paper tigers changing stripes.

Working at a college with a sustainability goal provides a boost whenever you want to move something from paper to the Web. So it was pleasing this week to move a paper-pushing tree-killing task to collaborative online report instead.

One of our office’s more drudgery duties involves a clippings report, where we document our college’s media mentions for the previous week. Traditionally, we put everything into an Excel document, printed said document, typed and printed a two-page cover report, printed the more noteworthy clippings and made enough copies to wipe out a small forest.

While I was vaguely aware of Google documents, I didn’t see the potential until Brad J. Ward created an online spreadsheet for FacebookGate that several of us Web detectives worked on. Under our office’s old clips system, only one Excel user could input into the document at a time. Three of us enter items in the document, and on super-busy Mondays, two of us would be locked out if any user were in it. Now any of us can be in the document entering things in real time. As the Google doc is online, I could even enter clippings I find on the Web from home if I want. (As to why I would want to … that’s a whole nuther entry.)

I wasn’t sure what to expect when proposing the new green format. I e-mailed a briefer version of the summary report, links to more significant clippings and a link to the clippings document. Response was swift and very positive. In a field like higher education where change sometimes takes a glacial pace, a warm welcome for an abrupt shift from reams of paper to online is still surprising.

But I’m happy to have tried something new and have it accepted … and that it saves our time and many trees.



Filed under writing

6 responses to “paper tigers changing stripes.

  1. That’s a great idea. We’ve been putting together electronic clipping reports for a while, but using Filemaker Pro. But, I really like the idea of using Google docs. And with my recent discovery of Google forms (, it would be a lot easier than firing up FMP.

    I can also envision transitioning our media contact log to Google docs as well.

  2. Google docs is one of those marvels of “cloud computing.” Not only can many people get involved, but you don’t waste any of your hard-drive space storing it, either. I’ve yet to find a need for it, but it’s nice to see that people are getting use out of it. It’s just one of many cloud projects getting of the ground and they are bound to change the way we think about home computing ventures.

  3. Nice use of Google Docs for your clips report. Something our office does as a way of sharing/tracking our more noteworthy media placements is to use delicious (see our delicious site to see how it works). We then feed this into our news site ( so visitors there can see the clips. The drawback, of course, is that the online clips often go away after some time.

  4. Pingback: navigating the rapids (and rapid change). « InsideTimsHead

  5. insidetimshead

    JOE: I sort of kick myself as well for not knowing or understanding Google docs earlier. The thought of having to work in FileMaker Pro makes me shudder. You’re a brave man.

    LYNN: I heard the term “cloud computing” forever but no one was ever really able to explain it that well to me. Now it makes total sense and seems a great invention.

    ANDREW: Say, that’s snazzy! I have a delicious account but have barely explored that platform. Your feed is a cool idea and looks great!

  6. Tim – Well since Google purchased Feedburner our Delicious feed to our news site has disappeared.. So it doesn’t look so great now — unless you’re a big fan of a LOT of white space.

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