Riding the Waves with Google

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I received my Google Wave preview invite over two weeks ago and wanted to write my initial impressions on this well publicised ‘technical revolution’ – a mixture of MSN Messenger and email.

As soon as I opened the application I received 12 invites to send out to friends and colleagues. As I found out straight away, it’s not much fun having no-one to Wave at! When I sent out a tweet asking if anyone else wanted to join me, I got a sudden surge in Twitter followers so I could tell I wasn’t on my own in looking forward to trying out this application.

However, my initial impression was somewhat mixed. As a regular user of MSN Messenger I was attracted to the idea of communicating with my colleagues in real time.  The problem was that I couldn’t see who was logged in and ready for me to Wave at. I think the realtime communication element would be great if you could see who was online at the same time as you.  There has been a number of times when I’ve left a Wave for someone along the lines of ‘Are you there?’ only to return a while later to find a reply saying ‘Yes I am, where are you?’ I’ve since found out that you can install a Wave notifier extension for Firefox to resolve this issue.

The interface was also quite confusing.  When trawling through long Waves with lots of threads, it’s difficult to see which ones you haven’t read.  This was odd, considering it’s supposed to be used to facilitate long conversations between many people.

Having tried Wave on a variety of screens, I found it really difficult to use at low resolutions.  1024 x 768 was extremely cluttered and it was difficult to follow the flow of Waves between lots of people. It’s also going to be interesting to see whether it’s used in office environments, where most users have quite small, flat screen monitors.

I realise it’s early days and there aren’t many gadgets out there to enhance communication, plus I did enjoy playing with the Google Maps and voting gadgets.  Also the ability to insert video will be very useful.  I can see it becoming a great tool to communicate ideas and concepts to clients without a face-to-face meeting.  I’ll be watching with interest to see how developers utilise the Google Wave API.

From this preview, I don’t think Google Wave will replace email, as it’s been touted by some experts. I think it would be too big a leap for some, as email is already so ingrained in our business practices. However, I do think that it’s a great way for individuals to come together and share ideas.  I’ve got two spare invites if anyone would like to join in. Tweet me (grahamjrobinson) if you’d like one!