New Collaboration Tool
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
http://extension.missouri.edu/ 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
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.