Lost in a Wave

This morning I got invited to Google Wave. I don’t know how, why, or who invited me, but I was invited somehow. So naturally, since there was left-over pad thai in the fridge, I spent the time that I would normally spend preparing my breakfast before class playing with Google Wave. Exciting, right?! I’ve been meaning to get my hands on it and play with it since I first heard about it, and I was really excited to be able to finally see this latest innovation from Google. As a devout GMail enthusiast, Google Calendar user, Google Maps-ist, and general Googler, I wanted to see what Google had come up with this time. It wasn’t exactly what I expected…

I spent my first 20 minutes on Google Wave feeling disoriented, dazed, and confused. It felt like some kind of parallel reality. It was like e-mail, but it wasn’t e-mail. I couldn’t “send” e-mails, per se, but I could create them. And then my e-mails could split into more e-mails. I could connect to anyone anywhere in the world, but I didn’t have any contacts. I was all set to try this amazing new thing, but other than sending a wave to myself, I couldn’t do anything. As I fumbled around this new environment looking for some video or tutorial or something about how to add contacts, I had a revelation: what do you give someone to get in touch with you on Google Wave? With e-mail you give someone an e-mail address, with Facebook you use a name, but what do you use with Google Wave? A beach? Will tomorrow’s conversations be filled with discussions of, “Could you send me that document? Yeah, sure, where’s your beach?”

My contacts list doesn’t say “empty”, or “Click here to add contacts,” but simply ” could not be found,” which is a little depressing in a way. It’s sort of like when you first get Facebook and where it would normally display your News feed it displays all the ways you can add new friends – it’s Facebook’s very subtle way of saying, “I’m sorry, but you don’t have any friends… would you like me to help you find some?”

When you first log in to Google Wave, there’s one new wave in your inbox from “Doctor Wave.” Doctor Wave has a real name, but I forgot what it was and I don’t feel like going through the video again. As I exited this alternate reality where e-mail doesn’t get sent and seems to have reproductive capabilities, I started my trek to school and had another revelation: I should send – I mean – create a new wave with… no, that’s not right either – I should wave Doctor Wave! My plan was to create a new wave saying, “None of my friends have Google wave… will you be my friend on Google Wave?” The downside of this masterful plan, I soon realized, was that my action had two possible outcomes. First, Doctor Wave would take this as a joke, and say, “Sure!… <Fill in pointless conversation here>”. The second possibility is that Doctor Wave would be offended, weirded out, or think that this constituted an abuse of the privilege of be selected to preview Google Wave, and kick me off the wave (after which I would drown… virtually). That is all to say, I chickened out.

Shortly thereafter I received… I was added to… hmmm… a wave appeared in my inbox saying that I had 8 invitations to give out to people. Two of my friends have been itching to get ahold of Google wave for a while, so they were the first on my list. I knew of two others who had expressed interest in taking a crack at the Wave, so I e-mailed all four of these people asking if they wanted one. A somewhat more intelligent course of action might have been to sell them on E-bay for a few bucks a pop, as I hear some people are doing, but not having an E-bay account (I’m an Amazon guy) and, again, not wanting to anger the Google Wave gods, I decided against that course of action.

So all this is to say that I don’t know what to think about Google Wave. The concept of re-introducing e-mail as it would have been designed today is an interesting one, but it seems to me more like a creative art project than the latest service from Google. What seems even more useful to me is the Radish – a solar powered, indoor meeting calendar developed by a Google employee. Oddly enough that idea hasn’t gone anywhere, even though I could see Google becoming the world’s first and only supplier of the devices and selling them around the world to IBM, Microsoft, Oracle, and all the other large businesses in the world that have an image to keep up and paper to save. It seems that the brilliant idea that some guy came up with on his spare time has gone nowhere, but Google Wave (which a lot of people think is ridiculous… the jury’s still out on my end, but I’m inclined to agree) has been promoted to an extreme. I’m getting a very GM vibe here. It’s like the Radish is the EV1 and Google Wave is yet another, gigantic, overblown, gas-guzzling truck that nobody wants or needs, but for some reason is more popular. I’m disturbed that even after Google IO when Google Wave was announced and the tubes were alive with comments like (my personal favourite): “Google Wave: We heard you like email so we built real-time multi-user email in your email so you can email while you email. Thanks, man!” (www.twitter.com/jwolfepr) and they didn’t take the hint. I’m not going to judge yet, especially since I haven’t even created my first wave yet, but at the moment it feels a bit superfluous.

I guess we’ll see what happens. Google Wave might turn into a Tsunami, but it might also end up just being a very expensive ripple. Two final comments. First, Google: If you’re listening (reading), please start manufacturing and selling the Radish. It’s an awesome idea, and I want one, even though I don’t have large meeting spaces to manage, so I’m sure somebody else will want them too. Second, if you have Google wave, you should wave me at worldgnat at googlewave.com.

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