Let's consider again the issue of using the Google tools like Groups or Blogger, but now let's consider that from the perspective of the previous post. The CITES services leave gaps in terms of needs. The question is how best to fill in the gaps. Should CITES do that itself (or perhaps in conjunction with the Library) by creating a new campus Blog service? On the flavor meter is that beginning to move away from plaing vanilla and so is better left in the hands of the departments and colleges? Or is the need still sufficiently idiosyncratic that the solution should be left to the individual, in which case they are likely to stumble onto the Google service or some other commercial service that is "free" and functional?
If it is CITES that should fill the void, and one thing that outsiders don't understand is that there are real costs to a service, even one as simple as a Blog, especially if you offer it to the 50,000 or so members of our campus community. There is the hardware and the storage as well as the support issues. Agreeing that there are real costs the next issue is how those woudld be funded. If it is internally funded and assuming no additonal revenues will be forthcoming to support the new service, then one has to ask what other service should CITES cut to finance the Blog service. If it is externally funded, one has to ask what will be the source of revenue? This raises a serious strategic issue for CITES. Does it take the conservative approach and only support those services where it has a pretty good feeling the funding will be there long term. Or does it do a lot of pilots, for example with a Blog service, and hope that if the interest is there the funding will be forthcoming externally, but with the risk that if the funding doesn't come then CITES will have to cut some service, either the burgeoning Blog service or soemething else. I should add that right now CITES' operation is pretty lean and mean. There are not a lot of things to cut.
That is part of my interest in Google. Since the market is supplying these services that are financed via advertising, the experiment can happen with no implied future reduction of any service and no additional funding commitment needed from the Campus. The other part, as I've already articualted, is my feeling that in this space the market is likely to provide better quality services because of the greater incentive to innovate. Indeed just today I see that they've changed the way they allow comments to Blogs. Before it used to be either anonymous or you had to be a member to include identity information in the comments. Now they are allowing non-members to enter such information and links to homepages (or Blogs not on Blogger.com). That is precisely the functionality I wanted to make my Blog useful in a social setting. I want comments from the community, I want to know who they are from, but I don't want them to have to have to become members of Blogger.com unless they want that themselves. Actually, I'd also like comments to appear just as posts, but with a comment flag to indicate it is not from a member of the blog.