Friday, June 07, 2013

Google Wave Redux

A number of years ago I wrote about Google Wave, and then a bit later I wrote about Wave’s demise, including an aside to show that even people who were using it [a bit] didn’t quite get it, and then wrote about Wave’s demise again, including a theory that perhaps Wave had simply fallen under the bus of Google’s product roadmap. (My assumption at the time was that it was shunted aside in favour of Buzz, making me all the more bitter when Buzz was also shelved.) It was a tough blow, but I managed to carry on. I’m a trooper. My main disappointment was that a good product was being shunted aside because other competing products had gotten in the way, but those are sometimes the realities we operate under.

But now I’m not so sure.

Shortly after the demise of Wave (at least in retrospect), Google introduced “discussions” to Google Docs, which was an obvious reuse of the Wave technology. This wasn’t a surprise—even when Google shut Wave down they’d indicated that the technology would probably find its way into other Google products—but it seemed like a pretty hollow victory to me. So comments are slightly better in documents; who cares, really? Not exactly revolutionary, more like a minor productivity improvement.

That same year they launched Google+, which was obviously a much bigger launch than just updated commenting functionality in Docs. I had mixed reactions to Google+, based on my previous aspirations for Wave. On the one hand they were introducing another social media product—not directly a “Facebook replacement,” though definitely a Facebook competitor—were they going to let it live and thrive, or just let it drop like they had done (I figured) with Wave? If they did let it thrive, though, maybe some of the Wave concepts and technologies would find new life. But this was before I’d really dipped my toes into the social networking waters, I wasn’t on Facebook (and still am not), so I admit I missed some of the nuances involved in this move.

Earlier this year it was announced that Blogger comments were getting an update, and being integrated with Google+. “Interesting,” I thought. “Tying the social media aspects with the publishing aspects of those Google products together makes a lot of sense.” And would it be too much to assume that some Wave technologies are making their way into that mix? Probably not, I’m betting.

But what really got me thinking was when they announced that Google Talk was going to be phased out in favour of Hangouts. I used Talk a lot, so I was initially trepidatious—humans don’t like change, even humans in the tech industry—but I steeled myself and made the switch pretty much immediately. I knew it was coming regardless of my feelings on the topic, so might as well get used to it, right? And it would probably have new features and all that. What I noticed immediately though was that there was less of a concept of being “online” or “offline.” Definitely no “Busy” status, or “Appear Invisible” so that you could see others and they couldn’t see you. In hangouts you send people messages and if they happen to be on a computer (or their phone) and want to respond instantly, like an IM conversation, then they will, and if they don’t happen to be able to “hang out” at that point then they’ll get to it later.

To old-school instant messaging folks that might seem like a loss of functionality. I’ve seen a few IM clients in my day that would allow that type of thing—I think ICQ had an “offline messages” feature if I recall correctly, and maybe one or two others—but the focus of instant messaging was always on the “instant” part. If you want to send offline messages that’s what email is for; instant messaging is for chatting. I imagine that lots of folks will complain about this, but this is very far from my point, because I actually like the feature. It is, in fact, reminiscent of Wave.

And that’s where this post came from: Some of the Wave concepts are reemerging, but instead of coming in one unified product like Wave they’re coming into being as integrations between various products. Blogger comments and Docs “discussions” and instant messaging and social networking are all getting tied together in interesting ways—and regardless of what happens where, I’m getting updated real-time if I want to be, or have the ability to pick up the conversation(s) at my leisure. Often this is happening on my phone, since I always have it with me, but when I’m at a traditional computer I’m seeing the updates there, too. And really, it doesn’t matter if I get the update on my phone or my computer or on Google Glass (if that becomes a thing) or on whatever comes after Google Glass (if Glass ends up just being a precursor to something); regardless of the medium the message is the same, and I have the same ability to continue the conversation.

