March 2005
Vol. 22, No. 1

A Technology Newsletter for Extension Specialists

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New Collaboration Tool
by John Myers

It's been a very long month since the last Inner Circuits, August 2004, where I said we would be introducing you to the team services tool. With all the changes Extension has been going through, this project just seemed to slip between the cracks. We've found it again and I truly believe this tool will change the way you work with others. The best way that I can describe it in a few words is that team and portal services are the S drive on steroids. These tools will allow you to group and organize all your digital data to be shared with others in our organization and the best part is that you only need a web browser to use them.

The concepts of team and portal services are easy to understand, but as with any major software, the more options it has the harder it is to learn to use, and these services have many options. These services can be divided into three main areas: the portal area, the team area, and the "My Site" area. For this article, we will touch lightly on the portal area and more heavily on the team area. We will save a more detailed analysis of the portal area and the "My Site" area for a later time. Before we start to learn about this software, I need to stress the point that this software is for internal use only. Our licensing agreement does not allow us to use it with people outside the University; they must have an active directory account with us to use it.

Let's start our discussion with the team area; this is where the real work is done. We will refer to each team area as a site. A site has a list of users that are allowed access to the site. In our implementation we are using e-mail distribution groups to grant access to a site. This means that the owner of a site will be responsible for granting and restricting access to the site. This is accomplished by using Outlook to add and remove names to the e-mail distribution group (MU EXT ).

A site also has many web parts. These web parts are where information is stored. Each web part is designed to hold different information to help you organize your data. The web parts that we will be using are files, pictures, links, events, announcements, tasks, contacts, threaded discussions, and surveys. Depending on what you want to do in your site, the layout of the site can make things easier. Therefore, we have developed two templates for you to choose from; team site and meeting site. To see examples and more detailed information about these sites go to These pages have been developed to help you navigate the sites and not get into areas that you can't use.

After viewing the examples you will find that many things can be done with sites. In fact, if you want to get even more organized, meta data can be added to your web parts. Meta data is information that further describes the content of the piece of information you are storing. You can then filter and search off this information to easily find what you are looking for.

Another feature of sites is that alerts can be set up. Alerts are e-mails to you that something has changed on a site. This way you won't have to visit the site to check for updated information. The software allows you to create alerts for just about anything.

With all the versatilities of sites, I'm sure we will have plenty of sites. In fact, I would bet that we will have more than we can keep track of. This is where the portal area comes into play; . One thing the portal area can do for us is to organize our sites. When I look at Extension, I see it from two different views; program and administrative. We all work in both areas and sometimes the projects we work on are in both. To help organize our sites we have developed multiple views for our sites; including both a program and administrative view. This way we hope you will more easily find the site you are looking for.

Another place the portal can help us is with searching. The portal search is very powerful. It is designed to search all sites as well as web sites of our choosing. At present the and the sites have been included in the portal search. One point I need to stress is that the sites also have a search function, but the sites only search within the selected site, only the portal search will search all sites and web sites of our choosing.

In order to help you understand these new tools better, we have created two test sites to let you play. These sites are and This will allow you to experience both templates to more easily select the proper site for your collaboration. When you try to enter these or any of our sites, you will be presented with an authentication window. In the User name box enter your e-mail username in the domain\username format. For example, I would enter um-users\myersj, but George Laur would enter umc-users\laurg since he is in the umc-users domain. In the Password box, enter your e-mail password. If you don't like entering your password and are using a windows pc that is logged into your domain, see the Inner Circuits article "Trusted Web Sites" in this issue. These sites will periodically be purged so please don't try to use them for production purposes. After you and your colleagues play with the test sites and feel you are ready to precede with a production site, please contact Steve Giesel, Paula Hudson, Joe Lear, or me and we will process your request.

This software will be used to replace the function of the web board software. We will be contacting the owners of the web boards to help determine if the web board can be deleted or if their data needs to be moved to a site.


Last Revised: 08/04/08



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