What is Google Wave and Why Should I Care?

I hope everybody had a nice Thanksgiving weekend.  In between opening boxes in my new house, eating lots of turkey, and watching football I started playing around with Google Wave.  Melissa R. kindly gave me an invite and I have a few invites available for tech playing medical librarians. 

So what is this Google Wave thing? 

Good question.  Google Wave is a “personal communication and collaboration tool” developed by Lars and Jens Rasmussen the creaters of Google Maps.  The Wave started in September 2009 with 100,000 users who were each allowed to invite other users to the system.  Google Wave is supposed to easily hook up users with real-time communication and facilitate collaboration.  A “wave” can be a conversation or a document where people can discuss and work together.  A wave is shared and participants can reply anywhere in the message, edit the content and add participants into the process at any point.  Waves are live, as you type participants see it. 

Ok so why should I care about Google Wave?

Lars, Jens and Google think Wave is the next “big” communication thing.  The way Google Maps reinvented maping, only more so.  They think of it as an email killer.  Which personally I think is an extremely bold statement and lofty goal. 

So why on earth would I use Google Wave?

According to the folks at Google (who as you know have some interest in seeing Wave take off) you can use Wave for organizing events, group projects, photo sharing, meeting notes, brainstorming, and interactive games.  There are ton of other established ways people already do these things like Evite, flickr, GoogleDocs, etc.  I am not sure why Google Wave is better at doing these things rather than the traditional methods and online applications.  I think the Google Wave people would say that it is better because everything is done in real time.  My answer is, yeah so. 

Google Wave is extremely new, and I only know of three examples of librarian usage (please comment if you have other examples).  Bart Ragon, chair of the MLA Social Networking Task Force is experimenting with Google Wave discussing the new PubMed design.  Nikki Detmar has created a medlibs wave and a group of librarians within LITA have a LITA wave.  So far I have only briefly played around in the New PubMed wave created by Bart.  I plan on playing in the medlib wave soon.

Nikki Detmar just blogged  about the possible use of Google Wave for community and emergency information.  She discussed the Seattle Times experiment of using Wave (interesting they advertised the Wave experiment first on Twitter)  for the emerging Lakewood shootings news story.  It is interesting to see how the Wave worked (and how it was quickly overloaded). 

So what is the future of Wave?

Right now I am totally unimpressed with Wave.  It is not out of the box user friendly.  Perhaps I was expecting too much.  I wanted something like Facebook where you can EASILY search for friends and add them to your wave.  I don’t want to have to use my Gmail account, that account is my one true non spam account and I don’t want to open it up.  I already get too much junk in my other accounts.  I wish I could use an email account that is already associated with a social networking application.  I think it needs to be able to grab your friends from Facebook or other sites to be truly useful. 

Searching is yucky.  It is a far departure from your typical Google searching strategy.  If you have to search for a public wave you have to use :public and then put your search term in. 

For example: :public LITA Google Wave Group

That is annoying not intuitive, and a barrier to regular people adopting it.  Another usage barrier is browser compatibility.  Google Wave appears to work best on Chrome (Google’s browser, go figure) but who on earth really uses Chrome other than G1 phone users?  According to Browser Watch, Internet Explorers market share is 67.51%, Firefox is 21.73%, and Google Chrome is 1.15%.  People can use Wave with Firefox and IE, but IE users must first install the Google Chrome Frame browser plugin.  Again another pain.  I chose to use Firefox to play around.  Designing a product that works best only on their Chrome platform can work one of two ways.  It could be a stroke of genius, getting more people to use Chrome.  It also could be a very very bad idea.  IE is dominant in the browser business and is the 800 lbs gorilla that most people use because it is there.  People are entrenched in their browser choice and they don’t move unless there is sufficient reason.  Firefox which is way more flexible and adaptable (and some would say better) than IE only has 21% of the market share. 

Right now I don’t see Google Wave replacing my email or my Twitter.  I think it is a pain to use and really doesn’t connect people as easily as I think it should.  Perhaps it will develop to be the email killer, I don’t know.  I will still keep playing with it for a little while just to see what all it can do and see what (if any) applications it can have in medical libraries.  Who knows maybe it will be great for libraries.  I don’t know.  Just look at Twitter.  A year ago I couldn’t find a good reason for medical librarians to be using Twitter for library purposes.  I was wrong about that, but it took some time and some creative individuals for that to happen.  So I welcome any creative medical librarians to play with Google Wave, maybe it will be helpful in the future.

11 thoughts on “What is Google Wave and Why Should I Care?”

