Here’s another usage scenario that we think is particularly appropriate for the use of Buzzword. This message mentions a challenge the author has encountered using Google Docs, so offers an opportunity to discuss ways that we think Buzzword is different.
With special thanks to our intern, Roberto, we finally managed to capture CEO Rick Treitman doing a demo. The video is now posted to blip.tv (where you can see a higher resolution full screen version) and YouTube
(Ed. note: when this was written, AIR was referred to as “Apollo”)
At the Web 2.0 Expo this week, we had the opportunity to demo and discuss Buzzword in the Adobe booth. Our conversations often began with the question, “Can you show us Apollo?” The flip answer, “No we can’t, it’s invisible.”
This was a bit of an exaggeration: we had Buzzword displayed on each of two screens, side-by-side: one instance in a browser, the other in Apollo. The Buzzword application looked virtually identical, the only visible difference was the title bar of each window – one of which read “Apollo Buzzword” as well as some other browser artifacts. (Note that we were demoing on a Mac, which requires a title bar; on Windows we can remove any trace of Apollo).
“So,” one visitor asked, “is Apollo another kind browser?” The short answer: well, sort of.
It might be interesting to describe the unique environment at Virtual Ubiquity, particularly the kind of skills and culture that produce such an elegant design. It should be noted that the physical environment itself lends almost nothing to the design-oriented mind-set – we’re a startup in pretty rudimentary quarters. However, the layout of our space is important, as you’ll see below.
Our design orientation, as you might expect, begins at the top with our CEO, Rick Treitman. Design has always been a top priority for Rick – in all aspects of his life. He is apt to slam on the brakes of his car, and stop in mid-sentence, at the sight of a well-architected building, and has done a number of projects with top-line architects. So as the new designs begin to take form in the product, nobody takes more delight than Rick.
We’d like to think that Buzzword represents a new application category that could be called Rich Collaborative Authoring. Though this isn’t a popular buzzword, and probably never will be, it explains a niche that Buzzword fits nicely and one we think is important.
Let’s start with the basics: writing has always been a killer app. However, Rich Authoring goes farther than basic writing by allowing for more expressiveness and polish. Here you have more ways to express yourself than plain text, including graphics and other media. You also have more control over the look of the final product, including layout, pagination, spacing and typography.
Word and similar desktop applications are essentially the only tools that currently enable Rich Authoring. This involves providing a rich canvas through which users can express themselves, supported by a page / typography engine that structures and lays out oneâ€™s content. But Word is essentially desk-bound, so collaboration becomes a manual and often awkward process.
We’d like to use this space to describe some of the usage scenarios that we think would be addressed and improved by a rich, on-line authoring and collaboration environment.
Our expectation is that the task commonly known as “word-processing”, though constantly maturing, is in the early stages of a dramatic evolution. Migrating the authoring environment on-line isn’t just about moving the same feature set to a different environment; more importantly, it’s about exploiting the capabilities of the new platform to better suit what users are trying accomplish.
In this post, we want to discuss how we’re building Buzzword.
In 2004, we started with the simple notion that we wanted to build a word-processor for the web. The discussion on how to build it came down to the four obvious approaches: .NET, Java, AJAX or Flash (using the Adobe Flex development environment). Though our team had extensive expertise in .NET, it wasn’t a practical choice for us since we started with the assumption that this must be a true cross-platform application. From the start, one of our primary audiences has been students, and we knew that the Mac platform was very popular in that crowd.
Why not AJAX?
Who will use Buzzword?
We’ve designed Buzzword for people who a) write a lot; b) need access to their documents and tools in more than one place; c) collaborate with others when writing by soliciting comments and peer editing; d) do not have an IT department supporting their computing environment.
And, very importantly, we designed Buzzword for people who care about how their documents look.
When Platforms Shift
Word processing is the most-used of the desktop office applications and those of us on the Virtual Ubiquity team have been in that business for a long time. Some of us have built word and text processors for Lotus, Atex, Interleaf, Trellix, and Texet. Others have worked on collaborative software like Notes, eRoom, and QuickTopic.
And we’ve all used word processors like Wang, WordStar, Word Perfect, Lotus Manuscript, Volkswriter, PFSWrite. But, my guess is that many reading this have heard of few of these.
There’s a reason for that – word processors live and die with their platforms.