I'm back from holiday. I spent a part of it in Vermont where I was looking at a vacation home. I first viewed it by photograph and liked it enough to go see it in person. It was a very nice cottage and quite well built, which seeing it in person only confirmed. However, it was a cottage and it was very small. And while it sat on a few acres that ran next to the Appalachian Trail. But it turned out that the property was so densely wooded and on such an incline, it was impossible to walk it. In fact, to reach the trail, you would have to walk down to the road and stroll that way. One would not even be able to walk across one's own property. And then there was the long drive to get there. 10 hours! What was I thinking? All I can say is that at the outset, it seemed like a good idea, but when practice came into effect over theory, it simply wasn't very practical and in fact, seemed pretty cumbersome.
Last week, it was announced that Google would halt working on Google Wave development. Wave was developed by Google as a collaboration platform that would allow people to join together online and converse in the context of a "wave". They would be able to click and drag in documents, videos and photos and put them into the wave. Google Wave provided for an enhanced communication experience that seemed to have enormous potential by offering real-time collaboration.
For example, a travel agent would be able to work with a client, having a conversation about various options for a trip and dragging photographs into the Wave until in the end, the agent and the client could have collaborated in creating the ideal, customized travel package.
In healthcare, a health educator could teach through it, a physician or nurse practitioner could advise patients, a medical product manufacturer could take patients through a risk mitigation program.
In short, the picture of Wave was very compelling. It even led me to question whether or not Wave might to do email what email did to the fax machine. I wrote several postings about the possibilities of Wave, and on the experience of using it once I got it. And even on some of my concerns once I tried to use it.
In the end, when you got to see Google Wave in person, like my house in Vermont, it was a bit of a different picture. Wave required a trip along a pretty steep learning curve to use, and once you took it, using it in fact was a bit cumbersome. You had to install extra add-ons like Google Gears to get the click and drag effect to work. And when many people got involved in the Wave, it was actually rather difficult to follow the train of thought or conversation along specific strings and to get an idea of how it played out chronologically. One could set the wave to unfold in chronological order, but this was actually kind of time consuming when there was a crowded wave. And, adoption of wave relied heavily on self starters figuring out how to use it and then to tell others. That, too, was cumbersome.
In the end, it was a little bit like realizing that once you bought the property, you had to take the long way around to getting to the Appalachian Trail. Google Wave simply did not take off. It was a sweet picture when you looked at it initially, but when you got there in person, there were things about it that just didn't make it a good fit. Like the cottage, it was very well-built and a great effort. As one colleague said in an email responding to the news from Google that it was closing down development – it seemed so cool at first…"
And it was. It was a cool effort.