Watching Wave

I've been passively listening to some of the reaction to Google Wave lately. Yesterday (via Daring Fireball), I found a blog post by Daniel Tenner that explains how Google Wave will "replace" email for corporate environments [LINK]. I think Tenner is presenting a good case that the people currently testing Wave aren't really the audience that will most benefit from such a product. Where I think he's going slightly wrong is by using the "corporate" environment (which is what DF says too) as the model. Wave is collaboration software, and the way it is presented by Tenner, it really does sound like it could replace email to a large extent for projects and collaboration. It doesn't replace email for correspondence, and it doesn't replace Facebook or Twitter for "status updates" or "microblogging," and it doesn't replace your favorite IM software. But for people who use any of these tools to actually do work, and especially for people who switch between them (or want to be able to switch between them) for a project, Wave sounds like it will be amazing. The essential idea seems to be that you can start a "wave" as a virtual conversation, including having documents and files and thing, and you can add or drop people from the wave at any time (and they get to see everything, not just what is "happening" now), and Wave makes sense for seamless transitions from email to IM type communication. That is, you upload a document, and everyone has it and can read it and edit it, and everyone can see all versions of it. No more attachments. You can walk away from your computer and come back and get caught up with what is going on, or you can be sitting at your computer going back and forth with others in the wave.

Maybe my vision of Wave makes it better than it can possibly be. But I got excited by Tenner's post. I think this would be an amazing way to do collaborative science. Tenner presents things as problems with email and why Wave fixes it, and for every one I though, yes, that is a problem with email! In science there are many collaborations that could benefit by replacing the normal email with a more efficient communication stream. Examples are reports of all kinds, like when people have to report on the status of a project to the funding agency, or when a dispersed team is writing a paper about a project and different people are writing different sections. Another example might just be a grad student working on her/his thesis, their advisor could observe progress and give feedback using Wave, and postdocs, researchers, or committee members could be brought into the wave as needed for further advice and feedback. It could also work for planning projects, working on code, or even doing homework. Wave seems to be a way to clean up your communication stream, bringing different pieces all into one "wave" seems like a better way to get things done. But we'll see.

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