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

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wave_iconI was very eager to get in on the Google Wave (s goog) 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 (s aapl) Dashboard widgets, or a personalized Google homepage, or Windows (s msft) 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?

30 Responses to “My First Month With Google Wave: Can't Even Stand On the Board”

  1. Late to the post – but just a quick message to say I’ve found Wave extremely useful –

    I co-host and produce an online show and I use Wave to co-ordinate all aspects of the show – its cut down on Email use dramatically, replaced GoogleDocs and just overall increased productivity.

    The caveat of course is that i use Wave mainly with only a couple of other people – we’re having constant conversations on it – if you have an Account and no one else you know does, (and you have nothing to work on together with the people who do have an account), then there’s no real point to it so far.

  2. I just recieved my google wave today. It looks like it has alot of potential. I’m a college student in Business school. Team projects are are a big part of my courses. I can’t wait to start using Google Wave for team projects. Google docs has been great so far

  3. I find it incredibly useful! Yes, it is in beta and there are bound to be glitches. But, it is incredible to be able to embed frames of Web pages that readers can interact with, to collaboratively write documents, to insert maps, to drag/drop images and other documents (rather than attach), to simply and interactively create mindmaps for planning projects, to add people to the discussions.

    What a great tool!

    We have some really grand discussions going in higher education as a collaborative tool in which to share class projects across institutions. On these public waves there are anywhere from a dozen to 450 people from different colleges and universities.

    I created a wave outside of wave – a Web page that embeds a Wave page. That’s very cool… soon we all will be sharing our waves with others through the Web – talk about a global discussion! We will be able to update as a group authenticated through Wave and have it instantly appear in the Web.

    The bots are useful… there is a notify bot if you really only look at Wave right now every now and then. That will email you. But, of course, the day is coming when email and wave will be one.

    The applications in higher education are enormous.

    -ray schroeder university of illinois at springfield

  4. I’m so tired of reading these type of blog posts. At least give the general public a chance to get on it and use it. It’s not going to be useful to use until everyone can use it. It’s like joining facebook when it first went public. It was cool at first but it didn’t get really useful until all my friends got on it. Now that Facebook opened up to everybody outside of Academia, its even more useful.

    I wish all you bloggers would stop telling the public how useless it is and how doomed the future of it is. Your spoiling the excitement.

    • My suspicion is that Wave will reveal itself better when it’s integrated into something meaningful like an enterprise business app, a new social network, between email services, future mobile apps, etc.

      Does anyone know if all the users have to be google account users? It’d be interesting if Mom on AOL and brother on Yahoo and you on Google mail could all collaborate using it w/o forcing Mother and Brother to have to adopt gmail accounts. This is likely counter to what Google hopes to do.

  5. I like Google Wave and can see the potential in it.

    After receiving my invite a few days ago – I didn’t get any invites myself. So I find myself waving with about 2 or 3 people and it’s not really useful, yet.

  6. From what I’ve experienced so far is that Wave is encountering the same problems that it set out to solve. Wave was supposed to make the email chain easier to manage. This hasn’t been the case because I have a couple waves that are totally out of control. The playback feature sounded cool at first but in practice is pretty worthless. Mind you this probably isn’t a typical situation because the Waves I’m referring too have more than a dozen people attached to them (one has 41 people). I’m just saying that it’s a lot easier now for a message to spiral off topic and get unmanageable.

    I don’t have any invites but if people want to add me to their list of wave contacts I’m howell.lester.james at googlewave

    • Playback is still really buggy – but as a compliance tool, it will have some serious weight once they get it worked out.

      We have a small workgroup that started using it about two months ago. Like the mobile phone or email, I’m wondering how we managed all these projects before Wave.

      Our work group is about 6 people and we’ve been using wave as a productivity / note-taking tool, rather than a communication tool as some have tried.

      Frankly, as a communications tool, Wave, in its current state, is worthless. As a productivity tool in a dispersed/remote user environment, Wave is golden.

      Lots of bugs yet to be ironed… and I can’t wait for integration (docs, spreadsheets, voice, gmail) – but I think there is a lot of potential here.

    • Tsega Igwebe

      Les James…. Thanks for posting your google wave contact info… I have added you… I got approved for a Google Wave account over the weekend however I only have like two contacts that I can wave with… So I went ahead and added you… Hopefully I can overcome this learning curve quickly… LOL

  7. I don’t understand why it is not integrated with standard e-mail service… Isn’t that going to be required for people who are not on Wave? Or does Google intend for Wave to be an exclusive tool, used only by people on Wave? … I was under the impression it was the next “wave” of email communication and, as such, would need to be backwards-compatible with the current email system.

    • Google Wave is still in preview mode, not even beta yet. So with that said it is very limited in interoperability. I’m sure that once this goes big, it will be integrated with email so you wouldn’t use a separate email account as well as a separate wave account. Right now I’ve got some of my contacts that I work with using wave too and I think the collaboration features will be priceless. I’m still enjoying it but don’t use it everyday. Can’t wait till I do though :)

  8. I think they would have generated more buzz and more useful user experience if they made a point to roll it out to identified work groups instead of individuals. I’m excited for the potential for collaboration, but no one I do my rather low-tech projects with has Wave right now. I’ve heard from several random people who hear I have Wave and send me their contact information, but if I didn’t have anything to talk to them about before, why would I start now?

    Just my $.02.

  9. I agree.

    After my initial excitement, I realized that it is like a new mobile phone with no one to call or text. Until there are relationships online and connecting on wave, it does not have much use.

    Once there is a huge adoption (IE the killer app) I’ll just leave it alone.

    The interface is an upgrade from gmail. I do hope that Google adopts it as the interface of gmail.

  10. I had the same opinion about the widgets. Not to mention, they can be very tedious to install.

    I added the “pin map” widget to one of my waves, only to find it almost impossible to “stick” my pin in the map. That is, until I enlarged the window and saw how to “update” the map! The icon was hidden otherwise.

    Granted, this is not a fault with Wave, but I think the learning curve is going to be steep for novice users to use it to it’s full potential.

    If nothing else, they need a better way to install widgets, extensions, bots, etc. Drag and drop would be nice.