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Philip Matarese
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Philip Matarese

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A Google apps manifesto

I’ve been thinking about Google’s apps and in particular Google Drive/Docs . . . and it’s occurred to me that while Drive/Docs are great apps, with their marquee feature the ability for users to collaborate on documents, they stop short of their full potential. What would really take things to the next level would be collaboration not just of documents but of projects.

Let’s take a very simple case. I just got married. My now-wife and I planned our wedding. We used Google Sheets for our guest list and Google Drawings for our table assignments. But we used Toodledo for a task list, because there's no task/to-do list app in Google Drive, or in Google more generally (the one in Gmail is not shareable).

Or take a more complex case: a film project. When I went to film school I produced a dozen short films, some with crews as large as 50 people. I used Google Apps, back while it was free, to set up email accounts for each of my department heads, then I used those accounts to sign everyone up for GoPlan, a project management website. (On some projects I used Basecamp.) I also created a fake Google account just for the project, something like filmtitle@gmail.com, so that I had a place to send mass emails from and to create project calendars—separate calendars for separate departments, in different colors, all owned by that one Google account and then shared to the relevant departments. I used the Gmail Contacts for that account to store the contact info of not just the cast and crew, but also the outside people and vendors we worked with. Storing contacts data in a structured way within a Gmail Contacts mini-app is useful for all the benefits Gmail provides—syncing to phones, etc.—but it has the major disadvantage that I can’t create a document out of the data like a typical project contact list.

Yes, there is a Google Apps Marketplace now and firms have created project management add-ons for the Google Apps platform. But this fragments things even further. Google+ is now the dashboard for all things Google, and it should be the hub for managing all of Google’s apps, lowercase: all the apps from Drive/Docs to Gmail to Calendar to Contacts to Tasks to Hangouts and so on. Create a project in Google+, add people or circles, then Google+ could be the dashboard to see the project overview and launch the various web apps (Tasks, Sheets, etc.) to plan or work on it. Integrating Google’s apps can’t be done by a third-party add-on over Google’s platform; it needs to come from within Google itself. And let’s be honest—no social network is in any position to rival Google when it comes to connecting people at the workplace.

So where to begin? Google should add a Tasks app, a real Tasks app where task lists can be shared and tasks can be assigned to users, unlike the inexplicably unsharable Tasks currently in Gmail. The Contacts app needs to be collaborative as well, with groups of contacts that can be assigned to a project rather than tied to a user, with a way to export customizable printable contact lists. Calendars needs a way to make a set of calendars grouped for a particular project, and automatically shared with the team of that project, almost like documents in a shared folder in Google Drive. These are pretty basic collaboration tools that are useful or even necessary for any project, from a wedding to a film to a business. Collaborating on documents is great, but collaborating on projects should be the goal.

Collaboration is the reason to work via web apps and in the cloud. Google’s web apps and cloud are the best in the world. Now all they need are some glue to tie them together around the reasons people collaborate—i.e. the projects they're working together on—and all of Google’s apps will have a unifying purpose.
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Philip Matarese

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+Geoffrey Booth Have you seen this yet?
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Well, $3 per year is certainly in my price range ;)
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Philip Matarese

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And now, the culmination of Wear Your Inwood T-Shirt to Work Week!
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Philip Matarese

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The Noogler.
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Witness.
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