This document contains various tips designed to help students work in the cloud.
Caution is Golden
Don’t ever write anything online that you would not like to:
- Show to your spouse, parents, or children
- See on the cover of the New York Times
- Show to your employer or employees
- Show to all your friends.
If you are a novelist or a poet, then perhaps your definition of what you want to share online is different from what a perspective VP at Fortune 500 company might want to share online.
I have a number of online accounts. To help me manage the passwords for those accounts, I use a service called LastPass. Getting some people to feel comfortable using services such as Google or Evernote can be difficult, getting them to trust their passwords to LastPass is much more challenging. I believe, however, that allowing LastPass to manage your passwords will prove the most secure solution for most users.
During this quarter, many of you will curse and fret as you attempt to manage your passwords. I have one suggestion: use LastPass or some similar password manager. Two key reasons to use LastPass:
- During class, I will often ask you to sign on to some particular service. If doing so is difficult or impossible for you, then you will fall behind; you will not be able to follow the steps in my lecture.
- If you ask for help, and I stop by your desk, and you cannot sign in to some service we need to use, I tend to just move on to the next student while you solve the problem. This means you won’t get help that you probably need.
My suggestion: Create an account with LastPass or some similar service, and learn how to use it!
Be sure also to learn something about the strength of your password by visiting sites like: https://howsecureismypassword.net/.
Two Factor Authentication
For web sites like Google that may contain a lot of valuable information, consider using two factor authentication. This usually involves entering a password plus entering a code that is texted or emailed to your phone.
Two factor authentication is much, much safer than having a single password. it requires a bit more organization on your part, but it is important that you at least understand that the option exists.
I encourage you to use a password manager. Password managers can make your accounts much more secure, and can help you navigate the cloud.
There are free versions of all the tools listed above. I use LastPass. I could not get through a day without it. It is essential to my workflow. But probably any of the tools above would work, though I prefer that first two since they store my passwords online.
Note: Here is a recent review of commercial password managers.
As described above, always use your real name when creating folders.
Please, if possible, also use your real name or some variant of it when creating new accounts and email addresses. If you want to use an existing Google or Microsoft account, and your email address for that account does not fit in with my guidelines, then okay, I can live with it. But be sure, be absolutely sure, that when you share your folder with me that you name it correctly, as described in the previous section.
I understand, however, that out of a class of 30 people, one or two of you may have a real reason to want to remain anonymous online. If so, it is okay for you to use a pseudonym on public accounts so long as it is a recognizable variant on your real name. For instance, instead of Calvert, I could Colbert or Clavert.
If you create an email address such as seattle25\@gmail.com or a Google Site such as bc-student-235 or c00lgal56, it will be very hard for me to figure out which account to link to which student. Please use your real name or some recognizable variant on your real name.
Some of the services I ask you to use are public, some are not.
- Google Sites
- Google Drive
- Microsoft One Drive
When creating accounts on private services you don’t need to worry about including your real name. When creating accounts on public services someone may be able to link an account name to you. This is an extremely, almost vanishingly, small possibility, but it is possible. In those cases, you can use a pseudonym of the type I describe above. If you use a name like fancydude456, and the account did not already exist, then I will probably kick the assignment back to you.
Should I Use a Mobile Device or a Desktop PC?
I have chosen the cloud applications used in this assignment because they are useful additions to mobile devices. That does not mean, however, that you have to set up the accounts on those devices.
I use my desktop for tasks like those described here. However, it is possible to complete many of them on a mobile device. Please feel free to try, and if it becomes too frustrating, switch to the desktop.
NOTE: I wrote the above two paragraphs years ago. In the interim mobile apps have greatly improved. In some cases, teams spend much more time working on their mobile apps than their desk top apps or web interfaces. Also, some users may be more familiar with their mobile device than their computer. Feel free to pick the tools that work best for you.
Sharing a document with another person involves associating the document with the right email address. In this assignment, I spell out the email addresses of mine to use when you share a document with me. Don’t share everything with the same email address. Read the instructions carefully! For Google, use a Google email address when you share the document with me. For Microsoft, use my Microsoft address. There are workarounds, but this is the general goal and best practice. Read each section of the assignment, and find the email address that I want you to use for that portion of the assignment.
NOTE: Unless you have done this assignment before, you may well get it kicked back. Perhaps you will get it kicked back more than once. Do your best to fix your errors and then resubmit. It is only when you resubmit the assignment that I know to check to see if it is now complete so that I can update your grade! You cannot skip this assignment. To do well in most of my courses you must complete this assignment and complete it correctly.
What Account Should I Use?
Some of you may already have accounts for services like Google or Twitter. Should you use that account in this class?
Privacy is a personal subject. Some cloud services, such as Twitter, are very public. What you publish on Twitter for this class will likely be seen by your friends who use Twitter, and vice versa. Some people aren’t bothered by this, others find it upsetting. If you already have an account with any of the services we will use in this class, and you don’t feel comfortable using that same account for your class activities, then I recommend creating a second account with that service.
NOTE: It is possible to do some things in private on Twitter, and there are valid scenarios for doing so. Nevertheless, in this class will you must use the public interface to Twitter.
I find that some tools, such as Google Drive and Microsoft One Drive, do such a good job of helping you separate public and private data, that there is no reason to have two accounts when using those services. However, if you are very fidgety about privacy, or process a lot of information on one of these tools already, then you might still wish to start a new account for this course even if you already have one for that service. Neither Microsoft nor Google have any objection to you maintaining more than one account with their service.
One way to help you learn these kinds of things on a SaaS application like Google Docs or Evernote is to simply click on everything that looks clickable until you understand what it does. The rhythm can be:
- Click something, try to understand what it did
- Press the cancel button or the back arrow to go back to where you were
- Wave your mouse over various buttons that appear clickable. A hint should appear.
It’s usually best if you have a little “oh cool, look what that did” reaction from time to time as you click around. In other words, it is best if you enjoy both the process of exploring and the process of puzzling out how something works. If it all seems dreary and boring, then it is hard to summon up the energy required to get good at using computers. But if you find it fun and engaging, then eventually it will start to make sense. As far as I’m concerned, the amount of time it takes someone to learn something is not usually very important. What I look for is that enthusiasm, that little spark that tells me someone really likes this kind of work.
Of course, one person will find some particular task engaging and another task boring, but as long as you are finding some part of the process interesting and exciting, then you will succeed eventually.
Another key trait is fearlessness. Even if we are shy, or don’t like to engage others, our passion to learn should help overcome that reticence.
NOTE: While there are some risks involved in using the cloud, most of them can be easily avoided if you follow a few simple practices. In this course, we will learn about these practices.