Google Hosting

It seems to me that a fairly well-hidden feature of Google Apps is that you can map a Google Site to a “regular” url, like

In essence this means that if you get all the features that you want with a Google site and the other integrated services (email, calendar, docs, etc), then you can use Google for all your hosting needs. Obviously if you want WordPress or some custom component, it’s not going to meet your needs, but it will work for a lot of people, and it’s free (and obviously very reliable). It’s also got excellent documentation, ease of use and in the long-term a web site design contractor doesn’t have to worry so much about those endless requests for support or upgrades.

I’ve just more or less finished setting a friend’s business up like this and they couldn’t be happier. It’s a site for a rehabilitation service for pets.

Moving to Google Apps for Education

I’ve written about Google Apps before and they have continued to expand and improve the service.

This weekend I’m in charge of moving 300,000+ users from our internal email system to Google Apps for Education. Fundamentally, I suppose, I’m in charge of the whole project. I’m excited about it because of the fantastic expansion of services it offers our students, faculty and staff. At the same time, it’s another high profile project, so the risks are magnified should something go wrong. Go Live is tomorrow morning first thing.

We’re not only creating the accounts, but have to get single sign-on (via SAML) right, account synchronization, and we are also migrating all the students’ old email via IMAP from the old system. That’s what is taking the big chunk of time right now. It’s sufficiently big enough that I’m getting some server errors on our migration history page, so although I feel pretty confident that things are going okay, I don’t actually know for sure.

Sakai and OpenSocial (via OLDaily)

Via OLDaily comes this piece about developers at Cambridge building a new interface for Sakai based on Google’s OpenSocial API. This is good because Sakai utterly sucks at the UI level and the observation about it being written by and for hard core Java developers (who love architecture) with no space for innovation by others is completely accurate. It’s a very long-standing complaint of mine.

Adventures in customer service: Air Canada

Comcast gets mad props for finding and following up on my post about their local office, which is both fixing the door and fixing the signs.

Air Canada gets my ire today with numerical error codes when trying to buy a flight. You have to call them to find out what the error means. Rapidly running out of patience, especially when I’m trying to give them a pretty sizable chunk of cash.


Update: Comcast emailed me for details, followed up with my local office and got the signs and door fixed!

Saying something negative about Comcast is hardly news, but stopping by my local office provided two examples that struck me as emblematic. There was a sign on the door telling people not to slam it. However, the problem was that simply letting go of the door made it slam. This means that the problem is not the responsibility of customers, but rather very simply that their door needs fixing. However, the sign made it their customers’ fault. Then there was a sign telling people off for using their cell phone while in line. While no-one’s excusing the potential rudeness of conducting a call while also conducting business, and it can certainly be annoying, the sign framed the problem in just the wrong way.

Simply a matter in both cases of striking precisely the wrong tone.

Conference presentation

I had an opportunity to present at this Digitial Government conference last week. Here’s the session information. I think the presentation itself should be online soon. It was loosely based around this JISC document on Web 2.0.

Given the audience, I was quite nervous, but I think it went off well. There ended up only being two of us on the panel (the third member was sick), so we each used more time, which I was grateful for (I can get a bit chatty). A number of questions were directed at my topic, which I presume indicated interest.