Google Wave's unproductive email metaphors

Wall of water

OK, I took a few hours off from playing with Google Wave yesterday. I read all my comments on the post I wrote Thursday about Google Wave, many of which were very ascerbic toward me.

I took the day off and said “what if they are right?” and “is Google Wave a really great way to collaborate with other people?”

On coming back to Google Wave with fresh eyes tonight and even after collaborating with people on a few things my answer is “no, they are not right” and “no, Google Wave is even less productive than email.”

But, first, over on TechCrunch and Mashable I discovered this cute little video that showed off what Google Wave is and how it could be used. In that video you’ll learn that Google Wave is like email but “modernized.” Well, OK, let’s see how the email metaphor holds up and see if Google Wave has actually made us more productive, shall we?

I’ve been studying how teams collaborate for quite some time. I’ve worked at small companies, big ones like NEC and Microsoft, and medium ones like Rackspace.

I’ve interviewed lots of productivity experts over the years, including the guy who wrote “Getting Things Done.”

Plus I’ve been doing public collaboration for more than 20 years too.

Here’s what I’ve learned: email sucks.

Email is probably the most unproductive tool you use. Even though it is the most familiar. Here’s some reasons why:

1. Anyone can send you email. That leads to spam. But worse, that spam, or that funny email from Aunt Sue, gets placed on top of the email from your wife or your boss. Or, the request from a customer that could lead to a huge contract. (A coworker of mine once screwed up an account because such an email was missed).

2. Email in your account is only available to you. So, let’s say you are pitching Toyota tomorrow for a new kind of headlight assembly. You might be talking with your boss about that and maybe an engineer or two who made the product you’re going to pitch. But, is there a chance that another coworker could get involved because he might know something about Toyota without being directly asked to get involved? No. Yet if you were talking in a more open toolset like Salesforce, Yammer, SocialText, or Sharepoint that other guy might actually see you’re talking about something he has knowledge about. I’ve seen this happen over and over because I talk about my projects in public. Heck, that’s exactly how this interview with LaVar Burton got done (it really is a good one too, thanks to Michael Sean Wright who I met online and who took over interviewing duties while I missed the Twitter Conference).

3. Email is hard to search, because of limited metadata and because you can’t search across company, just your own inbox.

4. Email gets turned off when you leave a company. At NEC I had more than a gig of email. It was deleted the day I left there. As it should be. But, the guy who replaced me sure could have used a lot of the knowledge I built up in that email store. Once I left, though, it was gone forever from both people inside the company and outside.

5. Email doesn’t tell you much about the person. Xobni and Gist and other companies are trying to change that, so you can see stuff about who they are, what they’ve done online, etc. This helps you to prioritize your email.

6. Prioritizing your email is difficult at best. Tools like ClearContext try to help by studying your answering patterns.

But, to repeat myself from the other day, Google Wave adds many of these unproductive problems and then lays another few unproductive things on top. What are those?

1. Chat. Live chat. You know, the kind where you can see me typing my characters. Why is this unproductive? Because your eye gets drawn to anything that moves on screen. This is a HUGE attention distractor. That means less productivity for you. And it’s not easy to turn off (I’ve tried to find it). Cure? Only open Wave once in a while, never leave it open. That is a demonstration that it’s even worse than email.

2. Social networking. The social networking features here are far worse than Twitter’s or Facebook’s. Why? No bio. No real names. No real way to manage them and put them into groups. I’d really like to ONLY see Rackspace employees when I sign into Google Wave. I haven’t figured out how to do that yet and that should be the FIRST thing that a collaboration tool like this lets you do. It’s inconsistent too. In Contacts at bottom left, full names aren’t used, but if you click “+” and add someone to a wave there you’ll see full names. Consistency people!

3. Imperfect affordances. There’s a trash can on my screen in Google Wave. Yet I haven’t figured out how to delete anything or why it’s there. Drag and drop? Doesn’t work. Right click? No “trash” or “delete.” Up on the toolbar? Nope, no trash. Now I’m sure someone will call me an idiot for not figuring it out, but I’m making a point here. Stuff here doesn’t work the same way it does on your desktop, or even in your email.

4. They take an email metaphor but they threw out the good parts. I can’t figure out how to BCC someone, for instance. That’s something that lots of us use to make sure that our bosses are kept up to date on projects without including them in the conversation. Oh, yes, I’m sure there’s a way to do it, but in Gmail it’s in your face. In Google Wave? Can’t find it.

5. No clear integration into Google Docs and Spreadsheets, which is where a lot of us are already doing collaboration. Now I know why we need SocialWok. To join all these things together. But why wasn’t that done in Wave?

6. It’s sssssssssllllllllloooooooooowwwwwwww. Sorry, when I’m collaborating with other people I want everything to be snappy fast. Even if you think I’m an idiot on every other point this one will really piss you off. Yes, I know, it’s not beta, but on the other hand first impressions matter and if this thing is so slow now imagine when it gets millions of people onto it.

7. The most powerful part of Google Wave is the bots and extensions that are possible to it, but if you are looking for a well thought out “store” where you can acquire those, like Apple’s iPhone has, give it up. You’ll have to find these on your own (I’m getting a ton BECAUSE I opened up my wave to everyone and now people are asking me “did you get this bot yet?” Of course opening up my wave to everyone has made the tool very unproductive in other ways).

