I Was Just Thinking…

Best Practices for Users to Organize Files in a Google Apps World

We have completed the move to Google Apps at Casper College and are thus entering a new era of Digital Asset Creation. This is actually my second institution(the first was Western Oklahoma State College in 2007) to convert to Google Apps for education so I have a pretty good perspective how users can rapidly become overwhelmed when Google Doc files begin to accumulate at a rapid rate. 
I have written some on this issue before and thought the time is right to a re-post my set of “Best Practice” recommendations for our move to Google Apps.  Most Google Apps Training  Resources show the mechanics very well,  but few provide resources for Best Practices Implementations.  First I will repeat my disclaimer from the original post: “ I am organizationally dysfunctional by nature.  I have forced myself to make some adaptations to that natural state so that I could remain gainfully employed.  Nobody wants an organizationally dysfunctional IT director…and who wants to be unwanted.  The Best Practice Topics to be discussed are:

  1. Sensitive Data
  2. Digital Asset Management and File Naming Conventions
  3. Sharing Folders vs. Sharing Documents
  4. eMail Subject Line
  5. Using Google Docs for Collaborative Projects
  6. Best Practices for Administrative Assistants
  7. Is All this Worth Doing?

Be Careful with Sensitive Data

You should never store social security or credit card numbers in a Google Doc!  However, you may have somewhat confidential data in your document.  If that is the case, it is good to double-check who that document is shared with.
How? If you want to check who is able to access your document, open the document, click the Share menu on the top right, and select “Sharing Settings”. Whether your document is shared individually or via a folder, this will list the people who have been given access.

Digital Asset Management and File Naming Conventions

The importance of this discussion came together for me a couple years ago while still employed in Oklahoma.  On one particularly busy/hectic morning I received at least a half dozen emails with attachments all named “Kent”   There were a few Word documents and couple PDF’s and maybe even a spreadsheet or two. I was in a hurry and I was frustrated that I had to open each and every doc to  find out what it contained.
squirrelblog with cluttered desktop-2017-04-25
Is this your file management solution?
Normally, it isn’t that big of a deal to just open the doc to see the contents, but on this particular day we were “getting hammered” as things weren’t going as well as I would have liked. I was in a hurry and didn’t need the hassle of opening each document to see what it contained.  It was at that point I began researching a document naming scheme which would provide a means for communicating key document information to the user at a glance. It was also helpful that we were beginning to research Document Imaging systems and really I got my original ideas for this from that world.  If this were a recipe I would also say add in a dash of Digital Asset Management whose roots really come from the .  This makes a lot of sense as on day-to-day basis department or project staff are constantly sharing documents via online cloud based storage, network storage, email and portable media storage devices and as a result it can be easy to lose track of what a document contains and which version is which.
It probably sounds like I have spent a little too much time reading Dilbert and just for the record Dilbert’s advice on implementing a file naming convention  is

A Brief Intro to DAM
Digital Asset Management (DAM) is the management, organization, and distribution of digital assets from a central repository. almost always applies to images and media, however  Digital assets include all kinds of files: product images, stock photos, audio, video, presentations—you name it. If it’s on a drive and can be useful, it’s a digital asset.  However, in a practical terms DAM almost always refers to the organization and retrieval of images and media and almost all of the material discussing implementation of DAM refers to images and media.
Some geeks will tell you a file naming convention is so 2004.  They will say you need to think about Digital Asset Management (DAM) Even with metadata, filenames can also be critical in differentiating things like colorspace or resolution. While the DAM can easily differentiate between these objects via metadata, humans have a little bit more difficulty.  Humans name things. That’s how we’re built. While DAMs do reduce the necessity for encoding metadata in filename/path (thankfully!) there is it is still useful to have some differentiation between similar objects.  Also some Mac users have a terrible habit of putting bullets, percent signs, and other punctuation in their filenames (Smith).
File Naming Best Practice Rule #1  You should be able to figure out what the file is about with a simple glance
Consider file names such as:

