Cameron Neylon has been playing with Google Wave, and he likes it. His presentation at Science Online in London in August explains why (you can also watch video, though sadly there's no soundtrack). He's even writing robots to automate some scientifically interesting tasks. Nature News liked Wave too, which (a) reminds me yet again of how prescient Jon Udell's "Internet Groupware for Scientific Collaboration" was ten years ago, and (b) makes me wonder (also again) how much this course should be re-thought.
The Unix shell philosophy of creating lots of simple single-purpose tools and then combining them in rich ways has clearly found its second wind on the web. Just look at the options:
- Ad hoc services using something like Django or Rails
- Drag-and-drop GUIs like Yahoo! Pipes
- Special-purpose frameworks like Galaxy
- Workflow tools like Taverna
- Next-generation scripting with something like PowerShell
and on and on and on. Each has its own opinion on what the problem to be solved actually is; each requires different skills, and with the exception of Taverna and Galaxy, they regard scientific computing as one niche interest among many.
The problem, of course, that with so many different ways to do it, no matter which one(s) the course covers, students will probably be faced with something else when they go back to the lab.