Saturday, July 25, 2009

The Future: Collaboration

How would you feel if everyone you added to an email could edit it all they want? It sounds like it could be a disaster. One of your friends editing your words, childishly making it appear as if you are telling everyone that you eat poop. If that is not your first thought, you probably have not spent enough time in online networking sites, or in middle school. So, while there are many interesting possibilities, there is also that danger of immature... "input" we'll call it. Especially when you open up the wave to the general public.

This may sound like a ridiculous idea to some, but that is exactly what Google is doing with the Wave. We were lucky enough to snag one of the developer accounts, and subsequently have had trouble walking away from the computer for the last few days. Since the Wave is still closed to the public, the only chance to truly interact with others is through waves that are opened up to all the developers. Apparently 6,000 people (and counting) can participate in these waves. So you would expect to find at least one childish, annoying little bastard who just wants to mess with people. Yet that isn't happening.

Le'ts take the wave detailing different extensions and robots as an example.This wave is open to everyone, and anyone can reply or edit. What you'll find when you enter it, is the power of collaboration. Rather than resting the responsibility on one person to locate all these extensions, find out what they do, and add the details, the responsibility is on all of us. Thanks to the playback feature, I can show you exactly how this works. In this picture, you'll notice that at step 158, when I was added to the wave, the bot (bottom of the first list of accounts) has no description by it. Obviously that isn't very helpful.
Picture 9

In this next picture, you'll see that I edited the original post, adding a description of the bot. Anyone looking at the screen at that moment, would have seen my typing live. They would see every letter I typed.

Picture 10

Some may say, well this isn't that different from google docs. Which is slightly true, you can collaboratively edit documents in google docs. But google docs don't have gadgets, robots, and extensions that add maps, video, and images, links you up with twitter, facebook, and blogger, translates live typing into almost any language, corrects spelling, shortens URLs, creates polls, checklists, charts, and event attendee lists... etc. And google docs don't have email.

Essentially, we have never seen collaboration at this level from our web browsers. The Wave is supposedly going to be available in a beta version some time in September. So get ready. It is going to revolutionize how we think about communicating online.