Driving this was the announcements presentation usually delivered by Ralph. For every meeting, he tries to collect input and content from the various stakeholders. He needs updates from the observing committee chair (for city, deep sky, and solar sessions), the David Dunlap crew (for talks, tours, member nights), the Carr observatory team (for open house, work party, other events). He also aggregates events by U of T and York U. There's always some expedition going on. And so on.
Ralph, the first to admit he's not very tech savvy, handles this in a traditional, simplistic way: he circulates a somewhat large PowerPoint file (based on the template I made). Some people, familiar with the product, make direct edits; others send their notes or requests by e-mail. This junks up everyone's e-mail in-tray. Annoys people not directly involved. Chews up bandwidth. It is slow and roundabout.
When the edits wind down (often at the eleventh hour), the PPT goes to Charles. He extracts content to make the meeting handout. Another large attachment. Once received he can hammer away and then print out the multiple copies. Assuming he's planning to attend the meeting. If he can't make it, the handout usually stalls and dies.
And finally, the slide deck must be physically transported to the meeting location. I remember on one occasion, there was a problem. Ralph was expecting to be late. So someone else was charged with bringing and running presentation. Files were exchanged but wires got crossed. And an older edition of the file was used. Too-many-cooks-in-the-kitchen or miscommunication or both.
Charles and I have chatted about this on and off for months now. He likes my philosophy. There are a number of benefits to a cloud-based document.
- supports multiple contributors and editors
- doesn't fill up people's inbox
- doesn't concern people not interested
- available 24/7
- available to Charles whenever he's ready to generate the handout
- available if Ralph cannot attend or is late
- we might be able to take advantage of file versioning
The biggest requirement is that we have internet access during the meeting.
The challenges I perceived in using this, change-management issues aside, were that web-based tools might be too different for the users and insufficiently powered.
This then created my interest in conducting some experiments.
When I recently revisited the presentation tool in Google Docs, even when I upgraded it, I still found it weak and missing what I thought were helpful and useful features. But I also kept seeing notes about certain things being possible. The menu commands however for some of these features were not showing or available to me. It was some time before I discovered that this was because I was using, effectively, the individual or personal versions. I needed to set up a corporate style Google account. The apps were different. Good. Things were looking up.
But then the announcement came down from the Ontario Science Centre. Our meeting location had changed from the usual auditorium spot with all the amenities to the small Studio 2. And for me, after some consideration, it was a deal-breaker. I did not want to have to deal with unknowns for this first cloud-delivered presentation trial. So, it was back to a traditional method then for me: in fact, I planned to bring my own equipment. I'd have total control then. I had a laptop with PowerPoint 2007 I could use. I'd load the PowerPoint 2007/2010 slide deck.
I'm not sure now when I'll test and use Google's presentation app. Sometime in the late spring or early summer, I guess.