By Wyatt Wood
Last week I received my invite to the Google Wave phenomenon – it really wasn’t as enticing as I hoped, I’m glad I didn’t spend $5100 on it. I watched the videos, saw the preview demonstrations and even drank the Kool-aid as a die hard Google fan, but something is missing. After getting my hands elbow deep in the “wave” (yes there is special terminology for the service) it occurred to me that the issue is the network.
First, to quell the fears of those who aren’t on the “Wave” yet: this will not kill Twitter, Facebook, Ning or (insert another social media network here). Especially right now, since it is full of bugs, slow, cumbersome interface, and a limited user network. In typical Google fashion it can still be considered in “beta” mode.
That being said, Google has their work cut out based on the underlying message that Wave is to replace email, online document collaboration and chat with this revolutionary real time communication model. I feel after using the wave what Ryan realized on the 37signals blog that “‘Because it sucks’ is not a reason to redesign. ‘It sucks’ leaves the scope wide open with no measure of success.” The purpose to step beyond email or “old style” of communication is a valiant effort but to complicate the method send the Wave to the scrap heap.
Here’s the catch: Google is surprisingly missing the concept that it is all about the people and productivity, duh!
Last week they released 100k invites with the ability for folks to then nominate eight other individuals. It seems this morning they have begun to send out more invites based on those nominations. I understand the need to control the user base but if the purpose of the application is collaboration I would expect the ability to add more humans into the network would be top priority. Currently it’s similar to post-apocalyptic hide and seek trying to find contacts via the six degrees in the social network that were lucky enough to be invited or nominated. Currently the hurdle to collaborate is so high just finding the network of individuals to work with is virtually impossible.
My biggest concern about contacts and “friends” in Google Wave is the way to manage them. Right now there is no integration with Gmail to manage contacts (other than a link that loads Google Contacts in a new window separate from the application). If they expect the contact management system to stay as simplistic as Gmail contacts then it will be painful to setup groups of individuals to interact with. Even something as simple as how Facebook organizes contacts via lists would be a start to managing the user experience.
The lack of human network then leads into the noise factor. The influx of gadgets, bots, and other “features” just overloads the experience with nonhuman interaction. I am all for automation which is the goal of the Wavebots; however, so far the implementation has been far from “seamless”. The concept is great – but the execution of these robots makes the usage painful and confusing.
I understand that the product is still in extreme infancy, however after having announced it months ago and chummed the waters in anticipation the purpose of the application should be a bit more polished. Brad Robb, a fiction writer expounded on the technology challenge for using the Wave as a writer and summarized his experience with: “Google Wave will be a powerful force for those who want to use it. The system is a lot like checkers – takes two minutes to learn and a lifetime to master.” In today’s market complexity for user interaction doesn’t win.
Google has stepped its game up with real time communication efforts between networks of individuals, especially with the Wave adding a new twist on the concept of online collaboration. Yet right now the combination of “noise” and the lack of network (human network) is killing the momentum of Google Wave being a smash hit.