Chris Alexander

On Engineering

Google Wave for Collaborative Writing

2nd November, 2009

Recently I was asked to take part in a new venture of the This Is Me project at the University of Reading. Following the recent extended beta of Google Wave, it was thought that it would be a really good idea to collaboratively work on some of the project inside Wave itself.

I thought it would be a great way to further investigate the possible applications of Google Wave. Cynics of the application have cited that there seems no real uses for it at the moment, and that while Google have created a very cool tool, no-one seems to think they can use it for anything that’s not covered by software that already exists.

Here’s why I think they’re wrong, and why Google Wave has so much potential.

Even in the couple of hours I was using Wave for this particular project, I found out exactly how good Wave can be for this collaborative editing.

Simply being able to add comments directly below what other people have written (and correcting typos) is a massive benefit - and it works a whole lot better than Google Docs, and definitely beats everything else.

In addition to this, you can embed content, links, images, docs and even more, making it a richer experience than if you were editing in other platforms such as IM.

As I said in my introduction to Google Wave (#713), you can think of the platform as a mashup between Google Talk, Google Mail and Google Docs with a bit of magic sprinkled on top (Wave is actually built on top of the Jabber protocol, which Talk uses). When you think about how Mail revolutionised how we communicate with e-mail, the advantages of IM when working together remotely, and how document collaboration has evolved to real-time with Google Docs. And it is the benefits that Wave gets from combining these products that makes it such a great platform to work with.

Essentially this whole experience, for me, compounds why I thought Google Wave would be revolutionary and incredibly useful from the offset. The sheer flexibility of the platform, and the way it can be used by many or few with ease at the same time, makes Google Wave excellent for this collaborative editing and many other applications.