Google Groups, Google web applications and virtual community building

Ein Gastbeitrag zum netbib-Frauentag von Karen A. Coombs. Thanks, Karen!

I’m not a big fan of listservs. Since I’m a lurker I’d rather get my information via an RSS or Atom feed. However, the preconference for Solr at code4lib has a GoogleGroup and I’m learning that there can be some cool things about this service which is more than your vanilla listserv. First, you can post files to Google Groups. This is great for the preconference because the person teaching has posted both the install files for Solr and some test files for us to play with. (There is a limitation on the size of the files you can upload though.) Additionally, Google Groups lets you create „pages“ for the group. Considering the fact that Google also has Google Docs and Spreadsheets, Picasa Web Albums, Google Calendar, as well as Blogger, I’m wondering how long before there is some linkage between Google Groups and these applications.

What I like about the pages, and file upload functionality is that it helps to create a great sense of virtual place for a group. Adding other linking other pieces of the Google Apps suite would only further enhance this. In particular, groups wouldn’t have to instantiate themselves at multiple sites. For example, groups often find themselves creating a Flickr group as well as a blog at Blogger, etc. Using the Google applications groups could instead have a central one-stop portal for their group. Additionally, by stitching together these services Google may end up becoming a competitor to Basecamp, which my library currently uses for project management purposes.

For good or ill, Google has a powerful suite of tools to offer and attract users. Even without the Calendar, and Docs and Spreadsheet functionality, I’m thinking that Google Group on its own might work well for other pre or post conferences, as well as library workshops. Only time and experimentation will tell though what tools will be the most useful in the scenario though. Who knows what other tools might developer in the future to facilitate community on the web.