Episode Two Hundred and Five: Use Google Docs, They Said; Digital Media; Force Touch; Product + Practice

by danhon

0.0 Sitrep

Okay, so it’s been a while since I last wrote. Nearly a whole week! But now I’m sitting down to write again. So there’s that. 8:31pm on Monday, March 23, 2015, after having cleaned up after messy toddler dinner (the toddler was messy; we didn’t eat him messily) and done some work homework in Google Slides *of which more later*.

And now my cat is eating me because he wants me to give him his dry food.

1.0 Use Google Docs, They Said

Those of you who follow me on Twitter might occasionally see my exclaim, in anger, about the various things that Google Docs does to me on a daily basis. Things like: use several gigabytes of RAM in a Safari tab and make my machine beachball. This machine is a Late 2013 13in Retina MacBook Pro with 8GB of RAM and I’m not going to say anything more than that because what we should be focussing on here is that in 2015, where we have software that can recognise cats, and where there are real people who have not been declared mentally unfit proclaiming about the imminent danger of machine intelligence wiping out the human race, we cannot edit documents on a computer and have the cursor keep up with our typing.

The reason why is because we have decided – rightly – that collaboration is good, and right now, one of the best (better?) ways to collaborate is to use the network of networks, the internet, to allow us to collaborate with people who might not be in the same room, building, city, state, country or even relativistic frame of reference[1].

Because the internet is the least bad way to collaborate and because the web is the least bad way to make information available on the internet to lots of people, the least bad way to collaborate – and by that, I mean work on the same document at the same time with multiple people like the way Hall and Oates did when they wrote one of their more classic songs[2] – is inside a web browser.

Which means that all the office productivity software we’ve spent the last few decades making as, er, least bad as possible[3], we now get to do *all over again* only this time in the browser, and this time with real-time collaboration built in.

Take all of this with the regular grain of anecdata, but in my head, as I’m using Google Docs and Google Slides and Google Drive and Google Forms, I’m thinking:

– I mean, it’s great and all that I can edit text *in real time* and someone else can see those edits *in real time* but the bit that’s less great is when I can’t type *in real time* because, well, I don’t know. It’s not like Word *didn’t do this as well* but like I said, we’re in 2015 and computers can recognise cats now as well as people, and not just white people either.

– in the vein of “done is better than perfect”, where does “copying formatted text in a Google Slide will paste as properly formatted text” fall. Because where I’m sitting, which is at 8:45pm on a Monday night, I really would like formatted text to paste as formatted text. For example, if I copy a bullet, well, the expectation – and I really hope I’m not stepping out of line here – is that the pasted text would, well, be formatted as a bullet.

Google Docs/Drive/For Work/Whatever It’s Called This Week does *one thing* better than any other office productivity “app” out there, and that’s the collaboration part. It feels like *most other parts* are parity at best, or introduce bugs or other unexpected behaviours at worst. In other words, Google For Work is still the best thing I and my team have found for “collaboratively drafting documents” but once you want to do something more than that, you may well be losing time.

And don’t get me started on search.

Or how long it took them to update the “Incoming” tab to “Shared with Me” in Drive.

So, startup people of the world. You have an opportunity to build a better piece of collaboration software: you know, Like Slack, that actually does the job that people need it to do now.

(And yes, I am looking at Poetica[4]).

Related: there are no good content management systems anymore, given what we know about the world and how it works.

[1] Although I suspect you can use Google Docs whilst on the International Space Station, it is my uninformed opinion that the latency is probably quite bad and you wouldn’t want to do it.
​[2] Go Google: Hall and Oates – YouTube
[3] I’m looking at you, New Consistent Ribbon Experience in Microsoft Office
[4] https://poetica.com

2.0 Digital Media

I’m just going to take this Twitter conversation[1] and leave it over here and just say that “innovative digital advertising products” is something that makes me sad these days and let me tell you the stories that I really shouldn’t tell you due to confidentiality agreements. But just imagine how bad things might be, and how hard it is to get things done.

[1] https://twitter.com/rustyk5/status/580196468075708416

3.0 Force Touch

Feels like – without having played with it in an Apple Store on one of those new Macbook/Retina Macbook Pros that has it – it might be for haptics/force-feedback what the initial multi-touch display on the iPhone was; ie: haptics done so they make sense for everyone.

I’m less interested in the press-harder-to-x thing than how good the feedback algorithm is. Will it feel like one of those haptic setups you get in super-specialised industries[1]? The idea that you can get some sort of physical feedback when you’re using Keynote, for example, and you have snap-to-alignment turned on, is pretty intriguing. And then if you have that, then how does it translate to something like an iPhone or iPad display? I mean, look at the size of the trackpad that’s currently on your laptop and then look at your phone’s display.

[1] Force Dimension – home

4.0 Product + Practice

And leaving this here, too: you need the right product *as well as* the right practice to get organisational change and improvement. Technology sold us on thinking that just the product would get you there, but instead now we’re thinking about technology that involves change-in-practice as part of usage.

8:59pm. And just as Pat Benatar’s Hit Me With Your Best Shot came on, too.