Give me a break

Okay, this is a rant. I need to write some of this out to try to understand what’s happening. Comment or not — but if you’ve got a lifeline, please throw it to me.

The switch to Google Drive from Google Docs may be the death of my efforts to stay sane and engaged with multiple groups.

The problem: I’ve got multiple “identities” on the web:

  • me as an AAUW member
  • me as a person with a life outside of AAUW
  • me as a web consultant in general
  • several different identities as web consultant for different organizations

Each of those can have dozens of accounts on different web-based tools, but for now let’s concentrate on the files that need to be shared with others who know me in one of those roles — but NOT the others.

In the beginning of the complexity (c. 2002) things were fairly simple. There were

  • Public files that I pushed out to an organization’s web site if they needed to be shared widely, and
  • Private files that I kept in a specific folders on my hard drive and shared by emailing them to the other stakeholders

This morphed into different ways of sharing files, mainly with Google docs. Recently this has meant:

Google docs:

  • Creating collections under the Google docs account of a “primary” address associated with the “owner” of the collection.
  • Creating key documents to be owned “primary” address
  • This has worked reasonably well, but I really don’t know what happens if the owner deletes a file that has been shared with others. In the past, it’s just gone “poof”, and so if those who share the folder can create files critical to the organizaton AND CAN ALSO delete those files, this isn’t the best solution.


  • For files that are more “closely held” or are in a format where I really do need full Office functionality (though Google docs is getting better, it still is awkward to use the data for a mail merge or fine tune styles)
  • Here I don’t seem to mind that all the files are “mine” and shared with others on an as-needed basis
  • Maybe it’s that few people share their files with me, so it’s not hard to keep track of which files live in the Dropbox folder and which live in the “normal” folders on my hard drive. [The Google docs files that live in the cloud seem very different, still.]

I guess what I’m looking for is something like UNIX file system permissions:

  • If you want permanent access to a file someone else owns, you needed to have space on the drive where the file lived. [That’s no longer realistic.] You made a hard link to the file, and then even if the original owner deleted it, you still had your link to the bits on the disk and could still see the file (though it was still owned by the other person).
  • In the general case (at least within the local file system which, again, is an outdated concept) you could make a soft link to the file. You risked “losing” it if the owner decided it wasn’t valuable any more, but you could “put” the file wherever made sense in your own file structiure.
  • If you needed to share files with others you set up a group, set the group sticky bit on a folder, and files in the folder inherited permissions related to the group in a reasonable way. Now, trying to set permissions for specific individuals — wasn’t possible in the general case.

Smarter people than I have been wondering about how to translate those concepts to the world we’re living in now. I realize it’s never going to be? that simple while we are sharing things in the cloud.

But I’ll need to be convinced that their solution allows for multiple email addresses (and not all of them Google-enabled) per person for the new world. How is Google is going to handle multiple signins? While there is some “multiple account” access, it breaks down for me once I try to have more than two different accounts that are “registered” with Google “sharing” a login session. I really don’t want to logout and login again if I need access to a file that’s somehow tied to one of my other identities.

What about the people who haven’t registered with Google? [Things broke down this afternoon and started this rant when I tried to visit a file that had been shared as “everyone with the link”. It appears I couldn’t view the file at all until I installed Google drive — which meant, unlike in the past, giving an email address to Google.]

I guess I “get” the business model (we’re going to know *everything* about you, and that knowledge is power and money), but part of me would really rather be paying for the service than forced into a work flow that just doesn’t fit. On the other hand if Google Drive is where “everyone” is, what are the options? [Kind of like another important aspect of life, I guess… How *does* massive change get started?]

Are there any other options out there for file sharing with multiple groups? Or are we going to all be absorbed into the Google way of life?

Oh, I’m so tempted just to disappear into Ravelry…


3 thoughts on “Give me a break

  1. This is a great rant! Love it! The whole cloud systems, file sharing and administration gets complex fast. I have a few photos that reference different kind of clouds. The clouds of Florida sky in Summer…..

    I think any organization should consider to use Google Apps for domain name as a basis that allows you to keep control of files beyond the live cycle of a members of the group. Google Apps is available for nonprofits for free. It only takes one step to re-route the MX record of a domain to go to Google and the whole suite: GDrive, Contacts, Calendar is now available on an organizational level. One set of username/password can rule them all as administrator.

    The multiple login on Google Account works surprisingly well for me. I have Google accounts for three nonprofits, two companies and my gmail account. I am able to route all the e-mail into one account, but send out as the other accounts…
    Entering the GDrive, I have multiple browser tabs that are login with different accounts and I am able to keep the pretty separate… Sometime, when I don’t pay attention, I mix them up but that’s just me. Google was able to keep them separate and I don’t have to login and out all the time. And if I feel, I have a document that I access with one, but also might need to access it with the other, I just share it also with the other account.

    The trick for the multiple account login is to enable the feature on each account.
    This should explain it fairly well:

    I just leave it at that for now…..

  2. Both of you are way ahead of me.
    My problems are:
    *handling a handful of political groups that I belong to & the docs that I create for them In that one place I can’t have all the people I’ve sent it to because people who don’t use google can’t access them so I have attached a word file copy to their emails.
    *keeping my work folders separate from the political/activist. I just wind up with tons of google docs that I have to go through to find one I want. I guess I should look into finding a folder system in google, but so far I haven’t been successful with that.
    *I’m having trouble syncing my android phone calendar with my google calender.


    Thank y’all for sharing.

  3. Thanks to you both!
    Birgit – the multiple sign-in from one browser seems to be working better and may keep my sanity.
    Roberta – I’m doing a couple of projects where folders are being a great help. The folder (aka collection) is shared with the people on the project and then the docs created in the folder — or subfolders — “inherit” the sharing status from the top level. Yes, the editing group needs to use Google, and those who view the docs through the public (or semipublic) link need to understand how to use the Google docs menu (not the browser menu) to view/print. But any other system I’ve seen has even more problems getting folks connected.

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