Arik Hesseldahl

Recent Posts by Arik Hesseldahl

Google Turns Word Comments, A Necessary Office Evil, Into Discussions

One of the great annoyances of office life is collaborating on a written document. Once the original writer seeks feedback from more than one or two people, the process of wrangling the comments embedded in the multiple copies that have been sent around the office as email attachments quickly takes on a life of its own. Wouldn’t it all be easier if everyone’s comments appeared in a single, unified stream?

That’s the idea behind a new commenting system being introduced in Google Docs today. Comments have been converted into what Google is calling Discussions. And these discussions are comparable to the streams in so many social media sites like Twitter and Facebook, complete with the Twitter-like convention of “@ mentions” (A sample comment is pictured) but they’re also linked to email, so you can participate in the discussion without having sign into Google Docs. You can also tell who made a comment and when, as it includes timestamps, profile pictures and email notifications make it easy to keep track of the feedback process.

The feature is going live today, but only on new documents, and for those Google Apps users who have opted for the Rapid Release track on new features–those who haven’t will get it over the next week or so. A two-minute video below gives you a pretty good idea of what it looks like.


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I think the NSA has a job to do and we need the NSA. But as (physicist) Robert Oppenheimer said, “When you see something that is technically sweet, you go ahead and do it and argue about what to do about it only after you’ve had your technical success. That is the way it was with the atomic bomb.”

— Phil Zimmerman, PGP inventor and Silent Circle co-founder, in an interview with Om Malik