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Tom’s Hardware – Google Invites Users to Test Wave

I haven’t received my invite yet, but I did sign up. So my fingers are still crossed and I’m hoping I see the invite  in my gmail inbox soon. And I some other people I know signed up too, because what’s the use of this exercise if you aren’t collaborating with another person.

Google Wave

In this morning’s blog post, Rasmussen did say there were still some key features missing from Wave that the company has yet to implement. At the moment you can’t remove a friend from a wave, define groups of users or configure the permissions of users on wave. Rasmussen said that they’d be rolling out those features, along with a draft mode and more, over the next few months.

via Google Invites Users to Test Wave – Tom’s Hardware.

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Email is crap: The past is yours, the future’s mine!

File this!
File this!

Considering the evolution of email and the Internet it’s a wonder we cling to it so tenaciously. The original Internet was slow, unreliable, and had a small number of actual users. Email was a messaging mechanism allowed communication to occur asynchronously over a slow unreliable network. And the mechanims used to transport it prior to the ever popular SMTP server was something called Unix to Unix Copy Protocol. Your messages to people would get copied over the network as files to another Unix computer. Eventually they would get routed to the mail spool on a machine your recipient had an account on. He could then read the message and reply to it. Kind of like telegrams back and forth. So what if you got a telegram with no subject line? Or a telegram with all kinds of tasks for different projects all wrapped up into a single message?

Dan Dube @ complains that Filing Cabinets which approximates the desktop computing metaphor are not good. The extra work required to make the Filing Cabinet work outweighs the benefit of the activity the email is helping take place.

Each email is a file, so each email needs an informative, relevant title.  Look in your inbox — I would guess there are almost no emails that fit that bill.

Nobody uses subject lines. I get blank subject lines from people. Or they put the vaguest subjects in the subject line.

Emails don’t happen in a vacuum, people reply to them, are added and subtracted from the distribution list, change the content, etc.  Yet we still treat each email as a singular file.

That’s the truth, especially for group projects, or worse committee projects where people come and go. You don’t know sometimes where a requirement or task ever came from because you don’t have the original text in an email from the person that proposed it. There’s no trail or flight data recorder for what transpired in that email message.

Emails don’t always categorize nicely.  If they fit in more than one “folder”, the filing cabinet metaphor will fail.

I couldn’t agree more. If you have a boss who starts using ‘bullet points’ in the email you know you will need to file that thing in more than one spot. I have a boss that does this often and it takes a few minutes to parse out the tasks that are expected to be accomplished. Once that’s done, which “project” do you file that email message into?

Emails are extraordinarily redundant, with the original message copied hundreds of times in long conversations.

Oh the insanity of quote all. And worse yet I think Outlook turns it on by default. Occasionally I will go back through that really long message and delete everything except my own contributions so the email is physically shorter in length and easier to read.

Files can be emailed, which immediately forks the original file and makes any further edits a synching problem.

This happens all the time rather than copy and paste the text of another file into the medium of the email message, the immediacy of ‘attaching’ just makes it too appealing. Someone is ‘dumping’ the task off on you with the minimum effort necessary, and that means they attach the file that has the exact same text they could have included in the email. Worse yet, sometimes those attachments are PDFs! Useless,useless,useless. Try keeping track of that mix of files.

All of these gripes apply to the file system of the computer, too.  Regular files (mp3, doc, html, etc) all have the same shortcomings.

Again it’s hard to associate files in a wide range of ways that make sense for a variety of projects. None of us are limited to one file type in all the projects we do. We might have pictures, audio, video, text, etc.

Now Dan mentions Google Waves. And I wrote a quick blurb about Google Waves about week after the Google demo in San Francisco. Waves is by design, very different from email. It’s not copying files from one server to another over an unreliable slow network. It is meant to give you realtime text based communication in whatever collaborative style you prefer. And it keeps a record of everything, so you can step back through a document at each version or stage of editing.

