I Have a Good One For You: Google Wave Resurrected – Rizzoma

So here I am, minding my own business, checking out the notifications filter folder in my Gmail box and all of a sudden, I get mention of a new comment on a Google Wave conversation I had participated in oh, about a million years ago. Naturally, my interest was piqued and I, of course, much like the proverbial cat smitten by curiousity, followed the link. To Rizzoma.

Rizzoma was an existing Russian company but, in 2010, they too became smitten with Wave and started work on improving it. They started private beta of their site in January 2012. Apparently, they began allowing import of existing Google Waves in February, 2012. And, to make it more Google-like, you can sign in with your Google ID, or a Facebook ID.

If you hadn’t moved your waves over by April 30, 2012, you are out of luck in saving that matter. But, you can certainly head over to Rizzoma and start a new wave if you are hankering for that old not-sure-whether-it’s-email-chat-text-messaging-social-network-sharepoint-bulletin-board experience of Wave. The interface is quite similar, but seems stable more stable, something Wave really wasn’t. Right now it is totally free and it’s open source – let’s hope they find a way to make money or they may be going the way of the Wave. Rizzoma did their research and found that Wave users were using it for business purposes, and have directed their efforts at becoming a decent business tool. Some other cool features of Rizzoma: the ability to @mention like Twitter; the ability to open access to any link, and the ability to reply and correct a message in any place of a document. Rizzoma sports a clean interface, with a navigation pane on the left divided into Topics, @Mentions and Public, a shortcut window on the bottom left. and  a larger content pane on the right. There are also sharing buttons for sharing topics from Rizzoma to Facebook, Google+ and Twitter.

In all seriousness, I always liked Wave and thought it could be a very effective collaboration tool, particularly for business users. I think Rizzoma might be onto something here – taking the best parts of Wave, making it more stable and usable and keeping the vibe going. Good luck to them for sure.

If you want to see a use case in action, check out the Rizzoma video – don’t mind the robo-voice, the video started out in Russian, but I thought viewers here might prefer the English version:

Run, Don't Walk, To 50GB Free Cloud Storage Via Box

Ever watching out for the free goods, I clapped with delight when I saw this great deal. If you are the lucky owner of an Android device, and you find the idea of free cloud storage and collaboration pretty nifty, then download Box’s mobile storage application for Android, log into your account and, Voila!, you will be gifted with 50GB of free storage. That ain’t no chump change – you can hold a lot of stuff with 50GB.

Box offered a similar incentive for iPhone / iPad users back in the fall. Now Android fans can partake of the free-ness.

Box distinguishes itself from services like DropBox by focusing more on easy collaboration. It most closely resembles Google Docs with file / folder sharing, version tracking and collaboration tools. It bears noting that the per file size limit is 25 MB for free users, which may not be enough for certain of your file types. You can upgrade to 1GB file sizes for $10 / month. Another important limitation: there is no desktop application for the free version like DropBox – you have to download your docs, edit, and then upload and can’t get auto-updates in all places – not quite as handy as Google Doc’s ability to permit edits in the cloud. Nonetheless, free is free and 50GB is 50GB. And, on the plus side, Box integrates with a lot of other services like Gmail, Google Docs, and Microsoft Office, so there are work arounds to be had.

So, grab that storage while its hot. There must be something you can put in the Box.

The All New Google Presentations

Google Docs, the cloud suite of productivity tools offered by Google for free, has always been a favorite of mine. I have used Presentations, the slide deck creation tool, to make visuals and collaborate with others. I have always found Presentations to be more than serviceable, and definitely useful.

Google has just made Presentations even more useful with a dramatic feature roll out. The changes focus on improving collaboration by including presence markers to show where collaborators are working, allowing simultaneous editing by team members, showing a use revision history to see who made changes or to revert to an earlier version, and a building in a chat feature to permit dialogue between collaborators while working on the document. There are more than 50 other new features , including better transitions and “spicier” (their word, not mine) 3D effects, new animations, new themes, drawings within presentations, and rich tables.

