Archive for Monday, December 14, 2009


Wave of Googlevation: A technophobe’s guide to Google Wave

December 14, 2009


It’s a hotter ticket than Kansas University basketball and currently more exclusive than the Freemasons. It’s a potentially game-changing technological advance and paradigm shifter. It’s all the rage online and has the technorati salivating like Pavlovian iDogs.

It’s Google Wave, and it’s so revolutionary — so bleeding edge — that no one, frankly, has any idea what exactly it does or even if it exists. You would be forgiven, in fact, for thinking Google Wave is a mythical fantasy in the same realm as Bigfoot or Tiger Woods’ marriage. Rest assured that it is not the Tooth Fairy and it will change your life. Or maybe not. It could just be another nerdy novelty like Wolfram Alpha. Remember Wolfram Alpha? Neither does anyone else.

“Google Wave is basically real-time e-mail and instant messaging in one,” says Jacinta Langford, one-half of Lawrence based marketing firm LangfordSevier, which specializes in social media. “It’s a way to communicate and collaborate in one hosted conversation without all the forwarding and reply-alls that e-mail is.”

As do so many people when attempting to describe Google Wave, Langford adds, “Does that make sense?”

The how-to

It’s difficult to understand what Google Wave does without getting your hands on it. There’s even a Web site devoted to its inscrutable purpose called (according to informal polling on the site, the Swedish Chef from “The Muppets” and The Geopolitical Climate of Southeast Asia are — among many other things — easier to understand than Google Wave). But since it’s still largely under wraps to the general public, we’ll just have to muddle through.

With your usual e-mail service, you hop on your Web browser and go to your account. You write the e-mail, send it and wait for a response. Despite all the electronic bells and whistles, it’s still a solitary experience not far removed from taking quill to parchment and sending it off wax-stamped with the courier boy.

With Google Wave, you still hop on your browser and go to a Web site like you would go to Yahoo! Mail or Hotmail or even Gmail. Rather than open up a window and start composing a new e-mail, however, you open a “wave” (groan). The “wave” is still a composition window, but it’s a literal window where the people you’re contacting can watch you write in real time. As you type in a word bubble — or “wavelet” (double groan) — on your screen, your friend can see your words unfurl on their screen. At any point in this process, they can open up their own word bubble and have a conversation with you in real-time. You can have as many people on a single “wave” as your heart desires, and they can all interject at any point. You can keep these instant chat rooms running for as long as you like and edit them at your whim. Add interactive gadgets like maps and instant polls to the mix, and you’ve got a very hearty stew of pre-existing Internet doodads synthesized in a new way.

Does that make sense?

“Wave is potentially a really effective way to create a ‘space’ for a conversation,” says the second half of LangfordSevier, Jesse Sevier. “As Jacinta mentioned, it’s a lot easier to keep what everyone said straight using a tool like this than the traditional way of forwarding and replying to e-mails. A lot of people have a hard time understanding the benefits and potential of a product like Wave because, for once, it isn’t targeted towards the bulk of users.”

Better for the office

And that’s why Wave probably won’t be as huge a phenomenon as Twitter or Facebook, as it’s better suited for discussing office work than it is for organizing “Twilight” fan clubs. It just might not be as sexy and user-friendly to tweens and stay-at-home soccer moms.

“We use it every once in a while to collaborate on a project,” says Langford of Wave’s business applications. “It’s good to use for brainstorming sessions. Businesses with different departments will find it useful because they can include each department into one wave and essentially do what e-mails would have done without all the mess. Plus, you can attach pdfs, photos, videos, etc., to a wave. I don’t think it’s going to be an e-mail/Twitter/Facebook killer. There’s a bit of a learning curve when it comes to using it, and it will take some time to catch on, but seeing that it’s a Google product, I think it will only get better and easier to use.”

Rob Schulte, Lawrence musician with the band Baiowolf, represents that section of the online community who are already suffering from backlash to the massively hyped application. “Google Wave is e-mail. That’s all,” says an underwhelmed Schulte, ironically enough via Google Wave. “Well, it’s e-mail for corporate (expletive)s who need conferences all the time.”

