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Surfing The Waves (Again)

Posted by | Posted in Geek Stuff | Posted on 27-05-2010

I decided to open a blast from the past this week – Google Wave. Well, I say “past”, but it was only six or seven months ago that I last used it.

Google Wave is an awesome idea in my opinion. Once you understand what the hell it is, it’s quite good. And it offers a full API as well, so that developers can create their own Wave applications. On top of that, the Wave protocol is all open source and so, much like email, it has the potential to be adopted on a global scale.

For those that don’t know what I’m harping on about, Wave is described by Google as “what email would be if it were invented today”. I’d describe it as a combination of email, instant messaging, and online collaboration. It’s pretty awesome, and it’s the little differences between Wave and older tech, such as emails and IM, that make it great. It’s useful, for example, to be able to see what users are typing in their ‘blips’ as they’re actually typing. Of course, that’s just one of the many little bows on a much larger present, and not really the meat and bones of the application. I mean, instant messenger clients allow you to see that someone is typing on their end, but they don’t allow you to see what they’re typing, like Wave does. With Wave, you can formulate responses before the other person has even finished typing. ‘Tis magic!

You can also have multiple people collaborating in a single wave, in much the same way you can invite many people to an IM conversation. Having lots of people all being able to input their thoughts/links/videos etc in one place can be awesome, if a bit chaotic. And the great thing is, you can edit each other’s blips (unlike email and IM communication). You can make your waves public or private, which means everyone can view a wave, or only specific people can view it, depending on the settings, and you can view a complete history of the wave in the form of an animated time-line. This means you can see exactly who changed what at any given point.

The possibilities and uses for Google Wave are endless. An example I mentioned a few months ago when it was first released is aimed at students: imagine being in a lecture, and there are a number of you who would ordinarily be taking lecture notes independently of each other. Now, imagine one or two of you have a netbook that you can take into the lecture, and you start a wave for that lecture. You can invite as many students as you want to the wave, allowing them access to read and edit it, and you can all work together during the lecture to complete the lecture notes, modifying each other’s text as you go. At the end of the lecture, you’ll have complete lecture notes as entered by the people who had netbooks in the lecture, and everyone else who was invited can make their own notes in the wave at their leisure. The great thing about that is, everyone will have the lecture notes when it comes to exam time, and as everyone contributed to the wave at some point, the notes will be far more thorough and complete than if each person made their own notes separately from each other.

I know I may have whinged a lot about technology and web development recently (and if not, I should have, as I’ve gotten rather bored of the 9-to-5 droll lately) but it’s things like Google Wave that re-ignite my interest in web development. If you haven’t tried it out yet, read the recent blog post about it, and give it a go!

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