Will Google Wave Work For You?

This post was meant to happen at least a week ago, but I simply got caught in the “current event” that is Google Wave.

For those of you who aren’t familiar with Google Wave (and didn’t have or feel the need to sit through the 80 minute video when it was announced), it is the ongoing realization of the question:

“What would email look like if we set out to invent it today?” – Lars Rasmussen, Software Engineering Manager, Google Wave

That’s a pretty brave and bold question, because email has been around for longer than I have.

I call this an “ongoing realization of the question” because it won’t even come close to replacing email until there are more users.  When Gmail first launched, the same thing happened.  As more users were invited, its use became more widespread.  Gmail is now incredibly popular and finally came out of beta earlier this year.  Expect Google Wave to be in beta for just as long, if not longer.

The question I ask is posed in the headline, and the answer is….it depends.

The Few and Far Between

I’ve already mentioned the limited amount of users that are actually using Wave.  Unless you’re fortunate enough to have co-workers on it (or had the foresight to invite co-workers with your invites), you’re going to be either very lonely and bored, or very distracted and unproductive.

Even with colleagues on Wave, you’ll all be feeling your way through it for the first little while.  However, you will eventually have your “A-ha Moment” – and when you do, you’ll be able to collaborate together in real time and hopefully get more done in less time and with less interruption.  Maybe.

Welcome to Your New Inbox!

The way Google Wave is set up is similar to email, and one of the first noticeable consistencies is the immortal inbox.  This is where all your new waves show up, as well as where any updates to existing waves appear.  So now you can simply ignore your email inbox and check this one alone, right?  Definitely not.  Not everyone will “catch the Wave” because of the limited invites thus far, but more likely because most people inherently hate change.  Most people are not going to abandon their email inbox for years, so now you’ve got an additional one to check regularly.  Know this…email is not going away anytime soon.  It’s been here for 40 years, so it’s not ready for senior’s living just yet.  Ironically, Google Wave seems to be the one residing in the gated community right now.

I. Don’t. Get. It.

Google Wave is new.  Shiny new.  Innovation often comes at a price, and the price in this instance is the limited resource of time.

Are you going to have the time to dedicate wrapping your head around it?  Are your co-workers?  Your superiors?  If you have an inclination for learning and/or don’t mind staying late at the office, then perhaps.  There’s no real way around it.  There is a strong likelihood that Google Wave can be of great benefit to an organization, but it’s going to some maturation of both the service and the skills of those using it to make that happen on a large scale.

There is also the certainty that, no matter what, some people are not going to get it.  Period.

We’re All Wave Babies

As this service hits the ground…um…walking, patience and exploration are the essential watchwords to keep in mind.  It’s buggy, but it is a preview.  It’s sluggish, but it is in development.  It’s limited in user base, but it is seemingly limitless in possibility.  I will say that I had my epiphany with Google Wave last week and have started planning projects online with fellow “wavers.”

I’ve found that I’ve agreed to brainstorm initially on Twitter, and then we all quickly move to Wave so we can do it in real time and in line as opposed to back and forth.  I’m even collaborating on scripts.  Google Wave can be a great collaborative tool with the right ingredients in play, and I have no doubt that “can be” will gradually evolve into “is.”

Will Google Wave work for you?  With all the stars aligned, it will.  Once you’re through the initial exploratory phase and have a few people who you would like to (or need to) collaborate with, it’s going to increase productivity in some form or another.  The learning curve is going to be steeper for some more than others, but that’s to be expected.  All of these elements will impact how quickly Google Wave will be an integral part of your work environment.  Right now, as with any new technology (and make no mistake, this is a technology), there are far more questions than answers.

I do have one, though.  Right now Google Wave is just as much about play as it is about work.

What are your thoughts on Google Wave? I’d love to hear your comments! You can find me there at themikevardy@googlewave.com – if you’re so inclined (and able) stop by and…um…wave!

Mike Vardy an editor on Work Awesome. We could tell you where his personal productivity parody site, Eventualism and all of his other projects reside on the web, but you'd be best served going to Vardy.me and following the trail of virtual bread crumbs from there.


  1. Ryan Terry on the 30th October

    I’ve been playing with Google Wave for a few weeks now and my first impression hasn’t been as good as I hoped it would be. My biggest complaint is that when you have more than 2 people in a wave it’s SO chaotic. Too many people typing, editing, creating new “blips”.

    There will need to be a new etiquette formed with this new communication.