8. Where did all these people come from? Just like with email, anyone can get access to your “inbox.” Including spammers and bad actors. All sorts of people have put stuff in my inbox already. This is NOT like other collaboration tools where I have to agree to see your stuff first (like Skype or other IM). The spam opportunities here are immense until we get a great social networking set of management tools. Worse, even Twitter lets you “block” people, which makes them invisible to your inbox. Not sure how to do that with Google Wave.

9. Waves are seemingly only open to other wave users. Not sure about that, but I can’t see a permalink on anything. Right now there’s an interesting wave going about technology. I don’t know how to link you to it or let you know where to find it. So, now I’ve got to figure out a new metaphor for telling you about things. I’m sure everything is URI/URL based but I can’t find them so I can’t share them with you. And people wonder why I blog. Hint: you can link to this blog easily by copying the URL. Everyone knows how to do that. Now try to do the same thing with a Wave. Wave seems like it wants lockin. IE, to really get a lot out of Wave you have to also use Wave all day long. Email isn’t like that. You can use any email client and you have lots of choices. Don’t like Gmail? Use Hotmail. Don’t like Hotmail? Use Yahoo mail. Don’t like those? Get your own pop server and do it yourself. Etc etc. Now try to do that with Wave. Go ahead, I’ll wait.

So, what will I use for collaboration instead?

1. With Rocky and Rob and Fran and Robert at Rackspace I will continue to use email to notify them of new projects and Google Docs and Spreadsheets to be the objects of those collaborations. Will Wave change this? No.
2. With them I will use Skype or Twitter DM’s for chit chatty stuff that doesn’t need to be kept around in case I get hit by a bus. Stuff like “where we going drinking when we get into San Antonio next?” Actually, this is already how I’m seeing people using Wave, but that means Wave is already a noise generator that is similar to Twitter. Not good. And since I can’t lock out everyone else (at least yet, or at least that I’ve figured out because the UI is so complicated).
3. For deep, project-starting stuff, we will use voice on Skype or just phones, which are really great because I can call from anywhere, not just where I have a fast Internet connection.
4. For group stuff that needs to be kept around and be searchable we’ll continue to use FriendFeed’s groups, which can be made private.
5. For document repository, we have a lot of choices, lots of which are better than Google Wave. Things like Dropbox or Drop.io or JungleDisk. Or even old-school Sharepoint, which nearly every large company already has implemented.
6. Because of their openness and URL-centricity, real wikis are still more productive (and don’t have the bad email metaphor or the attention stealing character-by-character display). Can you imagine Wikipedia being done as a Wave? What an abortion that would be. There’s a ton of great wikis out there that are far more interesting for group collaboration than Wave is. Oh, and I bet that if you want that info to get into Microsoft’s Bing search engine that Wikis will beat Google Waves everytime!
7. Specific domain collaboration. Here I’m thinking of working with designers. Compare ConceptShare to Google Wave. ConceptShare will beat it every time.

Anyway, I could keep going.

Where will Wave prove interesting? I think some developer will find a new, simple, metaphor and will use Google Wave’s APIs to develop something interesting. SocialWok demonstrates just that is possible. But we haven’t seen that breakthrough idea yet and, so, for most of you Google Wave will just turn your collaborative life unproductive.

That’s OK, we do things that are unproductive all the time like play Farmville.

For geeks like me, wasting time on cool new technologies is lots of fun. But for most of the world?

It’s just wasting time. Good luck out there! Me? I think I’ll go do something really fun with my unproductive time left this weekend, like take my kids to watch real surfers in Santa Cruz, which is where I shot the photo above.

Comments

  1. I think most these flaws (1, 3, 6, 5, 7) are because of the youth of wave ; I don’t think you should see google wave as a finished work. To delete wave you just have to click “trash”, however I can’t find a way to empty the trash.
    About the last point I think wave is better than email : you can add to a wave a link to another wave (however it stays in wave), or you can embed or publish a wave (in the future anyone will be able to see these).
    Finally since Google will opensource Wave, if it’s successful, there will be other providers.

  2. I understand all your points but its a “beta”. look at gmail or twitter in the early days and look at it now. i think google will improve it and bring it to the next level. just a matter of time. dont blame google for trying something new.

    1. I agree with polarity. Most of these concerns are either features the developers have said will change (live chat, for instance, will eventually be optional) or are functionality issues that they’ll attend to as beta users indicate need. Wave may very well have some inherent flaws, but those all sound like beta quirks.

      People “got” gmail intuitively because it was a better way of doing something familiar. The whole point of Wave is that it’s a fundamentally different way of approaching online communication and collaboration, so there’s going to be more of a learning curve than with early gmail.

  3. Sorry, that bird don't fly. I was on Gmail from the first day. It was a DRAMATIC improvement over what came earlier. Everyone got it immediately. People are having a lot of trouble “getting” Google Wave. This is NOT a dramatic improvement over what came before it. I don't blame Google for trying something new, but I do blame us for just hyping it up. If this came from a startup we'd all ignore it.

  4. Disagree – I wouldn't compare it to e-mail right now – maybe eventually when it's built into something like Gmail, but not yet. Right now I would compare it more to IRC, even more than Twitter or FriendFeed or similar is. Its the developers this is targeting right now. As a developer this is a wonderland for me – now I can communicate with other developers in ways I never had before, integrate my code, and collaborate more. I'll share some of my thoughts on my blog, but as a developer, this is candy. It will get that way eventually for the traditional user, it's not there yet. We're talking about something that can't really be compared to anything right now. It's a completely new technology, and something we're still figuring out how to use, where to integrate it, and how it might fit into what we do from day-to-day. This is something completely new. It's 100% open on 3 different levels. It will survive – I'd keep watching (and enjoying the traffic you get from these posts) :-)

  5. I'm sorry, it was the video (that was probably funded by Google itself) that made it sound like a new email system.

    I know that for developers it is very cool. In both of my articles I give it that, and SocialWok shows the way here. It'll be interesting to see what you do with it.

