Content rules the social media roost

Today we welcome Paul Kontonis of the International Academy of Web Television and Digitas to get us ready for Social Media Week, with a look at video on the web.

2012 is being touted as being THE year for web video. Between YouTube’s investment in original channels, Netflix’s original content deals, and Tom Hanks partnering with Yahoo on original programming, there is confidence that these investments help make this a game-changing year.

At the center of online video’s success is social. In fact the futures of both social and content are highly intertwined. Content needs social and social needs content. Social allows for the discovery and sharing of content and video gives people something to share and discover through their social graphs.

Social Media Week reflects the global impact of social media on all aspects of business, society, and culture, and content is no different. From the importance of quality and engaging content, to the distribution and measurement, content’s role is highlighted in a series of events listed below.
Guest to the YouTube Blog Paul Kontonis, International Academy of Web Television Chairman of the Board of Directors, and VP/Group Director at Digitas, recently watched “Working with Brands and Content Creators - 2012 IAWTV Awards Panel.”

ROFLCon Summit: Exploring how Internet communities affect everyone IRL

We’re proud to be a part of the vibrant culture of the web, and are pleased to welcome today’s guest blogger Tim Hwang and the rest of the team from ROFLCon, an organization celebrating all the wonderful memes out there.

On October 1 in Portland, Oregon the first-ever ROFLCon Summit will address the incredible potential of the Internet, memes, funny cats, and beyond.

ROFLCon Summit is a spin-off of the wildly awesome biennial ROFLCon. It brings together the leading generators, preservers and advancers of online culture so they can talk about where it’s all headed and what it means to everyone else. Speakers will include Chris Poole from, Eric Fensler (the GI Joe PSA guy), Bennett Foddy (the creator of QWOP), Jason Scott, and Brewster Kahle. Here’s a useful informational video that we made to help you get a sense of what we’re all about.

Helpful, no? By this point, it’s a cliche to note that internet culture has become a major engine for pop culture. But perhaps less noted is the background role of web platforms in providing the critical infrastructure for setting these cultural engines into motion. YouTube irrevocably changed the social dynamics of the internet precisely because of its ease of share-ability, the scale of its user base, and its endless catalogue of content. Let’s take one now-famous example.

“Friday.” Released March 14, 2011.

Weeks later, Conan O’Brien had a choreographed performance “Thursday.”

Less than two months later, Glee (one of the most popular shows on TV) performed a rendition of it on FOX. (Skip to 1:25).

And there are countless examples of this, happening every day on scales large and small.

Because they contribute so much to the endless churning of internet culture, what better way to promote ROFLCon Summit than with a video?

We’re huge nerds. ROFLCon is at once a celebration of the present and future of web culture, and an homage to glorious proto-internet days gone by. It’s deeply enmeshed in a childhood forged in late nights of programming in BASIC, River City Ransom, floppy disks, and the glorious days of VHS.

Needless to say, we wanted the conference (and our videos) to reflect that. The audio drops, hiccups and poor quality of the video actually helped show how far we’ve come. And once we’ve seen where things began, we’re much more able to foresee what might happen in the future.

Join us on the internets! We will be hosting a live stream of the ROFLCon Summit event on October 1 on our website, with live updates on Twitter as well.

Tim Hwang and the ROFLCon crew recently watched, “ROFLCon Summit Promotional Video.”

Guest Post: Google Docs for Classroom Instruction

Cross-posted on the the Google Enterprise Blog

Guest Post: Philip Greenspun is a pioneer in developing online communities and an educator who has taught electrical engineering and computer science courses at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology since 1987. Today he explains how he used Google Docs to develop and distribute curricular materials and to support in-classroom discussion of student solutions.

In 1983, I began building applications to support multi-user collaboration over the Internet. When I began using the World Wide Web in 1993 I vowed never to write a native application program again and said "every desktop computer program going forward should simply run in a Web browser." Since the main reason to prepare a document was for others to view, I predicted that everyone would be using browser-based word processors and spreadsheet programs by the year 2000. I am still waiting for my "everyone goes to work in a flying car" prediction to come true also...