One concept that I loved about Wave is still missing, which is that the distinction between an IM conversation and an email conversation and a document is forced upon us by the technologies, whereas Wave promised to make those distinctions irrelevant. I still feel that way, but what I missed in Wave was the social networking aspect; more and more of our communications in the modern world happen over social networking rather than over email or IM. So although I still feel that the distinctions between documents and chats and messages and emails and comments may someday go away, it’s probably too early to tell what the final outcome will look like. In the meantime, this ability to tie them together is a good step in the direction of getting us there, and I’ll continue to use a blog for longer, more permanent messages (like this one), and something like Google+ for shorter but still permanent messages, and something like Hangouts for more ephemeral conversations.

This is a very Google-centric mindset because I’m not on Facebook, but those who are on Facebook will have similar decisions to make with their communications, and many, many people will have much more complex decisions because they’re using both Google and Facebook technologies so even after they’ve made their decisions they’ll have to make further decisions about whether and where to cross-post. And none of this even takes into account Twitter—a huge omission, I fully admit.

And every time I have to make a decision as to which product to use for a particular message and it’s a hard decision to make, I’ll smile inwardly, knowing that we’re getting closer to our goal.

Monday, March 04, 2013

I would like to buy a hamburger!

This is from an old movie (if 2006 is old), but it’s so ridiculously funny that it makes me crack up every time.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Louis CK on Turning 40

So true. So true.

Friday, January 25, 2013


On January 7th I went back to work after two and a half weeks (give or take) of vacation time. It had been a good rest, and I was ready to go back. I was on the subway on the last leg of my morning commute, and as I was standing on the platform at St. George station I saw a young teenaged couple. They got on with me, and, since the train was so crowded, I witnessed their interactions all the way from St. George to Union.

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I see couples all the time on the TTC, we all do, but there was something special about these two kids. The intensity of her gaze when she looked at him, the obvious devotion and longing in her eyes, it was palpable. It was a good sign for going back to work; new beginnings, intense experiences. Life. But then in the middle of the morning I found out that the person who had been more intensely alive than anyone I’ve ever known, my grandmother, had passed away from a heart attack. It was a shock; she’d just beaten cancer at the age of 80—which surprised us all, despite our optimism—and was now home from the hospital. Foolishly, we all thought that she’d be around for years to come; though a heart attack after chemo therapy is actually pretty common, it simply didn’t occur to us that there would continue to be complications. We shouldn’t have been shocked, but we were. So shortly after her 81st birthday, she passed on.

Below is a transcript of the remembrance I gave of her at her funeral.

We’re here today because of our love for my grandmother, Shirley Harris. Everyone who ever met Grandma loved her, which is a remarkable thing. I find that most people I meet tend to like me, and that’s true of many in our family, we’re likable (and good looking). I obviously inherited the likeability from her but I got it in a smaller measure; lots of people like me, but everyone who met Grandma loved her, instantly and deeply.

I also tend to speak my mind, and I think I inherited that from Grandma, too. I sometimes wish I’d inherited more of the former and less of the latter because she carried it off better. When we were looking around at Grandma’s house for photos and photo albums, we found a little plaque that says, “Shirley: Cheerful Heart.” Every person in this room knows how true that was of Shirley Harris, and I’m sure that’s how we all remember her.

What might be even more remarkable is that the feeling was mutual: she loved us. It’s not enough to say that Shirley loved everyone in this room. It was obvious that she did; she made it obvious. Aunt June mentioned to me yesterday that Shirley loved her grandkids, she talked about it often, and that is a fact that I’ve always known with certainty, my entire life, that my Grandma loved me and cared for me. She made it clear to me every time I saw her. When I first moved to Toronto there was a show on City TV called Speaker’s Corner: they had this booth where people could come in off the street and record little videos to air their opinions or sing a song or whatever, and the station would put a bunch of the videos together for their show. Grandma watched the show regularly, not because she expected me to record a video but just on the off chance that she would one day see me walking by in the background, while someone else recorded their video. It’s the perfect example of both Grandma’s quirkiness and her love for me. All of the grandkids will have similar stories, because when Grandma told us that she was thinking of us all the time she meant it, she really was thinking of us all the time.

