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Author Erica Ridley's blog: Erica Writes Romance

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Writers Catch the Wave: Why Google Rocks

Google Wave will change at least one writer's life:

Confession: I watched half the video, only because I fell into a dead swoon and couldn't handle it anymore. If you, too, were overwhelmed by awesomeness (or simply didn't have 1.5h to spare) here are some highlights from the segments my brain recorded before it exploded:

[begin fangirl propaganda]

Basically, what Google did is this: They said to themselves, "Google, what's the most popular internet activity? Email, right? Shame we didn't invent it. Hey... what if we did? Like, reinvented it? But made it so bad-ass it also eclipsed every other internet activity on Earth?"

And so they created Google Wave, which will apparently be available later this year.

Why I Fainted Dead Away:

* It's email, it's chat, it's Picasa, it's Facebook, it's Hi5, it's MySpace, it's Blogger, it's GoogleTalk, it's YouTube, it's Twitter, it's every bulletin board system or message threading forum or email listserv you've ever laid eyes on--all in one.

* This is accomplished by thinking of each of those elements of part of a greater element, which is a conversation they call a "wave". (Possibly because the Australian team programmed it, and Aussies have surfing on the brain.)

* Like Gmail, the central server hosts each wave (conversation) without downloading it to your desktop. Also like Gmail, you get a multi-window dashboard upon login and your contacts have photo icons. /end similarities

* Say you want to start a wave (conversation) with one or more pals. You either start to type part of a name into the box (old-school style) or you drag and drop a contact icon.

* Next, you start to type. If you make typos, Wave automatically corrects them as you go. No more of that red-squiggle or wait-until-the-end-then-run-spell-check nonsense.

* If one of the intended recipients happens to be online in their wave in this moment, they see your message. As you're typing it. Without having to wait for that annoying "Bob is typing a message" status to go away and the words to finally appear!!!

* (Note: just in case there's some reason you want your contact to remain in agony as you go check your laundry and feed your cat, totally forgetting you have your response half-typed on your screen, there is a checkbox to hide replies until sent.)

* This means that unlike present-day instant messaging, which in comparison is not all that instant, you get to spend 100% of your time reading and/or responding to the wave.

* If your friend wants to reply to any portion of your wave (which at this moment looks like an email, or perhaps a Word doc crammed with charts and lists and tables etc) she can highlight any portion (ie, your question about "How much do I owe you for the handcuffs?") and type her answer. Don't think email-style reply. Think comment bubbles in Microsoft Word. In-line. (With the cute little gtalk photo icon. Heh.)

* You, in return, can reply to that specific comment, rather than reply to the entire email. And your comment appears in-line, right beneath the other person's comment. Instantly-instantly. As you type each word! (Writers: think what this means for scene or synopsis critiquing! or email loops!! And just wait--there's more!)

* If one or more other recipients is online, this byplay can burst into IM-style chatting, right at the exact relevant portion of the initial conversation. And if the topic changes, all they have to do is highlight the new relevant section, and the subsequent chat embeds right there. Or if they stray completely off topic, click somewhere else in the wave and start a new thread.

* This means that, like a message board, there can be a seperate topic that receives multiple comments, each of which can subsequently receive commens of their own, except, unlike a message board, the threads can branch out anywhere, at any time, dividing the original message into innumerable subparts (again, think critting! Or listserves and writing loops!!) as well as dividing long-winded replies into innumerable subparts.

* Also, completely unlike a message board but more like Word's track changes feature, in addition to comments (or just typing anywhere willy-nilly in the wave, which you are still able to do) you can make changes directly to the original (or any previous) text, written by absolutely anyone. It shows up on their end track-changes style. And someone can correct your corrections, and so on.

* AND, in case the visual wasn't clear, all this appears to you (and everyone on the wave, even if they weren't online to witness the magic) as one single email. Gone, gone, gone are the days of a billion copies of the same message scrolling on into infinity. It's one thing! But with live action! You can watch it all happening!

* So let's say we want to add our favorite critique parter Jane to the wave, now that we've been chattering on it for four days. If this were a normal email, we'd forward the whole shebang, and when she got it, her initial response would be "WTF". (Also, if this were normal email, she might've been forwarded the not-quite last email and someone could be replying to a different one and then suddenly there's five different email versions out there and nobody knows what's happening.) But this is not a normal email. All we do is add Jane to the wave, and Bam! She gets the whole thing.

* So now Jane is looking at a drafted, critted, revised, recritted, rerevised scene. But in her wave, it looks pristine and beautiful, without any of those pesky track-changes highlights. She can read like a reader, and if she wants to bleed red all over it, she can do so. But what if she then wonders how this totally awesome scene got so damn awesome in the first place? Easy peasy: she clicks "Playback" at the top of the wave, and it reverts back to the very first message ever typed, and moves forward in time, screen by screen, PowerPoint style, until the present. How cool is that?

