Greek Tech – The Google Monster (Part Two)

In my past post on The Google Monster, I explained how you can utilize the powers of Gmail and Google Calendar to improve your chapter’s operations. This post will focus solely on the awesome free resources at your fingertips with the Google Documents Suite.

It wasn’t until relatively recently that I discovered just how simple, powerful and convenient Google Docs could be. Now, I use it is some form or fashion every day.

According to Wikipedia, Google Docs is “a free, Web-based word processor, spreadsheet, presentation, form, and data storage service offered by Google. It allows users to create and edit documents online while collaborating in real-time with other users.”

Here’s the important things to remember from that definition; free, online, and collaborating in real-time with other users. These services give you the ability to host a document online so that anyone with access can edit the document. Google Docs will save you from a constant barrage of e-mail exchanges with attachments with titles like “agenda FINAL”, “agenda FINAL UPDATE”, and “agenda THIS TIME FOR REAL”. So allow me to break down exactly how your chapter or council can use some of these services.

Documents (word processing)
Comparable to
: Microsoft Word
Ideal for: Agenda’s, Headquarters Reports, Scholarship/Award Applications, Constitution/Bylaw Revisions, etc.
In a layout reminiscent to Microsoft Word, Documents allows you to upload and share any text document. The best example I’ve seen utilizing Documents is in the creation of meeting agenda’s. Instead of collecting everyone’s reports via e-mail, and compiling them yourself, simply send everyone a link to an agenda template and have them fill it out themselves.

Comparable to
: Microsoft Excel
Ideal for: Rosters, Constituents Contact Lists, Recruitment Names List, Chapter Budget, Community Service Hours Tracking Sheet, T-shirt orders, etc.
In my opinion, Spreadsheets is the powerhouse of the Google Docs Suite. It is such an easy way to manage your chapters operations. Spreadsheets is great for sharing these types of documents, and using the collective power of the contributors to manage and update the information.

Comparable to: Survey Monkey, Zoomerang
Ideal for: surveys, polls, event registrations, etc.
If you already use either the free or paid versions of Survey Monkey or Zoomerang, then you’re already getting the same services as Google Forms. However, if you’re looking for a quick and simple way to get chapter feedback, Google Forms will do the job. You create the form, e-mail the link out to participants, and Google Forms will create charts and graphs to help you analyze the results.

How to Manage Privacy and Sharing
You can set any Google Doc to one of three basic privacy settings; private, public on the web, or anyone with the link. Before you go ahead and convert your entire chapters files to Google Docs, ensure that you have a full understanding of what these privacy levels mean.

The most powerful part of Google Docs is the ability to share your documents with other chapter members. The is done by allowing contributors to have access to either view, or edit the document. Giving someone the powers to edit the document allows them to update the file as they see fit, so be cautious of who you give this privilege to. Luckily, even if someone screws up royally, Google Docs allows you to see the entire revision history and restore your file to a previous version.

It Doesn’t Sound All That Great
It really is hard to understand just how cool this resource is until you’ve tried it, and shared it with others. So if you’re not using Google Docs, I’d suggest giving it a try. Start slow with something like your weekly agenda’s, or your chapter officers contact sheet. If you’re anything like me, pretty soon you’ll be relying on Google Docs for a great deal of what you do.

What do you use Google Docs for? Have a suggestion? Leave it in the comments.

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Greek Tech – The Google Monster (Part One)

I am continually amazed by the services Google has to offer, and the fact that they are all free. Granted, it’s only a matter of time until Google takes over the world, but I, for one, welcome our Google overlords. If your chapter isn’t utilizing the Google monster to it’s full potential, perhaps I can help you comprehend the awesome power these services can provide for your chapter.

Here’s how old I am; I actually remember applying to be put on the waiting list for a “Google Mail” account, and sending out invites to my friends once I actually got my account. Clearly, Gmail has come a long way since then, and now anyone and everyone has the ability to use this service. So how can this help your chapter?

If you don’t already have e-mail established through your own domain, sign the chapter up for a Gmail account. Something like “” or “” should work. Use these e-mail addresses on recruitment publications, letters sent home to family members, and the contact page of your website. This will afford you a greater sense of professionalism than a hodgepodge of personal e-mail address. Assign one member of the chapter to read through the chapter e-mails everyday, and forward them to the appropriate individuals.

Members can then choose to respond to these e-mail through their personal e-mail account, or they can reply from your chapter account. To do the later, go to you Gmail settings, select “Accounts and Import”, then play around with the “Send mail as” option. Sometimes a personal reply is needed, but the option to remain anonymous is nice.

This method of a standard Gmail account can work for specific events as well. Does your chapter host a huge powderpuff football tournament every year? Then set up “”, and use this account to correspond with all the team captains.

Aside from making your chapter look a little more professional, a standard Gmail account can be passed on from year to year. Your alumni, advisors, College/University administrators, friends, families, and your interfraternal partners will always know how to get in contact with the chapter, regardless of who currently hods the leadership positions. Also, it helps to protect your leaders. Putting all of your personal e-mail addresses on your chapter website is a great way for the internet robots to harvest your e-mail address and spam away.

Is your chapter looking for an easy way to put a real-time calendar of chapter events on your website? Do you want to have a separate public calendar and members-only calendar? Then Google Calendar has you covered.

The beauty of Google Calendar, and many other Google Apps, is that you can control who has access to view, edit, and invite others to contribute. So all it will take is one chapter member to start the process, and you can pass on your calendar from year to year.

It’s my recommendation that you set up one calendar for public events, and another for chapter events. Then, on your chapter website, you can easily embed the public calendar. To keep your members-only calendar separate, you can either utilize the members-only section of your website, or grant every chapter member access to view the chapter calendar. Even if your chapter members do not have a Google account, they will still be able to see these calendars.

Once you’ve added all of your chapter’s events on your calendar(s), it’s time to share it with the world. Google Calendar will generate the HTML code you need to embed a beautiful, interactive calendar on your website. Once you embed the calendar on your website, it will automatically update anytime you add a new event. In addition, any visitor to your site can simply click the “copy to my calendar” button and directly import any event to their own personal Google Calendar.

Google Calendar gives your chapter the ability to improve communication both internally and externally. Think how great it would be to not to have to answer 30 texts, emails, and facebook messages before every meeting or event confirming time and location.

That’s all for part one of the Google monster. I started with the obvious ones this time. Look forward to the next part where I take on Google Docs; this service is so amazingly useful and expansive that it get’s it’s own post.

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