This extended to our significant others as well. Andrea, and Craig, and Andrea, and Krissy, have all expressed how Grandma made them feel welcome, made them instantly feel like they were part of the family, as if they had been part of it forever. Craig mentioned that this is the type of thing that we all want to do when someone new comes to the family, we all strive to be like that, but with Grandma it was a core part of who she is. It’s rare to meet someone who naturally and genuinely makes you feel so included. Before any of these four people had even decided if this was a long-term relationship, they were already getting Christmas presents from Grandma. Sometimes the presents were somewhat bizarre, she’d have been the first to tell you that she’d lost touch with what kind of presents would be good for our generation, but even gifts which were silly were well thought out silly. She didn’t just buy any old thing, if she bought you a present you know that she spent a long time in that store, trying to get just the right thing.

Obviously it wasn’t just her grandkids that she loved. We were talking yesterday about the fact that family events will never be the same without her, there will be a Shirley-sized hole in any family events from now on. I joked that the one nice thing is that at least we can leave quicker; Grandma’s routine of saying goodbye to everyone while Grandpa warmed up the car was always a long process. But then on the ride home last night I was thinking about how much I enjoyed accompanying her around the room as she said goodbye to everyone. Nobody ever left a family event wondering how Grandma felt about them; she made it clear. She loved all of you, and I don’t think any of you ever doubted that for a second.

But even to say that she loved people doesn’t quite go far enough. I have never heard Grandma say a bad word about anyone. I know this is a funeral and that’s the type of thing that people say at funerals, but in Grandma’s case we all know that it’s not an exaggeration, and I don’t think there’s anyone else I know that I could truly say that of. There was such a genuine warmth to that woman, which was a joy to see. It was also a joy to see other people meeting her for the first time, and encountering that warmth; I’d grown up with it, so I was used to it—it’s just how she was—but people meeting her for the first time were always in for a pleasant surprise.

I can also say that Grandma’s love of people was more than just general good feelings that she felt for people, it was personal. She had a great memory—I did not inherit that from her in the slightest—and I heard people mentioning yesterday that Grandma would meet them on the street and talk to them, and ask after family and loved ones. She remembered people, and remembered how she knew them, and remembered facts about them. Her stories could sometimes ramble, but she didn’t get lost in them. If she started a story for a reason, she’d get back to it. Eventually.

So it’s not surprising, with all of Grandma’s love for people, that she also loved to have a good time. It’s remarkable how many people I talked to yesterday who mentioned that they loved partying with Grandma. I don’t have any stories to pass on to you about that—if you really want some, Aunt Helen might be able to tell one or two—but I know that it’s true that she loved a beer now and again. But only half as much as she enjoyed two beers. I can’t speak for her teenaged years but I never knew her to be vain, except that she was always sure to make sure her hair was done, and it would bother her if she had to go somewhere and couldn’t get a chance to get it done. I hope that it’s done now the way she’d like it, because it’s probably the one part of her appearance that she’d worry about.

What I keep circling around is the fact that Grandma was always so alive. We were all shocked by her death because of the circumstances, beating cancer at the age of 80 and then succumbing to a heart attack a couple of weeks later at 81, but I think we’d be in shock regardless of the circumstances of her death. She was always so alive that it’s hard to come to terms with the fact that she no longer is. It makes us confront mortality in a very direct way; if she can die, of all people, then it makes us all come to terms with our own mortality.

If I didn’t have my faith in God I don’t know how I would process a death like this. But the God who proved that He was in control of her cancer also showed that He was in control of her life, just as He has a time appointed for all of us. This is a death I’ve been dreading for a long time, I don’t want to have to lose Grandma, but He provides comfort. As we all mourn the loss of Shirley Harris, and process what her death means to each of us, it’s also appropriate to approach God on His terms, and seek what comfort He has for us.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Driving 007 Style

Mom got me the Skyfall soundtrack for Christmas—a very good gift. My wife and I were driving while listening to it and I went to pass someone, at which point my wife got into character: "Take the pass! Take the bloody pass!"

I might need to keep that CD in the car full time.

Thursday, December 06, 2012

Victor Wooten

If you’re sitting around someday looking for something to do, go to YouTube and look for videos featuring Victor Wooten. An amazing bassist; it’s fun just to watch him.