In January 2011, four of us were developing an entirely new course for MIT students, an intensive lab-based SQL programming and Android development class. All of us are proficient Web developers accustomed to authoring pages in standard text editors and publishing them on our own servers, but it turned out to be easier and more effective to use Google Docs to collaboratively develop course materials. Google Docs was more effective because simultaneous updates could proceed in different areas of a document and we weren't slowed down by having to do explicit check-ins with a standard version control system (or circulate drafts with names such as "DayOneProblems-final-version-by-philg-really-really-final"). Also, the "insert a comment" feature of Google Docs proved useful, e.g., when I wasn't sure if an example program was correct and wanted to ask a collaborator to check, but without leaving crud in the main body of the document.

We created two Google Docs folders the night before class: lessons, editable by us and view-only for students; workspace, editable by everyone. Into the "lessons" folder we moved the first day's assignment. In the "workspace" folder we created a "Day 1 Workspace" document intended for students to cut and paste code into. As each student walked into the classroom, we asked him or her to email a teacher from his or her Google Account (most students already had Gmail and some experience with Google Docs) and the teacher would share both folders with the new student, immediately enabling access to all lessons.

As the course materials had never been used before, they contained some errors and many sections that lacked sufficient hints or explanations. When we noticed these deficiencies, e.g., when a student asked a question, we would edit the problem set from a teacher's laptop and all students would immediately see the change on the projector and/or on their own screens.

Google Docs enabled us to distribute solutions incrementally. The first morning we created a "Day 1 Solutions (January 2011)" document and dragged it into the lessons (view-only for students) folder. As the day progressed, when 90 percent of the students were done with a problem, we would add the solution to the end of this document (by copying from another Google Doc, of course) so that students would have it in front of them and be prepared for the discussion.

The shared Google Docs workspace documents enabled us to have students paste their work into shared documents that could be used for projection and discussion and also for members of the class to try out each other's SQL queries.

To gather feedback at the end of the course, we simply created a feedback document and put it into the workspace folder, then used the "email editors/viewers" feature (from the Share menu) to ask students to add their thoughts, including whether they liked Google Docs ("great for sharing solutions"; "very effective"; "Generally yes, I did get a little confused with all the browser tabs I had open"; "very efficient and comfortable"; "green too").

We were technical people teaching a technical course, but everything that we did with Google Docs would have been easy for a person without any programming or HTML authoring background. Google Docs was an important asset for our course and significantly enhanced the in-classroom experience.

You can read more about our experience, including our wishlist, at

Recapping the Google Sites webinar

Guest post: Stephen Hind (commonly known as Steegle) has been a Top Contributor in the Google Sites help forum since its launch in January 2009. Top Contributors are Google-recognized participants of our help forums who exemplify excellent product knowledge, are consistently kind and respectful to others, and are helpful in the forum. He’s an avid user of Google Sites both professionally and personally, and creates and manages Google Sites for other businesses. His website ( contains many FAQs and how-tos for Google Sites and receives 30,000 visits per month.

I began using Google Sites when it was first released for Google Apps in February 2008. When I created my first site, I saw that Google Sites offered the features I wanted on any site: a navigation gadget; a breadcrumb trail; a hierarchical structure; a simple editor; and a configurable look and feel. Since then, I’ve been offering support to other users because I enjoy helping others get the most out of their sites.

At the beginning of September, Google invited me to present a webinar as part of the Get British Business Online campaign ( to demonstrate how to get more out of Google Sites. The webinar was offered three times that day maximize how many people could watch. During the webinar I presented on these topics:
  • how to create and edit pages
  • revert to previous versions of pages
  • add a logo
  • change and customise themes
  • change site width
  • edit sidebar and horizontal navigation
  • add images directly and from Picasa Web Albums
  • add gadgets for maps, contact us forms and videos.

After the presentation I held a Q&A session. Two questions surfaced in every session: “Why does my site not appear in Google Search?” and “How can I see how many people have visited my site?” I answered these by explaining how to register a Google Site with Google Webmaster Tools and demonstrating how to add Google Analytics to the site. It was great to offer these simple tips to help attendees guarantee the success of their own sites.

It was a wonderful opportunity to show others how Google Sites provides an easy and quick way to create informative and reliable websites. The feedback I received, and continue to get, gives me great encouragement to continue to help the Google Sites community, and I look forward to future opportunities to increase Google Sites usage.

Guest post: Writing a book using Google Docs

Guest post: November is National Writing Month and to celebrate, we’ve invited Dr. Steven Daviss to talk about how he used Google Docs to write a book with two colleagues. Dr. Daviss is currently the Chairman of Psychiatry at Baltimore Washington Medical Center in Maryland and has been increasingly leveraging his clinical and administrative experience towards a career merging health care policy, informatics, and health care reform.

