Monday, November 30, 2009

The Google Wave Algorithm

Google Wave Most days, I sit here worrying my pretty little head with the question What is Google Wave good for? (to the tune of Edwin Starr's earworm Wave, huh, yeah / What is it good for / Absolutely nothing / Say it again). But slowly, the light is beginning to dawn.

Wave is not for:
  • Large groups of people (such as conference audiences) - too noisy and cumbersome.
  • Individuals - the communication element is strong, so unless you have a split personality, you're better off organizing your thoughts in a document rather than a wave.
  • Small groups working on single documents such as a manuscript or planning document. Google Docs or Etherpad works perfectly well with this without the complications of Wave.
So, in the words of the song, what is it good for? No, not that. Unless you're going to use the attributes of Wave, which means robots, gadgets and all the other stuff which is going to appear over the next couple of years, you're better off using something else. It's possible that at some stage Wave may become such a prevalent medium that it becomes the default for words (and multimedia) on screen, but we're a long way away from that at present. The precise timing of events will depend on the community that you are working with, in exactly the same way that Twitter was adopted in successive, err, waves. And if you're not working in a community, you don't need Wave.

And one more thing. Even if Wave is what email would look like if it were invented today (it isn't, this is just a one liner the developers were forced to come up with at short notice for PR purposes - the Google PR department must be one of the scariest places in history), disruptive technologies augment rather than replace preceding ones. (Television did not replace radio, radio did not replace books, etc.) So while we wait to find out what Wave is good for, lets bear that in mind. Paul Buchheit suggests the future of Wave is to be integrated into the other Google offerings, producing a realtime environment for GMail and Google Documents. And he's been right before.