Google Wave – The Swiss Army Knife of Collaboration: Knife Not Included

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Exactly what is Google Wave?  The answer to that seemingly simple question keeps popping up and depending on who you ask, you may get a completely different answer.  People have described it as everything from “Email 2.0”, Instant Messaging (IM) on steroids, Real-time Wiki to Real-time forums.  The only consistent theme is confusion and buzz.  To make matters worse, many bloggers have gone from attempting to define to deflecting the question by blaming everyone from the developers to Google’s executives to Marketing  as to why no one seems to know what Wave is all about.  That is not to say that all blog resources are inaccurate or even poor, there are several articles which make a fair attempt at defining Google Wave.

An excerpt summary from Mashable:

“Google Wave is a real-time communication platform. It combines aspects of email, instant messaging, wikis, web chat, social networking, and project management to build one elegant, in-browser communication client. You can bring a group of friends or business partners together to discuss how your day has been or share files.” – source MashableGoogle Wave: A Complete Guide

For those visual learners, there are two very popular user videos.  The first is from a user who used created this video in an attempt (it worked) to solicit an invite.


The second is a humorous video using Google Wave to transcribe the infamous monologue of Samuel L. Jackson, paying homage to that classic scene in Pulp Fiction.

I think the most concise definition of Google Wave is: The Swiss Army Knife of Communication and Collaboration, Knife Not Included. They have a toothpick, that mini-hammer thing that I’ve yet to find a use for, a saw-like device that COULD be used sort of like a knife and plenty of slots to allow someone to design a knife or perhaps a small, sharp shovel.

… But We Already Had a Pretty Good Knife

One of the most prominent and prevalent complaints about Wave is that it appears to fall into a category feared by many die-hard developers:  Google Wave is a solution looking for a problem.  We have a knife, it’s called Email (and it’s ), its been around for much longer than the average MySpace user.

Exactly What Is that ‘Multi-Tool’

We also have a screwdriver / hammer, its called Wiki, when we need to explain something, we use it. So, what is this little hammer screwdriver-like thing?  There are many who think its a nice idea, It’s innovative, but is it truly useful, or ‘Is it ready for prime time’?

It Slices! It Dices! It Can Even Puree!

Ah, the proverbial unending feature list comes out which is immediately accompanied by the inevitable list of things it can’t quite do.

Wait, did you say it can puree?

Leave it to us Geeks to make one of the first ‘practical applications’ a D&D (Dungeons and Dragons) RPG (Role Playing Game).  While that’s truly fascinating (depending on how familiar you are with a vorpal longsword +2, +3 vs. Elemental Kin), the mainstream is still looking for that ‘Killer App’ for corporate validation.

Now we enter that infernal sales / marketing issue: You can’t sell the benefits when you only market the features.

astutely asks the question: “What problems does Google Wave solve?”.  We tend to perhaps a bit narrowly focus on a concrete example of what something is.  Google Wave is not Email, it is not Instant Messaging (IM), it is not a forum or Twitter or Facebook. However, it can be used in situations where two or more of the previous technologies might have been implemented in the past.  At the same time, it can [or has the potential to] integrate or use the existing technologies. It is an [eventually] Open Source Real Time Communication and Collaboration Platform that [can] run in the browser and [most likely will] run on the Desktop as well as on Smartphones.  It [will] be able to streamline and consolidate collaboration workflows, sharing ideas, and assist in tasks from the mundane to the fantastic.

It Slices!

Perhaps it could organize a birthday party.

The first person you invite is your ‘Artsy friend’ and you collaborate online to design the invitations.
Now you build your invite list with contact information pulled from any combination of social sites,  corporate email system, LDAP server and your IM / Chat client.

It Dices!

How do we send out the invitations?  For the online potential attendees you might push that information into an electronic invitation system such as EVite or Pingg with RSVP status which in turn could use SMS/Text messaging to notify you of confirmations.
For the offline, the remaining invites could be sent to FedEx Office or another printing / shipping facility and mailed with delivery automated notification that adds a task / reminder for you to call them if they haven’t RSVP’d within a certain amount of time.

It Chops!

All attendees that RSVP get invited to the wave and car-pooling is set up complete with routing courtesy Google Maps or perhaps some GPS integration.
A virtual head count is used to determine how much food / drinks you’ll need and a collaborative grocery list is made with all who wish to contribute.  Maybe there is even a wish-list app that lets you buy all the decorations.

It… Hammers?

This isn’t perhaps a ‘Killer App for Corporate America’, its really off the top of my head, but the idea is there.  Perhaps a Unified Mashup Framework (UMF – I coin it here first folks!) ‘Hits the nail on the head’ – with a mini-hammer / saw-like device.  If the Business thinkers dreamers dream it, the Developers will make it happen.  In short, we have a really nice Swiss Army Knife of Communication and Collaboration.  We just need someone to add that pesky knife!

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