Two other psychiatrists (Anne Hanson and Dinah Miller) and I have been writing a popular blog (Shrink Rap) about the practice of psychiatry since 2006. A year later, we started a podcast (My Three Shrinks) that has received great reviews in iTunes. Late in 2007, we decided to take some of those posts and weave them together to write a book.

We started out using a desktop word processor to write the book, each chapter being a separate document. We learned about the limitations of making edits and sending out each of our revisions to the other two: we very quickly had multiple out-of-sync versions and the whole thing was a mess. This is from one of Dinah’s emails back then: “With 3 people doing this, I need to be able to keep track of what everyone wants to write. As I revise it, I'll change the file to reflect the date, but remember that if you and steve are sending me changes and edits simultaneously, I may not see them or it may get very confusing. Your color is red.

After several weeks of this, we were all seeing red, which was causing a lot of unnecessary tension.

I had used Google Docs collaboratively before to write a couple articles and a few grant proposals, but wasn’t sure if we could successfully use it to write an entire 250-plus page book. But I knew it had to be better than what we were doing.

Once we switched to Google Docs, writing the book together became a much more fluid process because we were able to focus on the writing and not on the complications of getting the technology to keep up with us. We imported the first couple chapters and proceeded from there, making each chapter a separate document shared by the three of us and (eventually) our editor. We could write our own chapters privately until they were ready to show our co-authors, then sharing was as simple as clicking a couple buttons. Whenever we changed our minds about what to take out, we were able to restore sections from previously saved versions. We didn’t have to think about which version of word processing software someone was using, or if the documents would lose formatting between Mac and Windows. And, I could see when my co-authors were also working on the book, so I knew when to call and talk about the project.

Eighteen months after getting the book contract, we had a completed manuscript ready for copy editing.

Google Docs also helped to save our relationship. Initially, despite being good friends, the three of us had many conflicts about the technology and about the way we wanted to write (e.g., grammar, tense, tone, characters). When we were using emailed versions of documents, our arguments increased. After switching to Google Docs, we went back to our usual level of bickering ;-).

The book is being typeset now by Johns Hopkins University Press and will be out in May of 2011. And we have Google Docs to thank.

Rapid wireframe sketching in Google Docs

Guest post: Morten Just is a product manager in Vodafone. Based in Copenhagen, Denmark, he spent most of his career as an interaction designer churning out wireframes and diagrams, and also co-founded Imity, a Bluetooth-enabled social network for mobile phones in 2006. On his personal blog he writes mostly about user experience.

When I saw Google drawings on a Twitter update a few weeks ago, I didn't really think about it until I got a feeling I might not have understood a rather complex problem at work. I drew a diagram and asked my colleague to edit it in case I had misunderstood him. It worked out well, we're still using the drawing as a basis for discussion, and it is constantly being refined as we go along. So taking the next step and trying out a wireframe was an obvious decision.

For quite a while I’ve been wanting a simple and fast way to burst out interface ideas, and then quickly share them with my colleagues in Düsseldorf and London. Since a relatively large portion of a wireframe looks like something I’ve sketched out before, I figured modifying a template like a list view or a landing page would speed things up.

In fact, I wanted to speed it up to the point where I all I had to do was to add a few words before I had a wireframe.

From the templates I extracted the scroll bars, buttons, and sliders and put them in the gutter outside the drawing’s canvas, ready to be duplicated and dragged onto the wireframe.

Here's a generic page displaying product details:

... and a typical mobile phone drill-down of items in groups:

To begin working on a wireframe

  1. Open the template you want to use
  2. Click 'Sign in' in the upper right
  3. Choose file > make a copy
  4. Make your wireframe
Packing it up

When you have several individual wireframes it can be a neat thing to pack them all up into one single document that you can send around, have people print out, or even present in meetings.

Since there’s no way to import a drawing into a presentation yet, here’s a trick using the web clipboard feature. You'll still be able to edit the imported drawing should you need to.
  1. Go to File > New Presentation. A blank presentation opens in a new window.
  2. Switch back to your drawing and select everything.
  3. Click the web clipboard icon > Copy to web clipboard
  4. Switch back to your presentation and paste your drawing using the web clipboard.
Building the library

I'd love for this to be the beginning of a shared wireframe template repository in Google Docs. For now, I've shared a folder in which I'll add user contributed templates and stencils. Get in touch if you want to contribute.

