Google Wave Will Revolutionize Collaborative Genealogy

Google is going through a process of invit­ing 100,000 “early adopters” of to their new offer­ing, Wave. It may be a few months before just any­one can sign up.

To see what’s in store, you could watch the 80 minute video that they admit them­selves is “loooong.” Or, you could watch their 8 minute video, with a brief sum­mary of the product.

Google Wave is a tremen­dously pow­er­ful plat­form that will change the way geneal­ogy and fam­ily his­tory are done. Users of Wave cre­ate “waves,” which are some­thing between con­ver­sa­tions, e-mail mes­sages, col­lab­o­ra­tive author­ing ses­sions, video and pic­ture shar­ing, blog author­ing, and so many more things.

The key tech­nol­ogy involved in Wave, though, that makes it bet­ter than every other avail­able prod­uct for col­lab­o­ra­tive author­ing is that it allows for near real-time com­mu­ni­ca­tion. If I send you an e-mail, I have to wait for you to read it. If I write a blog entry, and I’m col­lab­o­rat­ing with another author, I have to save my draft, then tell them to take a look. Even if I’m “instant mes­sag­ing,” I still spend a good por­tion of the time wait­ing for a response and star­ing at a mes­sage that say some­thing like, “So-and-so is typ­ing.” But with Google Wave, I can see my cor­re­spon­dant type at the same time that I’m typ­ing. The con­ver­sa­tion is not ser­ial, but par­al­lel — we are both talk­ing at the same time. It’s more like an actual con­ver­sa­tion. When we work together on a doc­u­ment, we can each make edits wher­ever in the doc­u­ment we need to, and this can hap­pen simul­ta­ne­ously as fast as we can type.

So why will this mat­ter to geneal­o­gists? If you are work­ing with a dis­tant cousin on a dif­fi­cult prob­lem in the fam­ily his­tory, you can put together your evi­dence and be able to eval­u­ate it, and each of you edit it at any time. You can also roll back the con­ver­sa­tion to any point in the his­tory of it. You can cap­ture the con­ver­sa­tion at a spe­cific point and export it to another Wave. You can add other mem­bers of the Wave, and they can see the whole his­tory of the evo­lu­tion of the con­ver­sa­tion or doc­u­ment. Images can be added through drag and drop. The sys­tem can per­form simul­ta­ne­ous word-by-word trans­la­tions into a num­ber of lan­guages. The con­tex­tual spell checker knows that “icland is and icland” should prob­a­bly read “Ice­land is an island.”

For geneal­o­gists, this will be a pow­er­ful envi­ron­ment for work­ing together on com­mon research, for work­ing on the bylaws and stand­ing rules of the local genealog­i­cal soci­ety, and for author­ing real-time col­lab­o­ra­tive blogs. Don’t be sur­prised if the 2010 or 2011 NGS Con­fer­ence Blogs are writ­ten in Google Wave and then posted using the Bloggy robot in a stan­dard blog format.

Google Wave will also be a way for pro­fes­sional geneal­o­gists to share the notes they make on the way to their reports with their clients.

And don’t be sur­prised if, when work­ing with a researcher search­ing for Gra­hams in the same county in South­ern West Vir­ginia you are, you find your­self not both­er­ing with e-mail, but instead invite them to dis­cuss it over Google Wave.

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