Google Wave

Yeah, Me Too:

It's hard not to echo the YouTube commentor who said: "I love you google!! I can't wait for you to take over the world!!"

Some quick reax:
  • The special genius of Google is that the interface is not revolutionary: it's all notions we've seen elsewhere brought together, so people can immediately get the metaphor used and engage with it. I found myself annoyed that the developers were applauding so much at what were obvious inventions—and just as often smiling at the sprezzatura of it all.
  • But once everything becomes a Wave Object, and dynamic and negotiated and hooked in, it does destabilise the notion of what a document is massively. Then again, so did wikis.
  • Not everything will become a Wave Object. For reasons both sociological and technical. One of the more important gadgets to hook into this thing for e-scholarship, when it shows up on our browsers, is an annotation gadget for found, static documents (and their components). In fact, we have that even now elsewhere—Diigo for instance. But hooking that up to the Google eye candy, yes, that is A Good Thing.
  • All your base are belong to the Cloud. And of course, what the man said on the Cloud. This may be where the world is heading—all our intellectual output a bunch of sand mandalas, to sweep away with the next electromagnetic bomb or solar flare. One more reason why not everything should become a Wave Object; but you would still obviously want Wave objects to talk to anything online.
  • The eye candy matters, but the highlight for me was at 1h04, with the Wave Robot client communicating updates to the Bug Tracker. That's real service-driven interoperability, with agents translating status live into other systems' internal state. That, you can go a very long way on.
  • The metaphor is unnerving, and deliberately so: the agents are elevated to the same rank as humans, are christened robots, have their own agency in the text you are crafting. The spellchecker is not a tool, it is a conversation participant. But then, isn't that what futurists thought AI realisation would end up looking like anyway? Agents with deep understanding of limited domains, interacting with humans in a task. The metaphor is going to colour how people interact with computers though: just that icon of a parrot will make people thing of the gadget as a participant and not an instrument.
  • OK, so Lars moves around the stage; I found that endearing more than anything else.
  • The machine translation demo? Dunno if it was worth *that* much applause; the Unix Terminal demo actually communicated more profoundly than it did. The Translate Widget in OSX has given us live translation for years (with appallingly crap speed, and as my colleague Steve has pointed out, speed of performance in the real world will be the true test of all of this). That said, the fact that the translation was not quite correct was as important to the demo as the speed at which it translated character by character. It's something that will happen with the other robot interactions, I suspect: realising their limitations, so you interact with them in a more realistic way. The stochastic spellchecker is a welcome improvement, but users will still have to realise that it remains fallible. I know people who refuse to use predictive text on their mobiles for that reason, and people will have different thresholds of how much gadget intervention they'll accept. Word's intervention in Auto-Correct has not gained universal welcome.
  • There's going to be some workflow issues, like that the live update stuff can get really distracting quickly (and they realise this with their own use); Microsoft Word's track change functionality gets unusable over a certain number of changes.
  • Google Docs has not delivered massively more functionality than Word, and the motivation to use it has been somewhat abstract, it doesn't lead to mass adoption outside ideologues and specific circumstances. In my day job, we still fling Word Docs with track changes around; colleagues have tried to push us cloud-ward, unsuccessfully. (Partly that's a generational mistrust of the Cloud. Partly it isn't, because the colleague trying to push us cloud-ward is one generation older.) But the combination of Google Docs plus Google Wave for collaborative documents should make Microsoft nervous.
  • Microsoft. Remember them? :-)

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