Here’s one reason why I believe Google Wave (or whatever similar service will emerge in the future) holds a lot of potential for the world of e-participation:
As Bengt Feil outlined in his excellent interim summary of our e-participation wave, one potential application for using Wave are small-group online dialogues or deliberations. On the web, these participation processes can be supported with conventional chat or forum technology. However, the thing that makes Wave especially interesting is its already impressive list of bots (small applications that can be added to a wave).
According to Wikipedia, extensions are “program robots to automate common tasks and/or build gadgets to extend or change user interaction (e.g., posting blips on microblog feeds or providing RSVP recording mechanisms).”
One of these little extensions is called Translatey. Here’s how the Google Wave Bots Wiki describes what it does:
Translatey is a lightweight Multilingual Translator Based on Google Translate.
Imagine you are chatting with friends from different countries, where no one speaks other’s language ? Yes, now this is possible using Translatey.
To add Translatey, simply add: firstname.lastname@example.org to your contacts and whenever you want it to help, just add it to your wave as a prticipant, enjoy speaking your own language, and let Translatey do the translation job.
Translatey has a built-in Auto-Detect feature, used in Google Translate, which allows Translatey to detect the creator’s language. Example, If I chose French to translate to, then I can write in ANY language, and Translatey will detect my language and translate it to French.
I tried out the Translatey bot earlier today. Here’s a screenshot of a little chat I had (with myself) that mimicked a conversation between a German speaker and an English speaker:
Not perfect, but I’m sure you can see the potential here. As I had mentioned on the wave a few weeks back, this type of real-time translation could be really useful whenever you need to engage people across borders or language boundaries.
For example, the European Union currently has 27 member states and supports 23 or so official languages. Hiring interpreters can be cost-prohibitive for many projects. However, with tools like these Wave extensions a good deal of multi-language dialogue might become feasible if the help of an interpreter is not required. One could use Wave for the 80 percent where the quality a translation bot provides is good enough, and use interpreters only for the other 20 percent.
Translation is just one example of how bots can support collaboration on Wave. Who knows, maybe there’s even room for a bot that supports some very basic online facilitation or moderation processes. Once again, this could help bring more e-participation projects to scale and allow the real facilitators to focus on those conversations where they are needed the most.