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					strategic view of wave

2009 07 17 09:58

Strategic View of Wave by Rick Thomas is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 United States License. --This was a very hard talk to prepare. Something as complex as Wave, that will affect us in many different ways, defies a single explanation. My solution has been to distill Wave into three strategic insights. And that has required that I strip away the business and technical details. Even so each of you will receive this in your own way. The time horizon is 0 to 5 years. Developers and startups should be working now - no account is needed to prototype. In fact, what you are already working on can probably be repurposed for wave. Corporations and business community interests should be looking out five years because you'll see these are truly strategic changes. So tonight I want you to think big, then tomorrow we can begin to debate specific business and technical projections. --Google introduced Wave as three layers - the Product, the Protocol, and the Platform. The three insights correspond to those layers. I will go through them twice: once to explain them and introduce each insight. Then again to bring them together in an example. Then I'll close with why I think Wave will change everything. --First, the Product is the application that you just saw. We don't know what that will turn out to be, but we can assume that it will be a strong competitor. Let's try to characterize its market segment. They specifically say that Wave is intended to be a better Email. One day it will be hosted with Gmail, Google Calendar, etc. and will significantly change our idea of the office suite of programs. It has features of wikis, weblogs, messaging, and earlier groupware products. Let's call this segment "rich collaboration tools". That segment is quite large so Wave is a challenge to many major software firms. The challenge will be answered and will drive innovation and marketing. Enterprise vendors and startups have some hard decisions. Will they offer a compatible alternative to Wave or remain a pure competitor? Meanwhile, all of us, from the one-person firm up will be more effective with better tools. The strategic insight here is simple: Google's challenge will drive "rich collaboration" to broader markets. Those new users, that is us, in turn will compete on the way we organize our work, both inside and outside the firm. This will be a virtuous cycle. --Second, the Protocol is a new proposed standard that allows fast document synchronization on the web. (That's about as technical as this presentation gets.) This is a small addition to the many internet standards, but much needed and useful far beyond Google's Wave. The big picture here is not to think of keeping one document consistent between us, but to think of the whole web of documents - the global document. (This is not so far-fetched. Google essentially treats the web as a really long string of text.)

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strategic view of wave

2009 07 17 09:58

A most of those documents could be improved with someone's help and the protocol allows them to be edited in an orderly way - orderly meaning access control including security and privacy plus version control - a complete history of who did what. This brings us back to the original concept of the web by Tim Berners-Lee, which called for reading and writing web documents. Now that is a compelling vision that broadens our view of wave. We're not talking documents that we edit and store. We're talking the global document - your unique global document and your personal wave-like client allows you to interact, edit and combine freely in it. And don't forget "fast". synchronization Let's say 10x faster. The strategic view here is a shift in perspective: each of us has a unique global document. We share parts of it with others. The changes we make are synchronized fast. Firms offering infrastructure and facilities will compete here along with small to medium startups bulding core technology. There's a lot of infrastructure to upgrade to fast read-write. By the way, the standard is to be guided by an open community process. Also, Google will be releasing open source client and server to get the developer community started. --Third, there's the Platform. This is based on de facto standards for the two types of Wave extensions - the Gadget and the Robot. A Gadget is any useful snippet of the web - an image, a small spreadsheet, a form, an article, a control panel, game board, an Amazon store, an ad, anything. Gadgets are mixed with text in a wave document. So our wave document - our global document - is as rich as the web. In fact, it is not limited to text at all but could be presented as say a game world. A Robot is any useful software function. What's interesting and provocative about robots is that they a peers to people in a wave. Robots and people in the wave have the same rights and responsiblities. Robots and people can add or remove other robots and people from the wave. Robots and people can edit any text and add any gadget. Robots and people represent the security risk in a wave. All the participants in a wave should be able to trust each other. Thus waves tend to be for small groups. Let's step back here. If gadgets are any useful snippet of the web, and robots are any useful software function, we have the component parts of any web application. And the wave is the place where we bring those parts together as needed to solve the problems at hand. This is the third insight: this is not only a marketplace as for iPhone or Facebook apps. This is more genuinely an ecosytem where the robots and gadgets are related and dynamically configured. This is the competitive landscape for hackers and small startups, though clearly Google will be offering some very advanced robots - the proprietary kind. --To summarize the insights: The drive is on to make a rich collaboration tools. We will have the opportunity and pressure to work better with them. Each of us has a unique "global document". My document is populated by various groups of people and robots. Or looking at it clearer way: My document and your document coincide in certain places. Interactions that we have will be much faster.

