GroupWise to Google Transition: Week 1

It has been a very interesting week for me and some of the techies in our group (seven of us total) who migrated to Google. There were several unexpected issues on the back-end, all of which were resolved, and all of which were very informative for the larger project. Although “guinea pig” has been used to describe our group this past week, “fish out of water” has seemed more apt at times!

What I Learned

  1. Items marked as “High Priority” status (red-envelope) or with the “Urgent” category in GroupWise migrate with a star in Google.
  2. Additionally, “High Priority” and “Urgent” items may also get marked as “Important” in Google (depending on the logic that Google has used).
  3. Other GroupWise users still have one or more entries for me in their GW Frequent Contacts. Those entries usually have the version of my email address, and that version no longer works. And that can’t be changed globally. So each user has to manually remove those Frequent Contact entries, else that address will continue to automatically populate in the various email/calendar fields. We knew that the address would be “broken” but had not really thought out the implication/fix for others. I had about a dozen different people contact me and say “I can’t email you.” I met in person with a couple of folks to help them remove all entries for me in their Freq Contacts; for others I send the canned response as noted in #1 in the next section.

What I Like

  1. Canned Responses. I’ve used this to attache the standard text I developed to notify folks of the problem with the Frequent Contacts problem noted in #3 above. (Assuming we truly do migrate everyone at once, this will only be an issue for other early  migrators.)
  2. Popping out an email into a separate window.
  3. Labels!

What I Don’t Like (or Haven’t Figured Out Yet)

  1. It took me (and others) awhile to figure out that when you choose the “Delete” button at the top, the entire conversation gets deleted. Yikes! You can instead choose “Delete this message” from the drop-down that appears beside the “Reply” button to the right. We will need to educate others on this early on.
  2. When you send a message to a list, Google hides what you sent out because it thinks that you know what you wrote to the list. (In this case, I’m referring to a Majordomo list — not sure if same is true for other list services like Google Groups.) Wow, this is truly a big pain! I often will post to a list, then forward my post (the copy I received) to someone else with additional information…like updating my boss on a particular project or issue. The quasi-workaround: Enabling “ackpost” on all list subscriptions. It doesn’t show the actual post, but at least  I receive a verification message that the post was delivered. (Tip o’ the Hat to Chris King for this.)
  3. How do you forward multiple messages at once?
  4. You can’t add labels on new email while it is being composed. (Work around: save as Draft, add labels, and then send.)
  5. You can’t expand the chat window. Oh, wait, you can pop it out! I like that.
  6. I miss having a “Mark as Unread” button. I used this in GroupWise a lot, because “Unread” items became my “to do” list, and I ran a filter to show me all “Unread” items. However, there as so many other ways to filter and view things in Google that I am already doing things differently on that front. But lots of GroupWise users will also wish for a quick way to mark as “Unread” — at least initially.
  7. I hate not being able to add my signature when I want; I’m one of those who only uses it when I’m corresponding with someone the first time, and so only use it infrequently. I find myself deleting it before I even compose a new message. I suppose that I could just create a canned message instead and use it that way, and turn off the signature in settings. (OK, just now figuring out that this is what Sarah Noell was trying to explain to me earlier!)
  8. Despite Google’s very powerful search capabilities, I still can’t find things sometimes. I mostly attribute this to my own learning curve. It sometimes takes me several different searches to find what I want, even though I *thought* I had clearly labeled items as such.
  9. I need a clear explanation of the differences between “Deleted” and “Trash.” I think that deleted items don’t show up in a search, but I have seen them before (I think Google prompted me to show them??). And when are they truly deleted-gone-forever?

Anxiously Awaiting

  1. Generic Accounts
  2. Google Groups
  3. Global Resources
  4. The fabulous Web Provisioning Tool that will let me request/manage 1-3 above (kudos to Nick Young and Garrison Locke)
  5. Global Address Book

Bottom Line: In my mind, I set aside all the issues/questions/concerns noted above, since that is what being an early tester is all about — comes with the territory. Instead, I pretend that all those issues have either been mitigated or I have been educated on them in advance. Once it is all said and done, I love being in the Google environment.

Kudos: I’ll end with a really big shout-out to several NC State folks who worked diligently (and very quickly!) to resolve issues that popped up, and patiently responded to my many questions: Andrew Barnes, Tim Lowman, Lee Pipkin, and Chris King. All are part of the Office for Information Technology at NC State, and are part of our Google Implementation Team. We could not get this done without them, and they (and others) have been great to work with.

GroupWise to Google Transition: Day 1

This is one of those posts I’m mostly writing for myself. I’m guessing that not many people really care about my individual experience of using Google instead of GroupWise, but I need to document this so that I can be better prepared to help all of our Student Affairs units get through the process.

I’m heavily involved in our campus migration from Novell GroupWise to Google. Our campus chose Google as a student email solution (replacing a home grown Cyrus environment) and migrated all students last year. What followed was a widely debated decision to move our employees over to Google as well. What is important to note here is that we have been using GroupWise since about 1994-95. That is a long time! And, like on many campuses, we have a lot of folks who have been around that long. So this is a MAJOR change for a LOT of people.

