I can say that when I am working with a peer or an editor on a Microsoft Word document, I greatly prefer turning on revision tracking and using the Comment feature to annotate the file. Some people just add thoughts and comments in line with the rest of the text which A) makes it more difficult to find the comments, and B) makes it more tedious to remove them once the issue is resolved.
That said, even with the Comment feature there are still some issues. For example, I have never really been sure when responding to a comment in Microsoft Word whether the proper etiquette is to reply within the existing comment field, or start a new comment in reply. And, once the issue raised in the comment is resolved I like to remove the comment so I can tell I am making progress, and so it doesn’t clutter up the documents, but then the comment is gone and we no longer have it as a reference point for what was discussed and changed.
With that as background, the Google Docs Discussions feature sounds awesome. Rather than plain static text, Google Docs turns the comment into a discussion thread. Collaborators can reply, and each reply is timestamped and has the profile picture of the commenter.
With Google Docs Discussions, new users can be invited into the discussion by using ‘@’ a’ la Twitter. Simply type ‘@’ followed by the email address of the individual, and the text of your comment is emailed to the person. The individual can then reply to your comment via email, or click through to the actual document to reply within the Discussion thread.
Finally, when a Discussion has run its course and the issue being discussed has been taken care of, you can click the Resolve button to effectively shut the discussion down and remove the thread from the live document. But, the discussion thread is archived and can be recalled by clicking on the Discussion button at the top of the Google Docs screen. Watch this video to see Google Docs Discussions in action.
But, that is all theory based on how Google describes the capabilities of Discussions. It’s easy to make a feature look good in your own professionally-produced, time lapsed video, but tomorrow I will actually test it out and see how it works in the real world.
If you have used the Google Docs Discussions feature, I’d love to hear from you as well to find out how the experience was, what you would change about it if you could, and whether or not you would recommend others jump on board Google’s new commenting on steroids approach.