  1. Hey Michelle,

    One thing to consider, I think, is the ultimate goal of Wave to be a server application. So a hospital could host Wave on its servers, and let its healthcare workers work together within the platform, and that would be completely outside of individuals’ Google accounts.

    I think there’s also a great deal of potential for doing an enormous amount of collaboration within Wave; the best example I’ve seen is a 3-D chemical model gadget that lets researchers move the molecule to point out some structure bit to other researchers around the world, with real time commentary and the potential to throw in an Evite, all in one place.

    My two cents. 🙂 And thanks for the great post; like a lot of new tools, I think some people are jumping into it with unrealistic expectations.

  2. Hello,

    I thought the same thing about Wave when I first started playing around with it and didn’t understand what it could be used for. What really sold me on how it could start becoming very powerful with collaboration is with some of the gadgets that can be added (http://techpp.com/2009/10/14/ultimate-list-of-google-wave-gadgets-and-tools/) The gadgets add a whole new level to the collaboration process and takes it much further than just text.

    Right now I’m currently getting my MLIS, and I am using Wave with some classmates as a way to plan activities for our student groups while everyone is travelling for the winter break. Adding maps into the waves allows for easy communication about places to visit and it keeps my email free from <5 word replies: “yeah, sounds good.”

    Wave is also still in Beta, so hopefully they’ll start rolling out new features and adaptability. Thanks for the post 🙂

  3. Thank you for the post. After watching most of the “loooooong” Google Wave video, I am very curious about this new tool. I would love to get an invite if you have any left.

  4. Ok!
    firstly, you explain Google Wave in the most basic term, clearly, you either don’t know enough and don’t care or you simply went with your first instinct that according to your blog is completely wrong. If this was a wave i would be able to make corrections as i read your post since it’s not i ‘d have to go back to the material, which after using wave made me realized how counter intuitive that process really is…You talk about searching and how troublesome it is and yet one of wave’s most basic features could be beneficial now.

    secondly, wave is open-source and the possibilities are endless in theory everything you do online-everything-can be done on wave, your email, your twitter, your facebook, your documents, and everything else you do on the net. The impassibilities for education also, endless! And across all industries, i just read a post about lawyers being able to use wave to have more communication with their clients and their coworkers, or interoffice communication about specific issues.

    lastly, Google Wave is in preview mode, green and unpolished. There is lots to be done! However do not confuse your inability to find a practical use for yourself to be a permanent obstacle. Your inability to understand it does not make what you say a reality. About browser compatibility, wouldnt you design something that works seamlessly with your own products…is that really something to knock, obviously it wouldnt be smart of Google to create something that only works on Google products if they know the climb they face with there own browser, they would be cutting off their own legs! Do not underestimate the power of Google, their vision, if anything you should be scared of it! lol. wait and see and you’ll see you’ll be using Google Wave for everything.

    Please excuse my grammar and spelling, i’m writing from my iphone- no, i don’t use everything google. lol

  5. Amy – Love the idea of use in research

    Jacob – Like the idea of group project usage for class.

    J. Neville – Will do.

    k mears – Work standard is IE, I am lucky to have Firefox on work PC. My laptop, I have both for testing how library resources look on IE and Firefox when people access library from home.

    Ruben- Well I kept it simple because while this is a tech inspired library blog not everybody who reads it is as tech savvy as you are.

    I agree the open source aspect is extremely cool, but not everything open source is great and sometimes open source add ons can be buggy. It just depends.

    Yes I know it is green and very new, and as such it is just not “there” yet for librarians to use or build around for library services.

    The search feature is horrible, plain and simple. You have librarians who are expert searchers who have problems finding public waves. I am not saying it is impossible, but the search feature has a long way to go because Joe Shmo won’t put up with it.

    As I said Google’s decision to make it work best on Chrome could be either a stroke of genius or a colossal mistake. I understand how they want make something work best on with their program, but like it or not much of business and many hospitals work in Microsoft dominated world. Many hospital IT departments prohibit users from installing their own software (i.e. Chrome) so many people use IE at work. If Wave is to be successfull within corporations this is going to be a hurdle. Whether it is a hurdle for Google Wave or the IT departments it remains to be seen.

    Google Wave could be the next must have utility application in the future. I don’t under estimate Google in general (except Google Scholar and its horrible indexing and retrieving of papers). I have seen and used other technology that in the beginning wasn’t ready for use within medical libraries, but after time and industrious librarians things changed. If things change and Wave evolves to be indespensible I will say it and blog about, I have done it before. I have a right to change my mind.

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