Hands-on with Google Wave

Discussion in Google Wave

Google Wave - Click for larger view

I’ve been fortunate enough to be invited into the Google Wave preview, and thought I’d give you my initial impressions of this much-hyped product. Because Wave is still in beta there are some features that don’t work yet, but here’s what I think of the stuff that does!

What is Wave?

Wave is a way of collaborating and communicating with others on a shared space,  or a “wave”. You create a new wave, and add people to it that you want to communicate with. All of the participants can then contribute, adding new comments, editing previous ones (including comments other people have made) and adding images, video, maps, or any amount of other rich media content.

If, at any point, you find something you want to comment on you can do so in a few ways. You might choose to reply at the bottom of the wave, much like a reply in any online forum, or you can double-click on a word and reply right there in the middle of the conversation. This is great if someone has put together a lengthy document and you just want to make a small note at a specific point. You can also choose to edit what you or other people have written, which keeps the wave clear of replies but does have the downside of not making it so easy to see how the discussion developed. There’s a nice feature that helps there, though, that we’ll come to later.

The upshot of all this writing, replying, commenting and so on is that you get a conversation that flows pretty well… little comments here and there that can read just like you’re actually talking back and forth. But here’s the real point for me – you also get a record of the conversation as it flowed, so you know how you ended up where you ended up. Latecomers to the wave can always catch up with the handy playback feature. This plays the wave back point by point, so you can see how things developed over time. This is the feature that rescues inline editing too, as any changes to the text will show up in the playback for all to see.

All of that is to say that Wave is a nifty collaboration and communication tool that allows you to comment, edit, and share rich media with others while keeping a record of the conversation and making it easy for newcomers to catch up on the discussion so far.

Could Wave replace e-mail?

In a word? No. At least, I don’t think so. When you sign up to Wave your username is USERNAME@googlewave.com. I tried e-mailing my Wave address but it just bounced, so I’m not quite sure what that address is for. Perhaps that’s something to come in the future but, at the moment, it doesn’t look like you can e-mail into Wave. While that’s the case (and I couldn’t find a way to e-mail non-Wave people from within Wave either) you’ll always have to use normal e-mail, since it’s very unlikely that your entire address book will be Wave users. If e-mail integration is introduced, though, that would open up some interesting new possibilities. I’m not entirely sure how it would work given that e-mail isn’t designed for fast-flowing conversation or collaboration, but it would be interesting to see.

Could Wave replace chat?

Yes, it could replace chat. In many ways it is chat – threaded conversations in real-time. It’ll even help you keep track of the various conversations you’re having, and will record them should you want to refer back to them later. But, and I admit this is a subjective opinion, I think Wave is complete overkill if you’re just looking for a chat client. Wave could replace chat, but there’s so much more you could be using it for!

Is it useful?

This is the big question… is it actually going to be of use! If you’ve ever wanted to pool ideas, hold a brainstorming session, or jointly flesh out ideas with a group of people then you’ll be able to find a use for Wave. I’ve been using it to write this review in conjunction with Mike and Robert, and it’s been great to have their comments and questions as I’ve been putting stuff down. I’ve also been using it with Dan to plan an event for next Easter and, again, it’s been great to be able to comment on Dan’s suggestions and bat ideas back and forth. Any work that involves input from a number of different people could potentially work in Wave.

The playback function is particularly useful as I’m going to want to add people to the discussion at some point. They’ll be able to run through the recorded history and see what’s been said so that we don’t cover the same stuff twice.

Is Wave useful? Yes! I can already see plenty of situations when I’m going to want to use it!

And finally…

Two things. Firstly a tweet from Mike, who I’ve been playing around in Wave with:

Interesting how we’ve all got bored with Google Wave already. Think it may become a great work collaboration tool, but not so social – @mikecj

That comment sums up Wave for me – it’s great for work but I can’t see it becoming one of my social hubs.

The second thing is just to say that if you’re on Wave feel free to add me and we can try and figure out even more of what it has to offer. I’m cdhinton… and I’ll see you there! (If you’re not on Wave yet I’d still love to hear what you think – just leave a comment below as normal!)

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Comments

  1. Good review Chris, and I can see Wave replacing chat as well as becoming a fabulous work collaboration tool.

    • Thanks Mike. I think Wave actually makes a pretty good chat client and perhaps as more people get onto the system it’ll start to chip away at other chat system’s market share. I’m just thinking that Wave is more than a chat client though… which is not to say you can’t use it as one :)

  2. Great Article Chris,

    I haven’t played on Google wave as much as I could. But I think that this will change in the future. Probably some of the reasons why some would get bore with it are:
    There are very few people on wave, perhaps we do not have enough friends on it to make a valuable difference. So are very few online at any given moment to be meaningful. At least in my circle of friends, and that aint too big
    We possible still have not figured out how to use it properly.
    It’s still new, people are set in their ways with current tools.
    People are still uncertain about this Cloud computing business

    I think once the API is sorted out, and it’s live. It will fly. Third party tools is what is going to make wave a flyer.

    I don’t believe it is an email killer, just like Gmail, Yahoo mail or hotmail wasn’t. But Wave does offer substantially more than those, perhaps we will see a much larger group of people using it than those web mail apps.

    • Thanks very much Robert.

      Third party applications will be very interesting – I think Wave is already a great tool, and it’ll be great to see what other developers add to it.

  3. Akhilesh says:

    Hi Chris

    I just join this club “Google Wave Club” :). I agree with most of your points. But for the point that people will use it just for chatting tool, yes that will definitely happen. We have many tools/gadgets which are loaded with thousands of features but most of folks just use their basic utilities.
    For email collaboration i read some forum in which a google employee mentioned “that part is under development, so emails will be integrated to it for sure.

    Cheers
    Akhilesh

  4. Hi Akhilesh, thanks for visiting and leaving a comment! How are you getting on with Wave? Funnily enough, I've been seeing Wave used as a chat client with a few of my friends… so I think you're quite right. It's pretty likely that as more people get into Wave more of them will use it simply for keeping in touch.

    That's great news about the e-mail integration. You don't happen to have a link to the forum do you?

    Thanks,
    Chris

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