    This is exactly why it isn't like Gmail. With Gmail end users got the benefit immediately, even in early days. Here we have to wait for third-party developers to do something interesting with it. It's not ready for mass market without that added innovation and I'm not sure it will ever show up for the mass market. We'll see.

  6. one of the most annoying things for me is the google groups style of threads, when you have x unread on any given wave, good luck finding where is that unread portion

  7. I apologize – I did not see the video earlier. I agree in that case -
    Google's probably marketing this wrong. I think this is the wrong time to
    market it as such – eventually, maybe, but not now. Right now we need to
    open it up to the public, say, “hey, here it is, now play with it, figure
    out what it is, and show us what you've built with it”, rather than assuming
    ahead of time what it is.

  8. Keep in mind, there is a reason only 100,000 people are being let in and it is called a “preview”

  9. We're all just beginning to learn how to use wave. I think it's super cool how users have already crystallized into groups and are adding to the education of their peers as well as helping google to streamline wave itself.

    As things stand now I estimate gwave to have less than a tenth of the functionality it will have in a years time. Apps are in their infancy and there's so much more Google plans to improve already.

    Why are you so quick to smack down something that hasn't even been released to the public yet? Sure there may be some tools that do some of the jobs that gwave does but are they free? Do they all work together in the same UI?

    I'm quite surprised at the stance you've taken particularly as you are considered one of the poster boys for early adoption. I've followed your lead more than once. But, respectfully, I just think your wrong this time.

    Have you seen some of the apps and bots? Some of those things are wicked sweet. They're just tinker toys compared to what's coming. This is truly just the very tippy tippy top of the iceberg.
    IMHO

  10. Isn't the reason why Google Wave is still considered a beta product? Sure, Gmail was in “beta” for a looong time, but Wave is a just released platform and protocol. It's something new, it's still far to early to say if it's a success or not.

  11. I am quick to smack because I always am. This is a real time world and you put stuff out there and then people say whether they like it or not.

    I'm not always going to praise something just because it's new and geeky. You misunderstood that about me.

    It's OK to disagree! We'll see where it goes.

  12. > Because your eye gets drawn to anything that moves on screen. This is a HUGE attention distractor.

    I agree, Robert — which is why Friendfeed in realtime mode could never replace a real RSS aggregator for me.

  13. I think you’re too used to the way you do things to look at Wave with a clear perspective. You mentioned over 5 technologies that combined do what Wave does… I believe non-geeks will enjoy Wave.

  14. Interesting post. This might be an example of where Google is trying to do too much in one iteration. They could have taken wikis and improve them. They could have taken email and improve it or they could have taken google docs and improve them. The 3 together seems to have too much complexity (both conceptually, from a user interface perspective and from a technology perspective) to have the chance to benefit from mainstream adoption and become part of the fabric of the web. On the other hand, one of the benefits of being Google is that you can make these kind of bolder best, fail, learn from them, re-scope and move forward.

  15. Robert, comparing Wave to Email is probably doing it a disservice. Yes, Wave could replace the need for most email but I think you should look at Wave as instead being best used for Collaborative Workflow. For example, imagine use for online customer service:

    Customer: <Initiates Wave with ACME Customer Service>

    ACME-CS: “Hello, how may I help you?”

    Customer: “I placed my order over the phone a week ago but haven't got it yet.”

    ACME-CS: <Inserts Order Location Widget> “I've added our Order Locator widget, please help me find your order”

    Customer: <Looking by name, finds nothing. Tries phone number; found.> “Okay, found it”
    Customer: <Sees that name was misspelled. Fixed name misspelling.> “Oh, and I just fixed my name misspelling.”

    ACME-CS: “Alright, let's check this out. Hmm, looks like your name misspelling was the holdup. But let me go ahead and run your credit. Can you please verify some info for me first?” <Inserts Branded Credit Verification Widget>

    Customer: “Sure” <Types in SSN, Zip Code, Mother's Maiden Name, presses 'Verify' button> “Ok”

    ACME-CS: “Great, thanks for verifying. Okay, that will be $99.95; is that correct?”

    Customer: “No, I your sales rep offered me a $20 discount”

    ACME-CS: “Okay, let me check to see if Mary is available…:” <Adds Mary the ACME-Sales person to the Wave>

    ACME-CS: “Hi Mary, I just wanted to verify John Q Customer here's $20 discount.”

    ACME-Sales: “Let me check … Yes! I offered him $20 off as a thanks for this blog post about ACME that he told me about. But I honestly forgot to include it in the notes, I'm really sorry.”

    ACME-CS: “Great! No problem, and thanks Mary.”

    ACME-Sales: “John, thanks again for your support.”

    Customer: “You're welcome, I understand, and thanks for helping me out with that discount.”

    ACME-CS: “Okay, great. Will this still be on the same credit card?”

    Customer: “Actually, can we do a purchase order? Number 12345 from EMCA Corp”

    ACME-CS: “Ok. Hmmm, seems to be a credit hold. Let me bring in our credit department. Hold a second please…”

    ACME-Credit: “Yes?”

