Check out Google Wave. The concept is striking and ambitious. Also very relevant to what we have been talking about in terms of PLEs.
At the core, there are a few important architectural dimensions.
Firstly, content structure. A few years back I had designed an architecture for a content management system that structured out content in a tree format. Essentially blocks of content could be hierarchically structured. For example, A pre-requisite would have two child-nodes – the statement and the explanation. Or, a topic could have a note and many individual pages. Google Wave does something similar with content. It allows you to take rich media content (images plus text plus…) and mark out / embed rich media content within that content.
Imagine a conversation that happens over time. Somebody starts it. Other people respond to statements made by the initiator and the conversation starts. Wave makes it extremely easy to do that within a browser environment (reference website has been built using Google Web Toolkit, GWT). Wave also provides a mechanism to add additional attributes such as those for privacy, tags (metadata) and workflow making it extremely malleable as a data structure. Obviously, the data structure allows nesting of these complex conversations as well (wave within a wave). It also allows tempral or user based playback for a conversation for people to see how the conversation evolved if they come in late, which is extremely useful.
Secondly, collaboration is heavily focused upon. Google intends to make this open-source so that developers can build extensions to those hundreds of social collaboration tools that exist today (e.g. Orkut, Twitter and Facebook). They have showcased how a wave (a collaborative conversation) can be embedded in a blog site in an interoperable manner. Editing is a great strong feature with extremely fast instant messaging where other users can see your keystrokes as you write or as you embed content.
Thirdly, live collaboration is made possible, not only within a single wave deployment but across multiple Wave server deployments through an open protocol.
Fourthly, live time collaboration and Wave extensions (through the Wave API) make it possible to design collaborative work or play. For example, playing chess together, editing a document collaboratively in real time (this was so cool!), running a poll with instantaneous results etc. This has real important connotations for virtual classroom environments (imagine an Adobe Connect Professional environment merged with Google Wave merged with a SABA Centra!).
For the personal learning environment (PLE), this offering from Google could eliminate countless hours of effort as well provide a rich mechanism for understanding context.
Kudos to the creators of Google Maps for whom Google Wave has been a two year effort! Here is to your enduring innovation and continued success!