I hope you'll enjoy the templates and that it will help you actually sketch out your ideas rather than just describe them in words. As Dan Roam said in his keynote at this year’s IA Summit, “The person who draws the picture wins."


Using Google Docs as a data mashup platform

Guest post: Tony Hirst is a lecturer in the Department of Communication and Systems at the UK's Open University, co-founder of document discussion platform and member of the JISC's DevCSI Developer Focus Group. An aspiring "mashup artist", he blogs regularly at

For several years, I have been exploring various ways of using online applications to grab and display data from around the web and represent it in a visual form. One fertile source of near-live data, particularly for sports results, is Wikipedia; but how can you get data out of Wikipedia and then display it in a chart, or on a map?

For the 2008 Olympics, I looked at how to create a map-based view of the overall medal tables using Google spreadsheets. With the Olympics coming round again - this time the 2010 Winter Olympics - I thought I'd take the opportunity to update that original mashup with a few tricks I've learned since then. In part as a teaching example, I came up with a recipe that illustrates a lot of functionality many people are unaware of, in a self-contained and hopefully coherent way - how to import data into a spreadsheet, how to write an application script, and how to use a spreadsheet as a database. The aim is to create a heat map of the current state of the medals table for the 2010 Winter Olympics that I can add to iGoogle.

The recipe runs as follows:

- Take one Winter Olympics Medal table on Wikipedia
- Use the importHTML function to import the table into a Google spreadsheet
- Filter out the name of each country from the imported table using either a Google Apps script function containing a regular expression or a SPLIT() formula; return the country name to the medal table spreadsheet
- Take one ISO country code table, found via a web search, and copy and paste it into a second spreadsheet worksheet. You will use this sheet as a database
- Using a =QUERY() formula applied to the ISO country code sheet, find the ISO country code for each country in the medal table. (Note that some extraneous space characters in the SPLIT country name require the trailing space to be recognized)
- Arrange the columns, by copying cells if necessary, so that you have a column of ISO country codes followed by number of medals. For example, ISO country code, number of gold medals, ISO country code, number of silver medals, and so on.
- Highlight a country code column and a medal tally column that are side by side, select a heatmap widget from the tools menu and configure it as required
- Embed your Winter Olympics 2010 Live Medals Table Heatmap in your blog or iGoogle from the Gadget menu.

As the Wikipedia medals table is updated, your medals table heatmap should be too. To preview the spreadsheet, please visit here.

A complete recipe is given in the blog post "Creating a Winter Olympics 2010 Medal Map In Google Spreadsheets."

Google Docs: the tool for the 21st century classroom

Guest post: Tara Seale teaches 9th grade English in the Bryant Public School District and recently attended the Google Teacher Academy.

English teachers polled in the last decade of the last century about the one tool that they could not live without in their classrooms would probably select the overhead projector. In the first decade of the 21st Century, English teachers would probably choose a document camera, but in future decades, the tool will be web-based. I already teach in a web-based environment, and Google Docs is the web-based tool that has become the organizational center of my classroom.

I share assignments with my students as a view only file. Students make a copy of the file so they can annotate the directions. This is a weblink of an assignment: Expository Essay defining the word perseverance. This is an annotated copy of the assignment: Google Doc Annotated Copy of Expository Essay Assignment. No longer do I hear, "Mrs. Seale, can I have another copy of that assignment? I lost mine."

Docs also teaches organizational skills. Students create folders to keep up with assignments. The most important folder is the folder students share with the teacher. All graded writing goes into this folder, and it serves as a writing portfolio for the semester. I do not have to hunt student work; it is organized in a student folder. At the end of the day, I leave with just a laptop, no papers to lug around.

Each student folder is in a group class folder. The class folder contains each student's writing for the semester:

Each student's online writing portfolio folder is also shared with his or her parents. Parents can even comment on student work and participate in the revision and editing process.

For students, Google Docs is an invaluable tool in the writing process. Students do not need a flash drive to carry drafts to and from home. Also, students can share writing with peer editors. After peer editing, students move their final draft into their English 9 folder. As the final editor, I leave comments to assist the student in revising his or her final draft. It is satisfying to browse through the revision history and see that a student is considering each comment as they revise: Yea! They are really reading what I wrote! Usually, students do not read teacher comments that are hand written on paper, but it seems to work in Google Docs.

