Thursday, October 15, 2009

Google Wave vs. Google Docs

I've been a GDocs user for a while now, in great part because I like its commitment to collaboration. I even have students use it to peer review papers and turn in papers to me. (Reactions have been generally positive.)

So as I begin using the alpha version of Google Wave, I've been trying to figure out where it fits. After all, Docs and Wave do seem to overlap in at least one function, collaborating on documents. Here are some tentative thoughts I posted to my Twitter feed a couple of days ago:
  • GDocs has better readout of revision history, but Wave alerts you to unseen changes and puts your collaborators across the top.
  • GDocs embeds comments; Wave splits wave sections (blips) when you comment on a portion of the wave. Document vs. Hyperforum.
  • Wave has stronger mashup potential because it doesn't closely imitate conventional docs. But it is weak now because extensions are scarce.
  • GDocs is better for working with documents in more structured, turn-taking collaborations. Wave may be better in agile or synchronized collaboration.
  • GDocs kills email pingpong (sending versions of documents as attachments, which leads to version control issues). Perhaps Wave kills the idea of documents?
Let's think of it this way. GDocs adds capabilities to the word processors we all know. In fact, GDocs' button bar looks a lot like older versions of MS Word. It uploads Word documents. It does Word- or Works-like things. It starts with the molar unit of the document and adds collaboration.

Wave starts with collaboration, and adds capabilities to produce different sorts of genres within that collaborative paradigm. Documents are just one.

So Wave will have a higher learning curve (as I can attest) and will be less specialized for producing documents. Consequently, it's not as well honed for producing traditional documents. But it's a more general collaborative tool.

As Wave is developed, I expect that we'll see Google giving its API a workout to increase interoperability with GDocs and other services. But I'm not sure if we'll see a collapse between the services, which are still doing rather different things.


Bill said...

from my admittedly limited view of it so far, a Wave embodies speech act theory; in this way, it reminds me a lot of the work Winograd & Flores did a long time ago. Here's a nice bib that traces that line of work:

Clay Spinuzzi said...

Good point. I haven't looked at speech-act theory (or W&F) in a while. I should dust that off soon.

Duckworth said...

This is an interesting topic. In fact, the title is the exact search term I used :)

It would be nice to see a revist to this in a month or so and with greater depth and possibly some ideas about how to use the two platforms together.

Personally the way I see the two working together for my purposes is to use wave as a realtime space for a business meeting where participants co-author the meeting notes based on a pre-established agenda. The final document is then sent to Google Docs as a final document.

A nice feature would be an export to Docs option.

tre3rd said...

instead of exporting it to google docs why not just show only that particular blip which everybody finished editing. that blip essentially is the document which obviates the need for gdocs as it is redundant. basically every single link you visit on the internet would be a wavelet if it was published to everyone. I admit there is a bit of a learning curve to get used to with wave especially if you come into a wave with a long history and alot of participants but ultimately it makes alot more sense and ironically is simpler. the term Simplexity comes to mind