  • DSCN0619.jpg
  • C-1956.jpg
  • IMG0006.png
  • 819.eps

These file names convey very little information about the images within and thus make them difficult to categorize. The impression made with the above example can be compared with this example below from Onison, a company which works in Digital Asset Management:
Their specific focus is on images, but contains two features which which should be included in any file naming convention/rule  for any type of system and any type of environment
File Naming Best Practice  Rule #2  Always Include the date
File Naming Best Rule #3  Always Include a description
File Naming Rule # 4  The only permitted characters in your file naming scheme are a-z, 0-9, underscore, dash, and period
Putting the key document information in the title has several benefits, (1) it will assist your project team members to quickly identify the project, department/function, document title and version/revision number without having to open the document and scan for updates and (2) this information will assist in the development, management, security, storage/retrieval and the eventual deliberate destruction of the document.
Implementing a document naming convention in a project/department/organization goes a little further than just sending out an interoffice memo or ‘All Staff’ email. Project staff need to be trained (ideally as part of their induction into the working group) and a focal point (usually the project administrator) needs to be appointed to advise on how to implement the project filing when questions arise with a resource document for reference.
File Naming Rule #5 Spaces in filenames are bad
File Naming Rule #6 Use Initials for the department and the file creator.   Include the initials of the Department
File Naming Rule #8 Also keep in mind that local acronyms and abbreviations may not make sense to all users that access the system.
File Naming Rule #8 Include all pertinent info, but not too much. If users need to refer to a manual just to name an asset, there’s a good chance the convention will not be adopted. (Yes this is basically a repeat of #1
A Practical Example
For example If I created a Word file about about creating a file naming policy on February 15, 2012 it would look something like this.
A) yyyymmdd-B) Document-Imaging-C) DepartmentD) filenaming-policy-creation-E) itkdb-F) v01-G) 00.H) doc
A) Reverse Creation Date-B) ProjectTopicalArea-C) department-D) document-name-E) department abbreviation + creator intitals-
Possible Add ons for further depth if your going to have multiple versions of a doc.  You may want to rely on the versioning capabilities of tools such as Google Docs for this
F) version number-G) revision number-H) file name extension  as shown below:
When document version number is final I usually add the word FINAL if it is the final version of a document
One other thought on this issue:
I read somewhere recently that in a file naming convention where you want to consider Search Engine Optimization (SEO) you might wish to substitute a period for an underscore.  I need to do some more reading on this, but the basic concept is:
Sometimes I have a second date reference if the document references another date or document with a specific or important date as shown in the example below:

Notes on Some of the Components
Reverse Creation Date
Computer filing systems such as Window XP sort numerically and alphabetically, as such, using the reverse creation format “yymmdd” will ensure the file automatically list in order of creation. Some people may not like to use the “yyyy” format, as in “2006″ but I think it easier to see the year in four characters although some may say, “why add more characters to your file name than you have to?”
Project Topical Area Name
Obviously there are millions of combinations and permutations for project name abbreviations and I have read  a six letter code has proven to be quiet effective. The first 3 letters in this scheme are for the client organization and the second 3 are for the project abbreviation.  However, I have decided to simply come up with a list of topical areas and I do usually spell it out as again I want something I can reference at a glance without having to convert in my head what it means.  However, if saving characters to a person then creating appropriate abbreviations such as shown below may be important.
Example: Project Topical Area or Category
BU- Budget
PL – Planning
PM – ProjectManagement
TRG – Training
SCRC -Screencapture  (Note: This may not make sense for some, but I use it all the time)
Example: Sample Department Acronyms
Casper College Datatel Department Abbreviations
Other Possibilities
IT – Information Technology
HR – Human Resources
SEC – Security / Risk Management
LEG – Legal
VEH – Vehicle Fleet Mgt
LOG – Logistics
DOIT – Department of Information Technology
PRO – Procurement
FIN – Finance
FAC – Facilities Management
INV – Inventory / Material Management
INF – Information Management
Other stuff
If you want to have some other options for identifying documents you may look at something like the following suggested method for version and revision numbers.  I don’t use these, but often in many systems this or a similar scheme are often used.
0.01 – 0.89 = DRAFT
0.90 – 0.99 = REVIEW
1.00 = FINAL (client version)
1.01 – 1.89 = DRAFT for second version)
1.90 – 1.99 = REVIEW for second version)
2.00 = FINAL (re-released client version)
There are obviously many ways of doing this however I’ve found this document naming convention to be quite useful in keeping track of what I am working on.  When you get hundreds or thousands of documents you must sort through to find a specific single doc you have created you will appreciate having some sort of organizational system
Shared Collections vs  Shared Documents
Share Collections, not Documents.  If it is likely that you will share documents in the future with the same group of people, it is best to create a collection and share it. All documents you put in that collection will be automatically shared with the same group of people and assigned permissions. Sharing individual documents is more time consuming and can lead to errors and inconsistencies. When sharing a collection, it is easier to keep track of who has access to the documents and give a new person the ability to access many files at once. Also, using a collection allows everyone in your group to add to that collection, creating an easy-to-find archive of group materials.
Best Practices for email Subject Line
The best email subject lines are short, descriptive and provide the reader with a reason to explore your message further. Trying to stand out in the inbox, by using ALL CAPS, splashy or cheesy phrases, will invariably result in your email being ignored.

1.  Action-oriented

Email subject lines must convey action and should start with an action verb . Having an action-oriented subject line makes the email standout from the other emails in their inbox.
Another tip is to use one keyword in the subject line that people will recognize. The keyword should be a non-branded keyword like “blogging best practices.”  Branded keywords are good to use in the emails “from” name and can be used in the subject line as well.

