Imagine you had an infinitely-long strip of paper that you, and your friends, could write on anywhere along the strip. Imagine that you could write anywhere along that strip anytime, or even all at the same time.
That is exactly what Google Wave is. Except it’s not a piece of paper and using a Wave you can even have things automatically write to the strip (bots) and since we’re talking computers here we’re not limited to words, but videos, pictures, and, even information from other computer services, er, APIs. There are some new things you can do on a Wave too, like hold a vote. It’s a chat room, but not the usual text-only one-comment-after-another kind.
That is what is brilliant about Google Wave. Unfortunately they didn’t stop there and make that work right. Read a guest post in TechCrunch by Martin Seibert for a great analysis on where they went wrong (they stuck this infinite strip inside an email metaphor, which makes it nearly useless if you get more than 20 people interacting with you via Wave — my account is almost unopenable because it’s so unproductive).
But let’s forget the email interface because someday someone will strip Wave out of that crappy interface and give us its brilliance: just the infinite strip.
There still are some problems with just this part of Wave. There are two that I’ve found:
1. I can’t find where the good stuff is. I sat next to a Wave user at the Defrag conference in Denver. I could see that tons of people were putting good notes into a wave about that conference. But, quick, find the useful stuff inside that wave. You can’t. Why? For a whole lot of reasons. We’re going to need curation so that guys like me can overlay a map of where useful stuff actually is. Which brings me to point number two.
2. There aren’t permalinks that we can figure out. We need permalinks for each few inches along the infinite strip so that we can link you to a Wave and say “there’s value right here.” Right now I can’t do that, so I can’t point you to specific places in the Defrag conference Wave and say “check out xyz’s notes here, they are most excellent.” Now, I’m sure some geek will point out there’s a way to do it, but I haven’t figured it out yet and the guy I was sitting next to couldn’t tell me, so it must require some sort of Sergey Brin decoder ring.
That said, these two things are fairly easy to fix. But first the Google Wave team MUST get rid of the email interface.
I wish I could tell the team to free their minds. You won’t get more adoption by putting it into something that looks like email. All you’ll do is hide the brilliance and ensure it remains unusable and undiscoverable for lots of us.