Make life easier: how to sign up for Google Docs

I’m in the middle of no less than 3 projects at the moment that would each be made that much easier if everyone involved could work collaboratively on various documents. Artists, teachers and museum staff; lists, budgets, plans and texts.

Unfortunately, a lot of the online collaborative tools I take for granted haven’t filtered out into general use and suggestions of using things like Google Docs are met with everything ranging from blank looks to outright terror. Then we’re stuck using group emails where confusion and time delays generally make things harder than they need to be…

Here then is a quick guide for the uninitiated. We’ll work through setting up a Google account and from there you can access a whole new world of getting things done more easily!

***

You need a Google account

You need a Google account in order to be able to access Google’s free services. Files etc are stored online, so this is needed to match you up to your stuff. The sign up is minimal – you won’t need to share lots of addresses and personal details – and is well worth the couple of minutes spent.

Do I already have a Google account?

NB. A Google email account is not the same as a Google account.

If you already have a Google email account (gmail or googlemail) then you automatically have a Google account and can skip a few steps.

If you don’t already have a Google email account a) it’s worth thinking about – free, excellent spam filters etc etc but b) don’t worry, because you can hook up an alternative email address (eg hotmail or yahoo) to a Google account and access lots of great tools anyway.

These instructions assume you don’t already have a Google account…

Sign up for an account

Follow this link to the sign-up page.

Creating a Google account - click on this image to see a larger version

Fill in your existing email address and give yourself a password. This will be what you will sign in with in once you’re all set up. The password is for your new Google account, not the one you use to access your existing email account.

Fill in the remaining parts of the form and click the button to send it.

Confirm your account and verify your email

All being well, you’ll see the confirmation screen. If you’ve made a mistake filling in the form then you’ll be sent back and you’ll need to fill in the bits with red error messages again.

The confirmation screen looks like this:

Confirmation screen - click image to see a larger version

It’s letting you know your account has been confirmed, but that you need to check your email for a message to confirm that the email address is correct.

Go to your email account and open up the email from Google. If you can’t see it in you inbox, then double-check the spam folder.

The verification email - click image for a larger version

After clicking on the link it gives you, the following page should open in your internet browser:

Verification verified...

I’ve never linked my mobile up to it, but that’s not to say you shouldn’t if you want to…

If you click on the last line “Click here to continue” then you’ll be taken to the next stage in the sign up process. Oh wait! There isn’t one!

You’re in!

That continue link takes you straight to your new Google docs area!

Welcome to Google Docs

It’s empty at the moment because you haven’t created any files yet. If you go to “Create new” in the top left hand corner you can select what type of document you’d like to create. The selection is fairly standard.

Drop-down menu for creating new documents

Getting back in again

All good, but how do you get to your docs normally, now you’ve got an account?

Click on the “sign out” link in the top right hand corner. You’ll be taken to a sign in screen.

To get to here at a later date you can either:
a) bookmark this page now
b) google “google docs”
c) go to docs.google.com/

Sign in area

To sign in you will need to enter your email address and your Google account password. Click on “sign in” and you’ll get back to the area where your docs are kept.

Doing stuff

From here I’ll hand you over to the official support pages.

If you’re comfortable working with word processors and office suites already, creating and editing documents should be fairly intuitive.

It’s the collaborative aspect that makes this useful for project work though, so make sure you read the pages about sharing documents (so others can see what you’ve written) and collaborating (so others can edit the same document with you). If you’re working on a project with me, at this stage I’ll probably invite you to collaborate on a document I’ve set up.

Other useful things to be aware of are things like the chat window you can use when 2 or more collaborators are online and working; uploading and exporting from and to other formats; using forms to do surveys etc and automatically enter the responses into a spreadsheet.

Onwards to a shiny new collaborative future!

edit 06/02/2011:

Creative Partnerships and starting as you mean to go on

There are currently a wave of Creative Partnerships calls being circulated and, since this is where I earn most of my income, that means I’m currently writing a lot of Creative Partnership proposals and attending interviews etc.

