As readers of this blog are no doubt aware, I (in conjunction with Tim Gowers and many others) have been working collaboratively on a mathematical project. To do this, we have been jury-rigging together a wide variety of online tools for this, including at least two blogs, a wiki, some online spreadsheets, and good old-fashioned email, together with offline tools such as Maple, LaTeX, C, and other programming languages and packages. (To a lesser extent, I also rely this sort of mish-mash of semi-compatible online and offline software packages in my more normal mathematical collaborations, though polymath1 has been particularly chaotic in this regard.)
While this has been working reasonably well so far, the mix of all the various tools has been somewhat clunky, to put it charitably, and it would be good to have a more integrated online framework to do all of these things seamlessly; currently there seem to be software that achieves various subsets of what one would need for this, but not all. (This point has also recently been made at the Secret Blogging Seminar.)
Yesterday, though, Google Australia unveiled a new collaborative software platform called “Google Wave” which incorporates many of these features already, and looks flexible enough to incorporate them all eventually. (Full disclosure: my brother is one of the software engineers for this project.) It’s nowhere near ready for release yet – it’s still in the development phase – but with the right type of support for things like LaTeX, this could be an extremely useful platform for mathematical collaboration (including the more traditional type of collaboration with just a handful of authors).
There is a demo for the product below. It’s 80 minutes long, and aimed more at software developers than at end users, but I found it quite interesting, and worth watching through to the end:
[Update, May 30: Apparently a LaTeX renderer is already being developed as an API extension to Google Wave; here is a very preliminary screenshot. Also, a shorter explanation of what Google Wave is and does can be found here. ]
[Update, Jun 7: Another review can be found here.]