Monday, July 27, 2009

One step towards writing papers in Google Wave

Google Wave's underlying technology will not only enable collaboration with other people, it also make it possible for bots to interact with what you've written. I think this is going to change the way we work. E.g., all applications which require a significant amount of typing will benefit from the statistical auto-correction provided by the Wave app Spelly. In effect, Spelly goes over the text as you're typing it and correcting the obvious mistakes, just as you would do a bit later.

In a similar vein, the proof-of-concept bot Igor is watching out for inserted references and automagically converts them to a citation and a reference list. When writing papers, I usually insert reminders: "REF Imming review", "REF PMID 16007907". If I adjust this convention a bit and provide a bit more detail, Igor can figure out by itself which paper is meant and fetch the citation. Google Wave and Igor save me the tiresome going back-and-forth between a reference manager and the editor to insert all the citation, and they remove distractions from the process of writing and editing the paper.

Of course, this is a proof of concept, so the style can't yet be customized. I further think it would be helpful to quickly look "what's inside" a particular citation. I don't know if Google Wave supports this, but it would be nice to click on a citation ("[23]") and be presented with a pop-up window showing not only infos about the article, but also links to PubMed / a DOI resolver.