The new stuff is rolling out slowly but you can help it along – just click on the gear in the document list, select Document Settings, hit the editing tab, check the box to “create new presentations using the latest version of the presentation editor” and voila!, you’re in. But don’t bother if you are running an older browser: the new Presentations is optimized to work with the latest browser editions, so update one of those first before trying this at home, kids. Check this link for what works.

I love shiny new playthings from Google!

Website Notation & Sharing Now Clear As Glass

Does your work ever require you to review and share notes with others regarding the information you find on websites? Glass offers a specialized tool to assist that effort. Fresh out of private, invite-only beta, you can freely try this new application out and see if it fits your needs.

Via Firefox and Chrome plug-ins, you can easily and quickly add your own thoughts to a site, much like peering through a layer of glass. Those thoughts can include text, links, images or video. Then, send these thoughts to others via a messaging-type interface, with real-time like updates. There is a companion mobile application, iOS only at this time.  With the features in the interface, you can create a pretty solid annotation to the page, something worthy of sharing. And Glass does offer a measure of SSL secure encryption to the interaction and comments are not sharable by default.

Sort of like a social bookmarking site, with more collaboration, and a smooth-as-Glass execution. Nice new toy to play with, for certain.

Google Shared Spaces (Or Ride The Wave, Again)

O.k., it really isn’t Google Wave, but have you checked out Google Shared Spaces yet? Google describes its new Lab’s service as follows:

Google Shared Spaces allows you to easily create a space with a collaborative gadget and a chat box in it. The gadgets are based on the Wave gadgets technology, so there are already more than 50 gadgets across different categories, like games, productivity, and event planning. Anybody can create a new space by going to the gallery and clicking on one of the featured gadgets. Spaces can easily be shared by just pasting the URL into a chat window, an email or a content sharing platform like Google Buzz or Twitter. And if you know a little Javascript, it is easy to get started building your own real-time, collaborative gadgets and create new spaces based on those.

In many ways, Shared Spaces looks like Wave stripped down to a box for chatting and gadgets to decorate it with. Sharing is super simple and the boxes can be used in an almost disposable way – got something to discuss or want to play a quick game with friends? Navigate to Spaces, open a chat box with your chosen gadget and invite friends via URL. Available gadgets include a “yes/no/maybe” gadget, map gadget, draw board gadget, a waffle gadget that facilitates event set-up, shared sudoko game, map cluster, travel with me gadget, colcrop game, listy gadget, browse Amazon gadget, and a Concept Wave mindmapping gadget. Get notified of new gadgets by subscribing to the Shared Spaces feed. You can log into it using your Google account, Twitter or your Yahoo account.

Check out the slide deck on Shared Spaces here. Would love to hear what you think?

Google Shared Spaces

Now That I Have Wave, What Do I Do With It?

I have been having a “deja vue all over again” experience. It is the experience of hearing people say “gee, now that I am on Google Wave, what do I do with it?” The hype has been focused on Wave’s deployment as a killer collaborative tool. But how exactly do you get-to-done with it?

I haven’t yet been able to scare up a real project on Wave affording an opportunity to really put its collaborative forces into play. But I swear by its potential. And now I can point Studio readers to an excellent “how to” guide by a true Google Guru, Gina Trapani of Lifehacker, discussing how to manage a group project in Wave.

Gina’s post focuses on her ongoing project – writing a book aptly named “The Complete Guide to Google Wave.” While the book isn’t being written in Wave, it is being managed in Wave. She lists various tricks and tools she and her co-author employed, including shared tags and saved searches, how to reply to a blip below or in-line with it, or how to edit the blip, how to mark a reply private, how to playback a wave, and a list of helpful gadgets and bots (those crazy add-ons that make Waves exciting with multi-media goodness).

Gina also points out that adding Google Gears to your set-up isn’t necessary but helpful for securing more complete functinality. Installing Gears and a developers’ version of Chrome were the first tasks I undertook following my invitation to Wave and I do recommend it for new (and existing) Wavers. 

If you are like me and haven’t yet been able to put Wave through its paces for a real, honest-to-goodness task, check out the Lifehacker post to cull some tips and tricks secondhand. And if you are on Wave already, feel free to add me to your conversations – I would love to chat – I’m startoestudio@googlewave.com.

