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Wave: First Paddlings November 23, 2009

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I got my invite a week or two back, and in between other things, have been dabbling in Google Wave as it is at the moment.

I haven’t got many contacts yet, so the interactive side of things is a little thin. But for now, that’s fine, as I try to figure out ways to use this new platform.

If I had a wide screen, I think I would be enjoying the experience a little more – with the three columns of the standard layout, there isn’t really room on my laptop screen to have really good view of both the preview/search column and the wave content column.

Adding gadgets beyond the few ‘recommended’ gadgets takes a bit of looking around for via search. I’m still not sure yet whether each participant in a wave needs to activate all the gadgets in a wave.

Speed wasn’t as bad as I had imagined, but still quite jerky once there’s more than one working on simultaneous editing. Editing a wave just by myself was a bit smoother, but the delay was enough to sometimes confuse things, particularly with typos and backspacing.

As a text editor, it has a good range of functions – everything I need for the sort of typing I do, except for tables. Maybe tables will come as a gadget rather than a text editor function?

So the jury remains out as to whether it will fit my needs as it stands.

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Wave: when it will start to get really useful October 7, 2009

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They say you are good at a new language when you no longer have to consciously translate to and from your mother tongue.  I think it will be the same way with Wave.

It’s only natural, but at the start everyone wants to understand wave in terms of current internet communication – IM, email, wikis etc.  The thing is that a wave is something new, though having similar functionalities to current means.

Wave will come into its own when people start using it for what it is, not for what it’s similar to.

One report said that Wave is an evolutionary, not revolutionary change.  That may be true from a technical point of view, but getting people to think in a different way about how they communicate is a revolutionary thing, and for Wave to be a success, that needs to be recognised.

Wave: machines enter the conversation September 30, 2009

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One of the more interesting features of Wave is the ability to add ‘robots’, or automated functions, to the wave.  Google have already showed off some of these:

  • language correction – spelling/grammar by comparing with the aggregated text of the Internet.
  • instant translation
  • formatting functions – demonstrated as a robot that produces a poll/ multiple choice question.
  • moving data between wave and other internet entities such as Twitter.

For developers trying to make the perfect wave, part of the imagining process has to include ‘what machines do we want around the table?’.  The limit of the term machine in this context? – anything capable of providing or processing data.  It’s quite broad, and that’s what makes trying to envisage the potential of Wave quite difficult.

Of course, a wave could include multiple machines, and the machines themselves could interact with the output of others…

These automations could:

  • add relevant data into the conversation
    • real world
    • financial/ marketing data
    • location data
    • scientific data
    • search data etc
  • analyse the conversation and go find answers to questions
    • respond to changes to other webpages/ datasources
  • produce summaries/outcome documents from the conversation
    • publishing to web/ digital files
    • preparing for print publication
    • producing audio/presentation output

Potentially letting machines enter the conversation may help us overcome many of the things  that can make traditional conversations less than effective.  Whether we can get used to having machines around the table or not is another thing.

Waves beyond Google: a perfect wave? September 30, 2009

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The best waves will have not yet shown themselves.

Google Wave will be the one attracting the most attention for starters, and will contain enough catchy extras to, they would hope, remain one of the most popular Wave providers.

They will also have some constraints which will mean that their wave may not be the best one for you to use.

  • Being the first, people are still very much in the mindset of email etc, and so Google Wave needs to be able to look and feel as familiar as email to get people to adopt it.  But Wave being a transformative idea, the ‘sort of like email’ notion might not be the best metaphor for an ideal Wave interface.
  • Their Wave, being the first, will come under the most performance pressure scrutiny. They may therefore not to adopt features that would mean  improved usability for you, unless they can make it also work for a billion other people doing the same thing.
  • In order to convince people to adopt Wave the protocol, their Wave has to show off as many of the new features of Wave as possible.  This may make their interface more complex than you need.

