Here lay the Wave

So, I’ve spent a week or two experimenting with Google Wave. I’ve had some correspondence with some journalists I know, a Vistage colleague in the US, other people who run digital agencies. And it’s been a frustrating experience.

I think partly the way they’ve done the beta release is to blame. It seems that very few large communities of people that already correspond have been given a pool of invitations. So conversation has been very fragmented. The beauty of Wave, which is a kind of rolling discussion incorporating instant messaging, social media, productive wiki and email, can’t show itself clearly when there are six of you but not all on the same wavelength at the same time.

One of the features I found quite interesting is that you can incorporate a Wave into a webpage. In my case I hosted a Wave in my blog for a week, and people who were logged in to Wave could view the embedded Wave and people in the conversation could interact with it. My coding’s not up to much, so it didn’t look particularly elegant, but it’s a far cry from the basic comment field.

So I think that one day Wave could be awesome. While some of my colleagues didn’t see the attraction, I think it might become quite a revolutionary step. For example, imagine constructing a collaboratively-generated screenplay or feature article, where several people can be involved in different time zones, editing previous contributions and suggesting new, constantly honing and refining, fact-checking, editing and clarifying as you go along, until the final polished artefact is ready. On the other hand, I can see all sorts of mischief, and the experience of wiki, where attribution and defacement become important, may have to be reworked.

It’s not in itself particularly original – it is after all an agglomeration and blurring of the borders between a whole host of technologies that have been around for between 15 and 30 years – but it may take discussion itself to a whole new level.