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 firstname.lastname@example.org – if you’re so inclined (and able) stop by and…um…wave!