    ACME-CS: “EMCA Corp wants a PO approved for $100 but there is a hold.”

    ACME-Credit: “Just a moment… Yes, it seems we had some mail returned.”

    Customer: “Oops, yes we moved last month.”

    ACME-Credit: “Okay” <Inserts Address Update Widget> “Just type in your new address”

    Customer: <Types in address> “Done.”

    ACME-Credit: “Okay, looks good. You are approved”

    Customer: “Thanks.”

    ACME-CS: “Alrighty now. Would you still like this shipped UPS Ground?”

    Customer: “No, I need ASAP.”

    ACME-CS: “Okay” <Inserts Shipping Widget> “Just select the shipping you'd like and we'll wave the extra charges.”

    Customer: “Great!” <Selects Shipping Option> “Done!”

    AMCE-CS: “Alright, it'll ship today and you should have tomorrow before 10am. Can I help you with anything else?”

    Customer: “Nope, that's all.”

    ACME-CS: “Great.” <Inserts Order Tracking BOT> “Be sure to keep this Wave around until after you get your delivery. You'll be able to track the package in this wave and if you need to contact us back in customer service we'll have your entire discussion available to bring others up to speed on your order.”

    Customer: “Perfect, I love you guys!”

    AMCE-CS: “And we appreciate your support. Thanks for shopping at ACME. Bye now.”

    Customer: “ttyl”

  16. Just going through the things that Wave adds that email doesn't have and that have (in your opinion) a negative impact in their implementations:

    1. Live Chat – distraction as you can see typing.
    You can't turn this off at the moment but I think that is coming. It is certainly coming to stop other people seeing your typing. This would be a minor change in the scheme of things to have a button to enable the typing to show up before the done button was pressed. Seems like a weak start to the list. Also I disagree that it lowers productivity. Have you used Wave yet with anyone who is offline? Then it reverts to feeling much more like email. People trying out Wave are desperate to see the new “cool stuff” and are going for both online realtime chatting. That is just one thing that Wave can do.

    2. Social Networking features – No bio. No real names. No real way to manage them and put them into groups.
    These seem incredibly minor to me. All of these can be added without too much trouble. I don't personally think that Wave is aiming to be like the other social networks. The sort of idea is much more like… email wasn't good enough for sharing things between people… so people moved to social networks which are much more immersive and interactive and you can share things better than email… but social networks are closed off and don't talk to each other… it would actually better if email was just better so we didn't need all of the different social networks… Wave is this upgrade.

    3. Can't delete stuff yet.
    Again – fair enough it is a bug. I'm sure they'll fix this. This is not a deal breaker is it.

    4. No BCC Support.
    I'm not sure what the equivalent is here. Maybe they will have people you can add who have read only rights or something. But I think for the moment it's best just to add the person to the Wave. It should be obvious from the content they are just observing. With better contact management / groups there might be a way to say – “make public to group” so all of them can see it (but are not necessarily part of it). Like the public waves now but more specific (i.e. not everyone, say just your company).

    5. No docs / spreadsheet integration.
    I'm sure integration will come through gadgets / robots. The APIs are there.

    6. It's slow.
    First good criticism in my eyes. It is slow. Not really too valid to say imagine how slow it will be when there are loads more people on it as Google clearly knows more than anyone about scaling. Also not relevant as it is the protocol that you perhaps need to worry about rather than the specific service. Soon people on Google Wave could be talking to Zoho Wave, Yahoo Wave etc.

    7. There isn't a store for robots / gadgets.
    There actually is a directory of the best gadgets on Google's website. A selection of stuff built during the developer preview.

    8. I don't really understand this point. It's like saying email doesn't work because people can email you without getting permission first. If they know your address they can get in touch with you – same as with email. You are famous so your experience might be somewhat different.

    9. Waves only open to wave users.
    Waves can be published – so can be open to everyone. This bit of what you said totally misses the mark:

    “Wave seems like it wants lockin. IE, to really get a lot out of Wave you have to also use Wave all day long. Email isn’t like that. You can use any email client and you have lots of choices. Don’t like Gmail? Use Hotmail. Don’t like Hotmail? Use Yahoo mail. Don’t like those? Get your own pop server and do it yourself. Etc etc. Now try to do that with Wave. Go ahead, I’ll wait.”

    You will be able to do this with Wave. You can't right now – the federation isn't turned on yet and there are no competing products. The tech is all open though and Google are encouraging this openness. Wave doesn't have the ecosystem around it yet because it is early days. It is all being worked on – you'll have to be patient but yes you can set up your own wave server. Happy?

    Also please note that email has the same lock in situation. You notice you can only send emails to email users? Yes that just happens to be pretty much everyone with an internet connection but this wasn't always the case. You are not giving Wave a chance. They plan to make it work with email too.

    To summarise – you really need to hold back with all the arguments that Wave isn't up to anything. We don't know yet if it will catch on. No one can say. We can say though that this is the first attempt to reinvent email in an open way (that I'm aware of) and I hope that it does catch on. If the speed can be worked on I think everything else will follow. I think you might find that you can be more productive on Wave than you ever have on email/service X/Y/Z that are all better than Wave. Think about the friction that you remove by consolidation to one service rather than across numerous. Different accounts for you to maintain and for your client to have. You have to say – What's your Skype name? etc.