* But just in case that's not quite cool enough for you, here's this: Unlike PowerPoint, each screen of the wave is totally editable, readable, copyable, pasteable, chattable, and replyable. So if the scene actually sucks monkeyballs, she can say, "Here's where you went wrong: You listened to Erica's comment and edited the life out of an otherwise perfect slice of awesomeness and now the whole thing sucks. Go back to this point and add a throwaway line about X, and it'll be perfect."

* And then, of course, you can! Or, if I happen to be online and see that little tidbit before you do, maybe there's a few choice things I want to say that I don't want Jane to read. (Like, "Who added the crazy bitch to the wave?!") I can do one of two things: I can reply like normal but mark my reply as "private" (and indicate whether I just want it to go to one person, or everyone but one person, or whatever tf I want) or I can click "Copy into new wave" and effectively cut Jane back out of the loop.

* Other ways "copy into new wave" is cool: You can copy whatever you want. You can copy the entire wave. You can copy the completed wave. (Ex: you want to send someone--agent, editor, beta reader, mom--your scene without giving them the history playback ability.) You want to send just the embedded attachments, like photos of your kids without the accompanying story of how they came down with a case of violent projectile diarrhea during mass. All one-click easy.

* While we're on the topic (of photos, not diarrhea) the file sharing goes like this: to add photo(s) to a wave, just drag and drop those puppies in from anywhere they happen to be, and bam. Thumbnails of each image show up instantly on the other participants screen, even before the full images are done uploading from your hard drive. And, if one of your wave participants happens to be, say, your blog (and no, it doesn't have to be blogger, it can be WordPress or something you code yourself or anything) then the photos show up on your blog. Instantly. In real time.

* This means, if I happen to be reading your blog and I see the real time awesomeness of your photos being uploaded, maybe I'll leave a comment, like, "You are eight shades of fabulous! Please run for president!" And because you instantly get this comment in your wave, IM-style, you can respond IM-style--and that response shows up for me, the blog reader with no wave account, instantly! Instantly-instantly, as you type each word, before my very eyes! How bad-ass is that?? I can even watch as you go through and put captions on each photo, and so on--everything is real-time live action!

* AND, the whole thing is open-source with ready-made developer APIs, which is a fancy way of saying anybody anywhere can program their own websites or applications that embed wave technology (as in the blog example above, but can be applied to any concept--schools, any given message board / forum, etc) and/or anybody anywhere can program their own add-ons to enhance and integrate with wave technology (think facebook applications, wordpress widgets). And now think of them all as instant real-time interaction!

I really, really think this could completely change the way people communicate with each other, across the world and door to door. (There's already crazy multi-language support in the sense that someone can be adding to your wave in right-to-left arabic script while you're writing in left-to-write and someone else is commenting in their native Chinese characters and it all appears there, together, real-time.)

I don't have time to type every single feature, but suffice it to say: the idea of removing the need to have separate applications (a file sharing program, a chat program, an email program, a social networking program, a photo sharing program, blogging software, instant messaging software, etc, etc) and to have it all rolled into one with the absolutely mind-boggling addition of it being even more instantaneous than instantaneous, live on your screen, whether you're in your wave dashboard or not--Wow. /re-swoon

[end fangirl propaganda]


sylvia said...

Wow, I better find that tickbox, fast.

Everything showing up as it is being typed would be the end of me!

Sean T said...

Glad to see other raving fans of the concept.

One correction (sort of) though. You were probably right when you said the name Wave was "Possibly because the Australian team programmed it...".

The name was inspired by the Firefly television series in which a Wave is an electronic communication (often consisting of a video call or video message). During the developer preview, a number of references were made to the series such as Lars Rasmussen replying to a message with "shiny", a word commonly used in the series to mean cool/good, and the crash message of Wave being a popular quote from the series "Curse your sudden but inevitable betrayal!". (from Wikipedia)

Sandra D. Coburn said...

I'm with Silvia on the tickbox. The best thing about writing as opposed to speaking, imho, is that communication doesn't start until I hit send -- so I can craft a letter that really makes my point. When I am chatting with my friends, I don't care about the occasional mistake -- but not when I am e-mailing a business associate or trying to handle a sensitive issue.

I also have been known to type venomous messages in a fit of anger -- messages which never get sent, because by the time I come to the end, I come to my senses.

One other weird thing -- I hate web-based mail. I like downloading mail to my desktop. Yes, I know it takes a lot of space on the hard drive, but somehow, it feels more secure. Web-based mail feels like it is out there for all the world to read. Remember that toilet in Houston? That's the way I feel about web-based mail. Maybe no one else can see in, but it feels like they can. :-P

I also like desktop mail because I can read and answer previously-downloaded mail when I don't have a connection available. As soon as I do, I hit send and all is well with the world.

The rest is intriguing, so I will go watch the video. If you're a fangirl, it must be good.

Lauren said...

They should hire you to help with the marketing :) Seriously, great review and very exciting. I can't wait for it to come out either :)