A quick scan down the list of projects that I’m interested in reveals phrases such as:

  • “working closely with the staff and children”
  • “committed to collaborating with our staff”
  • “a programme of staff development”
  • “a project partner who will support them”
  • “facilitate our shared generation of a project”
  • “to work with Year One pupils (aged 5 – 6 years) and their teacher to help them”
  • “work alongside staff and children to plan, model, deliver and share skills”

All good stuff, and what you might expect from a programme called Creative Partnerships. The proposals I submit typically include the following sentences in the opening paragraph

My work is intrinsically cross-disciplinary and I’m also a serial collaborator. My philosophy towards collaborations is that they should ideally enable both parties to work in ways that they would not have been able to do if they were working independently. I’m interested in processes of challenge and development for everyone involved.

and it’s not unusual to see something like

I aim to make my design process as transparent as possible so that elements of it can be applied to later projects. My skills and enthusiasms complement yours – when we work together (rather than me delivering at you) that’s when things start to be really successful. I can bring enthusiasm, sensitivity, strategies for engaging pupils, adventures, a can-do attitude, experience of what has worked well in the past, making skills, gadgets and cunning devices; I’ll be looking to you to bring knowledge of curriculum content, awareness of the pupils’ abilities, constructive criticism, and a willingness to give things a go.

as a closing paragraph.

I’ve done enough projects now that I can clearly identify the active participation of the teaching staff as one of the – if not the – most important factors in determining the long-term success of a project. Those things I say I’m looking for staff to contribute are there for very specific reasons, both to underline what I expect from them and what I am unable to contribute.

So, by the time I am invited to interview, both parties have been very explicit in setting out expectations of collaboration, partnership and co-delivery.

Why, then, is the next step invariably

  • “deliver a 30 minute taster workshop to 6 of our year 5 pupils!”
  • “a short exercise (20 mins) with a group of Y3/4 which the interview panel will observe”
  • “deliver an activity for a group of children”
  • “work with a group of 10 pupils from Year 3 for 20 minutes to introduce them to your practice”
  • “work with a Yr 2 class of 29 children. […]a creative exemplar workshop session, that can last up to 40 mins.”

?

Turning up at a school I’ve never been to before, working with a group of children I have never met before and whose abilities I have no indication of, to deliver an activity that somehow responds to a pressing need within the school, but which I only know through maybe a few sentences as part of the published call for practitioners. No knowledge of the space, no knowledge of the people, minimal knowledge of the context, superficial knowledge of the curriculum and only guesses at where the children are in relation to it. Worst of all: no conversation and no collaboration. I have to prepare and deliver these sessions in isolation.

Apart from the obvious grumbles about having to prepare and deliver a lot of work without getting paid, I seriously question the relevance of interview workshops in this format. Certainly I don’t feel they reflect upon my practice or my approach to working in schools.

In addition to this, if I’m proposing an Agent N project in which I appear suddenly and initiate a several-day-long adventure, it’s difficult to frame popping in for a 20-min activity in the context of whatever that story may turn out to be. My main hooks and strategies only work properly within the context of that immersive experience and I have to be really careful not to damage that ahead of time.

So, how can we better address the needs of the school in selecting the right person to work with them on their project, and the needs of the creative practitioner in communicating their skills and approaches?

Fundamentally, I think the interview needs to establish whether the working relationships are likely to succeed.

From my perspective, Mowmacre Hill Primary School – a school I’ve worked for twice now [1, 2] and have a lot of respect for their approach – have come the closest to tackling recruitment in a sensible and constructive manner.

Candidates were invited to the school where we were interviewed, a few at a time, by the school council. Actually, we got a pretty intensive grilling! The children knew their agenda and what they wanted, and the questions they asked were searching and perceptive. I believe the questions were also prepared independently of the teachers. Being interviewed with a few other practitioners at the same time meant that we could bounce ideas off each other and also that the conversation could run for a significant length of time. Teachers were present to basically chair the conversation: making sure everyone got a chance to speak and to fill in extra details where needed.

The next stage in the (paid) half day was a workshop activity, but one working with a pair of teachers: three or four practitioners spent an hour or so ‘planning’^1 some initial ideas in response to the brief. This gave us a chance to really find out what was behind and under the brief as laid out in the tender document.

