Google Wave

by Matt Cholick

I received an invitation for the google wave preview (thanks shawnwelch) and decided to share my thoughts on the system now that I've used it for a while.

In terms of actual function, I'd describe it as a message board thread that's passed back and forth, where everyone has admin privileges. This, it turns out, is a pretty useful communication paradigm.

One unique element with a lot of fun potential are the bots that can be plugged into a conversation.

This peregreph, for ixemple-a, wes troonsleted by zee-a Swedish Cheff bot. Bork Bork Bork! Thooogh not useffool in zee-a leest, it reelly imooses me-a. Bork Bork Bork! I loooogh oooot loood ifery time-a I idd him to a conferseshoon. Bork Bork Bork!

Ok, so the Swedish Chef translation bot isn't particularly useful. He is fun, though, and several of the bots and gadgets are actually useful. There are bots that IM on wave updates, bots that blog content, bots to embed the wave, and all sorts of fun toys. The bots can edit and add content in real time in response to changes, so there's a ton of potential there. In fact, I was hoping to write this post in a wave and embed it - something like they showed at the Google IO presentation. That functionality isn't in yet though.

Wave does have its problems. For one, it doesn't degrade gracefully to communicate with email. I just assumed it would be able to do that. Without this functionality, it will take it a long, long time (if ever) to dethrone email. The virtue of email is that everyone is reachable. I was hoping to find a (long overdue) email replacement in wave. Maybe communication with standard email is something we'll see later.

I'm not all that fond of the UI either. The contact list, for example, shows little pictures of everyone. Cute, but totally unmanageable when it gets long. This is a symptom of the problems with the UI in general. All the little flashy bits make it unresponsive and waste precious space. When I use gmail, for example, I never even think about the UI. It just works transparently. In contrast the wave UI gets in the way and annoys.

I think this last issue might disappear as people get more used to wave, but I'm going to mention it anyway. The few shared documents I've seen have degenerated into chatter. It's like people started working on a useful wiki page and then got sidetracked and posted in days of IM chat. It's definitely annoying. My concern is that wave encourages this by emphasizing its capability as a chat tool.