Recently, a student working at home asked if I could read her paper before she submitted it later that week. I left comments and asked questions on the Google doc as the student wrote and revised, and it turned into a successful tutoring session. Thanks Google Docs!

Editor's note: Google recommends you use Google Docs within the Google Apps Education Edition suite with your students.

Free e-commerce catalogs managed with Google Docs

Guest post: Dan Salcedo is founder of the DC based international development organization OpenEntry, with the mission of helping small and medium enterprises (SMEs) worldwide benefit from the exciting new opportunities opened up by global e-commerce. Working with a team of volunteer developers, he built a catalog generator that enables SMEs in developing countries to create their own free e-commerce catalogs, managed via a Google spreadsheet.

Years ago, I noticed artisans in developing countries were selling their items to a long chain of middlemen that only paid them 10-15% of the final retail price, even through conventional fair trade channels. So I launched a non-profit organization to help artisans disintermediate all the middlemen by selling directly through e-commerce catalogs that they could create and manage themselves. We recently relaunched our OpenEntry catalog generator using a bunch of Google tools including Docs, Sites, Checkout, Picasa Web Albums, AdSense, and Apps Engine. And our User Manual, built on Google Sites, is full of YouTube videos. This enables us to offer totally free e-commerce catalogs (software, hosting, user support) to artisans and SMEs worldwide including the following:

Nature Nepal-Herbal Care
Pollee Unnyon Prokolpo

Each catalog is managed by filling out a Google spreadsheet with three sheets containing information on the company, products, and additional pages (see products sheet below).

The images are stored on Picasa Web Albums and sellers use Google Checkout (as well as PayPal and 2Checkout) to accept credit card payments. Google Sites helps users generate attractive HTML that can be added to some of the spreadsheet fields to improve aesthetics. Google App Engine reads the spreadsheet, then generates the catalog hosted on Google servers. These tools also made it surprisingly easy to enable OpenEntry catalogs to be managed with a smart phone.

Google recently added a feature enabling the ownership of their spreadsheets to be transferred to a third party, which makes it easy to transfer spreadsheets to the final SME vendor. This is very good news because it enables the OpenEntry User Support team in Nepal to set up catalogs and transfer ownership to the SME vendor who can then operate it securely. This also means we can now transfer blocks of catalog accounts to young, ambitious entrepreneurs anywhere in the developing world, enabling them to start their own legitimate enterprises. Even though the OpenEntry catalogs are free, the entrepreneurs can charge for setup, digital images, custom templates, training, maintenance, etc. And they can even do it from an Internet cafe until they can afford their own computer. This reinforces the conclusion of the United Nations Development Program evaluation of our platform (under its previous name, CatGen) that generated 4000 jobs for artisan women and "a relatively inexperienced group of young IT professionals" in Nepal.

Because this is a non-profit initiative, OpenEntry is seeking volunteers to help with a variety of technical tasks starting with template design.

New legal templates by™

Guest post: Rob Elhardt is the Senior VP of Product Management at Bringing easy legal documents to more people is Rob’s passion, and here’s what he told us about the new legal templates in Google Docs. legal templates, and the information contained in them: (a) are meant to serve as suggestions only; and (b) are not a substitute for professional advice or specific, authoritative knowledge or direction.

Did you know that you can choose from 76 new™ legal form templates to help you get started with your next legal task in Google Docs? In addition to personal legal forms like Living Wills for all 50 states, there are many legal templates covering business contracts, real estate, and more.

Here are a few of the new legal templates that I'd like to highlight. Please remember that these legal document templates are provided for reference and covers a common scenario that may not be right for you.

Template: California Living Will
Area of Law: Estate Planning
You can use this Living Will template to specify your health care preferences and to choose someone to make health care decisions for you if you are unable to do so. This template combines the best features of a living will and a health care power of attorney. Living Wills are available for all 50 states.

Template: Simple Promissory Note
Area of Law: Personal and Business
You can use this Promissory Note template to loan or borrow money. It states the terms, rights and obligations that apply to a loan. It specifies the amount of the loan, the interest rate, the repayment terms and includes other specific provisions.

Template: Non Disclosure Agreement (Unilateral)
Area of Law: Business
You can use a Non Disclosure Agreement template to help protect your proprietary and confidential information. In this agreement, a party agrees not to disclose certain information received from another party.

You can browse the complete list of legal templates in Google Docs.