    Wave is new and it's different. We're all learning as we go. We're not going to be experts immediately. I know you are bleeding edge stuff Robert but it is going to take time before we understand how to use this thing or if it's useful. We can't make this on a snap basis. And it's not going to be because of one minor UI defect.

  17. So u get an invite to a beta product still not complete and with loads of potential and writes a huge article how it will never be good and it is actualy worse than email… GIVE ME A BREAK!!!!!!

    U actually say that google wave is not good because it does not integrate with another google product Googe Docs and Spreadsheets… Don't you think that that will come VERY soon???!! if you had said MS office then I would understand your point of view because many people are addicted of MS office but google docs? I can bet with you that all google docs features will be integrated in wave in less than a year from now.

    Bad social networking??!!! Again IT IS A EARLY BETA STAGE PRODUCT!!! Don't you think that google contacts, google connect, etc… will be integrated into the product? And with an open source protocol and open API's very soon others will integrate Twitter and facebook connect to it?

    I would like to say that I still do not have a google wave account but your bad atitude towards the product that is trying to bring some sanity to email is a bit over the top.

  18. Thanks, Robert, for pointing out the emperor’s lack of clothing instead of jumping on another bandwagon. Maybe Wave will be big, but early signs don’t look good to me.

    When things are really world-changing, they don’t start out with videos telling us how they’re going to be world-changing. Twitter started out as a silly novelty. Facebook started out as something for college students. The Internet started out as a tool for the military and universities.

    Google’s great, but I don’t think they’ve earned enough trust for me to instantly assume anything they release will change the world. I say we just let people play with it and see what ends up happening…

  19. For me at least, I view the current implementation of Wave to be a random guess from Google. The ability to have text be asynchronous in real time is the innovation that I see. Im holding off from decisions, until developers get some time to play with it.

  20. I dislike it as well. But for me it doesn't displace email, it displaces IM. It's a funny kind of persistent IM, which is kind of cool, because lots of good information gets exchanged in an IM session.

    But the terror in the UI is the “block” or “message”. Instead of simply clicking in a “block” in order to edit (as I do in a document), I have to double click, then say “edit” in a popup, then I'm “modally” in that block.

    Modal editors went out with vi.

    There are shared-document whiteboards out there – etherpad mentioned, 37signals has writeboard.

    So it's bad for shared documents. It's bad as a shared chat. It's bad as email. It's something inbetween that manages to be the worst of all worlds.

    I'd prefer if Google builds a better version of each of those things, than trying to replace all, with a confusing UI that does nothing right.

  21. Ok, your points are well taken, the problem is, you apparently haven’t been keeping up with the developer posts on the things you are talking about. Some of your big criticism are things they have already slated, but for what ever reason (probably haven’t got some bugs worked out) they aren’t live yet – but they have every intention of making them live before public release. Don’t forget this is still a closed beta. Only about 100,000 invites went out. I know I signed up less than 3 weeks after it was unveiled at Google I/O but it still wasn’t apparently soon enough to get an invite. (but I’ll cry in my own soup). They’ve already gone on record saying that an app store (like for the Iphone) is very likely. They’ve also said that waves will eventually have the option to be opened up to non GW users. They’ve also admitted that their contact management is still skeletal, but looking at gmail, I expect that to change as well before release.

    Like I said, your criticisms are well taken, the one thing that is keeping me hopeful is we’re still at least a few months out before this thing opens are refinements will be happening fast a furious right up to that point. When you get down to it, the only reason they probably let this last hundred thousand or so in was simply to stress test their back end and see how it was going to hold up.

  22. Gmail may have improved the way people use email but it didn't improve email itself, the protocol remained unchanged. With Wave you're not just previewing a beta client like you were with Gmail, you're also field testing an unproven protocol. The wave protocol hasn't undergone the four decades of research, development, and ubiquitous use that the email protocol had by the time Gmail came to be. Like any good web standard you have to give the protocol time to mature. And realistically, it can't be determined at this point whether the real problems exist in the user interface or in the protocol because the boundaries between the two haven't yet been clearly drawn. But eventually (think years, not months or weeks) standards will be set for the protocol, and then someone may come along and do for waving what Google did for email and it'll be a dramatic improvement over what came before.

  23. Robert, does Rackspace have plans to implement Google Wave behind the firewall for internal projects and/or collaborative projects with customers? Seems to me that this would address many of the concerns that you have raised about noise, spammers, unknown users, etc.

  24. Robert you just “gave” Google $1m of free coding advice for the Oz team. You have high expectations of new software' I don't. It took me 2 years to “get” Friendfeed. Wave will be the same. It's Google's Friendfeed with email and skype built in. Facebook could clone this in 6 months.

  25. The trash icon does what you’d expect it to do — deletes things — but it sits on the right-hand side of the toolbar and sometimes isn’t visible so you need to expand your screen.

  26. It is an extension on the XMPP protocol, it isn't like they are inventing something completely new :).

    If Microsoft launched wave in the way Google did, most people wouldn't have enough social media space to tell the world how Microsoft failed. However since everybody has the perception that Google is a company that is not evil, most people are still trying to cheer regarding wave, claiming that it is just beta, that so much more is yet to come. It is a bit of the story about the emperor's new clothes :).

  27. In regards to point 4 on why email is unproductive, we always backup our mail (we have a limited sized mailbox on the server and so everyone has a PST created where all mails are posted or at least moved there). When someone leaves the company their PST is backed up on our project drive and if we need access to it we can open it up in Outlook. Yes accounts are deleted (like you say as it should be) but you can backup the mail to gain access to it later.

