Often when you hear about how old scientist collaborated they used letters. Like Niels Bohr who drafted some of his ideas in letters to Heisenberg. Many of these letters are stored as a part of the great thinker’s collaborative process and a history of how our knowledge expanded.
I would guess that people spend a long time on writing the letters to each other’s and then hoped to get a reply back some weeks later (I’m not sure on how fast the post system was at that time). They probably also spend more time on writing what they meant, in a communicative fashion, because you just could not ask for a change. If I wite a mail and someone, does not understand my writing they can send comments back fast, and I can then clarify the parts which is difficult to understand.
The price for sending a letter across Europe must have been high compared with todays prices, since there was so much manual labor. That meant you probably had to use more time on creating the letters and treasured the result much more. I would also guess that paper and ink was more expensive than we think today.
Going from this letter collaboration to a much faster email has changed the way we feel about letters. I got a book with some letters/emails that I have written in 1996 when I was an exchange student. But other than that I don’t think I have any of my old emails, because they are not relevant anymore. If I had done some collaborative work, it would have been changed into a document.
With Google Wave this movement is speed is even greater. One of the popular activities is to blog, like this. With Wave blogging becomes an even faster, since you can collaborate with your readers like offlineblog writes. Currently working on scientific papers is a highly collaborative process, according to Wikinomics, the average paper had 100+ authors (I cannot find the detail now). Working on scientific papers might become more collaborative with Waves. In scientific papers it is very important to create the right formulation, and there the collaborations work easily. Business documents like scientific papers can also be a collaborative process, hire does it help to have
Then think that you get an instant reply on you idea generation. It just speeds up the process from many months to a single day. Okay breakthrough discoveries probably cannot be discovered in just one day.
You will of cause be able to go back and revisit all your waves, since they will all be stored on the server. The question is then if you are able to find all your nuggets between all in your daily conversations. The question is also if the Wave will be compatible with future use wave servers or the Wave protocol will be replaced by something else in 20 years time.
Image by jude_bird_86.