Project Tasks. I used the list page type and the templates provided, plus created a custom page. I also included the dashboard which displays the recent updates to Project documents subpages and the Project Plan subpages. I included an announcement page as well as a discussion page which I supplied the link to a blog. All of this took about 30 minutes to create, but another hour to tweak it to the way I wanted it to look like adding quick links to all the pages via the sidebar instead of going through the site map or the subpages listed on the home page.

Overall, Google sites has some neat things to offer. The things I miss from SharePoint are some of the graphical representations that are available for project management, such as Gantt charts, milestone indication, dependencies (these are all part of the built in project management module within SharePoint). I also miss not being able to restrict file access at the document level. I’m experiencing issues with not being able to open any of the documents I uploaded to the Google site (get the dreaded page not found message), but I’m presuming this is a bug somewhere in the deployment. Also, all of a sudden over the weekend, I could no longer view the sites available at asu.edu. But it was easier to pull a site together quickly than with SharePoint, unless you’ve already designed templates. I’m hoping that as it matures, more modules will be available to make it on par with SharePoint or at least reasonably close. And, for now, the price is right!

Dave Law March 9, 2008 at 7:21 PM  

Interesting and sounds great to have information about ASU.....

Steve Madden May 1, 2008 at 6:14 AM  

Hi,

I'm curious what the prevalent
opinions are about the security of these shared documents. The lack
of graphical representations are a disappointment. I understand that Level 3 Content delivery network is more of a consideration these days as well. Does Google Sites take advantage of that? I have to admit that the level of collaboration is a definite plus.
I'll have to give this a test run.

My 2 Cents

Steve

Pet Supplies Fish February 16, 2009 at 2:06 PM  

ho hum, unfortunately I haven't found google sites to be terribly user friendly. You can create a basic template site and fill in the blanks, but don't expect to get to creative. Good for the local athletic club, but thats about it.

bulletproofjackets March 5, 2009 at 10:05 AM  

I agree with you that Google sites is a great application for those technically challenged. Especially that its FREE, easy to use and create pages. Its easy to customize the background and banner and you get 100 MB of free storage.

Chris Russell,  June 9, 2009 at 11:23 AM  

I LOVE it it is a GREAT place to "GET YOUR FEET WET" as they say for people looking to start a blog or site of there own!