2.  Compelling

You only have a couple seconds to grab the attention of people skimming through their inbox. Make sure you include the email’s offer in the subject line, so people know the value the email will provide them. Creating a sense of urgency is a good tactic to use in conjunction with the compelling offer.
One way to do this is to use brackets in the subject line. For example, you might be promoting an upcoming webinar and you want to make sure recipients realize this right away. Your subject line could be, “Learn to Become an Efficient Blogger [Webinar in Two Days]

3.  Spammy

You can’t afford to have your subject line get caught in spam or firewall filters. Therefore, you should be very careful when choosing what words you put in the subject line. Words like free, act now, offer, or credit will almost always get flagged by spam filters.

4.  Consistent

The two things people will see before they even open your email is the subject line and the first sentence or two in the email. This is because most people use the preview function in their email client to determine if they want to spend the time reading the email.
You want to keep the first couple sentences very consistent with the email’s subject line. They should reinforce and add to the compelling offer and should be action-oriented. I recommend including a link in the first or second sentence that sends them to the page you want them to take action on.

5.  Short

Email subject lines cannot be very long. I recommend you keep them under 45 characters or you run the risk of people not seeing the entire subject line. You also want to put the most important and compelling information in the beginning of every subject line.

5. Search and Retrieval of eMail

Retrieving email is a pain at best.  Using subject lines which convey information may help you retrieve email more efficiently.

Has this ever been you?
Best Practices for Using Google Docs for Collaborative Projects
The following best practices should be taken into consideration when using Google Docs for collaborative purposes.
1. Require each participant /student to use an institutional Gmail account to reinforce this account is used for official campus communication.  If you do allow students to use private email accounts make sure it includes some rendition of his or her first and last name (e.g. ronald1906wagner). This will make it easier for you to decipher which student made the edits to the documents.
2. Be sure to require the student to add your email address to the list of collaborators. This will allow you to monitor collaborative activity.
3. Require the students to use a pre-determined file name convention. For example: Creation/Duedate_CoursePrefixCourseNumber_projecttitle_instructorname_studentname
Example:  20120716_cs1153_finalproject_kentbrooks_studentname
This will make it much easier for you to sort your documents. I typically create a folder for each class and move the documents to the correct folder as they are shared with me
Administrative Assistant Best Practices
Administrative assistants Gmail

Administrative assistants Calendar
Googles Forum for Adminstrative Assistants Best Practices
Is all this worth doing?
I know these methods saves me time on a personal basis, but some people want a more detailed summary of the benefits.  Ed Smith in a Sept 2011 post on Edward Smith Digital Asset Management blog shows a great way to determine ROI for implementing DAM  but minus the purchase of a Digital Asset Management is there value in finding time saving measures in all of your electronic messaging.
For this example, I’m going to consider how much time and therefore money is saved by DAM. You can also do ROI calculations based on:

  • Spending less on stock photo purchases
  • Decreased licensing fees or fines
  • Selling or licensing asset collections
  • Avoiding print overruns
  • Spending less on desktop software and hardware upgrades

Let’s say we have 5 people that each make around $50,000 each year and waste 1 hour each week searching for images. We’ll consider an investment of $3,000 into DAM ($2,000 for software and $1,000 for hardware).
First, we figure out how many hours are wasted each year:
5 people x 1 hour wasted searching each week x 52 weeks in the year = 260 hours wasted each year
Next we determine how much money that time is worth:
$50,000 average salary / 2080 work hours in the year = about $24 dollars an hour
260 hours wasted each year x $24 dollars an hour = $6,240
Now we know that it “costs” $6,240 annually to find images. Let’s figure in that DAM cuts the time it takes to find images by 75%:
$6,240 x 75% = $4,680
In this case, we can save $4,680 a year with DAM. Now, let’s see how that compares to what we spent on DAM in the first year:
$4,680 savings each year – $3,000 invested in DAM = $1,680 net savings in the first year.
In this case DAM saves $1,680 in the first year, and potentially even more during the following years when little to no additional money is spent on the DAM.
We’re almost done! We just need to turn these numbers into a percentage, which is the ROI. The ROI is calculated as the difference between the savings and cost of the investment, divided by the cost of the investment. If that last sentence hurts your brain when you read it, here’s what the calculation looks like:
(Savings from DAM – Investment in DAM) / Investment in DAM = ROI
Let’s plug in the numbers:
(4,680 – $3,000 )  / $3,000 = 56%
In this scenario, our DAM system provides a ROI of 56% in the first year. If this DAM was a savings account, I’d put all my money in it (especially in this economy!)
Of course there are other intangible benefits from DAM like brand consistency, improved customer service, and improved morale. Combining a solid ROI with the intangible benefits can help you make a good case for DAM in your organization.
Background Reading and References
Google Shared Storage:
Subject Line:…
Collaborative Docs
Wagner R. Educational technology: Using Google Doc as a collaboration tool. Athl Train Educ J. 2010;5(2):94-96
– See more at:






Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *