using Google Wave: lots of potential

I got an invite to Google Wave some time back and at the moment about half of my 11 contacts in Wave have engaged in some online collaboration. This was predominantly in 1:1 conversation, so very similar to emailing at this point.

One major exception, though. A wave that started on 6th November, includes in this hour 125 -invited- users (basically by friend’s snow-balling), and discusses the simple question whether Wave will become a success. So, it’s Yes, No or Maybe. Nearly 80 messages and comments have been generated and to me it’s been an excellent way to explore the limited options a little further. Wave Preview is restricted with respect to add- ins and gadgets. Here is a list of Google Wave extensions and Google Wave Robots that we are supposed to be able to use sometime soon (when exactly is still unclear).

Some users within this Wave declared they were getting impatient, this was the main argument people made who thought Wave is not going to be a success. However, this specific wave is managed (so people stay on the topic) and contains some gadgets. New comments are highlighted, in order to trace back when a wave was started and what was said by whom there is a playback menu, which also allows to toggle between frames and lists a full list of participants of a wave.

So far I find it very interesting to see how much speculation there is and how much misconception – this extends to those users who haven’t engaged in the managed wave. It seems the lack of communication provided by Google within Wave feeds into pessimism and the lack of time or curiosity to explore options and play equally nurtures the failure some see on the horizon. Those who are not familiar with editing wikis and collaborating in semi-private online spaces argue they want more privacy and control, others claims it’s boring and some said they would only log in to see whether someone had said something to them (which, I admit, made me instantly think about their real life relationships…).

Wave raises interesting questions as to power and control, censorship and regulation – on the micro-level of the individual user. Some seem to be very comfortable talking to anyone who has posted something worth commenting on. Others remain observers – at least they are still listed as such. Users can unfollow any wave, just like in Twitter. There is an option that allows users to tag a wave, so it’s collective tagging which is fun – and can help looking at discussions from a different angle, depending on the users’ expertise and professional background. Now there is also an option to up-and download a wave or copy it to another wave. The latter option made me wonder whether all comments are recognised by users as not copyrighted. Basically, Wave operates as password-protected area but I doubt every user holds the same authorship ethos – attribution may become an issue.

Wave is fast and operates well in Google Chrome but it seems to cause problems in other browsers. So far it has delivered it key promise: to provide the main features of Twitter, Facebook and Wikis, with a few more options and gadgets, this could become my favourite tool of discussion, in particular in combination with Google Docs.

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About Britta Bohlinger, CFE

Founder and Director of RisikoKlár in Iceland. Native German, global perspective - previously in London and Berlin.

7 responses to “using Google Wave: lots of potential”

  1. Sneha says :

    The problem with the folks like Google & Yahoo is that they have created many tools which have been loosely coupled. The challenge with such a solution is that the the information gets locked into multiple silos. With Google Wave they are trying to integrate all the conversations (discussions) but what would be truly desirable is a platform built form ground up using social networking at the base and business apps on top of it. I have tried Injoos Teamware ( and found it captures both informal and formal knowledge like documents in one single workspace on the cloud.

  2. britbohlinger says :

    Google seems to be heading towards this model – the loosely related tools grow slowly together, take Google Docs for instance which make use of your Google contacts. While in its free version Google emails can still not be uploaded into Google Calendar other than by copy and pasting content, the business upgrade offers the desired convenience. There is a wealth of business applications available that – if you just pay for them – are a lot better than Google or Yahoo (or Skype). But then, the idea was to support a huge community who demand free services. For creative folks in research and academia Google Wave, Google Docs and Google Voice do the trick – anyone on a budget or small start-ups will continue to embrace these solutions.
    However, if you want security and sophisticated all-rounders you simply splash out a little and resort to the less mass-driven platforms and applications, I agree.

  3. KarthikaM says :

    Interesting analysis. Yeah, I definitely see the potential for discussion, comments, networking, etc. And even surveys like you mentioned.
    What I would be interested to see, however, is its use beyond what is already possible with social networks and microblogs. One, of course, is the wiki feature, which would be helpful to document writing, meetings and more professional tasks. Without that added aspect, to me, it seems like it could degenerate into a glorified chat or IM with exclusive users. But I have a lot of exploring to do….

    • britbohlinger says :

      The wiki-like feature is really most useful when 2 or more users work in real-time online. Editing while typing and watching how another user is editing my own contributions is saving us a lot of time and we can jump straight into each other’s posts and comments. A lot of the potential becomes only visible when actually engaging with each other – I noted today that discussion and voting related to a fairly complex topic requires a more structured approach. Perhaps linking to Google Docs where individual aspects can be outlined in more detail is a more sensible approach when it comes to clarity and following up on what has already been agreed among participants within one Wave.

  4. Cthonus says :

    Interesting article but I think most of the hype regarding Google Wave is less to do with a fundimental change in communications paradigm and more to do with perceived exclusivity. It remains to be seen when the closed-invite model opens up to the wider world whether the interest is still there without a constant need for Google to feed more innovation into the program to keep it alive.

  5. britbohlinger says :

    Thanks! You’re right, it’s still an artificially created scarcity that creates a perception of exclusivity, we’ll see how much Wave has to offer once we get full access. Let’s hope this preview mode will not last for too long, otherwise current users may start disengaging. I have posted a follow-up on this review:

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