  2. Mark McDonnell on the 31st October

    Google Wave really needs some kind of desktop push system in place to notify me when an update is made rather than being logged into the browser based app all day. I like to be able to close down my browser windows rather than leaving them open.

    • Troy Peterson on the 31st October

      I completely agree…

      Until it’s adopted into the mainstream, they need to have some type of notification system to send me an email when I have a response on a wave 🙂

      I know that’s kind of going backwards, but not enough of my co-workers or clients are using it.

      I’ll still rely on good ole’ fashioned email for a while.


    • Bill Richardson on the 27th May

      Actually, what Wave needs is a client on each platform that is both a Wave client and an email client. Maybe a Wave add-on for PostBox would work. So that Wave and eMail are in the same place. It would be easy to integrate the two protocols into one client, and visually show which conversation is Wave, and which is email.

  3. Wladia Viviani on the 31st October

    Am I feeling lonely in Wave? For sure… I’ve been distributing some invites to collegues, however I’m detecting some laziness or resistance in exploring the tool, so I find myself literally talking alone.
    Of course it would be better if only more people were in.
    Meanwhile, I suggest lonely wavers to share their contact: mine is wladia.viviani.ysatis@googlewave.com
    Please anybody feel free to add me to their contacts, and let’s figure out in how many ways can Wave be used.

  4. Troy Peterson on the 31st October

    Hi Mike,

    Nice post!
    One thing I have to mention, is that Google wave is like a Chat Room, Instant Messaging, Email, and a Wiki all rolled up into one.

    I think some of the younger generations or at least the Gen-X and younger will understand it pretty easy.

    I think it will be one of those things that takes a day to learn, but a lifetime to master 🙂


    • Mike Vardy on the 31st October


      Thanks for the comments!

      You’re absolutely right – I do think some of the younger set will grasp Wave’s concepts right away and understand what it really can do for them. However, with such a small amount of individuals as its user base (at least for now) it is going to be hard to find those people that you already know that you can collaborate with amongst them. That being said, like Twitter it has the ability to connect people with common interests so it could open up a ton of opportunities!

      And it sure would be nice to have a notifier of some sort….Google probably has something up its sleeve in that regard. My bet is that it’s going to be wrapped up in a nice “Chrome” wrapper at first…

  5. Mark McDonnell on the 31st October

    Seems someone has tried but ‘screen scraping’ information is illegal so they have removed the application for the time being… http://groups.google.com/group/google-wave-api/browse_thread/thread/fa293616c0a2812f?pli=1

  6. Anthony Woods on the 1st November

    Mike what a wonderful article, I’m a university student that is currently studying his honours degree research on how Google Wave as a tool can help students and lectures at academic schools, colleges and universities re-use, store material and collaborate on the technology to enhance their studies.

    I agree with everything you have said and the potential this technology holds to developers and businesses. I think with any technology it definitely needs the time to mature, and the developers to make the waves much more functional. Without the developers in this world, Google Wave will not be able to reach it’s capabilities as an emerging technology.

  7. Ben Lumley on the 3rd November

    Wave looks so sweet! Even if it is still in development.

    It’s clear going to completely change the way with think about email and document collaboration.

    Unfortunately I think a lot the people who are in my contacts list who are regular are in contact via email with will take an age to move on to Wave even if they see the benefits. I have the same problem with GMail and Google Chat. No one in the UK really use it apart from hardcore Google fans like me

    Having sad that I’d probably just Wave with myself for a while!

  8. Jason Schwartz on the 3rd November

    I have not yet been able to do anything on Google Wave that is of note. I also feel like I am talking to myself.

    Has anyone been able to go anything really cool with Wave?! I am totally interested to hear how anyone is using this thing.

  9. Wes D on the 5th November

    I have been using WAVE for a few weeks now and I can see how it’s going to be a nice collaboration tool.. The problem is going to be waiting until it is mainstream enough for people to use it.

    I think it will come in very useful when building websites and interacting with both clients and partners.

    It’s still very new and thus people are reluctant to see the benefits…but once this is released to the public, they will get more feedback, make it even better and i think it will definitely change the way some communication is done…

  10. John Ryan on the 11th November

    Wave is a fundamental platform shift in joint “document” editing.

    Under the covers, a Wave is a shared document; currently in XML format. Part of that format is including active parts (called Gadgets). This current “document container” (i.e. the Wave UI) is just the first application that’s being provided to edit these documents. It’s very simple.

    Also, Google has opened up their Wave Federation component which really represents a play to allow bridging between Wave and other formats (e.g. email).

    Much much more to come.

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