In the case of the thread of the project relating to the Foundation classes, this process actually established the brief in the first place – talking through the general context, identifying the concerns the teacher had and then exploring everyone’s responses. By the end of that session we were set to go with a project to do. We felt confident that we were going to affect some long-lasting changes. (This was in contrast to the way the meeting with the Y3 and Y4 teachers panned out, where we ended up with a project about and, for me, the feeling that the affects would be short-lived.)

I find this an interesting idea to go with Sally Fort’s comment that “[schools] don’t actually know what they need until the other end of the project in my experience”. Might it be nice if more schools felt that they could go into a project accepting/embracing that they don’t actually know what they need^2? (This is as much a comment on CP paperwork as it is on attitudes of school staff.)

What changes would you make to tendering processes for artists and other practitioners working in schools? How would you get a collaboration off to a good start? Can you represent your practice in 20 minutes from cold? How useful are interview activities in helping you identify the people you want to work with?

The comments are yours, I’m interested in getting some different viewpoints on this.

__


1: I’ve put ‘planning’ in inverted commas there because I think it’s dangerous to regard this as actual planning, but rather getting to know each other and getting a feel for the project in general. Sound planning comes later once people have had a chance to digest conversations and establish relationships to the point where people are comfortable to challenge suggestions as they are put forward and speak up about concerns. …another blog post sometime, perhaps…

2: I remember very clearly getting a rollicking in about 1996 from my A-Level art teacher about having too fixed ideas about what outcomes were going to be and being blind to the interesting stuff that crops up along the way. I generally consider that ideas at the start of a project are likely to be wrong ideas. Also, creating is, after all, about arriving at something new and that implies a journey of some sort without knowing exactly where you’re going to end up until you get there.

DIY Arduino

Over at fizzPOP we’re exploring group dynamics and how to strengthen our community at the same time as running compelling events and extending our skills.

We’ve been doing free-style hack sessions for over a year now and we’ve also run a fair number of workshops and events (Such as Howduino and Theremin Day) on specific areas. We’ve been paying attention and, whereas the atmosphere at the events we run is absolutely fantastic, it’s not sustainable for us to run things at this level on more than an occasional basis. We can however incorporate elements of the big events into the little things we do every fortnight.

Right back in the beginning we pondered on the importance of shared goals and working as a group. We’ve recently returned to this with themed sessions – Hack a Toy and Processing Anonymous being two examples.

Starting on Wednesday the 18th of August we’ll be experimenting with themed hacksessions on a more formalised basis. You’re still welcome to come along and work on individual projects if you like, but the steering group and other members of fizzPOP will be taking it in turns to initiate and coordinate clusters of activities around particular themes. It’s really interesting watching theses themes get negotiated online as people discuss what skills they can share and also what skills they would like to acquire.

This Wednesday the theme will be DIY Arduino – home-made versions of the Arduino board that are more minimal, less expensive, or simply do a specific job – and it is I who has been herding the cats. There are a range of different interests and skill levels at fizzPOP (all are welcome!) but several common focal points seem to have emerged in the online discussion:

  • building a barebones arduino board, either on stripboard or breadboard
  • burning the bootloader using ArduinoISP and building daughterboards to make this easier
  • designing and building low power variants
  • and using the barebones board as a case study for learning about PCB design

Since there’s a bunch of us interested in building our own modules, I’ve been able to buy a load of components in for a lower price than compared to smaller quantities. I’ll be selling components for a bare bones Arduino (NB, it really is just the basics!) for £4.50.

This kit of components (plus battery connector) will be available for £4.50

This kit of components (plus battery connector) will be available for £4.50

This is significantly cheaper than the £25 or so you’ll pay for the full-blown board and, as an artist, it’s what makes multiples and building things like the sonar goggles possible in my work.

So, if you’ve dabbled with Arduino before and are looking to take things to the next level, or perhaps you’ve not yet dipped a toe in because you’ve found the cost prohibitively expensive, than this is the session for you. It won’t be a formal, led workshop, but there will be a room full of people applying their brains to related challenges and with assorted relevant kit etc. Think of it as being in a room with 20 mentors.

