Google Wave: First Impressions

This Saturday I received my invite to Google Wave.  I could hardly contain myself--what was all the hype about?!

After clicking on the invite link in my email, Wave automatically created my account using my Google account profile information.  My picture automatically loaded as well as my name.  All of my Google contacts who also are on Wave were automatically loaded into my contacts.  You gotta give it to Google for how well it links its many applications and services!

So what IS all the hype about?

Here is a short video explaining the purpose behind the service:

The Google Wave layout only takes up one page, with columns like iGoogle has for different settings and services.  There is a column containing your Navigation information and your Contacts, a column for your 'inbox' of Waves and a column for the Wave you are editing or viewing:

I spent over an hour with Andrew Forgrave and Doug Peterson playing around with Wave's features and sharing tips and tricks that we had discovered.  All LIVE! Probably the most exciting thing that happened at first was when I noticed that I could watch Andy and Doug typing their responses and ideas in REAL TIME!  I could see them correcting their typing as they went along as well as changes in their word choice and sometimes even changes in their thinking.  At the same time I was on a different wave with Michael Kaechele playing around with what Wave could do.  We discussed etiquette for Wave.  Since it was so easy for us to type at the same time, we found ourselves typing responses to each other before the other had even finished his/her thought!  This is the online equivalent of interrupting someone mid-sentence.  While this is considered very rude in spoken conversations, we mused about whether it was a big deal in the Wave format.

Here were some drawbacks I noted that I'm sure Google will address.  I kept having to remind myself that this is a preview/beta version released with the purpose of collecting feedback to improve the product.

  • Wave requires a lot of bandwidth and it takes a toll on your computer.  You basically can't run ANY other program at the same time or risk crashing your browser.
  • Once wave participants begin replying to each other, it can get confusing to follow the conversation.  There is no way to know where someone has added something new.  The only way to know if there is a new addition to a wave  is when it becomes bolded in your inbox and shows a green box stating that there are a certain number of additions.
  • If people are editing waves in an asynchronous way, where do we draw the line in who owns the content.  What if someone changes your wave contribution when you are offline and you are not aware of it?
  • This is one pointed out by Michael.  What if a wave contributor invites someone to the wave without asking the other contributors? When working on a private collaboration this could be problematic.
  • When there are over 200 collaborators on a wave, how do you know who's reading your contributions to the wave--including photos or documents?  You can look at the list of people, but it can be a daunting list!
  • There is no way to search for users. You must know someone's address to find them.  Of course, the innovative members of my PLN immediately created a wave and a wiki to make a searchable list of "Waving" educators.  There is also Google Wave Educators group on a new Ning (social network)-The Educator's PLN
Ok, so it's not all bad.

Here are some great features and possibilities that Google Wave has to offer:
  • Unlike a wiki, many people can edit a wave at one time.
  • Every wave can be 'played back' in the order in which each component was added.  This allows for newcomers to the conversation to catch up and for collaborators to view additions made while they were away from the wave.
  • Since each wave collaborator's photo is displayed next to his or her contribution it is easy to know who is saying what and for a teacher it makes grading easier for group work easier since it is obvious how each group member contributed to the project.
  • Both images and documents can be added to a wave fairly easily and there is an option to download all images or documents in a wave.
  • Waves can easily be edited and deleted.  Deleting old posts to the wave that are no longer relevant to the conversation could aid in making the wave easier to follow.
  • Gadgets such as clickable maps and polls can be easily added to a wave. While I have tried these, the one I am eager to try is a video conference gadget that can be embedded in a wave. Jo Hart, Andrew Forgrave and myself started a wave with the gadget but have not been able to find the time to try it.  Something amazing to think about: Jo is in Australia, Andrew in Canada and I am in Philadelphia. 
I'm sure others can come up with many other ideas for using Wave in education and for collaboration, and I'm sure others have things like about the product that I didn't mention.

One thing I noticed in writing this reflection is the fact that Google Wave will require us to build new vocabulary for the product.  On Twitter, we 'tweet.' On Facebook, we 'comment.'  On blogs we 'post.' On Google Wave are we 'waving?' When we add to a wave is a comment or a post? 'Contribution' seems like a long word for a short action.

I look forward to finding new uses for Wave as well as using it as a way to converse with some of my Twitter friends and blogger friends in more than 140 characters and outside the realm of commenting on each other's blogs.  It holds real opportunity for some wonderful movers and shakers to collaborate!

For more reflections on Google Wave, check out Doug Peterson's post: Learning About Wave.


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