  28. For point 1 on email being unproductive, this is just down to the user's ability to filter out these emails. I get 'fun' mails and they are pretty obvious so I tend to leave them unread for lunchtime or after work. It's not too a difficult task.

  29. For point 3 (unproductive email), sure, you could use public folders though but this is not a automated thing (thought you might be able to create a rule that copies all your mails to a public folder).

  30. Point 6: Is it really hard? I've never had a problem when I've used email for tasks, you have folders, you can read/unread mails and use flags. I actually find this a very good way to prioritise tasks but I might be on my own here. :-)

  31. For you points on Google Wave being unproductive, on point 1 there is a draft feature (currently disabled) which would hide the live typing you see but this is the user's choice and not yours, though I can't see it being too hard to implement a toggle for the reverse. I've been chatting to lots of people on Wave and sure you get drawn into watching their typing but at the same time you can start answering the question before they've finished their sentence when the question is obvious.

    Agree on point 2, there is poor support in Contacts, I wish I could put the bots, for example, into their own group. I've been told that you need to manage this in Google Contacts but I'd like this inside Google Wave (related issue to GReader).

    Point 3, really? It's pretty clear, there is a trash button in both the panels, open a wave and you have the option to 'trash' any wave. Perhaps the terminology needs changing but the feature seems clear.

    Point 4, BCCing could be done via 'pinging' but it's not quite what you're after. You can ping a user via the Contacts and it's like a DM and will appear as a small bar at the top of the Wave page. You can also ping inside a wave and it's a private message between you and that user (though I've not tried this yet).

    I'm sure point 5 is just a matter of time.

    For point 6 I've seen a bit of slowdown but not much (and I've been involved with some heavy wave discussions, particularly public waves). It appears very fast in Chrome at least. I gave up with Firefox but then that's just my Firefox. :-)

    Agree on 7, these need tidying up so we have easier access to them. Same goes for the gadgets. I have to go search for the gadget I want to use, copy then paste it. I'd rather it be 'installed' and then accessible from a dropdown menu when I click the add gadget button.

    And agree on point 8, yep there needs to be some noise control; for us and what we receiving and for the waves and who can do what, where and when.

    Point 9, you can find the URL of the wave but opening up a new wave, dragging the wave you want the URL of into the new wave then right-clicking on the link and copying the URL. Yes, long winded and it needs to be easier and/or clearer.

  32. BTW we figures a workaround for groups on Wave last night but it's clumsy as best. It does show that it can be down (using Google Groups) but FF has the upper hand atm.

  33. BTW we figures a workaround for groups on Wave last night but it's clumsy as best. It does show that it can be down (using Google Groups) but FF has the upper hand atm.

  34. Gmail is email. Easy thing to do.

    Wave is a new platform for the revolution for all the things on the Internet.

  35. It's NOT an extension of XMPP. I wish people would stop saying this. The Federation bit uses XMPP (and improves it) to communicate BETWEEN FEDERATIONS. Everything else in the Wave protocol is fresh, and frankly amazing work. If you don't believe that, go watch the “under the hood” conference video available on You Tube and see the engineers talk about all of the various things that went into the protocol.

  36. Look a bit on the history of that video. It was just created by a user who really wanted a wave invite. He did get one, and was contacted by Google in interests to create more videos, next about Chrome.

  37. I think Scoble has some great points. Take a step back from the cool factor, and apply it to real world use. I really don’t see Wave (at least this iteration) helping us much. What I would really like is a way to improve integration between the corporate and consumer environments. We all have 2 worlds to live and communicate in. While I do not want to work while I am at home, I do think consumers of the work I do should be able to communicate with me more effectively.

  38. It's true, there is nothing new under the sun. But XMPP is still young, not everyone uses it, and it is being applied to Wave in ways not imagined by its inventors a decade ago. It's probably safe to say that the protocol hasn't hit its stride yet.

    Given Microsoft's track record, if they launched Wave in the way Google has, it would fail. But Google is not Microsoft and the perception may be justified. After all, they are opening the protocol to competing service providers, and we may yet see Microsoft launch a wave service of their own (MSN Wave?, Hotwave?, Windows Live Wave?). The killer app for wave may not be a Google product after all.

    With no more than 600,000 people using Wave right now it's simply too early to call it a failure or a success. But you don't have to bat 1000 to go to the World Series, and neither does Google have to please everyone in order for wave to become as ubiquitous as email and http (assuming ubiquity is the goal here). That won't happen if the problems people are having now are inherent in the wave protocol. Buy most of the gripes I've heard so far are due to the web based client and its lack of specific features. Those problems have solutions and those solutions don't necessary have to come from Google.

  39. It is good to have some contrarianism when a new product is announced with a wave of hype, but reading through your complaints, I can't help but notice that you're essentially padding your list of grievances with issues that arise from the youth of product.

    In the comments, you've repeatedly defended this by pointing out that Gmail was more polished when it was released to the public. This analogy fails on a few accounts. First, Google's terminology for the developmental stage of Wave is different than Gmail's when it was released. Gmail was called a beta and Wave is being called a dev build. They're not advertising the same quality, so one shouldn't expect it.

    Second, as others have pointed out, Gmail was essentially a new shell for a previously existing protocol. Part of the reason they're inviting so many people to what is essentially a half-cooked product is that it is not just the shell that they are testing…they're also testing the underlying protocol.