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strategic view of wave

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Let's take a minute to be overwhelmed by that. One rich document that represents everything that you have done or plan to do. It includes a bunch of streams of data from your physical world. Parts of the document are shared with all the people you work with. They want things fast.You have an odd assortment of software robots that help you out. They make demands on you too. A lot of opportunities fall away for lack of your attention. You see, that describes your world now and your future world with wave, unless we can see how this future will actually be better. In general the reason it is better is what in software development we call "refactoring". We will be doing the same things but the frame in which we do them is improved. Where before things were disorganized and there was no practical path to organize them, now we have a uniform concept of organization. Then, gradually, we can refactor our document and organize our groups of robots to help. This is basically how any standard helps an industry be more efficient. In this case it is all of the personal industry we express through or near the computer. Then I recognized that structure. It looks like the layers of the neocortex. --Now let's begin our second pass, beginning with usability. One of the criticisms of Wave is that it is too complex. If you've ever worked on a busy wiki - with a main document, discussions, sidebars, outlines - it's anarchy or at least disorganized. Many people are overwhelmed by email threads and prefer the telephone. Similarly, part of Twitter's success is that there is one place to write and one place to read. With wave you have to decide where to write based on what has already been written and the local conventions for structuring the document. It's true. We can't handle such an unconstrained communication model. Every community, such as Wikipedia, develops conventions and code to guide the editors to good results. Twitter has this by virtue of a simple design. Another criticism is that Google has just mashed together a bunch of old forms of communication and wrapped it in an email client. This is true, too. So much so that I think the current Wave product is a distraction from the real story. Google is/are not stupid and they haven't announced a product that will remain unusable. They plan to compete. The solution is plain: sets of robots and gadgets will be developed to provide the guides for us editors. --Here's some things we will ask robots to do: to sense patterns and notify to clean up the boring details to restate in ways that make sense to all parties to convert and apply existing data to produce a summary stream to publish to an audience to coordinate tasks and projects to run complex auctions to manage audio and video conferences

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strategic view of wave

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to supervise the other robots, and people Robots do many little jobs, making small changes to the document. Robots working together add up to big services. Where do I get my robots? In the global marketplace - or ecosystem - a massive opportunity to repurpose, reinvent and innovate in how we relate to each other and to the world. --That combines the drive to rich collaboration tools and the ecosystem of robots. Now what about "fast" global document sync? Let's take a fanciful example of where this may lead. People have some irrational biases when it comes to keeping what we already have. So we accumulate a lot of junk. To be more rational imagine that you run a continuous auction of everything you own: doorknobs, coffee cup, shirt, car, house, every business property, . ...We all want to make advantageous trades. Why should high-speed auctions be only for Wall Street and ad markets? Now narrow it down to the art hanging on your walls.You would let any of it go as long as you are happy with the replacement and the net price. Cataloging is not a problem because the data came with the painting.You choose an art auction robot and give it your strategy. (How you do that is a big question.) It could be a simplistic, free robot if you are trading commodity art. Or it could be an expensive proprietary robot if you are a collector. Now we have an astoundingly complex strategic game. The solution that makes all the robots happy might be a 20-way trade. It might require100,000 cycles of bid and rejection. Speed is essential to making this happen. Now you are thinking "That's silly. That will never happen. Besides, I'm happy with my art." But you know it will happen if it can happen. Markets will be made. Why would I want to go that fast? you ask. Because your competitors are already asking exactly the same question. And if you have unused business services, hanging on your wall, you are hurting. --Will the robots take over? Sergey Brin, asked when he expects a computer to demonstrate intelligence equal to a human’s: “I’d give it 20 years. Partly due to the improvements in technology. And partly” – he laughs – “to the decline of humans.” - Wired UK, 08.09 Not an evil laugh! But "demonstrating intelligence" is just a curiosity because as we get anywhere close to it we can use the prototypes to build things beyond imagination. It's easy to think of a talking android. Not so easy to speculate on how society will react to vast new coordinating capability. What prototypes will we have in 10 years? Sergey probably has a clue. --Like any new communication medium Wave will succeed or fail based on network effects - the more people that use it the more value the users perceive. That was true with phone, fax and email, as it has been for Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter. (Why are these Brands and the early ones are generic? Why is Google offering Wave and waves?)

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strategic view of wave

2009 07 17 09:58

There are multiple network effects and virtuous cycles in play for Product, Protocol, and Platform. Collaboration tool vendors are challenged to match Wave's approach and features, converging on best solutions. We are challenged to take these products up and use them. Server product vendors are challenged to upgrade to the real-time web. Real-time platforms are preferred for innovative products. An ecosystem of compatible robots and gadgets grows. The more there are the more they can work together. Will Google follow through and enough others take it up? Because of relentless innovation and competition, I guess yes, it will change everything. ----... We shall not cease from exploration And the end of all our exploring Will be to arrive where we started And know the place for the first time. Through the unknown, unremembered gate When the last of earth left to discover Is that which was the beginning; At the source of the longest river The voice of the hidden waterfall ... Not known, because not looked for But heard, half-heard, in the stillness Between two waves of the sea. ... T.S. Eliot, in the last stanza of Four Quartets

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