Of course, Wave is still a work in progress. It only launched to a select few in September, has less than a million users as of right now, and will undoubtedly be tweaked before its as-yet-undetermined gala premiere.

“I certainly think it has some monster potential, but we have to remember that the version we’re messing with right now is a preview version. We’re not even to the beta stage yet, so it’s hard to say if it lives up to the hype or not,” says Sevier. “The real test will come when we see how it’s received by the general public after it comes out of the preview.”

Even the skeptics are willing to cut Wave some slack or, at the very least, steel themselves for Google’s inevitable global conquest.

“What I know is that Gmail will just make this their new e-mail, so I better learn it,” says resigned Gmail user Schulte. “I think that this definitely is the way things are going, it’s just going be a bit until everyone is using it to its full ability. I mean, really, you could spend minutes — literally lots of minutes — deciding if you want Comic Sans or that one font that begins with a ‘T.’”

It’s the Wave of the future (triple groan).


AnnaUndercover 8 years, 4 months ago

What a fun read!

(But what's your beef with soccer moms? I'll take you to the mat on that one).

AnnaUndercover 8 years, 4 months ago

One of the best articles I've read in months. :)

Curtis Lange 8 years, 4 months ago

I've got Google Wave, but rarely use due to the confusion surrounding what it actually does. As a friend described, Google Wave is what email would be like if it were developed today instead of in the 1960s.

Kris_H 8 years, 4 months ago

Does anybody else think maybe we're a bit OVER-connected these days?

feeble 8 years, 4 months ago

Lessig, you're not Taibbi, stop trying. The hyperbole in your first two graphs is juvenile, at best.

BeerGenius 8 years, 4 months ago

I've been using Google Wave to collaborate on a business plan, and it has worked extremely well for that.

The potential of wave has yet to be realized, but I've taken the liberty of writing a quick 'crash course' for the uninitiated:

Okay, here's a google wave off-the-cuff crash course for you guys, as most everyone will likely be confused by it at first glance. Wave is a bit of a paradigm shift. I'll do what I can.

The easiest summation is that Wave is what email would resemble if it were created TODAY, and not in the 1960's (yes, email is that old).

Think about the way people use the internet. We share a lot of content. It's not a single-user experience; someone CREATES the content, and we READ the content. Or vice versa. Perhaps we might choose to share that content with friends.

How do we share videos, pictures, and documents? Usually through links. Once we click on that link, we are presented with something called 'rich media.'

Well, rather than passing around links, we can embed the rich media directly into a 'wave,' or a next generation message. We could even create the media directly in the wave, and share it with whomever we wish.

You've probably guessed by now that Wave is collaborative. when sharing ideas or content, it's easy with wave to go back and follow up on that content, and easily search for whatever we might be looking for, either in the public domain, or in our own set of waves. It's simple to follow up on something that might otherwise get lost.

But the coolest part of Wave is that it's a PLATFORM. You can build applications inside of it. You can make it do whatever you want. Think about the state of internet browsers, HTML, and scripting languages in 1992, if you were around back then. There wasn't much to it. In fact, you can view the very first web page EVER created right here:

We could be sitting on something that big.

For a fun 'real world' example of what wave can do, check out this Gizmodo article, where the Declaration of Independence was reconstructed in Wave:

If you have access to wave, play back the actual file here:

The Declaration of Independence, as recreated in Google Wave:

I hope this helps some of you. Cheers!

Keith 8 years, 4 months ago

If nothing else, Google has managed to take their Wave marketing slogan and get many people to think of it as their own. One of the lead designers of Wave characterized it as email if email were invented today, and that remark has gone viral.

Janet Lowther 8 years, 4 months ago

It just sounds like a souped up instant messenger chat room to me. . . Maybe with better logs for business purposes, but none the less, it's still instant messaging.

I can see how the rich media capability would form an excellent adjunct to video conferencing, though.

Nonetheless, It still seems like a narrow-bandwid tool (albeit an improved one) in a broadband world.

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