I know a lot of you don't have time for (or interest in) keeping up with technology news, so I thought I'd take a moment to tell you about something that's got a lot of us geeks all a-Twitter (literally). It's called Google Wave (see the very looonnnggg (nearly 1.5 hrs), very tech-oriented video here).
The Short News
Google Wave looks to be a great tool for interaction and collaboration. Rather than communicating as by email or IM, where you wait for someone to finish typing and respond to them, you will be able to talk or edit within your browser almost concurrently. For example, If you create a Wave and drop a bunch of pictures into it, both you and the people you're conversing with can work to edit the titles of the photos almost at the same time.
Image via Tothetech.com
You can bring other people into your conversation at any time and they don't necessarily have to be using Google Wave. If they need to catch up on what the conversation was before they came into it, they can click on the "playback" button to unwind the conversation from the beginning.
While in the Wave, you can drag and drop pictures, videos, diagrams, anything else you need to share. You can collaborate on documents and save the changes in revisions, if you want to.
Extensions, like those provided in FireFox, can be made to extract items and copy them to other applications - for example, filing programming "bug" reports by highlighting them in a Wave conversation. Other extensions can translate into other languages on the fly, determine spelling by context (to vs too vs two), create quick polls, reorganize data, and even export to a blog where comments can be captured live in either the blog or the Wave.
Sounds Great for Developers and Mouse Potatoes, But What About My Small Nonprofit?
How about being able to have quick and useful discussions that result in a document or plan of action without having to wait for someone to gather everything said and turn it into something more useful than conversation?
How about getting a quick poll about what step to take next?
How about being able to look up something online without leaving the conversation and then embed the link into the conversation so everyone can see it? Or dragging and dropping pics, video, maps or charts whenever they're needed and then being able to update them right in the conversation hours or days later so that anyone who refreshes the conversation can see the changes right there instead of having to have them sent out again via email?
There's even a way to have a caucus, including some participants and excluding others, without detection, so you could talk over the finer points of an online negotiation without worry.
Not Here Yet
These are just some of the things that Google Wave will be capable of. Most of the code will be released into the wild so that others can build their own version of Wave while still making it possible for everyone to still communicate, much as you can receive email from or send email to other people, regardless of how they get their email. But the best part of the code being available is that software developers will take it and do some interesting things with it - things that even Google doesn't anticipate and is looking forward to (much like the maps mashups that were developed when they released Google Maps).
Right now, the software is not in release and even developers need an invitation from Google. But keep your eyes open for developments on Google Wave. It may very well change the way you think about online communication and collaboration.
If you're still unsure what Google Wave might help with, check out this article from LifeHacker with some use case scenarios. I think you'll be convinced.