First impressions of Google Wave

First look at Google Wave
First look at Google Wave

I received my Google Wave invitation last night and promptly setup my account. Here are my first impressions:

  • At first glance, I love the interface. It’s very clean and easy on the eyes.
  • Waves seem to be a mashup of wiki pages, blog postings, IM messages, and emails all rolled into one interface. Right now I have no one to Wave with (I have sent out a few invitations though…). I’m looking forward to seeing how tracking multiple waves works — will it be difficult to keep track of all of the data.
  • One very impressive feature is that you can go offline with Google Wave and then reconnect to sync your waves back up to the server. Finally, I have a cross-platform Groove-like solution that I asked for back in 2005.
  • Now I just need the invites that I sent out to be delivered so I can work with someone else…
  • This would be a brilliant way for our professors and students to work together on collaborative writing projects. In our M.Ed. program, when writing one’s action research project, you have critical colleagues who work with you to critique and edit your drafts in an iterative approach to building your thesis project.
  • I wonder what security is like. My connection to wave.google.com is over an https connection. As extensions are developed, it will be important to review them to ensure that connections to the extension provider are made over an https connection. Additionally, if authentication for third party services is shared (Twitter, WordPress, Evernote, etc), how will users make sure that their account credentials are not passed over a cleartext connection?

That’s all for now. I’ll post more once I have someone to Wave with…

Desktop or local wiki solutions

I’m thinking about offline or local wiki solutions that can run in a lab or on a classroom computer. Next week, we’ll be discussing web-based solutions that can work in the classroom and I’m hoping to put together a list of solutions that will work even in a classroom with only one computer.

So far, I have the following solutions:

  • Swiki (http://wiki.squeak.org/swiki/)–the first wiki I ever deployed. It has served us well for many years and can run on just about any old computer (Mac OS 9, Mac OS X, Windows 2000-Vista).
  • Tiddlywiki (http://www.tiddlywiki.com)–a new favorite. This gem can be run from your local hard drive or uploaded to a server and served up over HTTP.
  • MoinMoin desktop edition–This is a Python based wiki that is quite functional. I have not had a chance to use it much though.

What are you using for a standalone wiki engine?

Found a great offline blog editor

I’m working on the next issue of the ICCTE Journal, which I recently moved from Plone to WordPress. We generally have our copy ready articles in either RTF or Word format. To prepare them for production in a web environment, I have relied upon a number of methods in the past from hand coding to using the HTML editor in Moodle to purge Word’s HTML cruft before posting the production ready copy into my CMS.

This will be our second issue in WordPress so I was rethinking my workflow and how I could most efficiently convert from Word and RTF format into WordPress. After a quick Google search for offline blog editors, I found a reference to the fact that Word 2007 can be used as an offline blog editor to post directly to your blog (it supports WordPress and a number of other blog engines).

Now, I know what your thinking–Word as offline HTML/blog editor? What is that going to do to my HTML? Well, surprisingly enough, with careful use of the Clear Formatting tool in Word, you can achieve extremely clean HTML in your postings.

So far, I’m very happy and very greatful that I can prepare a document directly in Word and then use the Publsh command to upload it to WordPress. Unfortunately, right now it doesn’t let me specifiy whether I want it to create a page or a post, but I can live with that.

Compared to my experience before with offline blog editors, Word 2007 is an excellent option, particularly if it’s already part of your workflow.

GMail can’t stop adding the value-add

It never ceases to amaze me how Google continues to add the value-add to their products. Gmail is far and away the best web-based email application available today. It blows away all other web based email applications that I have used in the last 10 years…Outlook Web Access, Yahoo, Hotmail, Rocketmail, Squirrelmail, and Horde all pale in comparison. Here’s why Gmail’s on top:

  • Keyboard shortcuts: I live all day long using my laptop(s) and it’s critical that I can navigate quickly between emails. One fingered archiving and replying is brilliant. Gmail combines the accessibility of the web, with the keyboardness of Mutt.
  • Integrated chat: I don’t have to run an additional client to be accessible via chat — open up one browser window and I’m connected to my personal enterprise email as well as my professional chat client. Also, today it would appear that Google announced the ability to access your AIM chat via GTalk in GMail, so now I can stay in touch with not only my GTalk friends & colleagues, but also my friends who have AIM accounts. Now that’s value-add.
  • Anywhere email. With GMail as my primary email account, I don’t have to worry about which client I have loaded on a particular computer nor which platform I am accessing the account from. I don’t have to worry about IMAP access to my Exchange server not being quite up to snuff. I don’t have to worry about developing an anti-spam solution…no, with GMail, anti-spam is there and it just works.
  • Google Docs — with my Google account, I have immediate access to gigs and gigs of storage where I can store all sorts of web-based word processing, spreadsheet, and presentation files. In addition to having browser-based access to these documents, I can also invite other colleagues from around the planet to collaborate with me on these docs. No training, no costly apps, no training them how to use a wiki…it’s just there, and it works, and it’s free.

So, what are you waiting for? It’s time to switch.

Research Tools

So what tools are you using to manage your research data? My favorite tool for storing and categorizing my bibliographic information is Endnote. I basically use Endnote because I love its ability to switch to multiple standards such as Turabian or APA. If I have a paper that needs to be reformatted from APA to Chicago, all I have to do is tell Microsoft Word to reformat my paper with Chicago and instantly all of my references and bibliography formatting are changed. My colleague also recommended to me to use Endnote as my note taking tool for keeping track of research notes for the books that I’m reading. That way, I’m able to have that information at my disposal when I’m writing. Finally, I love how I can download and link PDF versions of documents into my Endnote database. The PDF versions of my documents travel with my Endnote library and I’m able to have those documents with me, even when I don’t have access to my library or our electronic journal databases.

There are many other options available, both new and old, that you can use for managing your reference lists. For the old school geeky types, there’s always LaTeX and BibTeX. There are also some great Web 2.0 apps available that are free such as BibMe, EasyBib (MLA is free, APA is $7.99 a year), and there is always zotero, a Firefox extension that offers some great tools for keeping track of references within Firefox.