Seven Google App Flaws

I have been a devotee to Google products since the first time I logged in and used their search engine over Ask Jeeves. This would be back in 2000. Google manages many of my daily activities, keeps records for me, and occasionally I have a tug of war to get my chat message records out. Overall I am satisfied with their services as a personal user. However, as a professional I keep running into little nuances that go undetected as an individual user but which are frustrating as a business user.

In Google Forms, I want to create a quick sign up sheet which has a limit of how many responses to accept. Once that limit is hit, the form automatically closes. This is a no go. Second, I can use some URL hacks to remove the name of the embeddable form, but I can’t alter the confirmation message screen much. I don’t mind that a user will see that the form was created by Google, but I don’t want the line coaxing the user to create their own form! That is confusing. Nor can I add a URL text link which says something to the effect of “Click to return to our site.” Instead, I have to just paste in the URL.

Google Calendar is fairly great as a way to list events. We can even pull out information and display it in our own customized codes. However, there are two nagging issues that I have run into: When a user clicks the +Google Calendar button on the bottom of an embedded calendar, the confirmation box is just a long random line of text proceeded by “Would you like to add…” My calendar has a name! Show that instead of a bunch of gibberish! Second, one of our calendars is very active with a minimum of 25 activities a week. A request came in to have the embedded calendar default to Agenda view. When I tried, the calendar refused to list any of the 8 events for today or tomorrow or next week. The calendar was blank. If I click on week or month, everything is fine. If I set another lesser used calendar to Agenda view as default, there is no problem.

I love Google Plus. I think it’s great! However, when I upload a single photo and then want to link to the page which has just that photo, I cannot do so. Instead I have to link to the library’s profile. This is not targeted and anyone who stumbles across the link later may not know what on the feed I was specifically trying to link to! Second, I uploaded a bunch of photos to an album. I gave each image a caption. When I checked the stream, each individual image showed up therefore making the library’s page look like it was spamming! The expected and desired behavior is that the main/first image would show and a select number of other photos in the album would show as thumbnails underneath the larger image.

I have posted on the official Google forums after having done an exhaustive keyword and Boolean search. There have been no responses for my Calendar and Forms issue. What I usually find are numerous people reporting the same bugs or make the same feature requests. It seems that things like automatically limiting form responses would be a no-brainer.

So as professional user of Google products I am becoming disenchanted with the service. If you have any answers to how I can work around Google’s limitations on these issues, please drop me a line!

Making Headway

Today’s projects and their statuses:

I finished modifying my first Contactology template. I added some functions such as she can easily click to insert photos and text without changing the template layout. I’m pretty pleased with it! Contactology lets you paste your code and then refresh the page to see how the changes look. So I spent a lot of time tweaking the code in Dreamweaver, pasting it over on the website, refresh, click around, and then go back to Dreamweaver for further changes. Btw, the find search box is the best tool in any designer’s toolkit.

I went to a conference call meeting with the guy in charge of usability testing for my library’s website. It was a little awkward when I was put on the spot and asked what did I think of the usability report when I had written a response which was basically, “A+ job. You pointed out 90% of what I already knew.” I was given a heap of things to do before the project can move forward.

The immediate biggest issues are changing the site from a fluid to a fixed layout and the taxonomy/breadcrumbs is going to be a nightmare. On the other hand, as the other members of the group talked, I was rapidly drawing thumbnails for how to address certain issues. For example, it is vital that we have an archive of past events on the website. Currently, those archives are a mess and it’s generally more an issue of just using the search bar and hoping to find everything. My proposal involves creating say a Meet the Author page for each visiting author. We’ll use Views attach to create a gallery of posts about their visit, photos, and videos. That’s a pretty tall order, but I feel confident that I can achieve it. What makes me a little uneasy is creating tightly controlled templates for content so they all have an identical layout. I will have to do some research on that one.
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Embedding a Google Form in Drupal for Event Registration

I also worked on creating embedded registration forms on the website for this fall’s adult technology classes (signups are next week!). Below is a quick summary of the process which involved using the library’s Google Docs account to create a form using the plain theme. I had to tweak the questions several times till I found a satisfying solution. Later I did some work to remove the form title and am researching how to enforce limits on how many people can fill out the form. I also need to change the confirmation code so it’ll redirect back to the class list page.

Lots of tweaking my settings to get this!

The finished page

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Google lets you custom-print out of copyright books

Looks like Google has found a way to get out of copyright books available for readers to print on the cheap.

Neller said the deal was clearly about the long tail of books, a reference to Wired magazine’s Editor-in-Chief Chris Anderson’s theory that hits become less important when distribution costs drop. One of the main benefits, according to Neller, is letting local book stores compete with by reducing their need to have expensive inventory.

For librarians this means that older books can be obtainable for much cheaper prices than trying to secure the books expensively online. Or that older copies of books won’t be damaged since copies can be printed out and sold that leaves the authentic original copies intact.