My First Month With Google Wave: Can't Even Stand On the Board

wave_iconI was very eager to get in on the Google Wave beta. So much so that I solicited invites from pretty much anyone who even mentioned it on Twitter for about two solid weeks. Eventually, my constant pestering paid off, and I was rewarded with an invite. After the standard delay period before my invite actually came through, I got to waving.

That was roughly a month ago. In the intervening time, I’ve been using Google Wave with a fair degree of consistency, although my time spent with the beta product from Google has dropped off significantly in recent days. I have a fair number of contacts, mostly professional, and it seems like the perfect tool for me, considering the nature of my work, which at the moment is exclusively based online.

So what did I do with Google Wave during the month I had access to it? The answer, sadly, is not much. Not much that I couldn’t already do better elsewhere, anyway. For whatever reason, I just can’t seem to surf the Wave.

All Muscle, No Finesse

I don’t deny that Google Wave is a powerful tool (for more information on just how powerful it is, see the report “Google Wave Explained” on our subscription research service, GigaOM Pro). Nor do I deny that it has the potential to become even more powerful in the future, when it receives wide release. The fact is, though, that it has much more power under the hood than I need at the moment, and it’s lacking ways to tame and redirect that power productively.

Google Wave is particularly confusing to users without a fair degree of tech savvy to begin with, and possibly not worth the ramp-up time required to get users new to the app on board. Of course, later on, if Google opens Wave up to developers, custom installs and simplified UIs might ease the transition, but I’m still not sure it can replace other apps tailored to specific tasks.

Google Wave is an Island

Despite some add-ons and menu bar notifiers I tried out to keep me on top of what was going on in Google Wave, I still found the service far too easy to ignore. I realize that it’s really in a sandbox stage, and probably not meant to be fully interacting with everything else, but for something that’s essentially a social service, it feels boxed and separate from my other tools.

Not only did I feel it was easy to ignore Wave, but I felt it was easy for others to ignore my Waving activity, too. As with any tool, adoption will vary during the launch phase, but I’d say that more than half of the users I tried waving with seemed to eventually tire of the effort and turn their attention elsewhere. Reaching these same people through more traditional means posed no problem, by contrast.

Gadgets, Gadgets Everywhere, But Not a Drop to Drink

Potentially, Gadgets integration seemed like one of Google Wave’s most potentially useful features. I say “seemed” because it ended up not really being the case, at least not yet, anyway. The Maps gadget is really the only one that I used with any kind of actual purpose. The others are all very nice proofs of concept, but beyond that, they bring little to the table in terms of actually helping me to get work done.

In fact, I think many of the gadgets currently available stand as distractions, clouding the true value of Google Wave for doing web work. That said, I’m also they type of person who never uses Mac’s Dashboard widgets, or a personalized Google homepage, or Windows gadgets.

Many More Waves to Catch

All I really want to convey is that Google Wave might not be the killer app many are making it out to be. It has promise, and it has a long way to go before it gets a public release — we’ll likely see a very different beast when that finally does happen. But as it stands, this particular web worker isn’t exactly enthralled with his Wave experience. That doesn’t mean I’m giving up on it though. It still has way too much geek cred to dismiss outright.

Have you managed to integrate Wave into your web work?

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