    Third, part of their announcement and part of the reason that they're releasing it at such an early stage is the federated element. Obviously, there isn't another wave provider because Google only recently released it as a dev build, but part of the idea was so that others might take it up and make it a standard

    Essentially, this is a much different product release than Gmail and thus using Gmail as the comparison point is an opening for poor analysis.

    That said, I think it's welcome to see a negative review to get a good grasp of where this is going.

  40. Interesting. I think generally Google has tried to show a new platform, new middleware and mostly new concepts in HTML 5 in all one product.

    The real-time web needs scalabale middleware. We have pull based solutions that are unlikely to scale effeciently. We also have COMET, HTML 5 browser as a server, XMPP and even AMQP. The push protocol of the future is going to be important to the real-time web. We've had pub/sub technology in the Enterprise for years, but we haven't seen anything that can scale to the unmanaged world of the internet.

    Wave the application is an interesting concept, but I understand the negative feedback. If you want to fix email then the number one issue is effective triarge. This means added metadata. Look at the meeting requests, voting button emails and exchange forms. If you can add more intent to message interaction then the platform can tailor the user experience accordingly. The problem with email is that it only models communication at the most basic level.

  41. Google Wave is currently an alpha release, at least in my opinion. I believe Google allowed limited public access to allow users to criticize & test Wave. So definitely, Robert's points should be taken into consideration by Dr. Wave's team. However, it's also a bit unfair to criticize Wave for bugs or features that can easily be fixed in the next preview release. Here are some points I'd like to make:

    1. The “distracting” real-time updates cannot be turned off, but they can be filtered easily. I'm currently viewing “Public Waves”, a custom search that shows all public waves, so definitely the updates come every few seconds. However, if I switch to “By Me”, there a only a few waves in my stream so the updates come less often. So, to minimize distraction, create a custom search that limits your stream to important waves.

    2. The social networking aspect of Wave definitely needs improvement, but I can appreciate the reasoning behind the current set-up. Just like Twitter, Wave's social networking is less personal than Facebook, but allows easier discovery of people & topics that may be of interest to a user. I'm sure Google will allow filtering your stream to view waves with people who are added to your Contacts, which will also help solve the 1st problem. Even Twitter doesn't have groups yet, so we should give Google time to implement this properly.

    3. The lack of an easy access to deleting a Wave is definitely a valid criticism. I've been using Wave on a slow connection, so I'm not really sure if dragging the Wave to the Trash works consistently right now, but that's what I did to some of my drafts. A “Move to Trash” button would be the best option, though with the current lack of granular access rights control, this might cause even more problems.

    4. BCC is an feature that will not work in Wave, since the paradigm is different. All a Wave's participants are displayed on the top, so if you add your boss to the Wave, he should be able to see it, and people will know that he sees it. If you want to send him a private message, you use “Private reply”.

    5. As I said, this is an alpha release, so Docs integration is not implemented yet. Even Gmail is not integrated yet, and I think that will come first. Even though Wave is publicly available, it's definitely still in a sandbox, just bigger.

    6. Wave's scalability is definitely a valid concern, but I believe that Google will improve this as they observe the usage patterns of the community. As it is, I have no issues with speed, though Wave definitely works best on Chrome, and there are noticeable differences when I try Wave on Safari or Firefox.

    7. Like I said, this is a alpha release, so the number of extensions is still small. As the user & developer communities grow, the number of extensions will increase. Just give it time, this is the part of Wave that I'm most excited about.

    8. Just like e-mail, people can send you messages easily. That's why there's a “Spam” button. You can't block people directly right now, but that can be added in a future release.

    9. The easiest way to share a wave is to add a participant to a wave from your contacts; that's even easier than sending a link through e-mail. Waves are definitely open to other Wave users at the moment because Wave is on a limited public preview. That's also why the only way to access Wave is through the Wave website, the APIs are still in early development since this a preview release. The Wave Embed API is available though, so that might help some fellow Wavers with sharing certain waves with the public.

    So, is Wave ready for the mainstream? Nope. Will I continue using Wave? Definitely. I see the potential for this platform, and I want to see it improve. So, go ahead & criticize Wave, but don't write it off until it's been given some time to grow.

  42. Just hit the space bar and it goes to the first unread portion of the wave. Keep hitting space to go through other unread portions and when you get to the end, hit space again and it goes to the next wave with unread messages.

  43. That’s OK, we do things that are unproductive all the time like play Farmville.
    For geeks like me, wasting time on cool new technologies is lots of fun.
    This is exactly I was telling to some one after I stopped playing Farmville :P

  44. You’d be surprised how few clients for email there was in first decade it was invented. I bet in a year there will be a ton of Wave clients.

  45. Last night I posted a public Wave seeking other women using it, nothing feminist just have no girls on my contacts list yet and was wondering what the gender ratios are – given social media is predominately female based (and possibly to it's determent).

    Almost as soon as I posted the blip it was hijacked, my original post and comments following it were deleted. The Wave is now titled “Wave's sexiest ladies” and is just filled with spam.

    It's sad that even with such limited access it's becoming degrading.

