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…

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.

Happy Birthday Tiddlywiki

I ran across a great interview with Jeremy Ruston, the developer Tiddlywiki, last night. His story and work is very good. If you haven’t used a wiki before, Tiddlywiki is a great way to get started. The power with it lies in the fact that it runs as a file on your computer — doesn’t need a server — and makes for a great information capture device (just wish it would work with an iPhone — there’s hope as I think Jeremy has one and is working on this).

Tiddlywiki is unique in that the magic doesn’t happen via PHP, MySQL, and Apache. Rather, it all happens locally on the browser powered by Javascript. There are numerous different flavors of Tiddlywiki out there as well catering to GTD’ers. I appreciate being able to use it as a notetaking device that I can push up to our web-accessible document storage system. I’m toying with the idea of using it instead of something like Wikispaces or other solutions like Highrise for tracking contacts and projects.

I’ve seen at Moodle.org that the developers of the next generation wiki for Moodle have included the ability to synchronize a Moodle wiki with Tiddlywiki — this has serious potential for our online courses. I’d love for my students & faculty to be able to have an offline wiki tool available to them.

Are you using Tiddlywiki? Let me know how via a comment below.

LMS Mashups

Last year we had significant performance issues with the chat module in our LMS. Under heavy load, it would bring our server to its knees. We performed several adjustments and battle tested the configuration but we were unable to keep chat from overloading our server. To solve the problem, we decided to mashup an instance of Campfire into our LMS and had wonderful results. If you haven’t used Campfire, you should give it a try (a free account lets you chat with 5 users). The results were excellent and after a little bit of adjustment our users found that they really liked it. The only thing that was missing was the ability to have a picture or avatar next to messages that each user typed (I’m sure that’s coming soon though).

This sort of scenario brings up a good question though…How should a university respond to the current push for mashing up different technologies into existing solutions for LMS and CMS? What sorts of standards or guidelines should be set for faculty who want to innovate with technology? In my experience, it doesn’t make sense to try to squash innovation by those on the leading edge. Eventually, the best work that they do finds its way into production as a solution for faculty and students.

For us, the mashup with Campfire has gone very well. What are you mashing up to provide teaching and learning tools for your faculty and students?