Google Wave was built to answer the question, “How would email look if it were invented today?” But Wave goes far beyond email-like functionality and tries to get to the heart of communication in all the forms that we’ve come to know. Wave is part email, part IM, part Wiki, and part document management, to name a few.
I’ve been experimenting for a couple of weeks now. After a slow start in almost complete isolation, I connected with a very active user, John Blossom. John had already amassed quite a following. Seeing how an active group is using Google Wave proved fascinating. There were blogs that had been transformed into waves, personal profiles constructed as waves, public waves instructing others on how to get started, and waves that identified known bugs and workarounds.
However, finding people is quite difficult. You must either know someone’s exact login ID or happen to see them on a wave. Since many users do not have pictures and use ID’s that are not readily identifiable as them, this is exceptionally frustrating. There is no way to search for users and no integration with email or other apps. Wave isn’t even integrated with Gmail. I actually found several of the people with whom I’m connected through Facebook, Twitter, and blogs where they mentioned they were on Google Wave and offered to connect with others.
Once you have connected with others, if you don’t use Google Wave continually, you have no way of knowing that someone has added you to a wave or tried to interact with you in any way. Again, there is no integration to IM, email, or any other applications, not even Google applications.
Another frustration is that it is very difficult to get started. Google Wave is a cacophony of functionality that doesn’t even try to reveal its value or purpose to the user. You have to be determined to use Google Wave in order to make it work for you. Even then, since it’s a “preview,” the functions you try to use don’t always work. Being a new user you are left wondering if the function doesn’t work or if you’re just not doing it right.
What could make it more useful?
- Integration with email clients, contacts, and other collaborative spaces (Google applications would be a great start: Google Docs, Spaces, Gmail, IM, etc.)
- A more intuitive user interface that works in all browsers equally as well
- The ability to easily find others
- Configuration options that allow a user to more precisely structure their view
- Some pre-configured views that optimize screen layout based on what the user is trying to accomplish
All that being said, there is the potential for intense collaboration on Google Wave. As it is now, it’s just too vast and complicated to be useful. It’s currently a drain on productivity, not a boon to it.
So definitely get excited about Wave. It is way cool. It is real time – where the world is going. But, for now, it does create more problems than it solves. Let’s see if Wave 2.0 fixes that.
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