08 January 2007

writing in common (with google docs)

you getting this
Yeah very cool
this changes things, huh?
truly revolutionary bru

These were our first words on screen when sometime yesterday morning, DS - in Johannesburg - and jaysen - in Algiers - decided to check out google's collaborative authoring tools. I know what you thinking, and you right, we're are a little geeky. But now that we got that out of the way we can say, without fear of ridicule or censure...THIS SHIT IS FUCKING IMPRESSIVE. We were so impressed that we decided to test it with a joint blog.

First, We got there via http://docs.google.com. So far, google have come up with word processor and spreadsheet web applications done with some fancy AJAX. It imports/exports from/to openoffice, word, excel, html, and pdf and runs off your browser. The interface is pretty much what you get with most office applications. What makes this so cool is that any number of people, anywhere in the world, can be working on the same document at the same time with changes appearing almost instantaneously. (We did notice some delay creeping in sometimes, but not often)

The only shit thing we've found so far is that it doesn't allow footnotes. Although it transports footnotes from word documents as anchors in the text, its a bit of a pain to have create a new anchor every-time you add a footnote (DS likes footnotes).

There is an almost direct and linear progression from the wiki idea, or at least, the collaborative part of the wiki idea (not the unique funkiness of wiki's massively linked network of nodes - yes, we're both fans of wiki as well). But the collaboration with this tool just seems so much more immediate and realtime -with changes appearing almost as soon as others can make them during simultaneous use, with an excellent revision control system (the latter allows you to track changes in the document, literally, to the second. although the increments of time get larger the further back you go).
Add the extra dimension of a skypecall, and this becomes a dangerously powerful tool. Truly revolutionary. In fact, we're thinking, this might even be better than working together in the same room.

Apart from footnotes, the only drawback we experienced has less to do with software, and more to do with the singularity of each of our styles of writing and ways thinking. But the gap, if you can call it that, is the real tension that creativity springs from. Its a good thing even if takes working through