There is more information on the fizzPOP website:
http://www.fizzpop.org.uk/hacksessions/themed-hacksessions-and-diy-arduino/
http://www.fizzpop.org.uk/hacksessions/hack-session-wednesday-18th-august/
and a sign-up page on the wiki:
http://wiki.fizzpop.org.uk/18-08-10_Hack_Session

fizzPOP: thoughts about meeting, sharing and learning

Following on from the artist-led spaces podcast, there have been various other fizzPOP-centred events and conversations recently.

[Quick recap: fizzPOP is a hackerspace I’m involved with; hackerspaces being a place where people from all sorts of backgrounds can work on projects that typically involve varying degrees of programming, electronics, craft and/or jiggery-pokery.]

Antonio Roberts presenting at Eastside Projects

Antonio Roberts presenting at Eastside Projects

On Thursday 19th of November, Antonio Roberts gave a presentation to the Eastside Projects associate members. In the short time available he gave a very good, comprehensive, whistle-stop tour of how the hackerspace came about, what we do there and what our aims for the future might be.

The bit that has stuck with me most though, was when someone in the audience asked what kit we hoped might furnish a more established fizzPOP with. Antonio’s response included the usual basic toolkit of soldering irons etc etc, but then for his ambitious one-day-we’d-like-to-have item he went on to mention web servers. That would never have even occurred to me!

Now, Antonio comes from a graphics/code sort of a background, and I come from more of a maker/sculptural background. If I’d have been asked the same question, I would have answered with something along the lines of a laser cutter or a rep rap for rapid prototyping of physical objects. My point is not that one or other of these answers is right or wrong, just that it was a timely, healthy reminder that fizzPOP plays host to a really diverse range of people and that, if we asked 20 people that question, we’d quite likely get 20 different answers!

Right from the beginning we’ve said that the community is our number one priority and as fizzPOP grows it will be interesting to see what shape things settle down into.

drones eye view (we wish) of a small part of the fizzPOP Howduino event in full swing

drone's eye view (we wish) of a small part of the fizzPOP Howduino event in full swing

On Saturday the 21st of November, fizzPOP and Howduino joined forces to host a day-long hacking event at VIVID as part of the Hello Digital fringe events programme. This is something we’ve been itching to do for some time since our regular Wednesday evening haunt, The Edge, can only hold about 15-20 people and we’re only there for a couple of hours in the evening once a fortnight.

Saturday was intense and involved about 40 people, whatever stuff they bought with them and lots and lots of ideas. It was amazing to see how all these ingredients got circulated around over the course of the day. We certainly filled the space!

Marie and Helen blink like mad

Marie and Helen blink like mad

fizzPOP regular GB did a sterling job of compiling and delivering beginners’ workshops introducing people to the basics of the Arduino platform.

This led to messages such as “Woo Hoo! I’ve downloaded a program onto the board & successfully have an LED winking @ me! :) Thanks 2 the wonderfully patient Howduino team” [@IonaMakiola] and “My first ardunio (technically a freeduino) http://twitpic.com/qct4g Never been so proud of turning on a light on before” [@TigersHungry] being posted on Twitter. TigersHungry has also written a fuller account of her learning experience on her blog.

At the other end of the skills spectrum, we also had two proficient hackers teaming up to work on projects together. Arvydas and Stewart could be seen running around the gallery space testing the autonomous robot car they’d programmed to recognise and avoid obstacles in its path. Check it out in this video avoiding even a pencil-sized object!

Arvydas has written up the project on his website, and there’s also another video from the show and tell session at the end of the event.

Whilst that was going on kids were making lego robots, Antonio was making wailing noises, Bubblino was doing its thing and, in return for a bit of soldering instruction, Helen helped me patch up my sinister glowy-eyed teddy.

Evil Ted gets patched up after having LEDs inserted behind his eyes and an Arduino implanted in his head

Evil Ted gets patched up after having LEDs inserted behind his eyes and an Arduino implanted in his head

Nicky Getgood and her mum popped in for a bit and were moderately baffled by the whole thing. When, whilst being interviewed by 6-year-olds the following Monday I described the “inventors’ club” my friends and I had set up, their eyes sparkled with excitement!

