I’ve worked really hard over the last couple of days to make sense of the Google Wave demo from the weekend. I’ve actually taken three days to watch the demo and I have to say I am both a bit stunned and impressed. Clearly this is a huge move and one that has big implications for all of us in the .edu space. If it will be ultimately successful as a product I can’t say quite yet — I was not lucky enough to be there and to get a developer account. I’m not even going to attempt to do a review or an overview … there are plenty of those available online and the demo gives a good a view as you are going to get for the time being.
There are a couple of things I do want to throw out as reactions and see if anyone else is thinking about this stuff — and I will be wanting to talk about it when we run into each other. The first thing that comes to mind is how obvious this all is — I mean once I’d seen it. They released the tool that so many people I spend time with are always talking about, typicaly in terms like “wouldn’t it be cool if we could just edit this document in real time and just blah, blah, blah.” In so many ways, it is a real representation of the many conversations I’ve had the last several years. Once I started to see how documents could be authored in such a naturally collaborative fashion I was sold. I’ve honestly not seen something so paradigm bending in a single demo in quite a long time.
Just the portion of the demo where they are collaboritivly editing a Wave that gets instantly published to a blog is mind blowing. When anyone can wander up to that blog post and drop comments or edits and it flows back into the Wave I was beyond astonished. I can now use a blog for a big class and have every single conversation happen in real time either in that blog or in my Wave client (if that is even a real thing). Instead of browsing to sites (even via an RSS reader) I can just stay in Wave and watch all of the conversations happen. Everything I need to do can live there — I think. If it really does pull together email, Twitter, and Herculean-powered google doc like features then I can only begin to see how this can change how we use technology in the classroom. Sign me up for that as my google for education suite — you can keep the rest.
And that is one of the other things that just blows my mind … Google previewed something that could make so much of their other stuff obsolete (even before much of it comes out of beta). Honestly, why would I use separate spaces for email, collaborative document creation, project management, communication, publishing, form building, and conversations of every shape and size when I can simply live in the Wave environment. Until I see it I can’t say for sure, but so far I am impressed.
As I was watching the demo I was hanging out with my friend and colleague, Scott McDonald. Scott and I taught a course together that has gotten some press for our use of Twitter … as we are watching this demo we kept chomping at the bit to give it a go next Spring. What it left me wondering was if this will be viewed as a massively disruptive environment like nearly all the other social platforms are, or if it will be welcomed into our teaching and learning environments? It seems to have so much of what we’d want from a platform that the implications for our work is enormous. I have to say I am very anxious to see how it plays with several of the ideas Scott and I have been tossing around.
The timing is amazing as well … just as we and so many others are entering into transitional periods with our LMS/CMS environments Wave has come along and shattered our notions of what it means to use the web as a platform to empower real time conversations. I know the traditional systems cannot catch up to something like this in time, it is quite frankly just too damn insane of an environment for them to latch onto. This isn’t like bolting a blogging platform to an existing code base, this is about rethinking the way we do things together face to face and online. It is about completely rethinking learning, teaching, authoring, sharing, collaborating, and so much more. I wonder if the rest of you feel as energized by the potential? From where I am sitting, this could be the start of what is next on so many levels.