Lunch & Learn: Collaboration Tools at Princeton with Mark Ratliff

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OIT’s recent Strategic Planning effort identified the need for a “data lifeline,” a comprehensive way to store digital information, ways to search and archive the data, and policies to control data retention and disposal. OIT has begun the construction of an “information infrastructure” that will include massive central data storage, comprehensive data repositories, and simple-to-use collaboration software.
To help oversee these efforts, OIT has hired Mark Ratliff, one of the original developers of JSTOR, a popular online scholarly journal archive, as our new “digital repository architect.” And OIT has acquired and installed several products that aim to simplify the management of digital content for all members of the University community.


markratliff.jpgAt the April 9 Lunch ‘n Learn seminar, Mark introduced three members of OIT who demonstrated new collaboration tools. Dennis Hood, Manager of Courseware within OIT’s Academic Services, introduced Princeton’s WebSpace file management system; Sal Rosario, Coordinator of Process Improvement within OIT’s Finance, Administration, and Planning presented the Miscrosoft SharePoint service; and Harris Otubu, Manager of the Help Desk Phone Center within OIT’s Support Services, gave an overview of WebEx.
Ratliff explained that, while WebSpace and Sharepoint appear to provide similar services, they may serve different constituencies. WebSpace is primarily for managing and collaborating with files and may therefore appeal to individual faculty and students who are involved in academic or administrative collaborative efforts. By contrast, SharePoint is a tool designed primarily for team communication within a web intranet. It contains useful widgets such as discussion boards, calendars, and document libraries.
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Any member of the University community, explained Dennis Hood, can automatically establish an account by accessing WebSpace with any popular web browser. The system easily and intuitively permits users to create folders, store files, and share them with others here at Princeton or indeed with anyone throughout the world. You can use WebSpace to share your files with your colleagues. You can link WebSpace files to Blackboard for use with your teaching or simply to share files with your classes. You can also use WebSpace as a repository for your web pages. The system can store any file type and has a built-in Wiki that would permit a team, through a public or private web site, to add information incrementally to the group’s efforts.
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SharePoint offers a full-fledged collaboration environment for website creation, document sharing, group discussions, blogging, calendaring, and Wikis. Sal Rosario emphasized that the Microsoft’s SharePoint collaboration tool is especially useful for managing projects. In addition to most of the features contained within WebSpace, Sharepoint offers discussion and announcement lists, task and contact lists, calendars, Blogs, and surveys. Contact lists , Events, and Tasks can be integrated into Microsoft Outlook. Survey results can be exported to Microsoft Excel. Sharepoint also permits you to create picture libraries with a slideshow viewer. Questions about the SharePoint implementation can be directed to Sal Rosario; Training classes will be scheduled starting in May.
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The University also has a license with WebEx, in this case for hosting web-based desktop conferences and training. Simply put, you can use WebEx to share your desktop with a collaborative group, perhaps to deliver real-time presentations to remote PCs, described Harris Otubu. To set up a WebEx event, members of the University community go to OIT’s conferencing page. There, you will learn how to install the WebEx Meeting Maker client. Once you have an account and have installed the software, you may then schedule your event. You may also need to arrange for voice conferencing.
Mark Ratliff, Princeton’s new Digital Repository Architect, will work with members of the University community to understand their digital content management needs and to ensure that the University’s digital repository architecture is designed to meet those needs. He will help to develop overall strategies for the development and management of digital repositories and their content.
A podcast and the presentation are available.
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The WebSpace service had been called “WebShare” at the time of this presentation, thus the references to the old name in both the podcast and the presentation materials.
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