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Game Dev Collaboration: Google Docs Style
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Game Dev Collaboration: Google Docs Style

September 2, 2010 Article Start Previous Page 2 of 3 Next

Enter the Google

So what does Google do that tickles my fancy so? It makes everything incredibly easy, and destroys any barrier -- and thus any excuse -- for someone not to update a doc. When it started out, sure, it had issues all over the place, but one thing stood out that instantly made it my hero: multi-user collaboration in a single doc.

This was my Holy Grail. I didn't have to worry who else was editing a doc; I could see them doing it, and I could work while they did their thing. I cried during my first experience with this. It was magical.

And oh my God, the spreadsheets! They sang like the stars to me, with automatic showing of which cells other people were editing, in perfectly color coded symmetry. The power of seeing who was editing the doc, and who edited it last, provided further incentive for people to pop in and check it out. It had a strange chat room feeling to it, which actually encouraged people to participate.

Another obstacle Google docs surmount is the annoyance of markup languages. Even with minimal tags, marking up text adds just enough extra time to what you are doing to discourage use of the formatting we are all used to. With Google docs, I could now merrily WYSIWYG my way down the lane, add bullets, and even style formats to my heart's content without ever touching the "<>" keys.

There is something to be said for a document that is pleasant to look at, both in terms of readability and ease of access for the information you need. This helps keep the documents alive and up to date.

Lastly, the things are online, so whenever I need them, whereever I am, I can quickly and easily get into the docs, update them, and be on my way. This is particularly important as in today's production environment, you are often required to be away from your desk to talk things over. A meeting room computer anywhere in the world now has access to the latest docs, and changes discussed can be instantly added.

Every Rose Has Its Thorn

It's not all fun and games, though, and Google is a rabbit hole of dependencies and commitments. First and foremost, if you are not using Google Applications, you are not using Google Docs. By signing up your entire company to the service, your emails, users, and docs all come together perfectly. Balk at that commitment, and you lose bucketloads of features and functionality. This is a non-trivial commitment, so it's wise to look at all the legalease around Google Apps before taking the dive.

An example of how partial commitment will only cause you pain is the directory sharing option. With Google Apps, you can share a single directory with users in the domain quickly and easily, thus insuring that everyone has access to the needed docs.

Without, it quickly becomes a painful process of setting up various specific user access invitations, or creating giant gaping security holes that others can exploit. So if you're going to go Google, you need to be prepared to go all the way.

That, of course, brings up other security issues, as there are a few odd loopholes in Google Docs structures. Essentially, if you insert a picture into a Google doc, it's theoretically possible for someone to access that picture from a URL. It is almost impossible for a hacker to accomplish this feat, but life on the cloud means that for better or for worse, a single failure in your security can result in all your documents being accessible by others.

Note that you will not lose this data (well, see below for more on that) but in our world of confidential releases and announcements it could cause substantial embarrassment if the wrong people gain access to your entire document library.

Remember me oohing and ahhing about online access? Well, the flipside is a bitch, as when the internet goes down, so does your entire company's document repository. On the slight bonus side, Google Gears allows you to continue working offline, but then you start facing the same merging problems that plague other non-Google systems -- as well as the danger of stomping on someone else's changes. Essentially, if you have a poor or slow internet connection, Google will cause you great pain in the speed of its responsiveness.

Lastly, as new features are implemented, and things get broken, you always run the risk of shooting yourself in the foot. For instance, using the new "easier and improved" share feature, I just managed to lock myself out of this document, and was forced to copy and paste it into a new one. It's important to note that a software suite that is always evolving can sometimes turn into a monster.

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