I’m one of them. I’ve been at NC State since 1989. [Sidebar #1: I remember being very excited at getting my own voicemail account in 1991-ish (when I was a hall director). I would have never envisioned the world the way it is today. I hopefully have learned to be a bit more forward thinking!] I got my first email account — ever — in 1993; Pegasus Mail! Then we moved to GroupWise in about 1994 or 1995 (I can’t find anyone who knows exactly.) And I have been using it ever since. I consider myself a power user, and have spent a good bit of energy over the years helping others get more out of it.

My First Gmail Message

Along comes Google. It launched on April 1, 2004. (And note that this was not an April Fool’s Day joke. Except maybe for companies like Novell.) I got an “invitation” for a Google account from a work colleague, Sarah Noell, which was then the only way to get on board. It came with a whopping 1 GB of storage. That really and truly was a whopping amount of email storage.  My account opened on April 11, 2005; I still have that very first email. [Sidebar #2: I returned the favor to Sarah when I invited her to participate on a panel on our campus about the “Facebook Phenomenon” and she finally got onto to Facebook. I was her first (and only, for awhile) Facebook friend.]

Since then I have created probably at least a dozen Google accounts, mostly for use at work. (I use a MobileMe account for personal email.) I’ve been using Google docs like crazy this past year (including 4 different projects with colleagues from all over the country.) But I have never used Google for my day to day email. So while I am familiar with the Gmail interface, it’s quite a different thing to actually work in that environment, after so many years (and years and years) in the GroupWise environment.

My team of techies in Student Affairs (plus a couple of other techies along for the ride) volunteered to serve as a “pre-alpha” tester group. Other than a few central IT staff here and there who have migrated, ours was the first real group migration using the recently purchased and deployed migration tool. And so we had the pleasure of “going Google” this weekend. There were some glitches on the back-end with the tool, and so the migration had to be run several times before it truly completed. In the meantime, we were all still using GroupWise and monitoring the migration activity online. Everything finally migrated for me on Saturday morning. A total of 27,143 items…dang, that is a lot of email and calendar items! I spent several hours during the rest of the weekend diving into it. (My spouse calls himself a Google Widower.) So while my account technically was loaded with copies of all my GroupWise email and appointments on Saturday, there was virtually no email activity at that time. Today, Monday, August 8 is my first real work day using Google.

Wow, was it different! Much more different than I expected. Mostly, it was just GREAT.

What I Love

  1. Labels! I don’t have to pick a folder, I can label the hell out of anything and everything.
  2. The stars! Important email that I can’t get to right now? No problem. Just hit the star and I can one-click-filter for those anytime later. In GroupWise, I used to mark everything that needed my attention as “unread” — -and I am still doing that today, but I think I’ll end up with just doing the stars.
  3. Did I mention labels?
  4. Subscribable calendars! No more manually adding each and every item from the academic calendar, or the women’s basketball schedule.
  5. Multiple “from” addresses. There is probably a more technical term: in Gmail Settings, under the Accounts tab, you can add more “accounts” that email can be sent from. Finally, I will be able to un-subscribe from several lists from 10 years ago (in a previous job on campus) when my email address was slightly different.
  6. I really like the conversation view. I thought that I would NOT like it, but so far so good. If I open a conversation (which I still think of as a “thread”) and decide to either archive or delete it, the whole thing just goes away. Bam. I don’t have to search for, or come across, all the other messages in that conversation. The whole thing just goes away.
  7. Different in-box views. Nice to just change that up on the fly as needed.
  8. Themes! I should have played with those earlier. They really gave me some different looks that helped wrap my brain around the Google environment.
  9. Labs! Love the Labs. Love them. Little widgets that give you some extra functionality. My favorite so far is the Preview Pane.

What I Don’t Like

  1. Can’t choose when to add my signature block. It’s all or none. I already find myself deleting it before typing anything into the message box. I’d rather be prompted.
  2. Only 100 conversations per page. Ack. I am so used to the ability to seeing ALL my inbox (or folder contents, or sent items, or whatever) in one big long, scrolling window. I liked being able to just scroll through and eyeball things. I suppose that is what a thick client is for, and I suppose I’ll get used to this limit.
  3. No repeating calendar events for random dates…you can only do repeating events if they follow a pattern. There is a work-around, but this is a real bummer.
  4. A whole bunch of email came across from GroupWise either starred and/or marked as Important. I was able to run a filter and remove all that, but it was a pain. It’s not clear to me what in GroupWise caused those email to become marked as such.
  5. GroupWise notes don’t export. Our tool doesn’t yet handle GW notes. There are some work-arounds, but not worth the work. In the end, I must made note of my notes, and manually re-created in Google. Same deal with tasks.
  6. Mis-matched fields when importing GroupWise contacts into Google. The “Title” field (as in Job Title) ends up in the “Name Prefix” field in Google. I was able to fix it, but this is a step we’ll have  to train our users on.
  7. No Google+, no iGoogle, no Google profile. Hopefully GAFE will catch up with the commercial version.
  8. I can’t migrate ownership of Google docs from my commercial Google accounts to my GAFE account. I can share it, but not transfer ownership.
  9. I can never find the reply button. Still find myself searching, searching…ah, there it is.

