Google Wave – An Update After Nearly a Week of Use

I love the idea of Google Wave.  I still think it has tremendous potential.  But after playing with it for a week, there are some issues.  There is a Google Wave conundrum.

On the one hand, Google Wave offers really fast communications and the ability to click and drag materials into a wave and share them and collaborate quickly.  But to be successful, there have to be a LOT of people you know using it and using it regularly.  In other words, a LOT of people in your life are going to have to shift to Google Wave as a primary means of communications, keeping the Wave window open all day just like e-mail in order for the communication among your contacts to actually respond in real time to updated waves.  That might be ok if Google Wave were as easy to use as e-mail, but it's not.  It is considerably more complicated.  There is the other side of the conundrum.  Google Wave is dependent on a large uptake by your business colleagues and contacts, but it is complicated enough that there are many colleagues, particularly older ones, who aren't going to embrace it. 

Lump onto that the fact that there aren't many HELP resources available yet on Google Wave means that when you do run into a problem as you try to optimize your ability to use it, you go down many blind alleys.

Here's an example of what I'm talking about.  When you install Google Wave, in order to have the ability to click and drag photos into the Wave, you also have to install Google Gears.  I did this on my home computer and it worked fine.  But when I tried it on my work computer, despite the installation of Google Gears, when I try to authorize Google Gears to my Wave account site, and I follow the instructions to get to a table that allows you to do that, the instruction say to edit the table to include the address of your Google Wave account.  Fine, but the trouble is, the Google Gears table doesn't accept any edits.  So I can't update it, so I can't interface Gears so I can't click and drag on my work computer, only my home one.  The Help instructions don't account for this possibility.   In fact, there is an over-reliance on instructional video and not as much support on good old fashioned reading.  

Some of the other functions have bugs that need to be ironed out, and no doubt will be before launch.  But the biggest issue is the utility.  In the Social Pharma Wave that was begun last week, there have been a number of strings of conversation, but there is no real project on which to collaborate, making it an exploratory exercise which, after playing a while, people go back to email, which limits the ability to keep up the talk given there is no objective.  Schwen Gwee made the astute comment that he feels like the pace of Wave is like sending someone an IM or email, and then calling to see if they've read it. 

That said, I'm sticking to my belief that this is a tool with tremendous potential, particularly around projects or as an educational tool.  But if people meet with too much frustration at the complexity at the outset and uptake becomes stifled, Wave's full potential may not be realized, which would be a very sad thing.   

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