Saturday, November 14, 2009

 

Google Wave

I've had a Google Wave account for a month or two and I've just now found some value in it. All of the playing around I'd done to explore it really turned me off to the product. It was too rough and very annoying to use. Those negatives weren't offset by obvious utility that it offered over my existing channels (IM, email, phone, wiki, and blog).

However, twice at work recently I've found it to be the best tool for a job. We're talking about a major new feature for our product that we really don't understand. Wave has given us a nice place to dump ideas, meeting notes, and research as we flail to comprehend what we're getting ourselves into. As new entries are added, team members will occasionally stop by the wave and comment on what's been added. Wave's threading is handy for that. At the same time, Wave allows you to edit entries written by others, thereafter attributing the block to both of you.

I see that as enormously advantageous over email which tends to branch into multiple threads. Once an email chain has branched or reached adequate length, it's hard and time consuming to reconstruct a coherent view of the conversation.

I think wave is also more useful than a wiki in this context because it essentially merges a wiki page's content and its discussion page. On Wikipedia that would be annoying, but for the purpose of our collaboration which doesn't need to produce a final document, but rather a documented, researched consensus, it's really nice to be able to get a quick overview or drill into the spiraling discussion on the same document.

I also found Wave to be the best channel when, while I was working from home, a coworker asked how to solve a sticky problem. I needed to show her the rough code outline of my solution while talking on the phone. Wave's continuously updating content allowed us to both edit and see what the other meant very quickly. Short of some sort of fancy screen sharing or collaboration software that neither of us had installed or were signed up for (e.g., Bespin or the reviled LiveMeeting) I don't have another channel in my toolbox that would've worked nearly as well.

The greatest shortcoming of Wave is that it lacks undo. Yes, it has the fancy timeline, but that's mostly useless. Firstly, loading the timeline takes forever for a moderately large document. Secondly, when I fat finger something and delete most of my thread, I don't want to go to the timeline; I want to hit Ctrl-Z and see my prodigal content return.

So, yeah, I like Wave, but it's not going to be replacing any tool that I was particularly happy with anytime soon. It's a specialized tool that I'll pull out occasionally.

I have a few invitations to give out. Let me know if you'd like one.

Comments:
Online collaborating and teaching can work, If you have trust and the right tools.
I recently tried http://www.showdocument.com - good app for uploading documents and working on them in real-time.
Most file types are supported and it needs no installation. - andy
 
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