Having just completed an exciting meeting with my business partners on Saturday afternoon. I found an interesting email glaring at me from my inbox, “Your invitation to preview Google Wave“. My first thought was here was another hoax, no with a little investigation I do discover that this one is for real.
You can imagine what my Sunday morning had in store for me. Yes, you have guess correctly it was the day to poke around what Wave had to offer. It also occurred to me that some of my loyal readers may wish to have me un-peel some of the features for them.
One of the first things to understand is the nature of Google Wave, just what is this beast that is currently competing with Windows 7 as the most exciting new product of 2009. Wave is a collaboration tool IS NOT a social media tool. As a collaboration tool it is therefore useful important to have people to collaborate with. I did find two people on my contacts list, both called Tom, and both CEO’s of their respective firms that I had been communicating with over the last six months or so, but not really candidates for a test message. Fortunately I did have another professional networking connection, Sheryl, who had a Wave account already and had given me her wave address previously.
By way of a quick note: If you use FireFox then you do need to be using version 3.5 and you will need to download the Google Wave Add-in to ensure that the features work correctly.
The first thing you will notice about Wave is the fact that it does look very similar to familiar email type interface. It even has in ‘Inbox’ which is strange because your ‘outbound’ waves are also located in you inbox. My preferred name would be ‘Activity Centre’ instead of Inbox, but I did not name it.
When you sign-up for any system you get the obligatory welcome message, the same with Wave, one of these is about the ‘Extensions Gallery’. These are a series of useful add-ons that can add to the functions.
Have a look at the extensions available, you are likely to find something of interest. Here is the multi-user Sudoku information. Personally I am not sure I want to add this extension and compete with others on this game, but each to their own. I did however download the Ribbit conference call extension and Google’s maps tool. Eventually there will be hundreds of gadgets and probably the majority will need to be consigned to the waste bin, but some good ones will be provided as well.
They key aspect of any of these gadgets is that they can be added into a Wave as can be seen with the map that has been embedded into my wave below. Now I hear you ask surely this is no different than adding a map into an email. True. You can add a map to an email, and many people do, but I have normally found it best to do it via cut and paste. Within the Wave this is a live map and the others in the wave can zoom in or out. Wave allows videos to be embedded right into the message and played in situ. Other extensions will be added in time and these extensions can add powerful facilities that will have serious business use in the future. So here is my “Hello World” test message with embedded maps.
So as I said earlier the key aspect of Wave is its capability as a collaboration tool, and this is where Google must be hurting themselves right now. How can you have a collaboration tool, yet not have people to collaborate with? Most frustrated users that I have heard from seem to have this question on their mind. I think they have a valid point. My first invitations will be sent out to those that I intend to be collaborating with on live projects (right now) or those that I feel I will be working closely with in the near future.
I said earlier that when I started with a fresh Wave account I had two contacts already. I wondered where these came from so explored the ‘Manage Contacts’ hyperlink. This takes you to Google Contacts, which I have found to be very flaky and please excuse me if I do not show you any pictures from it as it is more likely to crash every instance of Firefox running (including this one). Being a pre-existing Gmail user I had several hundred contacts on Google Contacts already (this list must have been built from my recent email traffic) because I use Outlook as my contacts master and do not store contact on Gmail. I imported my outlook contacts list into Google Contacts (1700+ people) and found another half a dozen Wave users in my contacts list.
This is the one aspect that Google needs to work on. I also wonder how you communicate with an email only person, because despite the best intentions of Google many will not move over into the new world in an instant, so a Wave will need to be communicated to both Wave and Email users at the same time. I know that I shall be writing more as I explore more of Wave, and right now I am off to send out some invitations to my close collaborators.
Tags: Collaboration, Communications, Google Wave