Using Google for chapter web services

Writer(s): 
Dan Waldhoff, JALT Ibaraki Chapter

 

I’ll begin this article with an acknowledgement of gratitude to Mariko Miyao. That long serving, can’t-say-no Lady has been the Webmaster for Ibaraki Chapter since the first day we went on the web. Her hard work prompted me to investigate ways to lighten her load and allow other officers to share some of her duties.

There are many options for consolidating web services. I chose Google because of its ease of use, friendly “face,” nearly seamless integration of services, and because it’s what I’ve become accustomed to using. The goal was to create a user-friendly front end and an officer-friendly back end to our web presence. A secondary goal was to provide a location for secure document archival that would be independent of individual computers and, more specifically, eliminate boxes of documents for which someone (Dan at the time) had to be responsible. I’ll present the process as a list of steps and attempt to make it as painless as possible for anyone to duplicate. One could also use the same steps to set up services for classes, clubs or other activities.

1. The first step is to register. This is as simple as going to Google.com and registering an account for Gmail. With that mail account we have over 7 gigabytes of archival capacity. All official mail from our chapter is sent through that account name, ibarakijalt@google.com, and actually looks… official. Individual officers can send and receive from the official account by setting up their email software to access it. If you use a Mac this is as simple as adding the account and providing the password. If your email software is less accommodating, a login to Google is an easy alternative. Gmail will import address books from most other mail software.

2. Having done that, the other doors open automatically. Google Docs gives you an MSOffice compatible suite and storage forever. No boxes to lug to meetings, as it is all accessible on line! All of our proxy forms, meeting minutes, and similar important documents have been uploaded and are ready for instant recall when needed. They will remain safe as long as Google remains online.

3. Next comes Blogger, Google’s blogging tool. It makes a wonderfully easy homepage face for our chapter. You can see ours at <ibarakijalt.blogspot.com/>. Setting it up and then updating it is virtually as easy as typing. Each officer with the password can update it with no special knowledge required. Our “Home Page” looks good and is as easy for us to manage as it is for our guests to navigate. We’ve incorporated a Google Calendar into the page to tell visitors when our chapter events will be and will also include JALT National events and other events of interest.

4. The final step was setting up a Google Group. This tool allows both email contact and member interaction. The most difficult part of the transition was inputting our email address list into this. Google is smart enough to disallow a direct upload of names. Bad guys might want to spam from a Google account and they don’t have time to input individual names. All of our members with email addresses have been added and have the option of selecting their own mail preferences. They login from their private email addresses and are recognized by the Group automatically.

5. As a final step, we’ve archived a Standard Operating Procedure file in Google Docs to make use of the system available to incoming officers as time passes.

Because Google has done so much to make their services user-friendly and space here is limited, I’ve excluded nuts-and-bolts instructions. You’ll find their setup steps are logical as well as clear. They provide excellent help when you need it, but you probably won’t. The whole process of setting up Ibaraki Chapter took less than an hour. Other online services are available and you may already have a preference. We changed our dispersed services to consolidate with Google and so far the results have been excellent.

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