Friday, May 29, 2009

On the horizon: Google Wave

Google Wave looks very interesting. It is an email client (replacing Google Mail?), but it is also something of a collaborative document editor. I took a look at part of the developer announcement, and here is what you might want to know for now.
Traditional email works like this:
I.e., one person sends an email to one or more persons much in the way that traditional snail mail has worked. It's just easier to write to many persons at one time and to respond to messages. Google Wave is conceptualizing a different model which looks like this: I.e., it thinks of a conversation as a centrally (i.e., server-based) object which involves two or more persons. The huge benefit of this approach is that it allows a much clearer view of conversations, and anyone can be invited to join the conversation at any point and have the whole conversation in front of them. Conversations, instead of being a collection of "forward/reply to all" emails with a bottom up chain of earlier messages, will now look like threaded message boards. In addition, participants can jump in at any point and respond to particular parts of a message, and it will all be clear in its threaded outline. In addition, this is all happening in real time, so, in effect, it can also replace your instant messaging devices with the advantage of providing a clear conversation among multiple participants. (NOTE: This looks to me to be a much superior method as compared to carrying on conversations in Twitter, AIM, Facebook, etc.)
Google Wave is also intended as a way of sharing and editing text, photos, maps, etc. with others. The API is open, so they are leaving room for further development to extend its capabilities with other gadgets.
Google Wave is supposed to be available later this year, and I am eager to try it out. In particular, from an educational perspective, this is the best way I have seen to carry out threaded discussions and allow for sharing of resources and do it all in real time if desired. At our seminary, we are trying to think about how we might conduct classes online in cases of emergency. (Think of a blizzard closing campus or a H1N1 flu epidemic causing restrictions.) Google Wave would be a great way to conduct discussion for an online class.
UPDATE: 2009.06.01: HERE is a great overview of Google Wave terminology and capabilities.

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