Who will make the best Wave interface?  We don’t yet know.  It may come from a familiar software company, incorporating Wave features into an application you already use and are familiar with.  It may continue as present, with each person using many applications that implement Wave in different ways, or one interface may render word processors, email programs, even webpages obsolete. It may come from an unknown, who clicks on to the best way to use this technology.  It may come from Google.  Any way, the race is on to be the one that works the best.  The development community have had 6 months to imagine, and produce their vision of a perfect wave.

Wave: a function I hope someone will make September 29, 2009

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For many people, Google wave, despite potentially remaking internet communication, will firstly be seen as a new form of email.

So I hope someone sets their mind to a program that will migrate existing email documents into wave format, so that users don’t end up with archives all over the place.

Wave: my mind’s eye metaphor September 29, 2009

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If email is like sitting down at a typewriter to compose a message, and IM is like a phone call just written down, what is the visual image of a wave?

Just to clarify – the email metaphor doesn’t work for wave, because sitting at a typewriter you don’t get people responding to you part way through a sentence.

To me, participating in a wave is like being around a small table with a group of people. All are able to talk to each other, and each has a pen that will let them add things onto a large sheet of paper on the table.

Making a wave – what’s the mood like?

In a swiftly moving wave, the people are all excitedly huddled in close talking away, and the piece of paper is a riot of colour, lines, diagrams.

In a slow wave, it’s more like a boardroom scene with people resting back in their chairs passing the occasional comment, and sometimes languidly leaning forward to contribute a note.  The annotations on the paper are in blue or black ink.

Wave: hurdles to adoption September 29, 2009

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Those who have reviewed using Wave point out that it’s going to take some getting used to.  Since for some change is unwelcome, these changes may be seen as hurdles, even if the change leads to smoother, faster, better communication. Here are some hurdles that I would foresee:

  • The immediacy of transmission – letter by letter updating excites many people, but terrifies others.  In a conversation like that you can feel quite exposed, as your spelling, false starts to sentences, even speed of typing or speed of thought is seen by others.  More than other communication forms, the barriers to fast effective communication will be almost entirely the human factor, and that may not be welcome.
  • The new rules – the ‘wetiquette’ – of communication on wave.  In interactive text the fastest typist can ‘dominate’ a conversation.  Someone who interjects too much could hijack a conversation.  Having your thoughts responded to before you’ve finished typing the sentence.  I wonder what an argument will look like on wave – especially involving multiple people?
  • Can anything ever be ‘unsaid’ in the wave world?  Can anything really be deleted?
  • The tendency to still revert to older forms of communication – perhaps reflecting the different modes of thought associated with say typing a word processor document vs sms vs IM vs email.  All that these can do can now be potentially done on wave – it will take some time to come to terms with that.

Wave: Assessing the best platform for communication September 29, 2009

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Enthusiasts of Google Wave would like to see it become the new dominant form of Internet communication.  Success would have implications for our usage of email, IM, mobile phones, documents, and so on.

Commentators talk about Wave as being an all-or-nothing – it will either catch on in a big way, or it won’t.  This is largely because the best benefits of Wave only come when everyone you are wanting to communicate with has Wave access.  The early days of telephone, fax machines and email would have had a similar hurdle.

There are going to be a number of changes/adaptions that current email users will have to make to cope and thrive in a Wave world, and whether they will take the step to adopt the technology will depend on whether they can clearly see that it represents a significant step forward.  So how can we assess whether something really is the best platform for communication.

Here are 12 criteria (no particular order) by which different communcation platforms can be assessed.  It’s a interesting exercise to not only assess Google Wave by these criteria, but also more traditional communication forms such as  face to face conversation, book publishing, letter writing, email, and mobile phones.

  1. Accessible in many ways:  not tied to a single device, but available through many including mobile devices.
  2. Shares information in many forms: not just text but also audio, video, images.
  3. Allows for multiple participants, connected both as a group and individually to each other: the communcation can then take place at both whole-group and sub-group levels.
  4. Interactivity: the communication can be shaped along the way by responses and new ideas.
  5. Effectively zero transmission time: communication can take place in real time if there is no transmission lag.
  6. No distance/ location issues: communication is as easy with someone in the same room as someone across the globe.  (Note: access to high-speed internet may still be a significant barrier to fast world-wide adoption of wave)
  7. Ability to record/ log the communication.
  8. Ability to retrace the path that the communication has taken allows for better review, allows for the communication to follow multiple branches, allows new participants to understand where the communication is at without everyone having to review.
  9. Ability to incorporate automation: Allows the participants to take advantage of IT to supplement their human communication.
  10. Ability to convey non-verbal information/cues: this has been a major aspect for people still preferring face-to-face communication.
  11. Ability to control the volume of communication: perhaps a newer criterium but needed to avoid information overload.
  12. Secure: the communication is kept private to those involved in it.

