Google Wave – For The Uninitiated

And that includes me. No, I do not have a Google Wave invitation yet. I have put in my application, pleaded with my friends, and even considered eBay (no, not really on that last one). I can’t give you the hands-on review from the legal mindset that you all are looking for. Not yet, anyway.

What I can do is provide you with some context if you are like me and have heard all about it, have gotten all excited to try it, but wonder what the heck it is and why should you even care.

Because I haven’t done the hands-on, I can only provide you with the  information I have culled from others among the scores and scads of on-line articles about it. Google, Apple, Twitter, Facebook and Microsoft need only hiccup to cause a social media riot. Wave is no exception, and maybe is even more tantalizing in that it has been the subject of the months of hypeof tsunami proportion leading up to the limited edition 100,000 or so special, closed pre-beta invites that started trickling out last Thursday.

From Anthony Ha - Digital Beat

From Anthony Ha - Digital Beat

What IS it? At the core, Google Wave is a tool for online collaboration via real-time communication. According to the official Google word, the “communication” can be viewed as both a “wave” of conversation or a document. The participants in the wave or collaboration can utilize all sorts of media in the course of the conversation, offering rich, real-time sharing opportunity. Check out this screenshot of a wave here:

As you can see, waves look like threaded conversations, rather than the more traditional “back-and-forth” email model. Waves can constantly “crash” into your inbox, particularly if your box is open to all. Like a surfer confronted with too many possible rips, Google Wave certainly bears the potential to overwhelm the typical end user.

Another aspect that makes waves somewhat unique in the sharing world is their easy modification by participants, their ability to be played back at any time so that a new participant may be brought up to speed, and their fast transmission of information – you can see the other wave participants responses as they type them! The collaboration is real-time as well, due to some fancy “concurrency control technology” tools. Natural language features provide context and spelling correction. And, waves are embeddable, offering the ability to place the conversation and collaboration anywhere. Waves are amenable to the use of widgets for customizing and broadening the experience.

Without a doubt, Google Wave sounds like a might powerful tool, particularly in the enterprise arena. Imagine access to such a facile and speedy set of tools across departments or units – not only can the process be shared (like a wiki) but participants can get involved and see others’ involvement in the process right here and right now.

Sounds great, right? Well, not everyone is buying the hype. Carmi Levy at BetaNews has announced that he is sitting out the first “wave” of Wavers . Levi believes that Wave won’t be as big as Gmail, in large part due to the fact that “collaboration isn’t the holy grail of productivity.” Levi also thinks that most collaborators are not yet ready for the rocket-powered Wave: even the relatively simpler Google Docs has not broken among Levi’s peers and the emailing of Microsoft attachments remains the most popular method of securing feedback and a team result.

Then there is the question of security – while a Waver must have permission to participate, allowing anyone to edit source data tends to offend every traditional data security principle.

Robert Scoble also exhibits skepticism regarding the value of Wave as a true productivity tool. Scoble suggests that Wave represents multiple layers of unproductive tools: email, topped with chat, topped with social media, topped with features that lack an intuitive interface, et cetera. Scoble also criticizes Wave for its lack of integration with Google Docs and Spreadsheets and its tortoise-like pace. Hit the jump above for his fleshed-out discourse as to why he is not ravin’ ’bout the Wave.

Steven Hodson at the Inquisitr seems similarly unimpressed, mostly due to the difficulty he experienced ramping up with Google Wave and getting even rudimentary controls under control. He is holding his conclusions in check until he can spend more time with the tool and, hopefully, “get” the hype.

Steve Rubel opines that Google Wave, as it currently stands, is not a Twitter, Facebook or even email killer, in large part due to its complexity. Rubel believes it solves a problem that doesn’t exist, but is hopeful that Google Wave 2.0 addresses the concern and delivers on the promise.

Louis Gray’s take is not as critical, as he offers his personal experience with Google Wave here. He crafts a nice overview of the user experience, for those craving their own near-hands-on. But even he suggests that Google Wave will prove most useful for collaboration among small teams. And, reading between his lines, Gray appears to lament the fact that Google Wave is simply another place to check for conversations and information exchange, further burdening an already overburdened on-line network of email and social media outposts. It seems Wave may not be the ideal source for “crowd” conversations among large groups.

So, does my post sound a bit like the fox who couldn’t reach the proverbial grapes, proclaiming them to be sour as he quits the quest? Maybe so. But I am still hot to try Google Wave and allow my own first-hand experience to be my guide. I am guarded, however, after reading the somewhat critical reviews from some of tech’s elite. If these guys are having issues with Google Wave, how will the average tech-averse lawyer or business person manage its might? In any event, if a reader has an extra invite to pass along, I wouldn’t turn it down and might even be your best friend. 😉

Maybe you are one of the lucky few already enjoying Wave and currently making up your own mind about its utility or lack thereof. I have something for you too: a cheatsheet for Wave searching from Google itself.

Check out the lengthy Google developers preview video that follows. Or hit the simplistic video further below, linked in Scoble’s post.

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