It’s kind of like chat too. You just start a connection with one other person, start inviting in participants as you go. And as part of the record of the ‘Wave’ or wavelength, you have buddy icons of all the participants. And everything is a reference to that original wave. So file it wherever you want, open it from wherever you want, it all points back to the original and will edit that original file for you AND all the participants. Because like I said, there is but one original, one index everyone’s client points to that same EXACT REFERENCE. That’s the genius of the wave format of communication and collaboration. Waves is a giant shared workspace, nobody really keeps private copies and edits them. They always edit the shared copy no matter what. And so the mailbox/cabinet metaphor is broken at last.

So if it’s not a filing cabinet we’re looking for, but Google Waves, what’s the metaphor? Instead of a filing cabinet in my office, I now use a big giant bulletin board that sits in the hallway in my building. And everyone posts there and edits there and nobody keeps copies of anything anywhere on the bulletin board. The original bulletin is there with all it’s edits recorded, all the participants in the document are recorded for all to see. Scary isn’t it?

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Google Wave – The Shape of Things to come

The Google IO conference in Australia
The Google IO conference by Niall Kennedy

via: Official Google Blog: Went Walkabout. Brought back Google Wave

Did anyone watch the demo video from Google Australia? A number of key members from Google Maps set out to address the task of communication and collaboration. Lars and Jens Rasmussen decided now that Gmaps is a killer, mash-up enabled web app, it’s time to design the Next Big Thing. Enter Google Wave, it is the be all end all paradigm shifting cloud application of all time. It combines all the breathless handwaving and fits of pique that Web 2.0 encompassed 5 years ago. I consider Web 2.0 to have really started the Summer of 2004 with some blogging and podcasting efforts going on and slow but widespread adoption of RSS publishing and subscribing. So first I’ll give you the big link to the video of the demo by Lars Rasmussen and Company:

It is 90 minutes long. It is full of every litte UI tweak and webapp nicety along with rip-roaring collaboration functionality examples and “possible uses” for Google Wave. If you cannot or will not watch a 90 minute video just let me say pictures do speak louder than words. I would have to write a 1,000 page manual to describe everything that’s included in Google Wave. First let’s start off the list of what Google Wave is ‘like’.

It’s like email. You can send and receive messages with a desktop software client. It’s like Chat, you can chat live with anyone who is also on Google Wave. It’s like webmail in that you can also run it without a client and see the same data store. It’s like social bookmarking, you find something you copy it, you keep it, you annotate it, you share it. It’s like picture sharing websites, you take a picture, you upload it, you annotate it, you tag it, you share it. It’s like video sharing websites, same thing as before, upload, annotate, tag, share. It’s like WebEx where you give a presentation, everyone can see the desktp presentation as you give it and comment on it through a chat back-channel. It’s like Sharepoint where you can check-in, check-out documents, revise them, see the revisions and share them with others. It’s like word processor, it has spell checking enabled live as you type. It can even translate into other languages for you on the fly. It’s like all those Web 2.0 mash-ups where you take parts from one webapp and combine them with another so you can have Twitter embedded within your Google Waves. There are no documents as such only text streams associated with authors, editors, recipients, etc. You create waves, you share waves, you store waves, you edit waves, you embed waves, you mash-up waves. One really compelling example given towards the end is using Waves as something like a Content Managements System where mulitple authors work, comment, revise a single text document (a wave) and then collapse it down into a single new revision that get’s shared out until a full document, fully edited is the final product. Whether that be a software spec, user manual or website article doesn’t matter the collaboration mechanism is the same.

So that’s the gratuitous list of what I think Google Wave is. There is some question as to whether Gmail, Google Docs & Spreadsheets will go away in favor of this new protocol and architecture. Management at Google have indicated it is not the case, but that the current Google suite would adopt Google Wave like functionality. I think the collaboration capability would pump-up the volume on the Cloud based software suite. Microsoft will have to further address something like this being made freely available or even leaseable for private business like Gmail is today. And thinking even farther ahead for Universities using Course Management Systems today,… There’s a lot of functionality in Google Wave that is duplicated in 90% of pay for, fully licensed software for Content Management Systems. Any University already using Gmail for student email and wanting to dip their toes into Course Management Systems should consider Google Wave as a possibility. Better yet, any company that repackages and leverages Google Wave in a new Course Management System would likely compete very heavily with the likes of Microsoft/Blackboard.