The Lumber Room

"Consign them to dust and damp by way of preserving them"

First thoughts on Google Wave

with 6 comments

Just saw the demo for Google Wave. It’s impressive and ambitious. It’s hard to describe, but it’s a collaborative real-time thing (think Google Docs for everything) that can work like email, IM, blogs, forums, whatever you want — and can be embedded into, or integrates with, apparently everything: Orkut, Blogger, Google Maps, Google Code (the bug tracker), Twitter, etc. (They’ve already fulfilled the annoying-word requirement, by creating “twave”.)

They say it’s a “product, platform and protocol”.

I can see myself using this. (And thinking of the privacy implications (or the having-your-data-out-there-in-the-cloud-somewhere implications), it’s bloody scary.)

They’ve got pretty amazing sync. Search results and messages get updated in real time character-by-character, and the latter seems to make people cheer as if they’ve never seen good old talk.

Finally someone had the “playback” idea I have been trying to propose for years. (I was calling it the “undo bar” or “edit history bar”, or more recently “Time Machine for Emacs”, but whatever.) You can “play back” the edit history of a document (“wave”), seeing what changes each person made and in what order, and when the “wave” is a chess game, you can play back the chess game. Perfect.

They variously say it will be open-sourced, or that “a lion’s share of the code” will be open-sourced, but let’s hold off believing that until we see it. It’s extensible, so you can add your plugins to it. It’s a protocol, so you can write your own implementations of it. It’s a platform, so you can run it on your own servers. Now someone add a LaTeX compiler to it, and collaborative work with LaTeX will finally be possible.

If you have 80 minutes to spare, here’s the video, or an article at TechCrunch.

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Written by S

Fri, 2009-05-29 at 21:35:55 +05:30

Posted in Uncategorized

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6 Responses

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  1. Very interesting and useful post. Will have to see the video later (it’s not free time that’s the constraint, free Internet time is the important thing to consider :) ). Have been meaning to use something like Git for a long time, but the need hasn’t arisen, and the way I collaborate, I assume responsibility for all the TeXing (and hold up my co-authors :) ). It’s a Mac-only solution, but do you have any idea of how SubEthaEdit stacks up against these tools? Maybe we can write something together :)

    S P Suresh

    Sat, 2009-05-30 at 10:26:35 +05:30

    • No, I haven’t tried either SubEthaEdit or Gobby. But what we need is not a collaborative text-editor… (people have their own preferences for their text editors; there’s no way I’m giving up Emacs or convincing someone else to use it. :P) What we need is something that will handle the merge/sync/updates well. Version control systems (svn/git) can do that, and they seem the best way to work right now, but it’s hard to convince everyone to install and learn these tools. Also, tracking changes requires external tools, but Mediawiki / this Wave’s “playback” thing handle diffs well.

      Shreevatsa

      Sat, 2009-05-30 at 14:04:12 +05:30

  2. Google keeps making their applications easier to use while hiding ever-increasing layers of complexity from us. It’s debilitating (in the Is-Google-Making-Us-Stupid sense) and fascinating at the same time. I haven’t seen the video yet, but I’m willing to wager Wave just notched this up several steps.

    On Emacs (and Text Editors): I searched for Emacs in The Lumber Room archives just now. I possess the kind of mind that is easily swayed by opinions, and browsing through the search results, I ended up being entirely enamored. (Curse you, etc.)
    (A week from now, I’ll read claims of “Vi is Zen” and the like, and switch back. The keybindings in my head… ow.)

    karthik

    Sun, 2009-05-31 at 08:37:01 +05:30

    • Well, hiding complexity is a noble goal for (some) software. :-) The ultimate design goal, of course, is that the user’s model should coincide with the program’s model… so while it is often bad to oversimplify and present to users a model that is at odds with how the program works internally, it should be fine when the program is sufficiently well-designed.

      Emacs: Really? Wow :) And I haven’t even made public all my opinionated ramblings ;) But really, don’t use Emacs, all experienced Emacs users think it sucks but just prefer it to everything else. (This is true of most big software, I guess…)

      Shreevatsa

      Sun, 2009-05-31 at 13:47:44 +05:30

      • Having watched the video, I’m forced to abandon all reservations and go along with the ride. The Command Line UI (was it ncurses based?) was what won me over! (Damn you, Google.)

        On editor wars inside my head: I have a .emacs file running well into eight score lines and I nearly made it through the ELisp Introduction, so I’m not exactly setting foot into uncharted waters. It’s just that I happen to be (perpetually) precariously poised at the boundary between Vi-love and Emacs-adulation. A small push drops me over either way, but I climb back onto the boundary anyway. {sigh}

        karthik

        Sun, 2009-05-31 at 16:59:00 +05:30


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