Being sometimes connected

Dan Farber at ZDNet has a piece about SocialText’s Ross Mayfield and their new offline/online wiki editing environment.

A frequent criticism of Office 2.0 is that it doesn’t work so well when you aren’t connected to the Internet. Well, the obvious evolution of this concept is software that runs in your browser that works when you are online and offline, only certain features are not available in the latter case.

You already work like this in the sense that someone with whom you exchange instant messages isn’t always available. You’ve learned to do some things when he or she is on, and you’ve learned to do others when he or she is not.

Another example to think about is the model of working on your laptop when you are riding on a train. Suppose that wireless broadband is beamed at you from distinct points as the train travels. You will pick up the coverage from access point to access point and sometimes it may be stronger or weaker. Sometimes, perhaps when you are in a tunnel, it won’t exist at all. (If you are lucky, you have continuous wireless on the train itself.)

I think our world and software will evolve so that we’ll be able to pass seamlessly back and forth from when we are strongly connected to times when we are not. The capabilities may shift slightly, but we will adapt. Some patience will be involved, but even this may not get that person back on the other end of that instant message chat! What we will have is a way of stacking tasks and workflow so when that person does become available, he or she can respond and work with you as soon as he or she chooses.

Clearly we can already so a lot of this. That’s the wonderful thing about the future that Office 2.0 is nudging us towards: we already have the pieces! We may need some standards so we can make the different services work together better, but we’re on the right path.

All this will help dissolve the desktop as we know it.


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