Saturday, October 17, 2009

Google Wave Seeks to Unify Common Collaboration Tools

With email, chat, wikis, web pages, online forums and the like, why do we need a new form of online collaboration? Perhaps we don't.  Perhaps we just need them to work together better.  

Google Wave reportedly--my request for an invitation to the Google Wave Beta has, alas, gone unanswered--combines features of email, chat, wikis, desktop sharing and social networking.  I use all of these tools today, but it is hard to make them work together.  Instead, these tools have become islands of automation--bridged, at best, by copying and pasting--in the sea of online communication.   

A Google Wave is a workspace which contains a threaded conversation, with messages and multimedia attachments, in which all content is stored on the server.  According to Daniel Tenner, by preserving content in a single workspace and adapting to conversations with both lengthy and brief replies, Google Wave addresses key challenges of using email threads for complex or lengthy discussions:
  • Inadvertently forked threads resulting from someone replying to an earlier message
  • A late addition to the thread missing some an attachment or content buried earlier in a thread
  • Inadvertent or unnoticed addition or removal of discussion participants   
A wave is also like a wiki in that any part of it can be edited, with changes tracked and attributable.  If you close a wave and come back later, the changes you've missed are highlighted.  But that's not all:  A wave is also a development platform, with lots of gadgets for participants to use already and robots that can collaborate with human participants.  For example, the robot "Rosy" can be added to a wave to provide real-time translation, so that collaborators do not have to speak the same language.   This is demonstrated in the video below.  A wave is also like a desktop-sharing conference, with participants seeing what each other is typing in real time.  All this in a browser!   Here is a short introduction by the Google Wave product managers:

Wave is not only a browser-based service, but its federation protocol is an open standard and some of its Java code is open source.  Application programming interfaces (APIs) are also available for developers to develop gadgets and robots, and embed waves in their web applications.  Clearly, Google intends to foster a widely-used set of interoperable Wave services.

You can request a Wave beta invitation here.   Good luck!   Have any of you actually used Google Wave?  What would you use it for?

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