If there is one thing I like about being an aspiring luminary, it is the fact that I get to spend a lot of time playing with beta technology, and the engines are no exception.
While many snub my insistence on using a gmail.com e-mail address, I have found that heavy usage is a darn good means of getting in early to the Google goods.
Why do I care so much? Despite the sighs that " Google only does one thing right, search," I tend to think that those uber -smart developers are still contributing to the greater technological good via many small pieces that will someday come together.
Let's start with Writely, a Web-based word processing application acquired by Google this year, and the application this article was written on.
So what's so cool about it? Writely is built around the basic usage patterns of text documents: 1.) create, 2). edit (with others) 3.) share, and 4.) publish. I must say, of all my documents, few sit on my computer for their entire life.
To start the process, I uploaded a nascent MS Word version of this article. While I immediately got a terrible error sign, (yep, definitely still beta,) the article successfully uploaded.
After authoring, collaboration is the primary functionality. Users can invite others to edit the document or simply share it. I will most certainly share it with Mickey, this publication's editor in chief. Assess the revisions by comparing two documents or viewing the entire revision history.
The document can also be published, letting anyone on the Internet see it, or published to a small group of people. Given the rise in blogging, Writely documents can also be previewed or published as blog posts.
For those who spend more time with MS Excel, Google Spreadsheets has much of the same functionality, including the fabulous collaboration tools to watch numbers change in real time as others add their two cents.
So why not just use your MS Office Suite? Anyone with a clogged inbox of attachments can tell you why it might a good idea to collaborate online. Suddenly, downloading even the most important applications now seems obsolete. (Provided one has Web access.)
Now on to Google Page Creator. When it first launched, I quickly built a site to feature my services as a free agency and aspiring luminary. Now with "experimental" functions turned on, I could create a separate site under the same log in. So I decided to launch my secret superhero, The Luminatrix (In a city like this, even a Luminatrix needs to promote herself.)
On her home page, I started with text and added the requisite superhero picture. New features allow the user to crop and re-size it within the interface. Not bad. Basic touch ups, such as adjusting brightness, were paired up with a just plain weird ability to mash a picture with another image. I opted to mash The Luminatrix with a hypnotic swirl for Aquaman-like effects.
When building out other pages, I noticed a little button to the left that said "More." Next to it was what looks like a thick piece of pizza. While I tend to think of caviar, champagne and chocolate as "more," and pizza as a leftover, I will chalk it up to some developer joke.
Anyway, it was intriguing enough for me to click on through to...yes...gadgets! When it comes to gadgets, Google covers the gamut. I browsed and then searched the standard and third-party gadgets.
I started out with a banal clock so The Luminatrix's watch would always be synchronized. I changed its color and stretched it out to see a calendar.
Browsing through additional gadgets, I got to thinking that the Luminatrx probably needs to be aware of anything that would impede her quest, like earthquakes. Fortunately, Google had a handy little "earthquake watch" gadget with Google's satellite view.
I also figured that she should have an easy direction tool next to her Luminatrixmobile page to save time before hitting the road. Of course, the query is sent to Google Maps.
Perhaps these are small steps for Google, but they do suggest a larger fabric that is being woven. It might not happen today, but it will happen. Until then, The Luminatrix must continue on her quest.