The long-awaited Google Wave invitation finally arrived this week. We had talked about it with Olivier, as judging by the previews, it looked like just the tool for our research group’s planning and communication needs.
Google Wave has been hyped up and so the queue to get to test it was long. And it seems people are desperate to get in on the fun as early as possible, and therefore the competition for invites was fierce, and lots of phishing sites and other scams were quickly setup. Email and twitter ID’s of those who were foolish enough to give out their details to websites promising invites in return of those details and re-tweeting the site URL were harvested – I’m not sure for what purpose, to be sold to spammers, I suppose.
But, eventually, after a long wait, people started receiving their invites. And at first, many critiques were negative. Wave was seen to be too complicated for its own good, difficult to use and not at all what people expected it to be. I think this article by Daniel Tenner sums this up pretty well: Wave is not the new Facebook or Twitter, it’s not a social network or an IM tool. It’s a corporate tool that solves communication needs in groups where things need to be done.
My first impression was a bit bleak. The first thing to do was to dish out the invites (or nominations) I had, hoping to see my colleagues and friends there soon. But, I had to spend my first day there alone, and not really knowing what to do with a communication tool with nobody to communicate with. Like being alone in Facebook, and I mean really being the only user there, not just not having any friends yet. At least in Facebook you can browse people and look for your friends, in Wave you don’t, or so I thought. Only later I discovered that you can also make and join in on “public waves”. You can find them by typing “with:public” to the search box. And, then you see how waves are used as chaotic chat rooms that very quickly deteriorate into chaos, and are likely to conclude Wave is not your thing.
But, now that more of our colleagues are there, Wave starts to look useful again – although the learning curve s steeper than in Twitter, Facebook or other such services (because, as said, Wave is not a service like them, not a social network, it’s a communications paradigm and a backbone for all kinds of new communication tools). First thing today, a colleague of mine needed a pdf version of a poster I had presented so that he could share it with another colleague. He started a wave about this, and all I had to do was to drag and drop (I have installed Google Gears that make this interaction between my desktop and the browser possible) the said pdf-file to the wave, and it was all done. I didn’t have to worry about file size (although this was small enough to PROBABLY go through our system), nor did I have to worry about my usual bravura of sending the reply email, forgetting the attachment, and then sending it later after being reminded about it.
Now, the next thing I did was to create a new wave for our Tuesday evening sports sessions. We play either badminton or volleyball, depending on numbers. And we don’t really know beforehand which, as it would be too much trouble to go through all that messaging beforehand just to count how many are going to show up. Let’s see if the Wave with the yes-no-maybe widget.
I’m also looking forward to using it as we use our wiki now, for co-authoring documents. For two people, emailing versions across is OK, but for more people it becomes a nightmare. Wiki works for us, and so would Google Docs. Wave can be used for these things as well. I hope that as it looks and feels more like an IM or email, people don’t have reservations or too much shyness towards it, as they do for the wiki. The threshold for editing is still high – perhaps Wave will make contributing easier. At least you don’t need to know wiki markup or feel like you are authoring a permanent website.
So, time will tell how this will be picked up, but my first impressions, or the second impressions, now that I got my friends there with me, are certainly positive, as this promises to solve many of our communication needs that we used to try to deal with via emails or chunky corporate wikis.