Thursday, October 1, 2009

What is Google Wave and Why Should I Care?

Disruptive WaveImage by curiouslee via Flickr
In my excitement over obtaining a preview invitation to Google Wave, I received a number of blank stares and the obvious question, "What is Google Wave?" In this article, I will introduce Google Wave, share its most obvious features, suggest ways to use Wave, and provide my first day observations. In the days and weeks to come, I plan to continue sharing what I know about this game changing application.

What is Google Wave?
The definition I found most helpful came from Mashable.com, where Ben Parr wrote, "Google Wave is a real-time communication platform. It combines aspects of email, instant messaging, wikis, web chat, social networking, and project management to one elegant, in-browser communication client."

The definition meant very little to me until I had the opportunity to play with Wave. Today, I agree with Parr and recognize how the platform offers multiple functions in one product. I think you will agree, too.

To summarize, Google Wave is a web-based application that allows communication and collaboration between two or more people. It felt like e-mail on steroids.

What can Google Wave Do?
With a general understanding of Google Wave, the second question focuses on its features. What can it do?


  • Edit Anything: Imagine yourself IM'ing a friend or working collaboratively on a research paper. With Wave, you can edit anything you write as well as the words of others. Everything within a wave is editable by everyone who has access.

  • Extend Functionality: Similar to Facebook and iGoogle, applications and gadgets are available here as well. Interested in playing a game with a friend? There is an app for that. How about updating your Twitter status from within Wave. There is an app for that as well. The core application known as Google Wave is cool, but it only gets better when you extend it.

  • Drag and Drop File Uploads: Share family pictures with friends by simply dragging images into a wave. People with access can also add their pictures to make a photo gallery in minutes.

  • Share Waves: Waves seem to ooze collaboration, but what about people outside of the application? Easy, with the embed option, you can take the good stuff out and post it on a web site. Now, people can edit or read your stuff from anywhere.

  • Playback: Every keystroke is recorded which allows people to follow the discussion in the order that it happened. Similar to music player control panels, users can progress forward or backwards through changes made in the wave.
How Might I Use Google Wave?
All of this brochure talk is great, right? But, how can you use it? The possibilities are endless and with the release of new extensions, we may find even more value. With that written, I do have some pretty simple ideas.

  • Event planning
  • Meeting notes
  • Academic papers
  • Brainstorming
  • Photo gallery
  • Online meeting room
  • Project planning
  • Grocery lists
Because Google Wave provides for collaboration, individuals and teams can create all kinds of waves on the fly. With real-time editing, teams can create documents right in front of your eyes. When I write real-time, I mean real-time. Users can literally watch others type keystroke by keystroke. It is one of the coolest features.

First Day Observations
I cannot speak for the handful of others that used Google Wave yesterday, but I have to admit it was frantic. Imagine opening the doors to Toys R Us with thousands of excited kids waiting outside. It was like the old wild west. We had individuals putting together waves on keyboard shortcuts, search features, and later etiquette. There were few rules and a whole lot of action.

Needless to say, the interaction with online contacts was fun. There is a lot to learn and, at times, a bit overwhelming. At one point, there was so much going on that my computer got bogged down and I had to exit Firefox. Based on my observation, too many extensions (gadgets and bots) within a wave can seriously slow a system to a grinding halt.

Final Thoughts
Google Wave is an innovative approach to centralize the many different functions we already use today. From wikis to instant messages to Facebook apps, the platform provides options for working and communicating effectively. I can see businesses, teams, social organizations, families, and friends using Wave to organize birthday parties and build billion dollar companies.

For those interested in Wave, please know that it will take some time before everyone can obtain access. My advice is to follow this link, submit your contact information, and wait patiently. According to Google, they have a lot of virtual stamps to lick.

Until next time...

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Damond L. Nollan, M.B.A.

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