My Aha Moments

  1. Click on that little “expand” icon and the message (or chat window, etc.) pops out into a separate window.
  2. We really need LOTS of helper troops on the ground for our “Google Day” migration. I mean a LOT. And we need t-shirts, and lots of marketing. We need to make this an EVENT.
  3. OK, this is really my friend Sarah’s aha moment after talking with me earlier today: We need to really set expectations. Folks will be able to login, and immediately see email, open email, respond to email and create new email. But it will take awhile to really get comfortable with it for a lot of people.
  4. We’ve known this all along, but now I really see how beneficial it will be to live in the same environment as our students. All of our groups that deliver student services and developmental programs will be able to do so much more; file sharing alone is worth it, but when you add calendaring it’s just plain exciting. And the classroom opportunities will be great too.

Bottom Line: Love it. Love it. Love it.

OK, I’ll leave it at that for now. I don’t blog very often, but I will make it a point to come back to this topic at various milestones — 1 week, 1 month, 6 months, 1 year.

Intersection of @saTech and @saComm


I had the pleasure to serve as a guest co-host on the great BreakDrink Campus Tech podcast series this week. Thanks to Laura Pasquini for the invite. She and Bruce Mann are delightful hosts, and Eric Stoller jumped in to the conversation as well (with a very nice recap of @saTechBOS, which, as you have heard, I missed to do a delayed flight. I may blog on my bitterness later.)

An interesting side note: Don’t know if you can hear it or not on the podcast, but there is a lot of background noise coming in at the beginning from my end. My office is in a residence hall. I don’t work for our University Housing department; I just happen to have an office space that’s off the lobby of one of our many residence halls on campus. The Resident Advisors had just moved in the weekend prior. Just as the live broadcast started, a whole gang of RAs congregated in the lobby and were fairly loud. I loved it! I’m one of those Student Affairs professionals who doesn’t usually work directly with our students (anymore); I work behind the scenes to make sure our in-the-trenches folks have the technology they need to be successful. But the location of my office is always a treat this time of year as the staff returns to start training and prepare for the onslaught of the students and the fall semester. As a former RA and hall director, it brings back fabulous memories. As I think about it, most folks probably could not hear this over the loud clicking of Eric Stoller’s keyboard. :-)

I have no idea how many folks tuned in live, or have/will listen to the podcast. But it’s always fun to just blather on when others are required to listen. In this case, I did not feel that what I had to say was very coherent. Mostly because I just currently have some general thoughts on the topic of the intersection of technology and communications in the student affairs profession. I don’t have any conclusions — good, bad or indifferent — at this point. Just some observations that I think are worth noting. What follows is mostly a copy/paste of my notes in preparation for the program. Maybe some day it will start to gel and I’ll revisit the topic on this blog.

  • Relatively new interest in communications in the field of Student Affairs
  • Who is in charge of #sacomm in SA organizations?
    • Those who control the comm resources and comm technology (initially websites and print media, primarily, now social media) seem to control the message — and that’s the techies in many cases.
    • At the Division level there may be #sacomm staff or the #satechies
    • At the department level, usually not a a #sacomm specialist unless a LARGE organization on a large campus; typically a staff member who wears the comm hat
    • My campus — I lead the central, Division Technology unit that also has responsibility for #sacomm (though right now doesn’t translate into actual services for others except for consulting…mostly leadership and respresentation, and Division-level communications like our website)
  • #satechies and #sacomm
    • Why are we #satechies so involved with #sacomm? Is it because we love the technology? Because no one else is doing it? Because it’s a natural cross-over of interests and skill? All the above? (Would love to hear what audience thinks on this!)
    • #satechies seem to use social media at a much higher rate (anecdotal) than other student affairs staff. Again, is it because the technology is fun? We tend to be early adopters? (Would love to hear what audience thinks on this!)
    • Content of recent and upcoming conferences is amazing — HUGE focus on social media!
      • #unccause – UNC CAUSE (North Carolina’s versions of an EDUCAUSE conference) – Link #2 below – This is a techie conference but includes a whole track and closing keynote on social media.
      • #satechBos –
      • #NASPATech – 2 of the 6 topics are social media, and the “Audience & Format” description starts with: “Whether you have no idea how to create a Twitter account or you are an active blogger, this conference will deliver for you.”
      • 9820 hits when you search “social media” on the EDUCAUSE website!
    • With web work, there’s a move (at least on my campus) to hand over content management to the staff in departments and let professional techies handle the back-end. In other words, #satechies now have good tools (WordPress, Drupal, etc) to get out of the content business. Will the same thing happen with social media? Is that a good thing, or no?