Uncommon Wisdom

Oct 1 2009   1:24PM GMT

Google Wave preview needs clear explanation of platform’s versatility

Tom Nolle Tom Nolle Profile: Tom Nolle

Google launched its wider Wave initiative, and it seems clear from early reaction that a lot of people are still trying to get a handle on just what Wave is. The classic question is, “Why can’t I do the same thing with XYX?” where the variable is anything from email or IM to telepresence.

As we see it, this isn’t the right question for a bunch of reasons. First, you can hammer a nail with a crescent wrench (we, like many others, have done that a couple times ourselves), but it’s not the right tool. The first step toward a relevant question to generate an appropriate appreciation of Wave would be to ask whether any of the alternatives could be an optimal tool. Second, we believe that even this optimality story falls short of the mark. Wave is a platform that could support a model of collaboration that we do not envision today because we have no reasonable mechanism to support it.

Wave is a flexible tool that we could build practices around. Many of the things we do with computers today (like writing blogs) are natural extensions of the typewriter process, and so a computer word processor can be conceptualized by applying it to typing tasks. But spread sheets? Some say they’re extensions of accounting sheets, but anyone who’s ever taken accounting knows how thin that analogy is. Other tools like GPS are further off the wall.

But many articles are grasping one truth — Google needs to make the value of Wave clear. A use case alone won’t do that because it doesn’t show the versatility. A host of use cases might, and a hierarchy would be best of all. Can Google produce this, or will it open the door to a new collaboration model only to have someone else walk through it? That’s the question we’d like to see answered, and we think Google would also like that.

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