I’ve indicated as much before, but it’s worth saying again: I love fizzPOP as a space where I can go to learn things, to teach things, to be exposed to new ideas and to just try things out without risk of ridicule if it all goes horribly wrong.

Evidently other people feel the same way: several people clocked up round journeys of about 200 miles to attend the Howduino event (Bath, London, Milton Keynes, Hertfordshire and, of course, Adrian and Thom coming from Liverpool). Others came from Leamington and near Banbury, as well as a more local Birmingham contingent being present.

Despite going from strength to strength at the moment, fizzPOP will be going a bit quiet over the coming months due to the combined effects of heating costs for the warehouse space we hold our hack sessions in and a Christmas break. We’re looking to hold at least one more hack session before we go – add your name and preferred day to this poll.

Though we may become quiet in practical terms, behind the scenes we’re also beginning to think about how we can develop fizzPOP’s activities and give it a more stable base from which it can operate. We’ve seen that the demand for this sort of a space exists, and we know we won’t be able to hold our hack sessions at The Edge indefinitely, because at some stage it will need to be reclaimed as a studio and exhibition space.

If you know of anything you think we should be aware of – be it a potential advocate, source of funding to help us get started up, or some bricks and mortar that are available, please get in touch.

Also, if you have any spare web servers or rapid prototyping machines…

Huffing Duck

A few weeks ago, one @kitlarks (who I don’t know) appeared on Twitter, apparently having been blackmailed to sign up in order to receive a huffing duck from, I believe, @EmmaGx (who I don’t know either).

blackmailed

I don’t really know what the deal was, but it appeared to involve signing up, a certain number of posts and an uploaded avatar in exchange for a drawing of a huffing duck. This seemed to me to not be a Twitter-like way of approaching things.

huffing duck market dynamic

Anyway, one thing led to another (not exactly crowd-sourcing, I know, but an interesting exercise nonetheless) and a collaborative huffing duck was incrementally produced in a vaguely exquisite corpse-esque manner. Ok, not exactly exquisite corpse either…

crowd-sourced huffing duck

You can see the animations of the cumulative contributions here: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8.

As you can see, the internet badgers ate the huffing duck during the process of adding the head at stage 8. Unfortunate, but if you look carefully there’s a nice after-image huffing duck in glorious Technicolor burned onto your retina, and that’s perhaps as it should be.

I’m not sure what happens to the huffing duck next: whether it fades to white, or whether it will be resurrected to continue its evolution. In the meantime however, this post is by way of setting aside a small slice of cyberspace to say that a huffing duck happened and it happened because of these people (alphabetical order):

@alexhughes, @benjibrum, @graphiquillan, @haling, @lauraehall, @mookstudios, @soba_girl.

A very big thank you to all involved!

project space

I just wanted to say that the fizzPOP hackerspace is increasingly becoming the communal, collaborative production space for unpredictable creative things that I was hoping for when I left art school.

Actually, come to think about it, in many ways it’s quite like what I hoped art school would be.

I want: Signtific Lab

I want to tell you about last night’s Signtific Lab game thing developed by the Institute For The Future futures research group.

Why?

@genzaichi I think I need some serious mindmaps and trees to understand #signtific

@publichistorian I suspect it’s a self-writing mindmap… #signtificgenzaichi

The Background:

A scenario was released into the wild about a fortnight ago:

Starting last night, and only for a day or so, you can respond to this scenario.

From this central node you can branch off in either a positive or a negative direction. In Signtific Lab parlance, each node you add is a card. After the initial bifurcation (see, I know some Science!) you can respond to each card in 4 different flavours: “No way!” (antagonism); “Yes! And…” (momentum); “Yes! But…” (adaptation) and “Hmmm…” (investigation).

You can play as many different cards as you want as a response to any other card contributed by anyone in the lab and you’re encouraged to contribute any idea you can imagine that might be possible (more information about the game mechanism here if you’re interested).

Here’s the thing: it’s a really nice tool for riffing off and building on ideas.

You’re equipped with 140 characters to post any given idea. Is there a Twitter feed of ideas? I’m not sure, but the character limit is great at a) removing the barrier of feeling you have to construct beautiful prose b) makes you focus on the key idea and c) makes you focus on only one idea per card/node. And that’s what you need for a mind map, right?