Wave: an interface I’d like to see September 19, 2009

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I’m hoping that in the early days of development of wave, there will be a Whiteboard/mind map style interface.

One of Wave’s purposes is to improve collaboration, and one of the most common situations of multi-person collaboration I’m involved is the brainstorm/ generating ideas type situation.

It’s possible to use a text base interface for describing/recording such an interaction, but it’s not the way I’d do it on paper if in a real room with real people.  Instead we’d roughly follow a mindmap shape in getting down and refining ideas. I’d like to see that as part of Wave.

I believe it shouldn’t be too hard to do – wouldn’t need a lot of fancy graphics to display as a radial style chart.

A developer coming up with a good simple interface like this would find lots of people like me using it.

Wave: What new language will we need? September 19, 2009

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If Wave is to supplant email as the dominant form of Internet communication, we’re going to need some new language.

Aside from the origin of Wave as given by wikipedia, wave also has associations with

surfing/ watersports
a gesture of greeting
ripples/ pulses

that may impact on the new language that will emerge.

Here are some perceived language needs, and some suggestions.  Have you any to add?

I want to wave you, I’m going to have/do a wave with you… ??

The biggie has to be the verb -what’s going to be the doing word for a wave?

  • to send a wave reverts to email language, requires a ‘receive’ as well, and moves in the wrong direction – sounds too active/passive –  for the participatory nature of a wave.
  • to participate in a wave is the official usage, but too formal for everyday I think.
  • I’m part of a wave about “aaa”.
  • I’m in a wave?  – but then to begin participation is to ‘get in a wave’, ‘enter a wave’ ?
  • wave as a verb – normally in English you wave ‘at’ something, or ‘to’ something, so it sounds a bit odd for starters to talk about ‘I waved them’.  But to say ‘I waved at them’, ‘I am waving to them’ sounds odd too.
  • perhaps we can do a wave with someone,
  • or have a wave with them?? – not my preference
  • how about ‘make‘ a wave. ‘Making waves’ is already a phrase in English, and to make is to build, reflecting the participatory nature of a wave.

Eventually the verb may become almost redundant, if waves become so dominant in communication that they are either assumed, or the means of communication disappears far enough into the background to not need highlighting, in which case we get back to ‘I was discussing, I am talking to…, I’m in touch with…’ and all the other older communication verbs.

a breaking wave

a new wave gathering participants and purpose and increasing in activity.

wavesmith

– first mentioned here.

Real people working inside a wave to increase its value – producing outcome documents/ letters/ summaries, perhaps facilitating the conversation, in real time.

(…word needed…)

For the situation in a wave where a person changes what they are saying as they respond to people commenting on what they have not yet finished typing.  Up till now it’s been a private affair in IM ‘…aaa is typing’ hides the redrafting process, but now it’s in the open, and perhaps needs a word.

(…word needed…)

For the situation, common in early usage of wave, especially when joining an active wave, of being dazed by so much editing going on around you that you don’t know what or where to read. Being lost in the hive of activity.

(…word needed…)

For the new rules that will emerge as to proper conduct within a wave.  It would be fairly easy to be quite disruptive in a wave.  ‘Wetiquette’ would follow netiquette, and hardly need explaining as a term; I don’t know if I like it though.

(…word needed…)

A Wave is a far more in-your-face means of communication, and to work properly needs attention and presence from its participants.  Like every human interaction there will be some waves that work well, and others that are awkward, confrontational, frustrating.  I think we’ll end up with a word to describe the feeling, the air, the mood of a wave.