    Watch the replay here: https://wave.google.com/wave/?pli=1#restored:wa

  46. Don’t you find it kind of ironic that you’re complaining about Google Wave’s productivity problems while maintaining your usual blitz of stream of consciousness type messages on Twitter and other websites? The same kind of complaints could be made about those websites. Here’s my point by point rebuttal to your rant:

    1. If you’re not using it, use the amazing “Minimize” feature. That’s why you can minimize the inbox and other waves. If you don’t need to be looking at it while you’re working, then don’t. How hard is that?

    2. Social networking is hardly related to productivity. There actually is group functionality in Wave, but it’s currently in its infancy, so expect to see more on that over the coming weeks.

    3. When everyone is removed from the wave, it goes into the trash by itself. Again, this is a problem how?

    4. BCC was never a desirable feature in email. It simply forwards an email that you’ve already sent to others.

    5. There’s no integration with Google Docs in traditional email, either. That doesn’t take away from Wave. Just be patient.

    6. You’ve totally lost me here. First you’re complaining about being able to see everyone update instantaneously down to their very keystrokes, now you’re saying it’s too slow? Huh?

    7. There are already websites that do this. Why would we want a centralized “store” controlled by one company like iTunes? Shouldn’t we be moving away from this model?

    8. Notice the Spam button in your Inbox? Maybe you should have actually researched this instead of Twittering about your Twitter clients.

    9. Waves are only open to other Wave users because Wave is in a private beta. Wait a couple of months and this will be a nonissue.

    Regardless, I’ve found that whether a service can be used for productive work depends more on how it is used, than how it is designed. In that sense, I think email is one of the least productive tools ever designed, but it serves well as a communication medium. Notice how I replied to this three day after it was written? Learn to turn some things off and focus on your work now and then.

    Old habits are hard to break. I’m sure ten years from now, email will still be used for forwarding chain letters and Scoble will still be trolling the Internet for Microsoft. Some of us will have moved on, but other things just never change.

  47. There's one more complaint: How will I use Wave with my family, some of whom — like my parents — have just figured out email? They will never be able to use Wave!!

  48. Appreciated this post as a follow on to it’s predecessor. Great way to dissect the tool. I used gwave as a pseudo email tool the day I got it and it’s been dormant ever since.

    It needs some real BANG for the Buck to get me to use it. It’s not a publishing platform, it’s not email, it’s not a super collaborative tool.

    We’ll see how it develops.

  49. I notice you mentioning that Skype is a good option but TBH any time I get involved with it doing work it ends up being nearly worse than an email. I still find that even though people can be a real pain in the ass to talk to the phone is an incredibly useful and efficient way of communicating :)

  50. When was Google Wave ever promoted as a “social network”? It's not Facebook. It's not Twitter. It never was.

    What it is, is a really cool protocol for collaboration and app development. I really don't know why Google bothered inviting more users, rather than pulling from the developer signup form. Until a ton of cool stuff is developed, lots of users really aren't going to get it, and then they write unimaginative, whiny nonsense like this post.

  51. For me at least, I view the current implementation of Wave to be a random guess from Google. The ability to have text be asynchronous in real time is the innovation that I see. Im holding off from decisions, until developers get some time to play with it.

  52. I don't “get” Google Wave. Have tried to use it, not seeing the benefit. But then again, I didn't “get” blogging initially, either. Some things have to grow on us. Not sure if Wave will grow or go away, but as it stands now, I'm not feeling the love.

  53. You might be right at some points, as well as you might be wrong with other points, but I think is too early to make conclusions about something all new like Google Wave. I would wait 5 years to make a post like this. Many new tools will come up with Google Wave, is a tool to build many more tools. So now it depends on the programming community and our demand and imagination to make Wave what we want it to be.

  54. OK, NOW you've got a point, Robert.

    Google needed some way to hang a definition of Wave on a particular application, and e-mail was the culprit. I don't see how else Google could've explained it and launched it to the open source community, but there are probably some brilliant campaign message strategists out there who could make a recommendation or two.

    It may be productive if the GoogleWave folks (and you, and the community) would shift from comparing fully mature, ripe Apples to just-planted Orange seeds.

    While the Wave team's original goal was to create a better email solution, what they discovered was a concept with what they sensed has for more potential. So, rather than invest too much of their own time trying to find a nail for their hammer, they opted to open it up for the community and let Developers create their own Wave-based apps.

    The challenge is, when one opens up code (and concepts) to the OS Community, one never knows where it'll go. That's a bad thing for those in the message-massaging business, for fear of the message getting out of control and taking on a life of its own. That's good news for the OS Community, that can't help but drool over getting their mitts on a past-proven genius-level team's code.

    I commend Google for tossing a gem out to the Open Source Community to see what they can dream up. Let's face it, most companies wouldn't take that risk; and the ones that do often toss out their clunkers.

    My sense is, GoogleWave's not a clunker. That said, if it were 100% guaranteed to succeed, it wouldn't be so damn interesting to so many. ;)

    Definition of Hype:

    1. obvious and intentional exaggeration.
    2. an extravagant statement or figure of speech not intended to be taken literally, as “to wait an eternity.”

    So, “over-hype” is by definition, “hype.” GoogleWave will remain in “hype” mode until it has a practical application or two (or ten).

    I'd like to think we could give it some time, and provide the 3PDs out there with some ideas and feedback on what we think GW could be good for. I'd hate to see this new way of thinking die on the vine before it even bears fruit.

    - John Coonen
    Co-Host, CMS Expo Learning Conference

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  57. I'm glad that you're not drinking the Google Kool-Aid, but it is an early release and I would expect that by the time they get to say a version 2, it will be vstly improved.