Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Method 3

Here is the “A Dozen Ways to Two-Step” discovery exercise for Method 3, followed by my response to it:

Discovery Exercise:

Explore some cloud-based productivity tools (think word processing, spreadsheets) by logging in and playing with one but preferably both of these popular cloud-based application suites:

Google Docs (and, while you’re logged in to Google, why not explore some of the other Google applications that are available?)
Zoho (note: you can log into Zoho with your Google account information, saving you from having to create a separate Zoho account)

Read Greg Cruey’s “Cloud computing for the masses” article (if you haven’t already).

Read Doug Johnson’s Blue Skunk blog post: “Could you live in the cloud?”, and please read the comments left by several readers.

Read Michael Stephens’ Tame the Web blog post: “How can libraries use the cloud?

Read Jenny Levine’s The Shifted Librarian blog post: “We’re Not All Ready for the Cloud Yet”.

Share your impressions and thoughts regarding online productivity tools and cloud computing by posting to your blog. (Please include “Method 3″ in the title of your blog post.) Some jumping off points for your blog post might be: How do you feel about these tools and concepts? Do you see great benefits for use in libraries? Overall, would you say that you are more excited or more cautious/skeptical about cloud computing?

C's Response:

I have looked around some in Google Docs and Zoho. I created a "test" document in Google Docs and published it to the web here:


I also used the publish to blog function to publish it in this blog in the blog post just before this one, so you can see my very exotic and exciting publishing excursion. :) That is to say, it is not exotic or exciting AT ALL, but at least I know how to create cloud-based documents now, and publish them, both in my blog and on the web.

I used Zoho to create the text of this very blog post, and have copied and pasted it into a "new post" in my blog to make what you are reading now appear here before you.

Zoho and Google Docs are both easy to use and have a lot of applications (wordprocessing, spreadsheets, presentations, and so on). I like the variety of templates in Google Docs and the variety of applications in Zoho. I also find it very convenient that Zoho allows for login using one's Google ID. I am used to productivity applications like word processing and spreadsheets being programs on my computer. Being able to do these functions on a web-based platform is awesome. Advatages include being able to access my documents from anywhere with a web browser and internet connection. I am, however, aware of the potential issues involved with cloud-based computing, including privacy/security, potential loss of data/need for backup, etc.

I read the four discovery exercise documents referenced above. They were a good introduction to the concept of cloud computing and also pointed out the advantages and challenges/problems involved, both for individuals and libraries.

I have been using some cloud-based applications for quite some time, including yahoo mail and Facebook. The idea of doing most computing "in the cloud" has a lot of appeal, especially from a memory/storage and cost-saving (not having to buy productivity applications) perspective. I would love to be able to store my 60+ GB iTunes library in a cloud outside of my desktop computer at home. It would really save on memory space. There are, however, issues with computing in the cloud to such a great degree. Is my stuff secure? Is my stuff really mine? Would it be seen, hacked, used by others? Would it remain private? What if the companies housing the data go out of business, get sold, or suddenly change their rules (including privacy rules)?

I liked that the Shifted Librarian post pointed out that we, as librarians, have have the opportunity to not only train our users in how to use cloud computing technologies, but we can and should also point out to them the options they have and the problems/issues involved in cloud computing.

Cloud computing is going to be a fact of life. We need to adapt to it in order to not be left behind, certainly, but we also have the opportunity to instruct and advise our users, and to help shape the policies of our libraries and parent organizations to provide as much access as possible to cloud computing for our users while maintaining sensible computer/network security.

To me, librarians have always been the facilitators at and to the portals of knowledge. Our skills will continue to be needed as we move forward onto the cloud.

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