Tuesday, March 22, 2011

A [small] idea to [further] improve Google Docs for Collaboration

Re-posting from this crazy idea added today.

Birthday post coming soon...

I love Google Docs. I use it for a lot of things --- to store recipes my mom sent to me when I was in grad school, taking instantly-ready meeting minutes collaboratively, as well as discuss paper-writing plans with my colleagues, among others.

When Google released Wave, I loved it; but sadly people like me were in a minority and the project was killed. However, I am very happy to note that Google has kept on pulling the much-liked features of Wave into Docs, including instantaneous collaborative editing (April 2010) and, most recently, advanced discussion/commenting features (March 2011).

However, there is still one extra feature which I wish they could add, and this one would not even take much coding -- just some basic JavaScript. Here is the idea:

I often use Google docs in a conference call. It is a great way to conduct meetings, with attendees posting their questions directly in the doc, and updating it with answers as they are agreed upon in the meeting. The same thing goes for action items. And this way, the minutes are ready at the end of the call, thus saving a TON of time.

However, what I miss is the "follow $user's cursor" feature, using which I can make my screen auto-scroll to the portion of the document that my colleague is currently seeing on his browser. This would help immensely when people on a conference call are trying to read/discuss a document together, and thus need to be on the same page, literally :). [ To those who have played Quake III or other multiplayer FPS games, this concept should not be new :). ]

Implementing this should not be a problem either. The Docs page already sends cursor positions periodically to its servers, we just need to add screen boundaries to this information in some manner. On the receiver's side, it will simply involve some JavaScript to scroll the screen to the appropriate position.

So, what say?

Thursday, March 03, 2011

Google's Surprise for my #30

So unless you are living under a rock, you know that I turned 30 today. Thanks to all of you who have sent in their wishes through various forms of communication. Will take me a day or two to get back and acknowledge them all personally :).

I will write a detailed post later [busy with preparation for my LA trip which starts tomorrow], but here is something I saw today which was a pleasant surprise [click the images below for large sizes].

Clicking the image got me to this page.

Very cool Google, very cool!