You have a few other tools to help you:

  • A favourite-ing button
  • A naked RSS feed of ideas as they are generated
  • A naked RSS feed of ideas the moderators have selected as being super-interesting
  • A leaderboard, so you can see who is contributing how much. (though there’s no measure of quality!) :)
  • And a dashboard so you can see what you have favourite-ed, what you have contributed and how this breaks down into the different flavours of thinking mentioned earlier.

Everything (cards, responses to cards, feed items, user profiles etc) is linked. In the hypertext sense, as well as all having been born from the same starting scenario.

Such a simplecomplex thing that fed my brain in a way that suited it perfectly! I always have been better at responding to things than I have been at just generating ideas out of the ether. Link. And. Shift.

My Wants:

  1. After this thought experiment has played out, I want to be able to see the resulting mind-map.
  2. I’ve recently started using mind-mapping tools to brainstorm ideas for projects. I want a tool like signtific lab to let me do this collaboratively.
  3. After that all I need is the hive of lab assistants to react to/with/against!

Percussion for Hill and GPS

Here is a [completely non-representative] taster of what was coming out of the cardboard boxes:


Percussion for Hill and GPS from nikkipugh on Vimeo.

The drumming and breathing was commissioned from Adam Kinner (the saxophonist from this post). He’s recently started a blog and I definitely think it’s one to watch for the future. Go have a look-see.

17 ways…

A (silent) video accompaniment to the previous post:


17 Ways… from nikkipugh on Vimeo.

Manifesto for mediascapes

During the Almost Perfect residency, I had the chance to try out a few different types of thingies running off the mscape platform, but towards my 4th week in Banff I was starting to question the typical delivery format of iPaq and headphones. I couldn’t see how wandering around on your own, gingerly holding a foreign touch-screen device whilst plugged into headphones and being isolated from your surroundings related to my practice.

Nothing against those other mscapes I experienced, it just wasn’t a canon I wanted to contribute to.

Here’s what we were using to run the mscape player off:

iPaqs

A sight that might make some techies salivate, but kind of intimidating at the same time. These would generally be used in conjunction with some fairly substantial headphones. As a result you could very easily be worrying about if you’d pressed some of the wrong buttons, accidentally nudged the touch screen or whether you were easy prey for some street crime …rather than concentrating on whatever sounds were being delivered to via the headphones.

Things started to get interesting when people paraded down the street en masse but, for the most part, the experience stayed with the person wearing the headphones.

Cue my manifesto for mediascapes:

manifesto

Be visible (i.e. make it obvious that something is happening, rather than skulking around wearing headphones and looking at a small screen); and be audible (inflict your happening onto innocent passers-by).

These starting points later opened out into further thinkings about how to make mediascape experiences shared experiences and how to make mediascape experiences playful experiences.

How these thoughts manifested themselves was through a quick prototype alternative housing for the iPaq.

First I hacked (in the non-tech sense) apart and rewired some mp3 player speakers and then I mounted them inside a cardboard tube.

wires

distort

I then had something big with a strong physical that you were very aware of carrying; something a bit shonky and made from very familiar, very non-intimidating materials; something that was loud; and something just a little bit ridiculous. A tool, a plaything, a conversation starter.

Actually, I had two.

With a diameter of influence of about 20 metres each.

With two of these ‘talking sticks’ I had a way of encouraging interaction between people using the mediascape. We also started up a few conversations with people who had no idea what was going on …but wanted to find out!

interact

Like when Emergent Game‘s egorbeaver made friends with the ticket inspector or when Paul and some other Digbeth Invigilators found themselves in the position of having to make sure an inebriated stranger got back to her hotel safely I find these instances of when a thing bleeds out of its original context and reaches another layer of participant very interesting.

It was also fascinating to see how changing the interface for the mediascape changed the way people conducted themselves. Admittedly I don’t have a huge amount of experience with mediascapes, and wandering around the corners of campus listening to piano strings being broken is probably going to foster a fairly light-hearted reaction, but there’s something different going on here, right?

w00t

grin

clasp

careful now

hands

climb

jim

huts

sweep

scramble

stroll

baguette

play

[Update: And there’s some video footage here too.]



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