Google Wave – Initiated Version

For the last week or so, I have been playing on Google Wave. I can now provide at least an introduction to a hands-on account of it for Studio readers. (Thanks Carlos!) My initial impression is that it is an engaging mash-up of email, chat, wiki and collaborative tool. While it has aspects of each, Google Wave is most definitely its own animal.

The main screen approximates an email inbox, but that is pretty much where the similarity ends. If all boxes are open, you can see an inbox-like organization at the top left, called Navigation, with familiar categories, such as inbox and trash. You can see all of your inbox or only waves started by you. Bottom left shows contacts. Middle window shows the waves in which you are participating and far right shows the individual wave you select to view. If you commence a wave, it also shows in the far right column.

Wave Screen

As you can see from the screenshot, the inbox can look a bit overwhelming. But there are many ways to manipulate it and focus on the content you are interested in. Green-backed numbers show waves with unread information. Clicking on that wave brings you into the portion where the new information is located. Waves are not time/linear in aspect, but instead appear like conversational branches – responses to individual comments attach at the comment. There can be more recent entries showing at any point in a wave.

You can minimize any of these boxes, and bring them back up when you so desire.

For me, the single coolest feature of Wave is the ability to “extensify” your wave experience. Much like adding gadgets to the Firefox browser to customize your browsing experience, you can add gadgets, robots and extensions to the waves to modify the wave experience. The list of gadgets is growing. I have used the map gadget and I recently signed up with 6rounds so that I can use their video chat gadget (will report back on that one as well – the 6rounds site is a pleasure to play around with).

The downside is that gadget implementation is not as seamlessly easy as found in other venues or on other sites. You must add gadget URLs and/or include the robot as a wave participant from your inbox in each wave you create or edit.

I know many have complained about Wave’s complexity. It is, in fact, complex compared to other on-line applications. However, I am convinced the complexity can be overcome with experience (if I can figure it out, anyone can). I also see loads of potential here: it is a great means of targeting a group of contacts and collaborating on a plan, document, or strategy. I also think it could change the way we communicate on-line, if enough people are willing to invest the time and energy to learn the ins and outs of it.

It helps to bear in mind that it is in closed beta right now for a reason. There are bugs and glitches to be expected and it is fair to anticipate Google will improve it during this process. I found that downloading a developers version of Chrome and adding Google Gears helped with some of the bugginess.

I also imagine that Google and third party developers will look for ways to address the many concerns raised by users over the last few weeks and, maybe, even simplify the Wave experience for the masses before public launch.

Overall, I am impressed with what I have seen and I have not yet been put off by the bugginess. I recommend that anyone able to secure entry into the Wave beta give it a try. At the very least, you could get involved in  the process of helping Google craft a promising communications platform that might actually make our jobs that much easier to perform in the long run.

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.

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

How To Stay Connected In A Disconnected Work Place

Everyone wants to work from home. I know I fully appreciate the opportunity to do so. But working from home or working across the country from your co-workers and collaborators raises novel challenges. Humans are social animals with a strong need to connect, both professionally and socially. How can these connections be maintained, nurtured and expanded when the only other being sharing your office is the pet hamster?

Gina Trapani has some suggestions at the Harvard Business blog in her article entitled Master The Art of Working Remotely. The article does not focus on how to set up your office, how to get your work done or how to print and fax documents. Her focus is THE focus: how to maintain the human connections necessary for getting the job done. Trapani provides advice on how to make the most of the lines of communication available to the remote worker: email; messaging and text-based chat; on-line collaboration tools; and, voice and video chat. The idea is not simply to remind others of your existence, but to fully leverage the benefits of the various media and preserve the record in ways that are unavailable in the traditional Office Space set-up.

I would add a few additional tools to her list. Social media can bridge connections between co-workers and collaborators provided its use is targeted to a professional connection. Microblogging offers a means for one-way updates regarding status, results  and whereabouts, while social sites offer fora for communicating in more general, professional terms with other, similarly-situated workers.

It all boils down to keeping the “human” in the “human interaction” with gentle reminders to others of your existence and value to the task at hand.

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]