UK Web Focus

Innovation and best practices for the Web

Google Email for TCD – And It’s My Fault!

Posted by Brian Kelly on 13 June 2007

A recent BBC News headline entitled “Google’s e-mail for universities” states that “Trinity College Dublin has switched to Google’s e-mail – with other universities considering such a switch“. A news item on the Trinity College Dublin (TCD) Web site gives their perspective – and this has also been discussed by Alison Wildish on the Edge Hill University’s Web Service blog.

And I have discovered that I was influential in Trinity College Dublin making that decision! Michael Nowlan, Director of Information Systems Services at Trinity College Dublin informed me in a Skype message last night that “at the Terena conference a couple of weeks ago I stated publicly that Brian Kelly’s talk at EUNIS changed my attitude totally.” Michael reminded me about two talks I gave at the EUNIS 2005 conference: one “IT Services – Help Or Hindrance To National IT Development Programmes?” and another on Using Networked Technologies To Support Conferences. Michael went on to say that my talks “led me to talk about disruptive technology at [the HEAnet Conference 2005] and here is the talk (WMV format) at least partly plagiarised from you!”

Why was I making such predictions over two years ago? Well IT Service departments have been at the forefront of network developments, with the UK University sector having promoted the benefits of network services for many years (and let’s not forget that the UK has funded the provision of applications services, such as those hosted by MIMAS, EDINA, JISCMail and other national services). And the provision of such services by a commercial company is simply the application of mainstream political and economic orthodoxies within an IT context. We’ve got the network – so this is surely no big deal?

What are your thoughts? Is having a diversity of providers of IT solutions (which need not be restricted to email) a good thing, in that it provides the user community (staff and students) with greater choice and can also help to ensure that the default IT provider (the IT Services department) is user-focussed (i.e. driving out the ‘IT fundamentalist”). Or is this Thatcherite privitisation of the educational sector which must be resisted at all costs, as it is likely to lead to a deterioration in the quality of the services as the commercial provider seeks to maximise its profits and ignores the specialist requirements of the educational sector? And as I’m giving a talk on “Web 2.0: Opportunity Or Threat For IT Support Staff?” at the UCISA SDG IT Support Staff Symposium 2007 next week I’m very interested in people’s views on this matter. Will I get lynched at the conference, I wonder?

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4 Responses to “Google Email for TCD – And It’s My Fault!”

  1. Nitin Parmar said

    Good work, Brian! Closer to home, do you think that the University of Bath might ever make the switch too to Google Apps?

  2. Hi Nitin
    I feel that we should first seek to learn from the early adopters. Michael mentioned to me last night that there are technical challenges which TCD will need to address – and mailing lists have been set up in Ireland to facilitate such discussions.
    Within the UK I’ve noticed that Barry Cornelius, Oxford University Computing Service is running a session on at next week’s UCISA SDG symposium. I would hope that Barry’s experiences and the discussion at th UCISA event would surface in a wider context – rather than expecting a bust local IT Service department to drop everything in order to explore this week’s hot topic :-)
    Also note that I suspect the bigger issues are cultural rather than technical. Michael touched on these issues in a talk at the Terena 2007 conference – see video in WMV format (about 35 mins into the video).

  3. That link, of course, should be http://www.ucisa.ac.uk/groups/sdg/courses/symposium-2007/plenaries-and-workshops#workshops4-cornelius

    I’m disappointed to see almost no coverage of the whys and hows of Google Apps by Trinity themselves (just http://isservices.tcd.ie/email/myzone.php). Obviously Barry’s being playing around, but it’s not the same as making that full switch and without that kind of information being made widely available the chances of any other University adopting it soon or even making the assessment.

    Obviously if someone now points out a link to all Trinity’s docs on this I’ll look like a right fool, but will be pleased nonetheless :)

  4. oh, and the video link is broken :)

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