Here’s one to whet your appetite.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Prince, Playing “While My Guitar Gently Weeps”

As so often happens, my blog has gone dormant again. It’s been… actually, I’m not going to look at the date of my last post to find out how long it’s been. It’ll just make me feel guilty. (However, the Bible Blog, Book Blog, and even new Quotes Blog, have all had activity.) Anyway, I figure the best way to remedy that is that any time I’m tempted to post something to Google+ I’ll post it here, instead, and then share the link to G+. Besides, who uses G+ anyway?

What, you are asking, does any of that have to do with Prince playing While My Guitar Gently Weeps? Nothing. Here’s Prince.

Wednesday, March 07, 2012

The Rap Battle

  • The Rap Battle
  • by David Hunter
  • A text message conversation with Andrea
  • Me
  • Guy across from me was listening to Eminem, and I can tell because he was listening really loud. Another woman had to ask him to turn it down
  • Me
  • And he's exactly the type of guy you'd expect; white, and looks like he's fresh out of college.
  • Andrea
  • Go slap him and see what happens
  • Andrea
  • See if he'll challenge you to a rap battle
  • Me
  • I don't want to embarrass him. I'd school his ass so bad...
  • Andrea
  • My name is David and I'm here to say imma school yo ass in a serious way ...that one's for free
  • Me
  • Any time I hear a rap that starts with "my name is XXX and I'm here to say..." I laugh uncontrollably.
  • Andrea
  • Did it happen just now?
  • Me
  • Yes. Luckily I was in the coffee room, not at my desk, so nobody saw.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Twitter Followers After One Weekend

Should be self-explanatory:

Dipping My Toes Into the Warm Waters of Social Networking

Anyone who knows me knows that I’m one of the few people on the planet who’s not on Facebook. And when I say “one of the few on the planet” that’s not much of an exaggeration—there are currently more than 800 million subscribers on Facebook, which is 11% of the world’s population. A staggering number. 11% of the people on earth have Facebook accounts. Is there any thing else that 11% of the world’s population has in common? Religion, for sure; I’m sure there are other things that that many people have in common. But not many.

Anyway, not the point.

In case you’re getting excited and firing up your browser to load up Facebook and “friend” me or “poke me” or put graffiti on my “wall” or whatever it is you do on Facebook, don’t get ahead of yourself. I still haven’t created an account. Sorry, I know it’s inconvenient for you, but I promise I’m not doing it to slight you.

Although... it might seem that way, because aside from Facebook I have taken on other social networking services in a big way:

  • I’ve obviously been blogging for a long time. (Since March 17, 2005—over half a decade, people. And although this particular blog is mostly dormant these days, I do have the Bible blog, book blog, and now even a quote blog, which are all pretty active.)
  • I’m on LinkedIn
  • I’m on Google+, and very much liking it
  • I’m using Yammer, which is a social networking site specifically for use within corporations/organizations, so our messages are only for each other, not for the world
  • I just today signed up for Twitter, although I doubt I’ll be tweeting much; it’s more so I can follow the tweets of others. (A common use of Twitter these days, I’m led to believe.)

So... with all of this social networking stuff going on, it might be simple stubbornness that’s preventing me from signing up for Facebook. (Even if I love Google+, it doesn’t change the fact that everyone I know is already on Facebook. Again, not much of an exaggeration; my mom is the only person I can think of off the top of my head who’s not on Facebook...)

Does that mean I’ll be signing up for Facebook any time soon? Frankly, I might not have time; what with following the new posts on Yammer and Google+ and keeping up with the twits I’m following, where will I be able to find a couple of hours to set aside for creating a Facebook account? And wouldn’t that be the biggest irony of all? After so many years of my friends telling me (nay, demanding me) to create a Facebook account I am now not creating one because all of the other social networking sites are consuming all of my bandwidth...

Monday, May 02, 2011

Roll up the Rim

Well RutR season is over, which means I get to post to my blog again. (Does this mean I won’t post again until 2012? Possibly. I haven’t even posted to the Bible Blog in… wow… over five months!)

The results are in the spreadsheet. I’ve removed the link that was in the sidebar. Because of travelling for work and numerous other factors, I didn’t participate in the contest that much (meaning I didn’t go to Tim’s that much), but I guess the good news is that it means my win rate was pretty good.