Friday, 20 August 2010

Google Documents to the rescue!

Screen shot from my Google Doc of an air-sea rescue off the coast of Svalbard
('Airlift ascent' by Anders Lanzen, 5th  August 2010, Flickr, Creative Commons)
The YouTube video introducing this tool was excellent - I recommend it to anyone who hasn't already played with Google Docs - and I am most impressed by how simple Google Documents is to use, bar its peculiar unwillingness to insert any photographs I have taken and saved to My Pictures.  It insists they are not valid image files, yet will accept any images I download from Flickr Creative Commons and store in My Pictures. Most peculiar, as I've successfully used many of my own images on this blog.
I witnessed an air-sea rescue exercise off the north-west coast of Svalbard (aka Spitsbergen) in June 2010 when the ship I was a passenger on, MV Plancius, was asked by the Svalbard Coastguard to take part in the exercise (and given just 10 minutes notice, so as to catch us off guard and be more realistic).  The helicopter (same one as photographed by Anders Lanzen above) hovered low above us; the noise was deafening, it sprayed sea water into my face as I watched from the deck.  It was incredibly exciting to witness the bravery of the rescue team dangling from the rope above and the skill of the pilot, the propellers of the helicopter whizzing round just feet from our ship's mast.

I can imagine using Google Documents to compose letters and minutes sent out by the Steering Group of the South Asia Archive and Library Group.  Currently our Secretary produces the first draft of our conference minutes and then emails it out to the Steering Group for additions and changes before mailing to members or publishing on our website. By using Google Docs we could all edit them, (whether in Edinburgh, London or Cambridge) though we would perhaps need a system of agreeing the final version?  Also who would archive the final version?  Would we rely on Google for file-storage and back-ups, plus our website provider?    I look forward to experimenting with this new tool and finding answers to these questions.

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