What I’m (Not) Doing with Google Wave

Google Wave is a relatively new Google product that claims to be a “real-time communication and collaboration. A wave can be both a conversation and a document where people can discuss and work together using richly formatted text, photos, videos, maps, and more.” One obtains a Google Wave account by invitation only. I received my invitation late in 2009 and fiddled around with Wave a little. (If you want an invitation, send me your e-mail address.)

It didn’t take me very long to decide how to use Google Wave. The answer is: not at all. I haven’t found a single thing that makes Google Wave a good alternative to other ways of communicating and sharing. That’s not to say that I don’t believe it is possible it is better. It’s just not there yet.

Part of the trouble is that it is not intuitive. I watched as a half-dozen other Wave users edited a blog post of mine for possible use on the Bogleheads Wiki (*). It was pretty hard for me to follow the editing process because it wasn’t clear to me what the master document was. All the edits and communication appear in one long window, very little of which is visible at any one time. I think it’d be far better if the document could be viewed in a full-screen mode with some sort of mark-up or linking convention that indicated who did what to which part and when. (I see that some of my requests may be possible, but as I said it isn’t intuitive.)

I recognize that my impression of Google Wave is based on very little use and on a beta version of the product. I also recognize that Google has produce an 80-minute video on Wave’s features. But I’m not going to watch a long video to learn how to use a communication/document sharing product. It should be intuitive. If Google has any hopes of making a splash with Wave they’d better make it so, and fast. If they don’t, my prediction is that this will not be the only bad review.

Perhaps I’ll be wooed by subsequent versions of Wave. I’ll try to keep an open mind. I think the burden of proof that Google Wave has value is on Google. Build something obviously good and users will come.

(*) About 2.5 months ago I asked these Wave users and others for feedback on their experience. I did so in Wave itself. None responded. I take that as an indication that either (a) they’re not using Wave and didn’t see my query or (b) they don’t have a strong opinion of Wave (positive or negative). Either way, it does not seem Wave is a wild success with this crowd.

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