Collaborative Data Gathering: Now Easy

Most of us have used the suite of tools under the Google Docs moniker to do all sorts of collaborative things. Giving us a web-based, multi-user version of Word, Excel, and PowerPoint has been a good thing. I’ve had my ups and downs with the tools since the Writely days, but I think in general they are a very powerful and flexible set of tools. This is so clear when working in committee or as a student working in teams — the idea that you don’t have to shuffle individual documents back and forth is an amazing benefit.

Yesterday during class we demonstrated the Google Docs suite to the students … most of them had seen them and we didn’t see too many jaws drop until I showed a new feature of the spreadsheet app — the ability to create web forms that actually dumps data back into the originating spreadsheet. This new feature was announced by Google just a few days ago and it makes the act of collecting data very straightforward and I would even say stretches into the online survey space. I read this morning over at Daring Fireball that there appears to be a 5,000 row limit, but that is a hell of a lot more data collection than you can do in many free survey tools.

It is so easy to make work … just create your spreadsheet and share it. In the sharing area you can now select an option “to fill out a form.” That’s it … select it, get the URL and send it out. Amazing that if you are in the google spreadsheet as people are filling out the form you see the data come in. I created a little form to test it out … fill it out for me! It also appears as though you can publish the spreadsheet with the data live updating.


One thing I don’t see that would really make this even more handy is a little web clip of code that I could drop my form on my blog or in a place like ANGEL. I checked it on my iPhone and the layout is great and it works … sweet for mobile data gathering applications. Nice little step forward.

2 thoughts on “Collaborative Data Gathering: Now Easy

  1. Pingback: BuzzLion for the week of February 3 at Education Technology Services

  2. So, the 5000 response limit is actually the limit imposed by Google Spreadsheets on the number of cells allowed in a sheet, which is 100,000. If you start with a sheet that has 20 columns (all new sheets do), then it’s going to bonk after 5000 because of that limit. But say you have 5 questions. Including the timestamp column thats only 6. 100,000 / 6 = a lot more than 5000.

    Go to the published form page (viewform?key=blah) and view source on that. It’s very simple html that you can copy into your own site or anywhere else for that matter and do validation, custom styling, whatever. It’s just a matter of making that clear and easy for everyone else that’s the key.

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